Even The Hot Dog Buns Were Stale

Post Urban Culture

My head ached this morning when I tried to crawl out of bed. The lowest barometric pressure readings in Phoenix history had finally caught up with my sinuses. This was the day they chose to make me suffer.

I envy those of you with no sinus problems. I truly do.

Imagine waking up with pain shooting from the back of your skull straight up the middle of your head, branching out left and right at the forehead and what is left going down the middle of your nose. You do not want to open your eyes because you are convinced if you do, the pressure built up in the eye socket will shoot your baby blues through a wall. As an extra special gift your cheeks ache and ears need to be popped every five or so seconds.

Sinusitis makes you long for your last brutal hangover. At least with a hangover, you know everything will return to normalcy, whatever that maybe, in time. The Great Magnet has made sure sinus problems are the gift that keeps on giving, season after bloody season.

For some reason, after a head soak, five Advil and a Mucinex, I began to crave a Coney Island Hot Dog. A Coney is Detroit’s fast food; a beanless chilidog served with mustard and onions. My body seemed was craving the greasy goodness found in the artery-hardening cuisine of my hometown. When I’m New York, I have to settle for lamb and rice off of a Halal friendly cart. The good thing about my Scottsdale sojourn is presence of two actual Coney joints. My favorite is in South Scottsdale just a mile from Tempe. The place closes at 3 daily and I didn’t know if I could drive the 7 miles without my eyeballs resting on my cheeks. Instead, I decided to try the place my friend Julie told me about in Old Town Scottsdale.

Upperdeck Sports Grill’s online banner screams ‘Food, Fun and Sports.’ They also brag about having an OTB open 7 days a week starting at 11am and real Coney Island Hot Dogs ‘flown in weekly from Michigan.’ Even though the picture on their website showed a blue triangular glass structure, an odd choice for a sports bar/betting parlor/Detroit Greek Diner, I decided any joint with an OTB and real Michigan Coney’s had to be hip. Although I didn’t expect to find New York hustler’s eating and touting in America’s Most Livable City.

The presence of 75 would be Pony Express Riders holding court both outside on Craftsman Ave and in the main dining area should have been some sort of warning: BEWARE ALL THOSE STUPID ENOUGH TO READ ANYTHING INTO THE WEBSITE. However, these are the eccentric types in the Sonoran Desert. New York has the tragically hip and Phoenix has the out of time Cowpoke. It’s the man who wears black that sticks out in this burg.

Once I found a seat at the bar, I looked up at the latest Thoroughbred action from Santa Anna while I waited for the barmaid to finish putting whatever she had to into the computer. 5 minutes later, she turned around surprised to see me.

“What do you want,” she demanded.

Her right in your face demeanor may have been off putting to most however, it was busy and as I am a New York barman. Plus for real Coney’s in an action permissive atmosphere, I was in a forgiving mood. I ordered a glass of water, a cup of coffee and two Coneys’.

“I don’t have any coffee, maybe I can make a pot, and it will take 25 minutes for any food,” the barmaid said. This wasn’t any sort of heads up to a new customer about the volume of the days’ business. This was a declarative statement to take my Coney craving rear end elsewhere.

Although I felt like I had been dismissed from waiting in line for an exclusive nightclub, I was undeterred. “That’s fine. I’ll wait,” I replied.

Service is an odd animal. There is an insane pressure that has absolutely nothing to do with any sort of danger foisted on every front of the house employee. Once outside of the job, it is easily forgotten. However, when in the middle of the madness, screaming patrons, loud music, demands for every ingredient to be different than the menu states and the one knucklehead who always shakes his or her glass for a refill instead of asking, it can feel like the world is about to implode. I have been known to be very short with some of my guests. It is less about the hospitality and more about prioritizing at that moment and there is always a free drink for those who look like they have been mugged while I take their orders.

This was different. A large red plastic glass of water was thrown in front of me followed by a Styrofoam cup of coffee five minutes later. The barmaid closed out one check and commiserated about the rush of business they had just gone through in the last hour. It took another five minutes to get her to bring some sugar and Half & Half for my coffee. (I wanted milk but was told there was none.)

I thought about grabbing the manager and having a chat about proper customer service when the barmaid started discussing how much she hated washing the spit out of the dishes, especially the big red plastic glasses with a co-worker.

“I know what you mean,” he said. “As the manager…’

So much for that line of communication.

The sole bright spot was the arrival of my Coney’s and fries in 15 minutes. Ten minutes ahead of schedule. The dogs looked right, the Coney chili looked right. Good food that soothes a craving almost always makes up for any deficiencies in service, a manager I worked with once told me. Then I bit into the stale hot dog bun.

Credit where credit’s due, the Upperdeck Sports Grill hit the trifecta: offensive service, destroyed, easy to make, comfort food and crude, indifferent staff dedicated to the destruction of their craft. The place reminds me of an old Gary Larson Far Side cartoon. Two guys are standing next to an office coffee machine in Hell, under the watchful eye of two demons.

“Even the coffee’s cold. Man, they thought of everything,” one exclaims.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Every Friday, get 2 for 1 movie tickets when you use your Visa Signature card.

Recent Comments