Friday, August 29, 2014

Lunch in the Gump has gone to the dogs!

Where are you eating lunch today? Go.

To: Current Lunch in the Gump Facebook Administrators:
We, and we know who we are, formed our snarky little Lunch in the Gump blog with a loose recipe of a cup of promotion of local restaurants, a half-cup of commentary on current events, a tablespoon of actual food reviews and a pinch of satire.  The goal was to entertain but not lower the IQ of our readers…measurably… while writing the social history of Montgomery, Alabama from 2009 to 2013. 
Unfortunately we could not leave well enough alone. One of us, and I cannot remember which one (but I am sure Obama or Bush or Karl Rove had some hand in it), thought it might be good to start a companion Facebook page because at the time Facebook was a hot poop IPO that claimed billions of users.  The fact we figured out a way we could maintain our anonymity and use our blogspot nom de plume’s to create fictitious characters like Shadow Pup on Facebook, was also a plus.  It was also FREE.  Well, sure enough, we rocked along for a few years with our usual 20 or so hits on the blog every day unless we had a new post and once or twice a week someone would ask to join the Facebook page where all we did was promote the blog.  We even got some thoughtful comments from our readers, like George.  Our primary reward was to be in crowds where someone would occasionally ask if we had read a “Lunch in the Gump” post on their favorite restaurant.  At such times we could smugly smile and feign ignorance while we listened to someone try to explain what we were trying to do to us, the chefs of irony.  
Our initial recipe was to us like a warm chocolate cookie right out of the oven.  Then something happened. It wasn’t sudden like Alien popping out of that English actor’s stomach or Jason popping up behind you with a hockey mask on.  It was insidiously gradual like global warming and, like everyone else, we blame it on you…and global warming…and Obama or Bush.  You could say we have our own laziness to blame but that would be insensitive.  The fact is that once we hit about 2000 members we both got tired of having to cull “Join Requests” from people from Italy who then tried to sell us ugly shoes.  So, foolishly, we turned it into a “closed” group and shared administration rights  with you two yahoos.  We did not understand that “closed” meant more people could join.  Our mistake.  Now our warm little tart of a Facebook page has gone viral and the recipe has morphed into something else altogether.
We blame you. You let in everybody with a pulse and a Facebook account.  Now it appears the “membership” is approaching 4,000, there are a hundred posts a day asking: “I’m hungry. What should I eat?” It has turned into a lunch crisis helpline: "Help me, I have to eat something and I have forgotten how to chew."  Reading these cries for help has not only cost me by gag reflex but I have experienced the temporarily loss of my ability to read while reading some of these inane posts on the Facebook page. What's next: Reviews of water fountains and public restrooms?  Really?
Yes, there is occasionally very good information about new restaurants that most would have missed. There is some intelligent banter.  But the Facebook page is a now a rogue recipe with a mind of its own spoken in one liners.  We are afraid that our warm fried pork chop has turned into Frankenstein and beans. There is even talk of making money from LITG and shows on local TV about the “founders” but we—the founders—are not on the screen. The Facebook page is lowering our IQs and contributing to global warming.  Why shouldn’t we put it in the compactor before we contract Facebook poisoning? I ask you, what is the socially redeeming purpose of Lunch in the Gump now that it has become as vapid as Entertainment Tonight?


Darla Jean Pupanovich

a/k/a and a/k/c registered as Shadow Pup

Friday, August 8, 2014

Bidgood Bob - Back from the Joint and Hungrier Than Hell (sort of a Corsino's review)

Bama Bing right after the "Incident"
Forgive me Gumpers, for I have sinned. It has been about three years since my last post. You may recall back in the summer of 2010 when I nailed my ex-pal Bama Bing between the eyes with a stray golf ball and put him into a three-month coma. While poor Bing was out, Auburn's football team went undefeated on its way to a national championship. Also during this period the vapid, narcissistic laptop thief Cam Newton won the Heisman trophy, the Republicans pulled off a relatively bloodless coup and overthrew the State of Alabama and I... well, I had this sort of a thing with Bing's wife.

Apparently the risen Bing took offense at me, his best friend, looking after Ramona while he was out cold for a whole football season. Who knew Bing would pull through? Well anyway, once Bing started getting up and around he started raising hell about marital fidelity, betrayal and lawyers, and the next thing you know he's talking about getting a divorce from Ramona. Ordinarily this would have worked out fine and dandy for me, but it turns out that Bing still had a big pile of dough left over from all the no-bid contracts he racked up during the Siegelman administration, and Ramona (who has many fine qualities but marital fidelity ain't one of them) had signed a pre-nup that was going to leave her with nothing but a dented Lexus and twenty bucks if Bing could prove adultery.

