Chili Cheese Fries
Praise Jesus with thanksgiving
That's what the sign hanging on the door of the A&W in Frisco said last month. Today, it's "Happy Birthday Jesus" and "Jesus is the reason for this season, Isaiah 7:14," along with more exhortations for the faithful to stock up on onion rings and cheeseburgers in anticipation of the holidays. And owners Reuben and Donna Drebenstedt have no plans to take the big J.C. off their door anytime soon.
"We were threatened with the loss of our franchise if we didn't take down our Bible messages," explains Reuben, a Messianic Jew. He got in hot water last year with both the Anti-Defamation League and A&W corporate headquarters when complaints started coming in about his signs, and on the advice of their lawyer, the Drebenstedts recently gave the proselytizing a "cooling-off period." But now Jesus has reappeared. Sure, this time around it took three weeks instead of three days, but Reuben insists he's in this First Amendment fight for the long haul. "We're not obnoxious or belligerent people," he tells me. "We're not out to hurt anybody. I don't know if A&W knows what a large group of people they've offended, trying to make us remove our uplifting messages of Bible scripture. They're telling me I can't advertise to a large group of my customers."
Reuben says that "as owners of this building, the land, the sign, the franchise and 100 percent of the risk," he and his wife should have the right to put whatever they want on their sign. I couldn't agree more. Times are tough in the restaurant biz, and if someone wants to use a little God Jr. mojo to get the greenbacks flowing, that's his business. Now, if it were me, I'd go a little bit more Old Testament -- you know, petition the Big Guy for a plague of locusts and vipers to be visited on the nearest McDonald's or something like that. For that matter, some local businesses could use a bit of creativity as they take their marketing from bad to verse. For example:
For Chipotle, from Leviticus, Chapter 11: Whatsoever critter of parteth hoof that might be whacked up into chunks then wrapped into the form of a burrito, this shall ye eat and be fruitful, but the McNugget, the Riblet and that stupid friggin' onion thing from Outback Steakhouse ye shall not touch, for they are just plain nasty.
For Ocean City: The Lord sayeth, "These shall ye eat of all that are in the waters: whatsoever hath fins and scales, in the seas, and in the rivers, them shall ye eat. And all that have not fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of any living thing which is in the waters, them shall ye eat, too. And the squids. They look yummy. And while you're at it, eat thee the crabs and lobsters, and the sharks and abalone and the sea urchin and anything else thee might gather up in thy nets. As a matter of fact, serve thee to the multitudes one of everything that liveth in the waters, but let the menus be writ in a language unfamiliar and tell not thy customers what they're eating until they are done, because that's always good for a laugh."
How about this for Adega, from the Book of Bryan: For Bryan so loved the foodies that he gave unto them the alphabet soup with duck confit, the rabbit from the land and the caviar from the sea, that whosoever believeth in him and bringeth forth their platinum Visa might eat lo unto seven days and shall not go hungry or thirsty. Just broke.
And this for Marczyk's: God blesses those whose hearts are pure, whose fish is fresh, whose wine is cheap and those who keep fine cheeses. Blessed be the cheesemakers and the cheesekeepers in all their doings. Unto the cheesekeepers, God sayeth, "Right on!"
Speaking of cheesekeepers, here's one for Chedd's: Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house nor thy neighbor's wife nor his servants nor his ox nor his donkey nor any of thy neighbor's stuff. But if thou shouldst find thyself overcome with the coveting of thy neighbor's grilled-cheese sandwich, just wait until his back is turned, then grab it. God loves grilled-cheese sandwiches, so he'll understand.
And finally, this for Juanita's up in Boulder: Praise ye the lard which maketh all things good; which maketh tasty burritos and delicious empanadas; which feedeth the hungry and cureth the hangovers of the wicked; which causeth the weak to feel strong and the tummy to feel full. The lard shall reign forever. Praise ye the lard in all that ye do.
Beer today, gone tomorrow: In my review of Thai Basil II ("One Night in Bangkok," December 4), amid my ramblings about sex and dope and underage drinking, tragic credit-card debt and cockroach racing, I lamented a portion of my misspent youth which, more than anything, was flavored by Sriracha hot wings and cold bottles of Tiger beer. I haven't had Tiger in a long time; in fact, I remember it with such a demented fondness that at times I wonder if it existed at all. But then my faithful readership of kooks, cooks, cranks and obsessive foodies let me know exactly where I could pick up a cold sixer.
First, Steve Muller has done it again by selling Tiger beer at Above the Rim, the little wine shop at 1936 Pennsylvania Street that won my heart for carrying all breeds of Chimay. Another reader let me know he'd spotted the stuff in the coolers at Colorado Liquor Mart. And yet another sent an e-mail saying that I can pick up Tiger (along with the Vietnamese '33' beer) at Divino Wine and Spirits, down the street from the Westword office at 1240 South Broadway.
So if you'll excuse me, I have to go see a man about a Tiger...
Leftovers: In more booze news, Cielo has transformed its back bar into the Tequila Bar@Cielo, serving -- you guessed it -- tequila. Sure, it served tequila before, but now it's got even more of the stuff: high-end tequila, specialty tequila, small-batch, infused and artisan tequilas. It's offering tequila flights for sampling, tequila pairings for tastings, and a new bar menu to go along with the signature margarita menu. Hmm...we should celebrate, but what would we drink?
There's more cause for celebration over at Jack-n-Grill, which is almost ready to debut its expansion. "We should have it open right before Christmas, my man," says owner Jack Martinez. "Or right after. Maybe I should say New Year's. For sure, for sure before the new year, okay?"
Okay by me. The patio and new bar area will double Jack-n-Grill's seating in the winter and triple it in the summer, for a max occupancy of around a hundred. And will anything else about the place be changing?
"No way," Jack tells me. "Everything is going to be the same. Prices the same. Menu the same. Everything the same as it always was." Thank God for that.
And by the time you read this, Mezcal should be open, serving such straight-up Mexican standbys as coctél de camarón, posole, mole and adobada, and everything else from tamales to tampiqueña for lunch and dinner. The kitchen is open until 1 a.m., and the bar will stay open until 2 a.m., pouring from more than a hundred different tequilas and mezcals. But despite that very adult amenity, Mezcal also has a kids' menu.
Here's to being all things to all people.
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