By Michelle Railey
So there you are, in Las Vegas, at the Flamingo, and you’ve screwed up dinner because J.B. at the Flamingo served you that next Bloody Mary (or whatever it is that happened to you) and so you missed the bus to downtown for one-dollar shrimp cocktail and the buffet at your hotel has shut down (not like they’d have cotton candy anyway, dammit, Harrah’s, of all the things to run out of) and so there you are at Carlos and Charlie’s for the second damn time. It doesn’t matter that the first time you were there that one chick I think of as Roxette totally screwed you out of refills on your iced tea and also just wasn’t awesome at customer service in general. But, you know, maybe it was an off-day and waiting tables is hard. I get it.
Anyway… there you are at the Flamingo at the Carlos and Charlie’s –again– and you’ve got nachos (the Mayan temple, fifteen dollars, for about three pounds of chips and cheese and cheese sauce, which is different, you know what I’m saying here). And Roy and Mildred* just sat down to simper over burritos at the table in the corner and Eight is Enough just sat down in their T-ball costumes** to order dinner for family time.
All is right in the world. The environment is a cross between Every Mexican Restaurant in the World and Dark TGI Friday’s.
Then, out of the blue, the music changes. The bass pumps up and suddenly there’s a DJ.
(Crunch of nacho; Roy and Mildred say how lovely it is to get out of the home and not eat Early Bird Specials this evening.)
And now: there’s a strobe light in the corner. There’s a greeny-red light being flashed on a surprise disco ball (where did that even come from?).
There’s a twee hipster in straight-brimmed Yankees cap, fussing around, holding a clipboard, and…is that a TSA-style security line?
What. Is. Going. On. Here.
Roy and Mildred are oblivious. Eight is Enough is way less fussed than they should be that Carlos and Charlie’s does not offer free chips and salsa. They’re talking T-Ball and soccer and whatever; it’s like a sitcom over at that table, one step removed from Family Ties and Full House and, oh yeah, Eight is Enough.***
And now here come some patrons who are tweaking. And I’d like to finish the nachos but something wicked this way comes.
Does anyone notice what the hell is happening here?
Why are the employees taking names and selling glow bracelets?
Can I finish my nachos or should I order the meth platter?
Are we on Mystery Diners? Candid Camera? What is happening????
So you talk to the waiter. “Is this bothering you?” A girl in the background is opening windows and lugging piles of menus to a corner, where a tarp has been placed proclaiming “Ultra Lounge.”
“No, but what the….”
You can try to finish your dinner but lights are flashing red and blue and green and seizure and tight pants and Mr. Mohawk have just walked past, screaming “whooo” and fist-pumping.
And you still have a plate of nachos and no answers. The waiter just smiles and you’re like: am I on TV right now? But most importantly, Can I Finish My Nachos????
So the waiter, looking nervous, sends over a manager because your adorable dinner companion has decided to ask for information. Manager arrives at table and Adorable Dinner Companion states that “we” are “world-renowned food bloggers” **** and would like to chat about the restaurant. Mr. Manager passes us each a business card and explains that every night (except maybe Sunday– it’s difficult to hear everything over thumpa-thumpa) “around 10:30, they start switching the restaurant into a club: twenty dollars and all-you-can-drink well drinks all night.” It has, he says, been very good for business.
Adorable Dinner Companion (a.k.a. world-renowned food blogger) asks if that change ever bothers anyone who is there to eat, it being a mite disconcerting and all, and it’s not like anyone announced it or there was a sign or anything.
“Well,” says Mr. Manager “when you get the right clientele in, they love it.”
I think of Roy and Mildred, who are starting to seem confused. I wonder who “the wrong clientele” might be.
Mr. Manager smiles knowingly and Adorable Dinner Companion/World-Renowned says it’s just an interesting switch and not everyone would enjoy the mystery of it.
I think, “you know, there’s a reason set changes usually happen behind a curtain.”
Also: I can’t decide if $20 for free well drinks all night sounds fun (maybe it does; is J.B. making Bloody Marys?) or if it sounds like alcohol poisoning.
It’s certainly a strange transition to sit through without any explanation. And who knew that a tarp plus disco light plus cheap drinks, a clipboard, and a strobe light equaled nightclub?
Hey, $20 for all-you-can-drink at our house next Thursday. Glow bracelets will be for sale. Come one, come all. There will be no free chips and salsa. It’s a club. (Thumpa-thumpa.)
*Roy and Mildred were charming; no offense meant with the “simper.”
**I actually think now that the family was just dressed American Normal, maybe like for a sport utility vehicle commercial. A pleasant-looking family.
***I literally cannot name a family sitcom that has aired more recently than these.