Since Ramona didn't have the good sense to take down all the Facebook pictures of our trips to Vegas and the Pine Lake Motel out on 231, Bing had us dead to rights. We were left with no other choice but to kill him.

How to go about it, though? Old pal Tojo Yamamoto offered to take Bing out with the Stomach Claw (Tojo's signature move). Since I merely wanted Bing out of the picture before he got a chance to re-write his will, and had no desire for him to die a slow, agonizing Stomach Claw death, I held my giant Japanese rassler friend at bay.

Getting to Bama Bing was going to be difficult. He had his guard up and was surrounded by goons at all times. My trusted consigliere Chase N. Allpots, a harmless foppish dandy at first appearance but blessed with a cunning mind, approached Bing's people with the offer of a meeting to "iron out our differences." Allpots set the meeting on Bing's turf, at an old-school family-owned Italian place called Corsino's on the north side of No-Clo. Prior to the meeting, fellow Gumper Fat Clemenza snuck into Corsino's and stashed a .38 snub behind one of the old-fashioned toilets (you know, the kind with the pull-down chain) in the Corsino's men's room.

I was picked up by one of Bing's cronies, a corrupt Irish precinct captain from the MPD. Capt. O'Herlihy, or whatever his name was, patted me down before we entered Corsino's. There sat Bama Bing in the back of the joint, a steaming veal parm before him on the red-checkered tablecloth. Bing turned to O'Whatshisname and told him we'd be speaking Italian for the remainder of the sit-down. I excused myself to hit the bathroom, prompting a worried look from Bing. "He's clean," said O'Shaughnessy, or whatever his name was, already into his second whisky.

The pistol was right where Clemenza said it would be. I took a few deep breaths and splashed some water on my face. Emerging from the men's room I walked right up to Bing and unloaded three rounds, then turned to the drunken overgrown corrupt Irish police captain and gave him the last three.

Well, I missed all six shots, then ran outside where Shadow Pup was supposed to be waiting in the getaway car, but he was across Court Street sniffing some stray french poodle's butt. So the plan to get out of town and hop a freighter to Sicily with the lovely and talented Ramona was shot, so to speak. Thanks to the shitty .38 Clemenza hid for me I got 15 years for attempted murder (and got fined 25 bucks for discharging a firearm in the city limits of the Gump). Thanks to Alabama's absurdly overcrowded prisons, I got out today.

Where did I go? Corsino's of course, for a Combo Sandwich and a Dago Salad. They can get away with calling it a "Dago Salad," I guess, because one of the owners might be Italian. Why is it OK for the folks at Corsino's to call it a Dago Salad, but if I yelled out, "Yo! Hey Dagos! You Dagos make a damn fine salad," that would be insensitive. But I digress, as usual. This is a food blog, so remember, the Combo Sandwich and a Dago Salad at Corsino's is one of the best lunches in this here Gump.

Oh, almost forgot. Bama Bing and Ramona patched things up and have lived happily ever after.

I am glad to be back, although I have another one of those ankle bracelets and can't go outside the bypass without the blessing of my PO. Again.


Thursday, July 31, 2014

Apocolyst Gump

What with all the turmoil in the world, sabre rattling, disasters and planes dropping from the sky one cannot help but this may be the beginning of the Apocalypse.  I mean, at this particular time we have:  (1) War in the Ukraine including a Malaysian civilian airliner shot from the sky; (2) Civil war in Iraq with the Sunni attacking the Shiite (which has never happened before except a few hundred times); (3) War in the Gaza strip between Israel and Hamas (again not unprecedented); (4) A still missing Malaysian airliner in the Indian Ocean; (5) An Ebola outbreak in Africa (6) A plane crash in Mail, Ethiopia, (7) A border crisis; and (8) Earthquakes in China. Even "traditional" societal mores have been falling like dominoes at a pace never before seen.  Heck, at the current rate of social change, Alabama will soon allow gay marriages, gambling and marijuana sales. Dogs and cats living together will be next.  It's really only a matter of time isn't it? Some even suggest our President should be impeached as the Antichrist. Woe, dismay and worry abound. Other than the gloomy news, there is very little news at all.  No wonder all I watch are Doomsday Preppers and The Food Network.

