I knew that once we were there, I'd be talking far too much to spend any time looking at the menu, so decided to look online and choose ahead of time. The only problem with that plan was that once I began reading it, I couldn't stop laughing.
For further giggles, I shared a link to the menu on Facebook and let the comments fly from friends and family back home. Some of the thoughts offered were:
- Toowoomba Pasta (with seafood)? The town after which this was named happens to be two hours inland from the coast. Hardly a place that's associated with seafood.
- Aussie Cheese Fries? Well, the Monterey Jack cheese which tops the fries is very much American. Still can't figure out the 'Aussie' element of this dish.
- Californian Chicken Salad? Perhaps this is for anyone who's outside their comfort zone when ordering 'foreign' or 'ethnic' food. Especially given the exotic nature of this particular restaurant.
- Tassie's Buffalo Strips? Because Tasmania is known for their buffalo wings - a fact which has escaped my attention all these years.
- Walkabout Soup of the Day? Sounds messy.
- Coconut Shrimp (with Creole marmalade)? Two thoughts here. The first: that nobody in Australia says 'shrimp'; the second: 'Creole'? Yeah, that's authentic Australian right there... via New Orleans.
- Bloomin' Onion? Never heard of this dish, and according to Wikipedia, it was created in the 1970s in - wait for it - New Jersey. The recipe was then acquired by the (American owned) Outback company and rebranded as an 'Aussie' dish. Turns out these are nothing more than glorified onion rings... but without the ring shape.
- Alice Springs Chicken Quesadillas? We all know quesadillas are actually Australian, and not Mexican. The sooner people acknowledge this truth, the better. Yo.
- New Zealand Rack of Lamb? Because New Zealand is part of the Australian outback. Didn't you know that?
- Chocolate Thunder from Down Under? Okay, I give them credit here for that dish's name. It sounds delicious, and is something I planned to order... but by that point, I was full after imbibing one too many sangria margaritas.
- The number of times that barbie was used in reference to barbecued food? Too many. I also hate to shatter illusions here, but nobody I know in Australia says 'barbie' unless they're talking about Mattel's plastic doll. We are a lazy bunch with language, and shorten many words, but we somehow manage to get out the three syllables required for 'barbecue'. Bar-be-cue. See? Easy.
I rang up to reserve a table for fifteen, and was laughing even harder by the time I got off the phone. There was an initial recording that I had to sit through, voiced by - I'm guessing - an out of work Australian actor, instructed to do his best Paul Hogan impersonation. When the recording was over, I was greeted by an American girl: "Gidday!..." The snob in me cringed.
* * *
The food itself was okay. Nothing amazing, but it wasn't bad. J was more than happy with his steak, so if the birthday boy enjoyed himself, then the objective was achieved, right?
After dinner, a handful of us continued on to a bar called The Bigfoot Lodge. Instead of American-dressed-up-as-Australian-themed, we got North American camping-themed. Much more of a novelty for me, then. The crowd of hipsters did their best to make me feel old, but I went ahead and had another cocktail - complete with toasted marshmallow on a stick. My sophistication astounds me at times.
Eventually, the cocktails caught up with me, and - in need of fresh air and water - I found myself standing outside the doors of a nearby petrol station. The large store was completely lit up, and an attendant was inside... but he'd locked the doors and refused to let me in. I had to go over to his window and the charade for a bottle of water was on. I had to pass the money through one of those security drawers, and felt ridiculous. He served me most grudgingly, and I'm not sure why he even bothered. Dude, you don't feel safe in there? I'm standing out here, freezing my tits off, purse open, with over $100 cash on me for the babysitter.
My lesson for the night? I can't down cocktails the way I used to. My limit is lower, and the recovery time far longer - let's just say I'm grateful for a husband who makes good bacon and egg sandwiches the morning after.