To the uninitiated, business travel may seem kinda cool and glamorous. Perhaps for some professions it is, but the reality is that I rarely see more than the inside of my client’s office and the inside of my hotel room. I’m usually tired by evening and just want to go somewhere reliable for a decent meal.
Here are the Top Five restaurants I like to frequent as a frequent traveler:
Another favorite is Chili’s. Chips and Queso are always a winner, and if I have the will power to resist that, the guiltless grill options are pretty good too.
If it’s lunch time, I’ve recently been looking for an Applebee’s. They have a great tortilla soup which they serve in combo with half a turkey sandwich. Usually quick and not too filling before a long afternoon of meetings.
If I’m really feeling tempted to ignore my diet by eating a great burger that’s really bad for me, I’ll head to Famous Dave’s and have a Devil’s Spit burger.
If Wendy is with me on the road, and I’m blessed that she gets to join me at least a few times each year, we always look for Buca di Beppo. It’s too much for one, but the Italian food served family style in a fun and festive atmosphere has become one of our favorites as a couple. Ever since they inexplicably closed their West Des Moines location, we look forward to any opportunity to diner there.
Note: I tried to send this to you privately via your website but 1) the location I visited wasn’t listed on your website and 2) you didn’t give me enough room on your contact form to share my experience.
I am a loyal BWW customer. I travel around the country on business and always seek out BWW because 1) your naked tenders are [relatively] healthy 2) I’m usually alone and your Trivia is a fun way to waste an evening, and 3) I can watch my beloved Cubbies wherever I happen to be in the country.
I’m in San Antonio, Texas tonight and went into your Windcrest location at I-35 and I-410.
Disclaimer: I’m a 20+ year Customer Service consultant, which gives me a lot of empathy for companies and their Customer Service challenges. It also means that I’m very sensitive to customer expectation, customer experience, and customer satisfaction. I also sought out your BWW location and drove 20 minutes in rush hour traffic to get there rather than eating at the Chili’s across the street from my hotel.
I entered about 6:10 p.m. It seems to be a new location for you. The crowd was light. There were more staff members than customers. A manager was parked at a table with a stack of applications or some kind of “new hire” sheets. Cool. Spacious. Clean. I’m impressed.
For the record, I’m a creature of habit. My routine when I’m by myself on the road is to go straight to the bar and order 1) a tall, cold Miller Lite 2) four naked tenders, hot bbq, and fries 3) the Cubs game on just one of the 3 million screens before me. Tonight, I stuck to my routine.
The nice bartender immediately asks for my I.D. I turn 50 next April, and am almost completely gray, but I appreciate the law, am respectful of the request, and am always happy to pull out my I.D. The bartender asks if she can take my Drivers License to show her manager. My immediate reaction was to laugh and think, “Sure! I don’t care. I’ve got nothing to hide.” As she disappeared through the kitchen door, however, I thought to myself: “Wait a minute. I’m in Texas, which is a border state. What if she’s making a photo copy of my license? What if she’s scanning it? Have I suddenly become the victim of identity theft?!” (Disclaimer: My hotel room in Texas was robbed in January, making me a little sensitive and a wee bit cynical.)
The bartender returned a few minutes later, a manger behind her, and gave me back my license. I asked her what the problem was and she told me that she had to have it approved since it was an out of state license. I get it. In retrospect I would have appreciated her asking the manager to come and take a look at it rather than disappearing in the back with my license, but okay.
I settled in. I thought my request for the Cubs on a screen was fulfilled when FoxSports1 did a live look in, but then realized it was just a cameo. I asked again. This time it was a different bartender (the one who took my license seemed to have gone off shift). A few minutes later he asked if the game was up yet. I told him it wasn’t. He asked again.
As at Sam’s Cafe American in Casablanca, “Time Goes By.”
My food arrives. “Is there anything else?” the bartender asks.
“Yes, I still don’t have the Cubs on any of these screens.”
He apologizes and leaves to get a manager who comes and says they’ll take care of it. Still no Cubs. Manager comes to check a few minutes later. Nope. No Cubs. They start asking each other what channel.
“It’s 665,” I tell them. I’m a fan. I have DirecTV. I’ve been in countless BWWs and I know you all have DirecTV too. They are impressed. Me, less so.
I’m eating. I’m waiting. Into my fourth naked tender the Cubs game appears on three screens.
“There you go! Three screens!” I’m told.
“Thanks,” I think to myself as I sink my teeth into my final bite of naked tender. It’s 6:45. I’ve been there over a half-hour, and am almost done with my meal.
As a loyal BWW customer, I’m telling you that this experience fell below expectation. However, I feel better having gotten it off my chest. Thanks for listening.
Wendy and I had a fun weekend in the Twin Cities as we made our annual pilgrimage to a Minnesota Vikings game. It was a perfect fall weekend with lots of warm sunshine during the day while the evenings and mornings were crisp with cool fall air. The drive up on Saturday afforded us time to catch up on some much needed conversation. Road construction in Minnesota was awful and gave us more time in the car together than we really wanted, but what do you expect from Minnesota (nine months of winter – three months of road construction)?
We arrived at our hotel which was just blocks from Mall of America field. We checked in and freshened up before heading to our favorite Twin Cities’ haunt, the original Buca Di Beppo’s (literally translated from Italian thats “Joe’s Basement”). Wonderful meal. We headed back to the hotel to watch Zero Dark Thirty which we’ve had from Netflix and have been trying to watch forever. We cuddled into bed and pulled it up on the ol’ laptop. Fascinating movie. Definitely kept us awake.
