Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Restauranteur

Downtown Omaha had what is euphemistically called a residence hotel. Its $25 per week rooms were home to winos, derelicts, and over-the-hill barflies. It was also home to my friend, Stan. Stan was a big gruff guy around the age of 50 who had a very low tolerance for posers and bullshitters. He lived in the hotel by choice. According to him, "It was one place where there weren't any phonies."

Omaha had a horse track called Ak-Sar-Ben that was so notoriously crooked that the sports books in Vegas wouldn't take bets on its races. Stan spent a lot of time there during the racing season.

One evening Stan and I were having dinner in the hotel's restaurant. He explained to me how he had figured out the pattern to the crooked track. It seems that they were rotating the wins through the various stables. In less than a month he had used this knowledge to make over $10,000 which was real money 40 years ago.

While we were sitting at the table, the owner of the restaurant came over and sat down with us. He launched into a long rant about what he didn't like about running the restaurant. After about 15 minutes of this, Stan had enough. He said, "Either stop whining or sell me the goddamn restaurant."

The guy said, "Give me $3,000 and it's yours." Stan went up to his room, came back to the table, and slapped down $3,000 in cash. The guy got up, gave Stan his apron, picked up the money, and said, "You've got it!"

Stan spent the next couple of days cleaning up the place and he got rid of the menus. He was making enough money off of the track that he didn't really care if the restaurant made money or not. He decided to only cook what he liked and what he liked was steak.

His new menu consisted of steak, baked potatoes, french fries, and salad. As a sop to the weenies who couldn't handle steak, he included hamburger on the menu. He located a source of top quality beef for his steaks and hamburgers and ground the beef for the hamburgers himself.

Stan hired a couple of the resident barflies to help out as waitresses and he was in business.

Stan had a real knack for grilling steaks and his were outrageously good. The hotel was only a couple of blocks from Omaha's financial center and it wasn't long before word got out. The financial center crowd was soon making the trek to his restaurant for lunch.

You could order your steak cooked any way you liked, but what you would get would be medium rare because that's the way Stan liked it. If anyone complained, he would kick them out of the restaurant and give their steak to one of his friends in the hotel bar.

Stan would also kick anyone out of the restaurant that he didn't like. It got to be like one of those trendy clubs where people try to get past the bouncer at the door. At that time it was the style for men to wear pastel colored suits. He derisively referred to them as the ice cream suit morons.

I tried to stop in there at lunch time whenever I was in town. I could enjoy a great steak while watching the pathetic ice cream suit morons trying to get the best of Stan.

No comments:

Post a Comment