Okay, so St. Valentine’s Day is coming up, which we like to call, and which it properly is, “St. Valentine’s Day” because it will almost certainly vex some people who, generally speaking, cause enough vexation for the rest of us that a little of it heaved back in their direction is long overdue. And fun. Which always reminds of the best one we ever celebrated, at the Triumph Grill.
The holiday was actually on a Sunday that year. We hadn’t forgotten about it. We already had a gift for our wife. A very, very thoughtful and lovingly wrapped gift card to Macy’s. Because what says “romance” better than that, really? Guys, you think that single rose you purchase at the local Stop ‘n’ Rob or Shell station is romantic? While you’re there, why not just pick up a quart of 30-weight and give her that, too? The Vermont Teddy Bear? Uh, that’s just a little creepy. A dress that, should you roll the dice and select the wrong size will make for a memorable evening but not in the way you’d hoped. Trust us. Go with the gift card.
Anyway, because it was on a Sunday that year, we were not considering that a lot of people would be celebrating St. Valentine’s Day on Saturday night. Which they were. That’s why we made reservations to go to Triumph Grill that Saturday night, not to celebrate, but to review it. And why we never gave it a thought. We took with us our wife and our boy, then a grade-schooler, along with a couple of women who often shoulder the task of going with us, eating a lot of expensive food without having to pay for it.
If you haven’t been to Triumph Grill, you ought to. The food is excellent. The wild mushroom pasta with truffle oil in a garlic sauce is splendid. They put a thin shmeer of raspberry preserves in between slices of thick Pullman bread that just explodes the flavor of a Monte Cristo sandwich piled with honey ham and roasted turkey. The buttermilk-battered onion rings are among the best in town. It’s affordable. Triumph Grill’s fancy enough that it feels like you’re “eating out.” But comfortable. And we can state confidently that Triumph Grill is the best restaurant in town with a motorcycle museum attached.
The Moto Museum must be one of the most extraordinary collections of motorcycles in the world. Dozens of them are on display, some dating all the way back to the early part of the last century. It’s remarkable. And it’s literally just steps from your table. Which means that while you’re waiting for your Creole shrimp penne or blackened grouper or cowboy ribeye—and those fabulous onion rings—you can take a little walk and look at a 1942 BSA. Which is pretty much what we were doing, once having ordered dinner.
Now previously, we’d noticed some of the staff eyeing us. We’re a little paranoid, though. We’re always worried we might be “made” as a critic by the staff of places we’re reviewing. So we can sometimes be more sensitive to any looks we get. In this case, though, there were actually kitchen staff peeking out the door to look at our table. We’re figuring that, after all these years, our cover has been blown. We’re walking back through the hall connecting the motorcycle museum to the restaurant, and our fears appear to be realized. A waitress approaches us, tentatively.
“So,” she says carefully, “are you celebrating something special on this special night?” she asks. And suddenly, it all falls into place. St. Valentine’s Day weekend. We look around. Every table is filled; every of them has couples, either alone or in obvious groups. We were the only ones in the place with three women and a child. Click.
There’s only one way to go in these situations. Straight ahead.
“Ever watch the HBO series ‘Big Love?’” we ask her. It was the one about the polygamist family.
“Uh, yes,” she says slowly.
We simply nod once, then stroll back to our table.
Best St. Valentine’s Day ever.