Free pitcher with a large pizza

I find myself doing stupid things for food.

Lately it’s been a habit of mine, when in a new city, to waste a good two hours or more in search of a late night meal. Maybe Omaha and Lincoln are just ridiculously predictable, but I’ve grown accustomed to the idea of finding places to eat at either 1) interstate exits or 2) major intersections.

A few weeks ago when I was in Minneapolis, I drove around for two hours searching in vain for absolutely any fast food restaurant. Maybe I just have the most insane bad luck, but the only thing I could find was a really scary Burger King in a neighborhood I really wished I hadn’t found at 11:30pm. I took all sorts of combinations of interstates, state highways, major streets – nothing. And I am not exaggerating. I just wanted a place to get food. I had some preferences, so in the event I found the type of clumping of restaurants I typically expect at interstate exits or major intersections, I could eliminate some options, but it wasn’t just a case of me being picky. I couldn’t find ANYTHING.

I eventually retreated back to the hotel to ask for specific directions. I need to back up for a minute – my 2 hour odyssey began when the desk clerk told me there were no fast food restaurants nearby (which was absolutely insane to me, because it was fairly near the airport). So I set out beyond the realm of “nearby” with no luck. Now I wanted specific directions to anything I could purchase through my car window. She gave me directions to a Taco Bell, which was going to end up being about 10 minutes away.

Last night, I needed to grab some dinner. My schedule was way off, because I didn’t eat lunch until after I was settled in my hotel room at 3:30 or so. I just went across the street to the McDonald’s. It just so happened to be the most disgusting McDonald’s ever, and not only could I not finish my double cheeseburger or my McChicken – I couldn’t finish my Diet Coke. It all tasted gross.

So it was 10pm and I wanted dinner. I was really craving Steak n Shake, because we don’t have them in Nebraska, and I remembered that Sara and I drove through there late at night last year when we were in town. It has been brought to my attention in the past 24 hours that Steak n Shake is not nearly as exclusive as I thought last night – but the important thing at the moment was that I wasn’t going to Florida and eating every meal at a place we have in Lincoln.

I asked at the front desk if there was any place nearby other than the McDonald’s and Wendy’s across the street. No. Not only “no,” but there was such a vast expanse between our hotel and the nearest restaurant that wasn’t the diner down the street that they flat out wouldn’t tell me anything. Even when I specifically asked for Steak n Shake, they would just echo, “You don’t want to go there, it’s just too far away. It’s just too far.”

I didn’t need them, I decided, so I did by best to follow my memory from 15 months before. I knew we were staying somewhere out near I-595, so I took that west. I recognized University, so I took that exit. I recognized Sunrise, so I drove around that area. I was wasting about 30-40 minutes at this point, so it became time to ask.

The clerk at the Shell station told me that it wouldn’t be open at this hour, so he wouldn’t tell me how to get there. The guy behind me in line knew it was open 24 hours, so he would give me directions. I followed his directions, and they were nuts. Wasted another hour or so. Returned to the Shell station.

“Yeah, his directions were way off,” the clerk tells me. “I knew you weren’t going to find it.” But Mr. Know-it-all Shell Clerk wouldn’t tell me the right way because he knew it was closed. Finally I got him to tell me how he would have told me to get there if it were open.

Eventually, at 12:45am, I pulled into the Steak n Shake drive through. It’s not quite fast fast food, so I didn’t leave until 1:00. I wasn’t sure if Flamingo went through to 595, so instead of taking the risk that I eventually learned would have paid off, I backtracked Sunrise to University, wasting more time, making my way back to 595.

To further outsmart myself, I knew that State Road 84 – the road on which my hotel stands – intersected I-95 north of I-595, so I decided to ignore all other signs and instead seek out the I-95N sign. Well, one of the signs I missed was the SR84 sign, and I discovered after getting on I-95 that you can get on 95 from 84 but not vice versa. Ten more minutes getting turned around.

Eventually I returned to my room, an hour after entering the Steak n Shake drive through, two hours and 45 minutes after leaving, to sit down and eat. It was still delicious. I was so frazzled and frustrated – I wanted to shove my food in the faces of the desk clerks when I returned, but I’d wasted enough time at that point.

Today, though, I was about to make a completely different stupid move in the name of a craving. I had a break before Mr 1776 was going to debut, so I headed down the Hollywood beach broadwalk (they actually call it a broadwalk – I’m not misspelling boardwalk) looking for something to eat. At this point, I had been killing time on the beach, doing some actual swimming in the ocean and just reading out in the sun. So I was really thirsty.

Enter the greek place. All these restaurants are your typical boardwalk setup – three walls, open front, patio seating. A gyro sounded good, but a gyro plate was $10. I was standing in the boundary between inside and outside reading the menu when one of the waitresses walked up to me and said “Eating here or to go?”

“I’m still checking out the menu,” I said, when she pointed out the special – buy a large pizza for $14, get a free pitcher of beer or pop.

I imagined having a whole pitcher of cold Diet Coke sitting in front of me. I imagined drinking the whole pitcher of cold Diet Coke. She took me to a table.

I read the fine print on the sign. $14 for a large cheese pizza. Toppings were extra. So I thought, okay, it’ll be $15 or $16 for a beef pizza, not so bad. But then I thought, am I going to be able to eat a whole large pizza by myself? I can eat a large Domino’s or Papa John’s pizza, but those are a lot smaller than these. It’s not like I’m going to put leftovers in the rental car for 5 hours while I’m following Mr 1776.

That’s when I realized that I was basically going to end up paying about $20 with tip for a pitcher of pop. That’s all I really wanted out of this deal – a $20 pitcher of pop.

So in my first wise move in the realm of food on this trip, I got up and walked out and went to a place down the broadwalk. I got a huge, delicious burger and a plate of fries for $6.25 and the jumbo Diet Coke – almost pitcher sized – for $1.88.

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