Sorry to spring this on you, but. . .I may have run out of things to say about moving No.2 son to California!
I firmly reserve the right to return to that topic in future columns! For now, in order not to decelerate your California dreamin’ too suddenly, I herewith dredge up a column I wrote years ago about California. Ummm, well, it’s sort of about California. Here goes!:
Once, on a spring break trip to Orlando, Florida, we lunched twice in San Francisco!
Okay, it was a faux, romanticized version of San Francisco, specifically the Fisherman's Wharf area. But hey, this sort of thing passes for “authentic” in Orlando. (Which is a city that could easily have a serious inferiority complex. Think about it: Travel the world over and you’ll never find a faux, romanticized version of Orlando, Florida.)
Our first Bay Area dining experience was at Universal Studios, at a place called Lombard's Seafood Grille. I thought the name was kind of recognizable; I've been to San Fran (which the natives NEVER call it, I'm told) a couple times, and eaten in restaurants in the Fisherman's Wharf area, and thought maybe Lombard's was one. It seemed they'd very logically established a central Florida footprint.
Turns out I don't know nuthin' 'bout nuthin'. Careful perusal of one page of Google results revealed there's no “real” Lombard's Seafood Grille. That is, there's no Lombard's in the real San Francisco. Sorry, didn't mean to impugn the “real-ness” of the Lombard's in Orlando’s fake San Francisco.
I suppose I thought the place sounded authentic because of Lombard Street in Frisco (another name I hear the natives NEVER use). There's a famous section of Lombard Street that's known as the crookedest street in the world. “Crooked” as in “winding” or “curvy,” and not as in “Houston Astros sign-stealing.”
Wouldn't you know, in the contentious epoch we live in, there's a dispute over whether Lombard Street can call itself the crookedest; other claimants are Vermont Street, also in San Francisco, which has fewer turns but is on a steeper hill, and Snake Alley, in Burlington, Iowa, which could cause some confusion if you don't have your facts carefully organized, because there's a Burlington, Vermont, and before long, you could wind up saying that IT has the crookedest street in the world.
Stretching this parenthetical thought further, here’s why Burlington, Iowa, thinks its street is crookeder: Because it has as many turns as Lombard Street BUT over a shorter distance. Clearly, however, Snake Alley is the loser in this contest, because, let's get real, Burlington, Iowa is NEVER going to get the faux romanticized treatment in Orlando, Florida.
Universal lays the faux romance on pretty thick in describing Lombard's Seafood Grille: “You can hear foghorns and clanging buoy bells” there, says the literature. Ummm, not so much. While the restaurant does look out over a body of water, it's merely a manmade lagoon, with no resemblance to San Francisco Bay; the only sounds you can almost hear are the arguments of exhausted and sweaty families on the other side.
The dining room we sat in has a really big aquarium in the center. It's beautiful, but it makes you feel a little guilty about ordering when Universal's description of the tank mentions the fish “happily swimming about, relieved not to be on the menu.”
The very next day, we returned to Universal's “San Francisco” for lunch, and I should explain that it's not that we're so crazy about this section of the park but because it's not very far from the “Men in Black” ride, where you careen pell-mell through a cityscape shooting aliens with a laser-zapper-ray gun, thereby saving the populace from being put in an alien version of Lombard's aquarium. We rode it a LOT.
The second restaurant was a burger joint called Richter's. I wondered if this was some kind of popular chain somewhere back in California, until my kids got tired of me wondering aloud about it and said “Dad! San Francisco! Earthquakes! Richter scale! Get it?!”
I said I knew it all along, I was just testing them. I lied.
As we left, I noticed the hostess' badge identified her actual hometown as the City by the Bay. I told her someone oughta start a Richter's burger chain in old San Frisco. She gave me a tight smile and replied, “We natives NEVER call it that.”