A review of Denny’s (Augusta, Maine)

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To my dismay there is only one Denny’s in the greater Augusta area. Needless to say, I eventually made my way to the classic greasy spoon for the first time in what seemed like too long. I recall the days where I spent hours sitting with friends talking into the early morning. Never quite to sunset, but to that moment in the night where it’s so late/early that no one is out.

I was pleased to see that this Denny’s was built in the fashion of a shiny tin building. Mind you, not all Denny’s are like this. The one’s in Arizona are mostly that nasty brown stucco that every other building is. This Denny’s – located at 123 Civic Center Drive – sits atop a hill all by itself like a majestic castle overlooking its kingdom.

My giddiness could barely be contained. “I have to take a photo,” I told Hailey. She gawked at me as I whipped my phone out to snap the photo you see above. I decided to live tweet my dining experience with the hashtag #DennysLive. However, I didn’t tweet about everything. So even if you follow me on twitter (at @vitcavage) you’re still in for a treat.

There was a line of two parties ahead of me. One was seated the moment the too heavy of a door slammed behind me. It rattled the place and the quarter-filled diner all whipped their heads at me. I guess it’s not everyday Mainers see a guy wearing a purple striped shirt with cutoffs. The elderly gentleman in front of me stood patiently as his wife sat in a chair to my left. Very nice accommodations if I do say so myself. Most Denny’s (my usual one is located in Chandler, Arizona on the corner of Chandler Blvd. and Dobson Rd.) have adequate seating for its size. This diner, smaller than most I’ve been in, only contained a few uncomfortable looking chairs. I never did get test precisely how comfy the chair were, however, do to my over eagerness to be seated.

My biggest complaint of the day was how long it took to be escorted to a booth. The elderly couple and myself waited for someone to say something to us. Even a “We’ll be right with you” would have been nice. Though we received no such rushed sentiment even though a few waitresses scurried past us.

Once seated, in a booth in the corner near the round one for a larger party, I quickly ordered a Nestea Raspberry Iced Tea. Normally I just ask for a water with a lemon wedge, but I was feeling especially daring that day. The drink was my go to one after I quit soda, before I jumped onto the water/lemon train. So it’s fair to say I know the perfect level of syrup that I should taste and this one was just a little too syrupy. But it was a welcome sweetness that I hadn’t tasted in a while. Hailey ordered water. No lemon was brought, though she never asked for one. Nor was she asked if she wanted one.

I marveled at how much the menu had changed since I had been to a Denny’s. It’s certainly been over a year. Boy, I never thought I’d go a year without a Denny’s. Sheesh, who have I become?

There were more dinner options than I ever remembered there being. I tweeted “Bacon avocado burrito? Prime rib n chicken sizzling skillet? Looks like they’ve expanded their menu. #DennysLive” upone my first perusal of the options. Our waitress – forgive me for not remembering her name – was prompt with asking us if we needed more time. Normally I’m beyond ready to order before I even step through the door. But there was a problem.

In a panic I noticed something was off. I couldn’t find the Moons Over My Hammy, a normally delicious breakfast sandwich containing scrambled eggs with melted swiss and cheddar with a slice of ham. Of course their delectable hash browns come on the side. Hailey pointed out they had a MOMH omelette to which I tweeted, Where the F is the moons over my hammy sandwich. I don’t want this stupid omelette. ‪#DennysLive.”

Luckily the greasy spoon gods smiled down upon me as I noticed there was a flapping insert for some new treat that I discarded immediately and saw my go to sandwich. (“Just kidding. It was underneath a flapping insert. ‪#DennysLive”) But I knew I needed something different this time. Something to break the mold. One does not simply walk into Denny’s and not look at the Grand Slam page of the menu.

If I ever get a Grand Slam I usually build my own. I’m not a fan of their usually dried out pancakes. However, something caught my eye. The Lumberjack Slam. Eggs, bacon, sausage, ham, toast, hash browns and pancakes. My decision was made.

“Decided on the Lumberjack Slam because I’m a grown man, damnit.‪#DennysLive.”

