Some thirty years ago, when Bill was newly divorced, his three kids would spend every other weekend with him. In addition, however, they would go out to eat every Thursday night. He could have cooked for them at home, but Bill McLain doesn’t cook. He assured me of that when we were first married. “I will take you out for dinner any time you want, but I can’t — and won’t — cook,” he told me firmly. So, he and his kids would dine out each Thursday.
I wasn’t included until a few years later, but from the stories I heard, they ate at the same place every week: Chili’s. There was one near the kids’s house attached to a now nonexistent shopping mall. After dinner, the four McLains would walk through the mall and window shop, all the while imagining what they would buy if they had the money. Rolex watches and diamond jewelry were among the most popular items.
Bill tells an unusual story about one of their dinners at Chili’s. Apparently about halfway through their meal, a man at a nearby table had a heart attack. (Don’t blame the Old Fashioned Burger with Cheese and french fries that he was eating. It could have been genetic.) At any rate, according to McLain lore, the servers didn’t miss a beat. They just passed the food across the man now lying on the floor, narrowly missing the paramedics who had been called and were performing life-saving maneuvers.
Now here’s the thing: as the old joke goes, How do you tell when a McLain is pulling your leg? His or her lips are moving. Keeping that in mind, all four of them insist that the man died right there on the floor of Chili’s. They also insist that it didn’t deter them from eating at Chili’s the next Thursday and many Thursdays after that; however, they claim that they always asked to not be seated at the Table of Death.
Bill tells me that whenever they would dine at Chili’s, he would nearly always get the same thing: the chili soft tacos. He loved them, and for good reason. They were delicious. They weren’t anything particularly special, simply Chili’s chili in a soft flour tortilla, with lettuce, cheese and tomato. When I started coming to these meals, they were what I almost always got as well.
And then they stopped serving them. Yep, just took them right off the menu. They started adding things like grilled salmon and Chicken tortilla soup. For a while, you could get them if you asked nicely. And then that option ended, because they simply stopped making the chili. It was a sad day.
Yesterday, Bill came home from a meeting and he was starving. A burger is what he wanted, and the Old Fashion Burger with Cheese sounded good. Let’s go to Chili’s, he said, and so we did.
I opened up the menu to the lunch deals, and what should I see? Glory be to all that is good! Chili’s soft tacos 1975. Seriously, that’s what they call them. And they not only are offering them again, but they taste exactly the same. Hallelujah!…..
And they come with a salad and a side of chips and salsa. Eight bucks for lunch. They have them for dinner as well, and you get three and pay more. Still, Bill and I couldn’t have been more excited.
It’s the little things, my friends. And best of all, no one died at the next table.