Saturday, March 21, 2009

zagat's would call this a "crappy" "restaurant" with "bad" "food"

This week, not one but two patients told me that I (as a relatively new Atlanta resident) needed to get my ass to The Varsity, which is apparently this retro burgers and fries place that boasts the dubious honor of being (and I have not fact-checked this, I'm just quoting off their paper plates) the world's largest drive-though. I had envisioned it being a little something like Junior's in Brooklyn, a huge old-school diner with lots of retro charm and gigantic down-home cooking. This was...not...the case.

The Varsity was large, that much was true, and it was packed to the rafters with diners, but I can't for the life of me understand why. The food...people, the food was terrible. Look, I'm no food snob. I like Taco Bell, for chrissake. TACO BELL. King of the rehydrated foodstuffs. But this here at The Varsity was very extremely bad food. I ordered the chili dogs, and I swear to you, the "chili" on this thing was just this reconstituted brown paste, like something you would squeeze out of a tube. That tube being YOUR COLON. Unbelievably foul.

And I could have forgiven bad food had the atmosphere been at least somewhat charming, but between the fast food order-at-the-counter atmosphere, the crowd, the fluorescent lighting, and the general formica-and-tile dinginess of the place, it felt almost exactly like the cafeteria of an inner city hospital. Nor was it so cheap that you could at least point to the sheer volume of foodstuffs as being at least some sort of recession value deal. I would classify it as 15% more expensive than McDonald's, with food that was 40% worse. And yet the place was packed. Apparently, everyone loves The Varsity. Am I missing something? Like that secret room in the back of the restaurant with all the free toys and booze?

(We did get this orange ice cream-type drink for Cal that was kind of good and tasted like melted orange Starbursts, so that saved the dinner from being a total fail. But last I checked they sell Orange Juliuses at the mall too, and at least at the mall there's usually a food court with a damn Sbarros or Wok 'n' Roll or something vaguely edible.)

So that recommendation wasn't so hot. But in general, the recommendations I get from patients are pretty spot on. Like a few weeks ago, I had a Chinese patient that I basically accosted for information on good Chinese restaurants in the area. (The patient was so excited that I knew the secret Chinese person handshake that she spent her entire time pre-op talking as fast as she could, giving me all the info she could think of regarding Asian restaurants and markets before I had to whip out my giant rubber mallet of anesthesia to knock her out for surgery. "Canton House has good dim sum. A little too salty. Not as good as New York or San Francisco. But pretty authentic.") Patients recommend movies, they recommend places to take the kids, I even had a patient recommend the best way to find free WiFi, which was amusing only because the patient was 74 years old and sitting on a stretcher playing around with his iPod Touch. (So that's what the kids are calling it these days. Incidentally, his advice was to find a Dunkin' Donuts and sit in their parking lot. And now you know what I know.)

I'm glad that my patients are so friendly and so forthcoming with their information, because frankly, I don't get out much. We've been here eight months now and aside from at work and the occasional school function, we haven't really made any new friends, or socialized with many new people. If it wasn't for my patients, I'd never meet anyone. Unfortunately, I also never see them again, and if I do, it usually means something unfortunate for them, not that they just wanted to see my smiling face and have some more sparkling cocktail party conversation over a bag of LR and a few milligrams of Versed.