linner time wine

The linner hour

September 13, 2021

   The good news was that Carol’s grandson’s soccer game was near our favorite San Clemente Italian restaurant. The bad news was that the game ended at the regular dinner hour. On a Sunday. As we drove past the restaurant, the entrance looked like a Best Buy just before opening on Black Friday. We drove on, and after passing several more eateries, also packed with people with nothing better to do on a Sunday at the dinner hour, we stumbled upon a half-filled Belgian-themed restaurant. I really didn’t care at that point whether I’d have to order waffles with whipped cream and fruit on top, as long as we could be seated immediately.

   Long before I qualified for senior early bird specials, I had recalibrated my dining out habits to the restaurant industry’s off-peak hours, particularly for dinner. For the lunch hour, I’d shoot for two or three in the afternoon, as opposed to three or four for dinner; hence our common desire for “linner” or “lupper” when eating out.

   I’m usually quite hungry when pulling up to a restaurant, so “hangry” is almost a default setting upon entering a place where the benches on the foyer have already filled with patrons I’ve instantly been imbued with a resentment that is white hot in its murderous intent. Even for the children. Without putting too fine a point on it, let’s just say my most experienced dining out companions (children, spouses) have long come to support my preference for eating out on the off hours.

   I honestly don’t understand those people who pile outside a restaurant that doesn’t take reservations, and sit passively in lighthearted and extended conversations on any subject other than food. (One of the reasons I prefer Italian restaurants is that the bread is either on the table as you’re seated, or it comes with the water.)

   Breakfast time at the Jersey shore is the one that used to kill me. Between the cool ocean breeze and the salt air, you wake up with an appetite on steroids. You’re also waking up to a beach population that all wants breakfast at the same hour of the morning, none of whom thought of packing cereal and milk, oatmeal or breakfast bars for their vacation. And they are ALL packed like sardines in front of Frank’s Pancake House from six in the morning, and it stays that way until Frank turns the menu over to burgers and fries.

   I will say there is a cynical pleasure in walking out of a restaurant at about 5:30 or 6:00 p.m., fully satiated, the crème brûlée resting comfortably on a raft of lasagna as both are gently drifting down your alimentary canal. And you pass that crush of gaunt, hollow-cheeked, vacant-eyed gaggle bunched at the front door like refugees fleeing a war zone. You sigh, take in a deep, self-satisfied breath, and mutter to yourself, “Hope they don’t run out of the chicken parm before you get a table, suckers!”

   Of course, by eight o’clock I’m hungry again.

More classy dinner habits HERE

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