- The Southern Buffet of the Arroyo Wedding on Week 40: Saluting, Swinging, and Santa Fe, Baby.
- Lisa on Sorry Mom, You Suck at Cooking
- Rachamn Benhava on Brocato’s and Join Chickens, Like Your Aunt Nina Probably Had
- admin on Week 47: No Brunch: Just Some Vows, Goat Cheese Balls, and Neil Diamond.
- admin on Get your Happy Ending at The Wharf
Week 39: B-B-B-B-B-Bennie and the Jets
November 6, 2011
It’s Sunday again and for some strange reason I want to explore Brandon. Neighboring town of Tampa, Brandon, offers two things: A TJ Maxx and a Marshalls. And they are even within the same convenient shopping complex. Since I’ve drifted off into my own entrepreneurial spirit and direction in life, I’m not actually planning on buying anything. I’m like a starving artist these days, but not actually an artist. Or starving….. Because I’m still finding the time and resources necessary to dine out.
Across from this wonderful shopping complex is the Brandon Mall but I’ve only been there once (many moons ago) to resize a diamond ring an ex-boyfriend had bought me. We later broke up and I sold it on Craigslist so I could have some cash for fine dining with a few new boyfriends. I considered regifting it so everyone would think I was a gracious gift giver, but there just aren’t any girls in my family. I take that back, there are girls. But not anyone I’d give a diamond ring to. And when you buy a gift for one, you’ve gotta buy gifts for the others. I think I’ll stick to my short list of Mom-Dad-Brother each holiday season. Sometimes Nana and Papa get a framed picture or a hand drawn card.
Before hitting up Marshalls and TJ’s, we’re on our way to Ben’s Family Restaurant in Brandon and it isn’t our first choice. Buddy Freddy’s was our first choice and had raving reviews but upon arriving there we realized due to the hardships of our shit economy Buddy Freddy’s is now a ghost town. Closed down forever with a graveyard view (the restaurant actually sits directly on a graveyard). So sad. And creepy.
Most restaurants will admit that the economic trickle-down is hurting business, yet, you still see people eating out all the time. Let’s live and learn people. Recent trends designed to make eating out affordable such as the proliferation of special fixed-price bang for your buck buffets or weekly specials are winning. If you don’t have a gift card on restaurant.com, you sure as hell better have something sweet. Like Wednesdays at Bonefish, $5 Bang Bang Shrimp… do you know what happens? People like Ryan and I are sucked in because there’s an orgasmic dish for $5, but once we’re seated that turns into one more order of the Bang Bang Shrimp and two dinners, and then we walk out with empty wallets. Ploy the people, people; that’s how you stay in business.
I’d be good at that. I have a long distant goal of opening my own tiny beer tent in Ybor some day called “The Dollar Dixie” Feel free to steal this idea because I don’t have the financial means to act upon it. Anyway, The Dollar Dixie will sell shit beer in Dixie cups for $1 each. Every day. Sounds like a great idea, right? Well, what the Ybor rats won’t realize is that they’ll actually consume 10-15 tiny beers and tip me more the drunker they get. With a ½ keg costing approximately $85 and yielding 165 12-oz beers, which is approximately 198 10-oz Dixie beers, you do the math. I’ll still be making money after I rob the people of all their tips. Now, this isn’t going to make me millions, but you know what they say, slow and steady wins the race. People love shit for a dollar.
Here we are at Ben’s Family Restaurant, a type of establishment I’m not all that accustomed to seeing in Florida and for lack of a better term I’ll call it the Florida Ski Lodge. No snow suits, no snow, no skis, no snowboards. Just high timber ceilings, old tacky décor, a brick interior, a cafeteria type feel despite the sit down service, and warm hearty meals.
Once we’re seated we get our own thermostat of hot coffee. That’s what I’m talking about! There’s nothing worse than a waitress aggressively walking by and refilling your coffee every 30 seconds, throwing off your cream to coffee ratio over and over again. Fall has me craving a Pumpkin Spiced iced coffee from Dunkin Donuts and unfortunately there’s not a D&D kiosk in here. I do however have a Dunkin Donuts gift card with me and I’ll make sure to grab one on the way home. Wait a minute, that’s the third great thing Brandon offers: Dunkin Donuts.
Ryan orders country fried steak and gravy, eggs over medium and home fries. I order eggs and hash. I’m a hash animal. My dish comes with two sides so I go for grits and a single biscuit with gravy. There is a rather large couple next to us and I await their order. I can’t wait to see what their Sunday brunch will include. “We need to cut out carbs this week, we just started the South Beach Diet. Can you recommend anything?” WHAT? Not what I was expecting. Good for them. People like to rag on South Beach, but boy does it get you results. I participated in a little South Beach diet action in college, but my timing was all off. I had just cut off all my hair and donated it to Children’s Cancer. My thought was, “No pretty hair, let’s work on the body.” Wrong. My weight loss came with a boney curveless body and I was stuck looking like a tiny John Stamos until my hair grew back. It’s hard to handle your liquor with a lack of carbs in your life as well. So I quit (dieting).
Food’s here. Delicious. I rarely go wrong with ordering hash, it’s just so damn good. Not many people care for grits but I love its flavorless grainy texture. It reminds me of pastina for some reason. I like both dishes plain and flooded with butter. Ryan’s not enjoying his country fried steak. It’s not pounded thin enough, it lacks salt and there’s too much breading. Sucks for him. My biscuit and gravy is good. Although, I always wonder why everyone fails to serve a sausage-heavy sausage gravy. There are always miniscule bits of sausage in the gravy that leave you begging for more. How come nobody sticks a bundle of Jimmy Deans in there? (Insert light bulb here). I’m doing it next time.
We probably won’t be back to Ben’s. Not because we don’t like you all, but because we’re rarely in Brandon and the search needs to continue— the search for an un-f*cking-believable brunch. Somewhere out there, are tons of tiny sausage links drowning in a thick white gravy.