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Carey, all of 19 years old, didn't know "The Rose" from a pink crayon. Suddenly the miserable realization hit that we were far too ancient to be eating in a restaurant with color-me place mats and waiters who should be modeling for Tiger Beat.
Still, what pubescent was going to order lobster bisque as the soup du jour? Bob liked the shiny, creamy soup, which was the exact color of an Atomic Tangerine Crayola. It barely had a hint of lobster in it, but c'est la vie. The soup was vastly preferable to dinners such as the fish and chips. Jennifer said the dry slab of fried cod reminded her of "the daily lunch specials at a high school cafeteria." In fact, I had another flashback to my youth when the Ruben's Ruben appeared; it tasted as if it had been made from the same prepackaged sandwich meat I used to find in my lunch box. Bob liked his club sandwich, though -- it looked good, tasted good and was accompanied by a big mound of Tater Tots.
"We didn't used to allow adults to order Tater Tots," Carey confessed. "But they recently changed the policy."
Well, they also need to change the policy on some of the desserts. Perhaps they shouldn't serve the Grandma's Deep-Dish Apple Cobbler so hot that it tastes as if it's just been taken out of a nuclear reactor.
The Hyatt Regency's food and beverage director, Teri Rack, might have thought I was the Gourmet Grinch a few days later when I rattled off my criticisms of the place. "It's still in transition," Rack said, "and although we have a very creative executive chef now, we do still have some issues from the previous management we are dealing with."
Many of those issues were obvious the night I returned with Bob and Wendy, who found it "hilariously subversive" that we were dining at the venue without children. But Wendy's good humor disappeared as she tasted the dishes we had ordered to share. I agreed with her that the Asian spring roll was "obscenely greasy" and that the "grilled chicken" on a visually horrific pile of nachos -- which seemed to be drenched with cheddar cheese soup instead of actual melted cheese -- bore no resemblance to anything that once had pecked or squawked.
"This place makes Chubby's look like The American," Wendy said, pushing the nachos to the end of the table. It certainly made the old Crayola Café, which had a menu created by the American Restaurant chefs, seem like a four-star restaurant.
Wendy and Bob could see that the hanging light fixtures were dirty, and the restaurant's manager spent more time busing dirty tables than taking any interest in those that were occupied. She looked desperate to get out of the place, Bob said.
"This is the kind of place that you take kids when you want to punish them," Wendy said after sending back her first dinner, the Philly Cheese Wrap, which had ridiculously tough beef slices.
I could take only a couple of bites from my own Jump'n Jack's Jack, the lewdly named version of an open-faced sandwich: a soggy English muffin topped with turkey and ham, more of that watery lukewarm "cheese sauce" and stale "fried onions." Not even the restaurant's excellent chocolate malt could make up for the disappointment.
Bob ordered a seemingly safe dish, a hefty Cobb salad heaped with chopped chicken, tomatoes, avocado and egg. "It's not too bad," he said, "but the dressings are terrible."