Which, as always, leads me to thinking about Lunch in the Gump.  Assuming the impending collapse of society and the decay of our lunch system as we now know it, I have been thinking about where I would eat while the food was still fresh and hot and then work my way through the remaining restaurants until I have to start foraging. Then I think about the order of animals I would like on a spit as they are literally eaten out of existence. In other words, where would the food disappear from Gump restaurants first and what would be the last animal eaten before we hit "The Road" and start looking at our husky friends and seeing beefsteak.

Think about it, tomorrow the economic system collapses under runaway inflation and your money is no good but you have some 9 mm ammunition or other useful stuff to barter. Where do you do lunch knowing that they will not be open long before they run out of food and other supplies? You need to plan and make a list: Apoca-list Gump!

For me making that list is tough.  Where would I go first?   Right now I would go to Derk's first, give him 10 rounds for his pistol and have a good ole fried pork chop, some squash casserole and spicy cornbread chased by a still-cool bottle of fine pinot grigio. After all, he won the first and now defunct BCS Lunch Bowl championship and the most recent head-to-head survey challenge on the Lunch in the Gump Facebook Page.  I figure the Derk's lunch counter is adequately protected with butcher knives to hold out for a few hours if they gave the hungry zombies bottles of wine or used the bottles as clubs.  If True were still open for lunch, I would stop by there before bugging out but, alas, they are only open for dinner so I would have to just fondly remember by last terrific pork chop and pinot noir there with friends.

After Derk's was eventually overrun by hungry zombies, I would drive my SUV through the mob at full speed and travel over to Michael's Table for some of their Schnitzel and another glass of now room temperature white.  Don't know what I could barter they would care about but some of my fishing lures might interest the chef.  Some may say the best move would be Bud's on the theory that not even the Zombies could find it.  However, I say move downtown and then north to the largest water supply: Lake Martin.

An artist's conception of apocalypse-crazed zombie chile poblano seeking revenge.
 I would stay at Michael's until the ditch behind Zelda Place filled with hungry Chile Poblanos seeking revenge on the patrons of nearby La Zona Rosa.  I would then duck in to Chicken Salad Chick and see if they would "sell me" at gunpoint a quart of their regular chicken salad needed seriously "TO GO" before the Poblano's overrun the area.  Failing that I would rev up the SUV, now covered with blood and gore, and head for Central downtown squishing hundreds of Poblanos along the way.  There I would feast on what was left of Chef Leo's calamari, assuming it was still fresh.

Of course, by this time the sea food at Capital Oyster Bar would be quickly losing its shell-food life and may have to be avoided although it would be temptingly close to the relative safety of the Alabama river which is full of all sorts of questionably palatable river life.  Zombies do not swim although they can walk along the bottom of the river and pop up on the other side.  It is important to treat the river shoreline like a wildebeest expecting crocodiles would.

With my "bug-out" kit full of chicken salad and 9 mm rounds beside me I would then head up to Lake Martin to a secret spot on the water where deer seem to abound. I would think the dams would halt the underwater march of zombies north from the Gump.   But then again, the march from Georgia south perhaps would cause a pile up against the structure. Let the Georgia Zombie War begin!

After cleaning out the deer I would move to the squirrels, then the raccoons and foxes all the while fishing hard for crappie and bass.  I would eventually move on to the polite little chipmunks and then the various birds hitting my feeder.  When that supply was exhausted, I suppose it would be time to give up--even if armadillos were plentiful.  I mean, if you look in the mirror or your reflection in a stream and see yourself eating an armadillo, it may be time to go to..... McDonalds?

Seriously, things have got to get better soon or we will all be fighting over the last shipment of Chicken McNuggets so infused with preservatives that they will last 50 years without refrigeration as we all speak Russian or Arabic.   What is Russian for a Chicken McNugget anyway? Цыпленок McСамородок. This is pronounced: Cureetza McCrapeeza.  Somehow that sounds right. Things at that point could not get any worse.

Pray for Some International Sanity and Stay Hungry My Friends!  Remember our Motto:


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Law of Unintended Sandwiches

In 1936 Meyer R. Schkolnick n.k.a Robert K. Merton published a paper titled: "The Unanticipated Consequences of Purposive Social Action" in which he tried to analyze the unintended negative consequences that often result from deliberate attempts to cause positive social change.  Now related to "Murphy's Law", the "Law of Unintended Consequences" is often utilized to remind us of the hubris that humans can fully control the world around us.

