You know you are an old person when you can remember a time the 600 Bob Evans family restaurants scattered throughout 19 states offered only three pages of menu choices. Today, the breakfast chain boasts eight pages of mouth-watering choices for Midwestern diners whenever their stomachs start to rumble.
In a decade where limited time offers bring big dollars to restaurants‘ bottom lines, I expect to see pumpkin pie or turkey and mashed potatoes featured prominently in November. I didn’t bat an eye to see peppermint hot chocolate tempting me from the table placard as I stripped off my gloves. Crepes, egg burritos, and cinnamon cream pancakes? Definitely a sensible direction for a brand that hangs its hat on the morning meal.
But since when did Bob Evans get into the pasta game? Garden vegetable Alfredo with slow-roasted chicken or steak-tips stir-fry dishes rank up there with blasphemy to this former waitress who paid her way through Indiana University by hauling sausage and hash browns to their tables and keeping the coffee cups full.
So instead of concentrating on what changed, I went on a hunt for the nostalgic. Biscuits and gravy — still there. Bean soup, check. Mush — surprisingly, since I never met another employee who had ever tasted it, listed. Country-fried steak, yep. Home fries, yes! Rolls, which they introduced on my three-year stint with the chain, check.
Then just as I was settling down to stroll memory lane with a bean soup and home fries order, reminiscent of those quick (and cheap) meal breaks of yesteryear, I saw it. A vindication 25 years in the making: bacon.
On my second day on the job, while I was studiously rolling silverware and chanting entree prices in my head, the cook called me over. “Would you tell the manager I’m out of bacon?” he asked. I was 17, he was cute, and even though my first instinct was to get it your own lazy self because I’m making $1.35 an hour and you’re minimum wage, I trotted through the swinging doors to deliver the message.
But instead of leaping to the cook’s rescue, the manager just blinked. “Tell Doug he doesn’t need any bacon,” he said sarcastically. Now I was really confused. How did this guy locked in an office with paper all over his desk know what kind of supplies were on the grill line? I stood there, feeling caught in something vaguely resembling ridicule until the manager took pity on the new waitress.
“Julie, Bob Evans doesn’t serve bacon. Never has, never will.”
Well, here’s to that manager and Doug, too: I was merely ahead of my time. It wasn’t the crispiest bacon ever to grace my plate, but last night’s certainly ranked as the best-tasting strip I ever put in my mouth.