Sunday morning dawned and we walked the mile or so from our hotel to Al’s Breakfast in Dinkytown by the University of Minnesota. Al’s is a hole-in-the-wall greasy spoon that has been in operation since the area populated with rail workers back in the old days. Al’s has thirteen bar stools. That’s it. People line up behind the bar stools, out the door, and down the sidewalk to wait for a chance at breakfast made on the grill right behind the bar. It’s a unique experience for sure. We enjoyed a big breakfast and then walked back to the hotel to get ready for the game.
It was another mile or so walk to the stadium, but with all of the feasting we were happy for the exercise and the weather was so beautiful we didn’t care. The Vikings are building a new stadium next year so this is likely our last visit to the old Metrodome. We had great seats in the seventh row on one of the end zones. I got a chance to catch some great shots with my camera. Being the home opener, it was packed with fans expecting the Vikes to take it to the hapless Cleveland Browns. On the way to the game Wendy said, “I hope it’s not a blowout. I hope it’s a close game and the crowd is into it the whole time.” She got her wish as the lead went back and forth. Unfortunately, the Vikes gave up a winning touchdown with 51 seconds left in the fourth quarter and it happened right in front of us. Bummer. As one fellow fan put it, when you lose to the worst team in the NFL, that pretty much makes your team the worst team in the NFL. It’s going to be a long season.
We walked back to the hotel and enjoyed a drink on the patio of the neighboring micro-brew while we waited for traffic to thin out. We then headed to the suburbs where I had client meetings scheduled on Monday and Tuesday. Sunday evening was spent enjoying pizza on the bed while we watched Sunday night football.
Monday evening we went to Mall of America and did a little shopping. Wendy found some great stuff and we both bought hats at a cool little hat shop I don’t ever remember seeing there before. We grabbed a bite at Buffalo Wild Wings before heading back to the hotel. After client meetings on Tuesday we headed home.
On the way home Wendy mentioned how refreshed she felt by our weekend getaway. I was grateful for that. We got home at 6:40 and had just enough time to change our clothes ant be at the community center for a 7:00 rehearsal. Talk about an abrupt re-entry. Nevertheless, it was a great weekend together.
I have a confession to make: I’m a terrible reader. I envy those who can consume mass quantities of books, and I get jealous of people who write columns about the boat load of books they read over the summer months. Don’t get me wrong. I love books, but I read relatively slowly and books tend to stimulate my brain in such a way that I can barely get through a page before I’m thinking about how what I’ve just read relates to other things and I start pondering all sorts of connections and ideas. Pretty soon I’m staring off into space as my brain whirrs and minutes go by before I realize I better get back to the book. C’est la vie.
I made it a point this summer to actually get through a book or two, and I’m feeling pretty proud of myself. So I’m giving myself a guilty pleasure of writing a post about my summer reading list.
Moneyball by Michael Lewis. I loved the movie and had been told by two people I respect (one who’s not a baseball fan) that the book was a must read. They were right. While the movie did a masterful job of telling the true and enthralling story, there was no way to relate on screen just how much Billy Beane and his stat geeks changed the game of baseball and why. I loved this book and it prompted a lot of late night baseball conversations. The book made me love the movie even more.
Holy Sh*t (A Brief History of Swearing) by Melissa Mohr. I wrote a blog post a few weeks ago about Melissa Mohr’s book about how swearing has developed in the English language from ancient Rome to modern times. Swearing has always involved the profaning of the sacred (the holy) or exclaiming what is scatological (the shit). The real story is in how the pendulum has swung between the two in history. It’s a fascinating book and Mohr does a nice job of taking what is really an academic work and layering it with her own sarcastic wit. It’s a helluva good read.
Who’s on Worst by Filip Bondy. If you read this blog with any regularity you know that Wendy and I are baseball fans. This quick, trivial read is a fun look at the worst of the worst in baseball history. I was pleasantly surprised at how few Cubs actually made the list (you knew there had to be a few). Perhaps my favorite chapter listed the worst deals the New York Yankees ever made, paying players millions of dollars for a few hapless innings of work. Amazing. It’s an easy, enjoyable read for baseball fans. And, it may help win me a few game of Lunchtime Trivia at Buffalo Wild Wings.
The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien by Humphrey Carpenter and Christopher Tolkien. For a life long lover of Middle Earth, I can’t believe what a treasure trove Tolkien’s letters actually are. Sometimes personal letters are rather uninteresting, but Tolkien writes long letters to fans explaining things that have long eluded me about the mythology he created. I was amazed to discover in his letters just how central his personal faith (he was Roman Catholic) was to everything he did and wrote (he called Lord of the Rings essentially a religious and Catholic story). I was also fascinated to find out how often he references C.S. Lewis (it’s actually a lot) and what good friends and colleagues they were.
Saints and Sinners (A History of the Popes) by Eamon Duffy. I am not Roman Catholic (I have some irreconcilable differences on non-essential doctrinal issues with my Catholic brothers), but I have been fascinated by the long and complex history of the Popes who have shaped the history of the world. I found myself intrigued by the conclave that elected Pope Francis this past summer and have been impressed with the man himself. He’s a leader I could and would follow. So, on the recommendation of the Wall Street Journal I ordered Duffy’s survey of the popes. I’m just getting into it as I write this, but am finding his objectivity and honesty refreshing. It’s already stimulating and challenging my thoughts about the Great Story and the part the church of Rome has played in it.