Which of course brings me to the subject of sandwiches in Montgomery, Alabama, a.k.a (affectionately know as) the "Gump" (for you newbies).  Our loyal following on our Facebook page (see the link to the right) has been chattering about a chain know as Jimmy Johns coming to Old Cloverdale in the Gump.  However, as you Old Montgomerians know, the corner of Narrow Lane and Carter Hill Road is not in Old Cloverdale and is known as the old Chevron station now known as the old Moody Tire location. (Isn't it quaint how we natives refer to locations as what they used to be as if we are still living in the past?)  The relevant question I had upon learning of this encroachment was how in the world one would be able to get into or out of the parking lot of Jimmy Johns when it is located smack dab in the middle of the most F*ed-Up intersection even the most well-meaning of traffic engineers never could have possibly intended. (My exhibit A is the turn lane on Carter Hill headed out of town which allows you to go by the cars waiting for the straight arrow and then beat the cars going straight onto Carter Hill).  I thought that when they added the Sonic drive-in to the mix it would only be a matter of time before a waitress roller skated into that spaghetti junction with a load of tater tots causing a chain reaction accident startling a golfer teeing off of No. 8 at MCC and causing them to shank a shot through the glass door at Martin's and into a pile of cornbread.  As if things could not get worse, now they open a fast-food sandwich shop with a drive through lane, hoards of hungry hungry hippos and dozens of delivery drivers ready to bolt into traffic with a Vito sub destined for the tummy of someone too lazy to open a jar of mayonnaise.

The intent was--as we find on their web page--to distinguish Jimmy Johns from the rest because "it's honest, it's damn good, it's damn fast, at a decent price." To paraphrase, it appears they intended to make our lives easier by providing convenient access to decent sandwiches at fair prices. The unintended consequence is that they further screwed up an already disastrous intersection with the result being that I could not get near the place during lunch hour and settled for an average tasting sandwich after stressful encounters with traffic.

I have learned that when you have to serve hundreds of sandwiches in a very short time at "fair" prices, it is almost impossible to serve truly great sandwiches regardless of your good intentions.  That is sort of why we founded Lunch in the Gump: to support local places that make our sandwiches to order in groups of two or three at a time to be consumed at a table with friends or, at least, comrades in cuisine.

Which, finally brings me to the real reason for this particular post.   After trying several fine "fast food" sandwich places in the Gump--like Jimmy Johns--I have to submit that I believe I have located the absolutely best lunch sub-like sandwich in the entire Gump from the River Regions to West Shorter.  I know that such a claim will evoke howls of protest from devotees of various very good local establishments, but today I confirmed that what my gullet had been craving for weeks was in fact the real deal.  What is this sandwich you ask?
The Intended Consequence of Ordering a Combo.

For me, right now the best non-hamburger sandwich you can buy in this area is the Combo sandwich at Corsinos. When Corsino's says "combo" they do not mean it comes with fries and a drink.  They mean a combination of various Italian meats and cheeses. The bread is like the bread they use in New Orleans for Po'Boys. Warmed just lightly with thin-sliced Italian meats and provolone cheese topped with shredded lettuce and tomato. It looks too large for one person to eat but it is so good I have rarely seen anyone attempt to take 1/2 home.  Given the even light use of mayo that would probably not be a good idea anyway for these sandwiches travel about as well as a Hamburger King cheeseburger. For anyone who does not love one of these sandwiches I will give you a refund of your Lunch in the Gump subscription. Just remember its cash only at Corsinos.

The intended consequence of diving into a Dago Salad (do you see a smiley face in that bowl?)  
To make it even more wonderful, you should try the sandwich with the (Politically Incorrect) antipasto which comes with Italian dressing, olives, cheese and lettuce.  I'd love to show you a picture but I ate it before I thought about writing about it.

The moral here: Take your time for lunch and enjoy a hand-made, one at a time, sandwich at a hometown icon like Corsinos.  Its an intended consequence of taking your time to make something special.

Corsinos Italian on Urbanspoon

Monday, April 14, 2014

You Cannot Digitize Good Restaurants

A friend of mine made a fortune in the movie rental business and sold out to Blockbuster about 10 years ago. He then went into the tanning booth business.  I asked him why and he told me: "You can't digitize tanning."

