What More Restaurants Should Do

Yesterday, I ate lunch with Sidney’s family out on the patio at a popular Myrtle Beach restaurant. With temperatures reaching into the 70s, it was a great afternoon enjoying the atmosphere that River City Café provides. Part of the charm of the place is the ability to use provided crayons to color on the paper table cover. My niece and nephew certainly let their creative juices flow over the course of the lunch.

Enjoying our lunch at River City Cafe during the gorgeous Myrtle Beach afternoon (photo cred to Brenda).

This reminded me of my favorite restaurant in Spokane. Tomato Street is a well-known Italian restaurant in the north part of the city that offers amazing food and, just like River City Café, a one-of-a-kind atmosphere. In addition to the cans of tomato sauce that line the walls, the chalkboard stations that are installed around the restaurant, and the servers who take “flair” to a whole new level there is another “experience building” part of Tomato Street. Whenever a family sits down at a table, it is covered in a fresh white sheet of paper. A cleaned out can of tomato sauce filled with color crayons waits upon the blank slate. Customers go nuts letting their inner artist run wild.

Tomato Street in Spokane is my favorite restaurant.

When drawing on a Tomato Street table, you always want to do your best work. Why? Well, the restaurant will take the very best pieces of dinner art and display them in a glass showcase located in the very large waiting area. When we were younger, it was always a thrill for my family to go to Tomato Street and see if the drawings we did on our previous visit made the showcase. Before social media, it was one of the very best and creative examples of user generated content.

A drawing my dad did of me a couple years ago at Tomato Street. No, it did not make the showcase.

So, what is so special about coloring on the top of a table? Thousands of restaurants across the country do it, right? Yes and yes. However, these days I am surprised that more restaurants don’t do it, primarily because of the phrase I used to end the previous paragraph.

Besides being cost effective and besides serving as a way to entertain guests, Tomato Street utilizes paper table covers as a way for customers to help promote its restaurant (aka user generated content). When someone is drawing/coloring at a restaurant, the common tendency is to create something that is somewhat related to that restaurant. It was not a coincidence that the drawings that made the Tomato Street showcase had something to do with Tomato Street. Each piece of art hung was basically a testimonial for the restaurant.

Now we are in the age of social media. No longer do these pieces of user generated content need to be sheltered inside the walls of the restaurant for people who are already customers to see. Social media can now take these ultra-creative works of art and broadcast them out to an audience that could potentially reach millions. Forget marketing slogans, forget corporate designed logos, and forget staged photos…table cover art made by actual customers is where it is at!

Sure, any restaurant that converts from a traditional table cloth to one that allows customers to draw on it is not reinventing the wheel. The ploy has been around forever. But from what I have seen, businesses have yet to monopolize on this quirky method inside of the digital world. For the Instagram or Facebook account of any restaurant looking for fresh content to post, I think a gold mine awaits with customer produced table art. Don’t Blink.

A Thursday Rundown Where I Close a Chapter

I must admit that this Thursday Rundown feels a little different. It will be the first time in eight weeks that I don’t include a Sean Carty update. Thank goodness though! The district spoke, Coach Carty was reinstated, and parents were silenced. As Mead High School moves on, so will I. Here we go with the rundown!

End of a (Journal) Chapter – Last night I filled out the last page in my latest journal. Many of you are aware that I am an obsessive journaler with an in-depth recorded entry of every day I have lived since the seventh grade. As a typical journal usually takes me about a year and a half to two years to completely fill out, closing one up is always bittersweet. I take the task of choosing my succeeding journal very seriously. This time around, I have an attractive option. Sidney gave me a custom made leather bound journal with my life motto on it. If I choose to go with it for my daily purposes I will have a very well-branded spot for my personal reflections.

The new journal that Sid gave to me. Don't Blink.

The new journal that Sid gave to me. Don’t Blink.

Happy National Burger Day – Even though I dislike gimmick dates, National Burger Day is just too hard to pass up. I want to recognize the best burger places in the cities I have lived. For Myrtle Beach it is not even a contest, River City Café is amazing! Besides the peanut butter burger they serve, I have tried other selections as well and the quality and taste is unmatched. For Missoula I would go with the Burger Shack, a hole-in-the-wall place that unfortunately didn’t last long. Because it is out of business, I will give my current nod to the very popular “Mo Burger” at the Missoula Club. When it comes to Spokane, I got to go with a casual dining restaurant called Prospector’s in North Spokane. Of course, nothing beats a burger off my dad’s grill!

Me enjoying a burger at Burger Shack in 2012.

Me enjoying a burger at Burger Shack in 2012.

Go Home, Electronic Cigarettes – What is a Thursday Rundown without a rant? I just want to put on record how much I despise electronic cigarettes. Why aren’t these things banned just like all other smoking products? While I know users blow out “vapor” instead of “smoke” please give me a break. I don’t care if it is vapor or smoke, I don’t want it blown by me while I am in a restaurant, at the pool, or waiting in line somewhere. Folks casually pull them out in public as if it was their iPhone. I could definitely do without.

