And why in the hell are people waiting in line -- sometimes for hours -- to eat at Wyandotte County's new Cheeseburger in Paradise? It's a serious mystery to me, because I wasn't able to actually eat in the place until my third visit out there. The first two times I tried to get in, there were so many customers crammed into the tiny "lobby" that I assumed maybe the restaurant's famous investor, Jimmy Buffett, was actually in the building. But no, the King of the Parrotheads hasn't visited this restaurant once. The crowds were just standing there, waiting for a table.
I'm telling you, it would be easier to get a cheeseburger in Atlantis than in Kansas City, Kansas. The first time I traveled to the Legends Shopping Center, I arrived at 5:30 p.m., only to hear that there was a 90-minute wait for a table. The restaurant had opened, by the way, at 4 p.m. I was too hungry to wait an hour and a half for a friggin' burger, so I went across the street for a steak.
The second time, I arrived at 4:30 p.m. "I'm sorry," said the perky hostess. "There's already an hour wait."
An hour? I looked at all the paunchy, middle-aged men and their wives squeezed into the holding pen. "What's in those cheeseburgers, anyway?" I asked the hostess. "Viagra?"
I didn't stick around that night, either, but I had learned my lesson. A few days later, my friend Bob and I raced off right after work and parked in the Cheeseburger in Paradise lot at 4:11. The restaurant had been open for exactly 11 minutes and was already half-full. When the hostess finally ushered us through the dining room, I felt like I had won the lottery. Oh my god, I thought, I'm actually going to eat ... in Paradise!
All kidding aside, my personal concept of paradise would not be located in Wyandotte County or involve laminated tabletops, a guitarist singing old Dylan songs (badly) and "tiki-style" décor. But Bob -- an adult who still finds Walt Disney World an alluring vacation spot -- was entranced from the minute the adorable blond waitress bounced over to our table and announced, "I'm your Islander!"
"I love this place," he whispered to me. "It's fun."
At that moment, an old Michael Jackson song trilled overhead, and our Islander pointed out the thick-bound "Bar Log" on the table, each page packed with dozens of specialty drinks. That it was three times the size of the food menu concerned me. "Do more people come here to eat or drink?" I asked the young woman. "Oh, definitely to eat," she said, grinning. "Especially cheeseburgers."
I looked around to see what patrons at the adjoining tables were eating. There wasn't a salad or a steak to be seen; it was as if everyone had been too afraid to order anything but cheeseburgers and fries. Was it a Pavlovian kind of response, I wondered? I mean, if the restaurant's name has the word cheeseburger in it, did customers feel obligated to order one? "Yes," one of the managers later confirmed. "We have a lot of great dishes on the menu, but we sell more cheeseburgers than anything."
That's one of the great mysteries about this restaurant because,for the most part, the other dishes on the menu are better than the cheeseburgers, as I was soon to discover.