Hailey chose the French Toast Breakfast off of the $2, $4, $6, $8 menu because it contained more than the French Toast Slam for a lesser price. I’m not quite sure if this is a good marketing strategy by Denny’s or a poor one. But needless to say, I liked paying less for more.

The time between ordering and seeing the food slide onto our table wasn’t bad. Not one bit. In fact, it was extremely a normal amount of time to wait. Hailey and I discussed a wide variety of topics including how the Denny’s off of the 60 and Rural Road in Tempe, Arizona serves beer on draft. She was shocked. I missed my late night excursions.

Once our food arrived (note my artistic photograph) we were informed the kitchen was backed up and my pancakes and her French toast would take a bit. I was dismayed, but we both still had a large portion of food in front of us. My hash browns were crisped perfectly while Hailey’s were, and I quote her here, “just shredded potatoes.” It was a real bummer in deed.

I cut (with just enough ease mixed with resistance) my ham before mixing it together with my scrambled eggs and hash browns to make what I like to call “Adam’s Scramble.” You can imagine how delicious it was. No extra salt and pepper was needed. Just s splash of ketchup mixed in. Not a lot, though. Just enough to make the hash browns pink – not sloppy red. I noted that the sausage was different. It no longer looked dark and bumpy. Instead it was a light grey, smooth and had a little snap to the bite. I was genuinely pleased.

At that point I tweeted “Almost done w food. Still no sign of our French toast and pancakes.‪#upset ‪#DennysLive” and no less than 30 seconds later our waitress arrived, sincerely. It was as if she saw me tweet that hashtag of being upset and hurried over with my pancakes and Hailey’s French toast.

Even by sight the pancakes looked different. They looked healthier. The French toast, to my alarm, looked worse for wear. I commented on the yin yang of emotions I was feeling: “Hailey’s French toast looked sad. These pancakes will be the death of me. ‪#fluffyanddelicious ‪#DennysLive.”

By the time Hailey had finished her two miniscule pieces of toast, that she said were mighty tasty regardless of the size, I offered her the rest of my pancakes. I may be a grown man, but pancakes are something that will defeat me every time. I moved onto my rye toast. It was smothered in butter, which I appreciated the cooks doing for me. I tried one slice with strawberry jam. But let’s be sincere: rye tastes and smells good on its own.

“Rye is so good. If I could have my house smell like it, I would.‪#DennysLive.”

By this time we waited for our waitress, who took a little longer than I would have liked to bring the check. Normally I like the check to come fast so I can look at it and then take my time paying. I don’t like it to be the other way around. So I started commenting on how all of the photographs on the wall are the same in every Denny’s I’ve ever been in. I zeroed in on the black and white one of men leaning into the hood of a car; the one with the restaurant’s logo Photoshopped onto the back of the center man’s shirt.

Our check finally came. I noticed two things. The first being that we didn’t walk up to the cashier to pay. The waitress would come back to complete the transaction. I wasn’t too fond of this wrinkle in my Denny’s experience. It’s as if the corporation thinks America is too fat to walk to pay for something. The second was an advert for the new Denny’s Across America campaign. It was a play on the phrase “as American as apple pie” but with a twist. I didn’t like it one bit. “Sign reads “As American as Apple Parfait.” Wrong. Real Americans don’t even know how to pronounce ‘parfait.’ ‪#DennysLive” I tweeted. I laughed a little too loud for a little too long.

That brings my Denny’s experience to a close. I was ecstatic to be back and tweeted to the general manager of the restaurant. I could do so because I noted a sign that had his name, title and a phone number I could reach him at.

I included an overall grade in the tweet, “Dear James Clark, General Manager of Denny’s Augusta: my final verdict is a B+. I’ll def dine at your fine establishment again.‪#DennysLive.”

Thinking back on the overall experience, I would sincerely have to say my grade would be lower. More along the B-/C+ range. I think I was just riding high on my return to a beloved chain I had so dearly missed. But that last sentence in the tweet was true. I would most definitely dine at the only Denny’s in the Augusta area again. Next time I might stick with my usual, but I was glad I took down the Lumberjack Slam.

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