NBA Finals – It took me all but two seconds to have an opinion on how I want the 2015 NBA Finals to go down. Simply, I hope Golden State demolishes Cleveland. I am crossing my fingers for a 4-0 sweep. I don’t even want to bring up Lebron, I just want the Warriors to do some damage. The sooner Steve Kerr and Stephen Curry are hoisting the trophy, the better.

End of May – When I reflected on April I explained that allergies bothered me for most of the month. I mentioned how nice it would be that right when May hit, my system would automatically clear up. You know what?? It did! I felt like a million bucks the whole month and besides just feeling great the month went great as well. But to be honest, I can’t wait for June. Traditionally, June is right up there with March for me when it comes to the 30 day blocks on the calendar that always seem to produce plenty of fun and big moments for me. I have a good feeling that June 2015 is going to be special.

Enjoying some boating time on the Intracoastal Waterway with Sid during Memorial Day weekend was a highlight of May for me.

Enjoying some boating time on the Intracoastal Waterway with Sid during Memorial Day weekend was a highlight of May for me.


Enjoy a big juicy hamburger tonight, okay? Thanks again for your readership and enjoy the weekend. Don’t Blink.

Eating a Very Unique Hamburger

On Sunday evening Sidney and I finished up a hot and competitive round of putt putt golf and then walked across the street to a small burger shop oozing with personality. Called River City Café the place has a pristine reputation for the best hamburgers in Myrtle Beach. In fact the reputation is so solid and the burgers so tasty that the Myrtle Beach area now has five total locations. Sidney assured me though that we were going to the best one out of the five.

The sign of the River City Cafe

The sign of the River City Cafe

The place fit the definition of your typical dive to a T. License plates lined the walls, peanut shells covered the floors, and paper towel dispensers sat on the tables. The party of six in front us received word that it would be 35 minutes until they got a table. Luckily for my girlfriend and I, we got seated right away in an open spot in the corner of the crowded restaurant. As I ate way too many peanuts I debated long and hard between two hamburgers on the menu. After putting in way too much thought coming in second place was the mac and cheese burger. I felt very tempted to order it but I have had a couple of macaroni and cheese burgers at various other restaurants before and although I really enjoyed them I was feeling adventurous this particular night. It was time to try something new!

This place had "dive" written all over it.

This place had “dive” written all over it.

I bravely told our server that I wanted to try the peanut butter hamburger. As I told the server my decision thinking he might take me as a weirdo for ordering it he muttered that a lot of people had requested the same thing that night. I guess maybe I wasn’t as unique as I thought. But so what if everyone else in the joint had already devoured a PB hamburger evening that night?! For me it was going to be a brand new experience and I was excited and maybe just a tiny bit scared.

Don’t think that ordering the peanut butter hamburger was a big shocker coming from me though. Most people know that I eat peanut butter like it is going out of style and after preferring it on my bread, pancakes, ice cream, and candy for so long it only made sense that I would eventually throw it on a hamburger as well. Questions ran through my head before it came out: How would it be spread? Crunchy or creamy? On the burger or on the bun? Peanut butter melting or not?

The front of the menu at River City Café.

The front of the menu at River City Café.

Our server brought out my hamburger right next to a large mound of fries. I picked up the top half of the bun slowly and I experienced a lot of friction as the generous amount of peanut butter slopped on both the burger patty itself and the bun generated some resistance. The peanut butter had indeed melted to a degree and there was a lot of it. After eating a few fries I said “here goes nothing” and I picked up the burger and took a bite. The first thing that went through my mind was how heavy the burger was. Peanut butter is not a light substance and it definitely weighted down the whole hamburger to a degree. The second thing that went through my mind was how rich the thing was! The combination of a greasy, juicy hamburger and a generous helping of creamy peanut butter creates an impending heart attack type feeling. Thirdly I thought to myself “Man, this is actually pretty good.”

This is my peanut butter hamburger at River City Café.

This is my peanut butter hamburger at River City Café.

No lying here, I enjoyed the peanut butter hamburger. I practically ate the whole thing but like I said it was so heavy and filling that I did leave a couple bites behind. My one complaint is that the peanut butter definitely overshadowed the taste of the burger a little bit. My taste buds kept detecting the peanut butter at a much higher rate than the burger. But when the taste of the beef did come through it was really good. I want to go back to River City Café soon! I won’t order the peanut butter burger again simply because I want to try all the other yummy and unique burgers they offer. I also want to enjoy the smell and taste of the actual burger itself.

My first experience at River City Café just validated my love for peanut butter even more. Not saying that I won’t ever have another peanut butter burger again but I will be sticking to peanut butter sandwiches instead of peanut butter buns for the time being. Don’t Blink.