Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Ladies' Night Out

I have never been to a Hooters Restaurant.  Hey, my eyes are up here. And that’s why I’ve never been to Hooters. Just say the name and you lose eye contact. The name, the uniforms. There are just too many distractions, I think. I mean, I’ve really never been to Hooters, so all I’ve got to go on are the t.v. commercials and the billboards, as well as the many Hooters jokes I’ve heard over the years. They’re funny in small doses, but it’s not the kind of restaurant experience I want.   I’ve never made an issue out of it.  I just don’t go there. 
          A few weeks ago, I was on an outing with three lady friends. One in her 80s, one in her 70s, the other in her 60s and me at 50-something.  We planned a trip to a new museum because we knew our husbands would never want to go to anything cultural and we wanted to sneak in a ladies’ night dinner too.  So after our 50-minute tour of the newly-opened Chocolate Museum, we set out to find a restaurant nearby.  We were in the I-Drive tourist area and traffic was heavy.
          Just ahead, there was a new building with a big sign: Dick’s Last Resort, Eat, Drink, Laugh.  We pulled in.

At the door of the new restaurant, stood a big statue of a fat, bald man with hairy legs wearing the middle-aged uniform of a Florida tourist:  flowered shirt, Bermuda shorts, white socks and sandals. That was Dick. 

Just inside the door, two young ladies in shorts and t-shirts with blonde, black and blue hair greeted us. Their tattooed arms and legs showed off all the other colors in the Crayola box. I still can’t believe how many tattoos they had on their skinny young limbs.  I guess we were still in museum mode because we were drawn in to this exotic habitat by these colorful hostesses.  Or maybe we were influenced by the traffic accident we had just passed. No matter how bad it might be, we just couldn’t look away.  So we followed them.

         Walking through Dick’s, we noticed the walls were covered with slogans.  This is the place yer mama warned you about.   Dick’s is fun for all and all for fun. 
The customers seemed to be enjoying themselves. Parties sat together at long picnic tables. Most of the guests were wearing giant paper hats and everyone had on a bib despite the fact that there were no babies or lobsters in sight. We thought it was a bit strange, but heck, we wanted to try a new place.

          One of the tattooed blue-haired girls took us to a table past the gift shop of Dick’s Souvenir Merchandise. We could see bumper stickers that read I Heart Dick’s, There’s a Little Dick in Us All, and Honk if you like Dick’s. It was at this point, that my mature friends and I caught on to the theme of this dining establishment. We were at the Hooters of the Bizarro World, the anti-Hooters.  In fact, you can even buy a t-shirt at Dick’s that says, They have Hooters, we have Dick’s. 

Believe it or not, even though Dick’s Last Resort Restaurant has been around for 25 years and has 15 locations, none of us had ever heard of it. So I did some research.

          There have been no official boycotts of Dick’s.   Apparently, Dick’s offends no one and feeds many, although Dick’s may be a one-and-done kind of place.  Absolutely all of their locations are right in the heart of the entertainment district of tourist towns.   Dick’s own marketing research says that 70% of their customers are out-of-towners.   I think tourists must see the Eat, Drink and Laugh sign and get sucked in to Dick’s for a one-night stand like we did. 

           Due to the locations, Dick’s will never be a neighborhood place like Cheers.   Everybody doesn’t even care to know your name, unless of course your name is Peter, Willy, Johnson or Dick. And even if it’s not, your waitress is likely to call you a Dick at some point during your visit.

          At the Orlando Dick’s, our waitress came over, introduced herself and clued us in on the service.   It’s insulting.   Really.   The wait staff is trained to insult the customers.  One look at the four of us and she had her opening line, “Ladies, turn up your hearing aids. You’re at Dick’s.”    We laughed, but we heard her loud and clear without hearing aids and ordered glasses of the house cabernet, which was listed under the Fancy Pants Drinks.

          On the other side of the plastic-coated beverage menu were the 45-ounce margaritas.   There was also a variety of mixed drinks served in Dick’s Souvenir Nut Cup and some blended frozen concoctions called Stiffies.

          In the blinking, light-up shot glasses, there are combos with provocative names. There’s one that combines coffee liquor, Baileys and whipped cream. You’re supposed to drink it with your hands behind your back and you can’t use your teeth.   At the Dick’s in Washington, D.C., I think it’s called the Monica Lewinsky.  At Dick’s 14 other locations, it’s simply called the B. J. Turn up your hearing aids, I said, “It’s called the B.J.”
About five years ago Dick’s tried to rise up and penetrate the European market.   They opened a Dick’s in London but those humorless English stiffs didn’t bite and Dick’s pulled out.   So there are no more Dick’s in Europe.  It’s just a crazy American thing with Dick’s getting bigger all the time. According to the company’s growth plan, there are more Dick’s still to come.
          On the other hand, Hooters already has many worldwide locations, but just one in England, in the town of Nottingham, home to Robin Hood, two universities and two professional football teams. There are occasionally local protests, but those are dismissed as random outbursts of radical feminism.
          The dinner menu at Dick’s is written on a chalkboard on the wall.   They have a chicken breast dish called The Dolly, named after Dolly Parton.   Hey, my eyes are up here.   All the entrees at Dick’s are loaded with meat and there are lots of balls on the menu: big barbeque balls, crabby balls, cheesy balls, you get the idea. Dick’s has balls.
          As we interpreted the menu, it occurred to us that something wasn’t right.    The four of us wanted a ladies’ night out but we knew we should not have been enjoying Dick’s without our husbands.   So we finished our Fancy Pants wine and politely walked past the Certified Dick’s t-shirts and on to dinner at that popular brew house down the street.
          You know, the one.  It has over 50 handcrafted beers and that huge menu of 120 items. They make their own root beer and they have a dessert called  Pizookie’s.
          Turn up your hearing aids.   After we had drinks at Dick’s, we had dinner at B.J.s.  And we had a ball.