Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Going Native

Last weekend, we went out to dinner for J's birthday, along with some of his workmates and their partners. He was feeling carnivorous, and thought it would be hilarious if we ate at the Outback Steakhouse. Neither of us is a fan of chain restaurants - which seem so popular here - and I had my misgivings, but him being the birthday boy, I acquiesced.

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.


  1. I was dying to know how this went! I was taken there too when I last visited and it was rather disconcerting as they were all watching me to see what I thought. I can't even remember what I had now but I don't think it was particularly Aussie in any way, shape or form.

    Funny about your gas station anecdote. Had a similar experience when I first visited LA. The guy couldn't even understand what I was saying, the glass was that thick. I felt like saying to him "Would you come out from behind there and talk to me like a normal person?"

  2. I was disappointed that the staff there didn't even notice or comment on my accent! The service was pretty poor though, especially by American standards. No arse-kissing.

    And weird about the petrol stations, right? I understand it's a security thing late at night, but really, why have the place all lit up like a giant candy store if you're not going to let anyone in? Seems like a big waste of energy consumption to me.

  3. Awesome!

    I'm glad they got J's steak right. Seems like at a 'Steakhouse,' you'd be hoping for the best.

    Toasted marshmallow on a stick? That is class.