Sunday, 10:30 am: A menagerie of Technicolor-painted farm animals herd you toward Searsucker, a hipster ranch-themed restaurant adjacent to Scottsdale’s Fashion Square Mall. The interior is comfortable, airy and whimsical, with rope-and-iron chandeliers and a windowed ceiling welcoming in the Arizona sunshine. You’re seated while you wait for your friends to arrive and given a glass and carafe of water. One sip and you can tell it’s unfiltered desert tap water, because it tastes like Satan’s enema leavings. The menu has a full wine and cocktail list, but you spent last night pounding Angry Orchards with Fireball Whiskey chasers. You’ll have to ask for a Shirley Temple drink.
10:40: The waiter comes back, and you ask what they have to drink that isn’t alcoholic. He gazes at you with neither acceptance nor input, so you fill in the blanks. Orange juice, perhaps? With some mango puree? Nope, no mango. Pineapple? You win and he goes to get it. You wonder if he thinks you aren’t cool. After all, he just brought a full round of bottomless mimosas to the snowbirds at the booth across the way. Perhaps this is where you diverge down the wrong road.
10:50: Friends arrive, hurray! Hugs all around. A different waiter sets down menus and a round of bread plates. You read the menu over about 10 times over while catching up, but Original Shirley Temple Hater doesn’t reappear. A different waiter asks if your empty glass of juice was lemonade. You tell him it was pineapple and orange, and he never comes back. You wish you had said yes to lemonade. A fly takes a sip of your friend’s water, decides it’s heinous, and bails.
11:10: Original Shirley Temple Hater asks if you’ve had time to read the menu. You wonder if he lives in a secret time vortex between Neiman Marcus and Hot Topic. Yes, indeed you are ready to order. You select the full Monte Cristo waffles, stuffed with aged white cheddar and ham. Other choices include frou-frou eggs benedicts, egg scrambles, green eggs with pork belly and a smattering of sandwiches and salads. One friend selects the bourbon brown French toast stuffed with cream cheese and blackberries, the other the Boring breakfast of eggs, bacon and potatoes. OSTH rounds up your menus and walks away, and your conversation re-commences with, “Well, he’s not very friendly, is he?”
11:30: You guys love each other and all, but you’re starting to get antsy. You have to be at a bookstore at 1:00 sharp to meet Grumpy Cat (yes, THE Grumpy Cat), and OSTH hasn’t been spotted since he took your orders 20 minutes ago. French toast friend is starving, and keeps eying the generous baskets of freshly-baked loaves and rolls just beyond her reach, behind the open kitchen’s glass. In a moment of weakness, she flags down another waiter. “Can you bring some bread for the bread plates?” she asks, referencing the little platters set in front of you 40 minutes ago.
“Those aren’t for bread. They’re for decoration.”
11:40: You’re seriously out of the mood for waffles. You note that the large staff of waiters, minus OSTH, keeps lingering around the open kitchen counter while one cook shuffles back and forth. It’s a Sunday brunch and not particularly busy, but one line cook for a large restaurant with a post-church crowd on the way seems like something Gordon Ramsay would shit a brick over. You read that Searsucker was opened by a winner of Bravo’s Top Chef. You’ve never watched it, so you can’t speak to whether it has enough screaming in British accents to straighten these idiots out. Or Welsh, or whatever.
11:50: The least passive-aggressive member of your group marches up to the hostess stand and demands to speak to the manager. Five minutes later, the Boring and French toast arrive. The French toast is scalded on the bottom. Not a little well-done. Thrown-in-a-campfire-doused-with-lighter-fluid char.
11:55: Waffles arrive. They’re so cold that the maple butter rounds on top don’t melt a smidge. They’re salty, tough and disgusting. There’s a reason any recipe for Monte Cristos demands that you serve them immediately. Certain sins are only good hot. If you didn’t have a date with Grumpy Cat in an hour, you might ask for a replacement. Fortunately the manager said he was comping the meal to make up for the hour wait, and you are rewarded for choking down as much of this garbage as you can with 20% coupons “for next time.” He must think you’re a total searsucker. But nope. You’re a Spectrum Culture Food Writer, dammit. And the wrong girl has been messed with.