You have to take your hat off to any person, group or organization that can properly and successfully manage a restaurant over even two years.  Like math for Barbie, it's hard. Once you realize you have been consistently enjoying a restaurant for lunch for over that period of time, its time to swallow your pride and recognize them even though everyone probably already knows them and already has their own opinions. You probably should even recognize them despite being a little embarrassed that you like the food or because they really do not qualify as a true locally owned restaurant.  So in my case, its time to praise Chappy's and Zoe's (you know, the one with the diaeresis over the e). They have each been successful over 20 years.

I have literally eaten at every restaurant you have seen reviewed on this blog since its humble beginnings.  I, along with Bama Bing, personally trained the elite LITG guinea pig commando unit: Squeal Team Six.  In other words, I've been around the steam table a few times.  It is with this background that I have to admit that Chappy's Deli and Zoe's Kitchen consistently provide fresh and tasty lunch fare efficiently and at reasonable prices with good service. Let's start with Chappy's.

Chappy's has been a locally owned and family operated Gump/New York style deli since 1989. Now, it's not really comparable to a New York Delicatessen such as the Stage Door,  but they do have a pretty good Reuben and Pastrami & Swiss sandwich.  Now the problem is that I also have been presented so many lunch-meeting Chappy's sandwich trays that I think I could build a triple-Decker sandwich ladder to the moon and back. It's enough to make you avoid the restaurant during lunch away from the office.  Don't make that mistake.
Do not confuse these tray sandwiches with the much better sandwiches at the restaurant.

I swung by the Perry Hill Road Chappy's for lunch recently and found the place to be running smoothly.  They have a take out counter that functions very efficiently with attentive counter personnel.  I was in an out in a few minutes with a Ricky Ricardo Cuban sandwich that was quite good.  Again, not up to the Columbia Restaurant Ybor City version,  but a solid effort.

Actually, I like breakfast at Chappy's even better than lunch.  It's the usual country breakfast fare but everything is prepared properly with good ingredients.  Coffee is fresh and strong.  Great for the little crumb snatchers (who personally I would pay you to leave at home cause your 'little snowflake' grand kids are not as cute as you think). 

Chappy's is a true Gump/Castanza family gem that deserves a little love from LITG. And they are spreading.  They have locations in Pratt-Vegas and ... wait for it...Ozark, Missouri of all places.  Someone must have a vacation home in the Ozarks maybe?

Do not confuse these trays with the sandwiches you can get for lunch at one of their local restaurants. The freshly made sandwiches are mucho bettaro than the trays.  Despite this, I have some pretty funny video collected by an Internet camera in a conference room after a 2 p.m. email was sent out that said: "There are some leftover Chappy's sandwiches in the conference room."  It looked a little like roller derby without the skates and helmets.  Hats and helmets off to the Castanza's.

Now about Zoes (and I can't find the ALT+ key that generates the two dots above the "e").  Zoes means "life" in Greek.  It means "bank" in the restaurant business.  Zoes is an example of a well-run restaurant gone big time.  The restaurant was founded in Birmingham in 1995 by Zoë (cut and pasted from their webpage) and Marcus Cassimus with a Mediterranean feel and menu.

The Zoes on Zelda always serves very fresh salads and sandwiches in an efficient manner.  You place your order, pay and get a number to put on your table.  In a few minutes--not long after you serve yourself at the drink bar--a server brings you what you ordered.  On your table is the oil and vinegar dressing that goes with almost everything they serve.  One of my colleagues goes there every week and always gets the chicken salad fruit plate.  I really like the Mediterranean salad with chicken.  I almost feel like I am losing weight as I eat it.  But that is quite unlikely.  It's an easy drive from downtown, the service is quick and--on days like we have been having recently--you may dine al fresco.

Yes, Zoes is now a chain. They have 110+ locations.  In fact, they just went public April 10, 2014 and, as of today, they have a stock price in the NYSE of about $24.  They are now run by a guy with a degree from Texas A&M with their home offices in Texas.  But it does have Alabama roots and shows how a good restaurant can be replicated and franchised.  It may even show the pathway for Chappy's.

Now, to complete the circle, it was just announced that a Japanese-themed restaurant will open in the Westminster shopping center.  It will be called Maki Fresh.  Guess who came up with the idea of a serving sushi with an Asian flair?  It's John Cassimus of Birmingham, the founder of Zoes. Apparently, it will allow you to pick your food out and self-checkout.  They will also have burgers and bang-bangs. 

The moral?  Because the food industry cannot be digitized, if you can consistently serve good food at a fair price, the sky is the limit.  Congratulations to all successful restaurants from LITG!

Chappys Deli on Urbanspoon Zoes Kitchen on Urbanspoon