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Verner column: Now this is my kind of food

NASCAR eatery could be fun, but beware of pit stopsAs someone who enjoys both racing and eating, I’m very disappointed that plans for a NASCAR-themed restaurant in Salisbury are now in doubt.
The city needs more variety in its dining experiences. Yes, it’s wonderful that we have Vietnamese, Thai, Cuban, Chinese and Mexican eateries, along with our own Cracker Barrel. But, really, folks, we’ve reached the legislatively mandated quota of barbecue joints, and if Salisbury gets one more Italian place, we might as well put a statue of Mussolini on the Square and declare focaccia the official municipal bread.
I’ve never eaten at a NASCAR-themed restaurant, but I’m certain it would be a unique dining experience. It sounds far superior to those bowling-themed restaurants, where you have to bring your own tableware or rent it at the front desk, or the golf-themed bistros that charge a $25 greens fee just for entrance to the salad bar.
I imagine the stock-car dining experience goes something like this:
Unlike other restaurants where you’re either whisked to a table or put on a waiting list, a NASCAR-themed restaurant requires diners to go through a qualifying session. To qualify for the main dining event, you’re allotted two minutes to eat half a pound of pork rinds and chug down a gallon of Cheerwine, Mountain Dew, Pepsi, Coca-Cola or Miller Lite (depending on your sponsor). Then you spend 10 minutes complaining about how you could have done a lot better in qualifying but the set up on the serving tray was way too tight and your grip on the Cheerwine jug was way too loose. If you’re competing for the No. 20 “Tony Stewart” table, you also question the competency of restaurant management and grumble about how much better the pork rind compound was under the previous manufacturer before huffing out to buy your OWN restaurant.
After qualifying, the crew chief (otherwise known as the “greeter”) steers you toward a table. Then a waitress wearing a flame-retardant tube top and a full-face crash helmet sprints over and announces: “My name is Miranda Sue, and I’ll be taking care of ya’ll today. First, let me tell you about our specials. Today, we’re featuring the Bass Pro fried catfish with our Texaco/Havoline/Juicy Fruit hush puppies. We also have our famous Budweiser/Coors/Sunoco hamburger. You can get that deep-fried in WD-40 or flame-broiled in ethanol, and it comes with your choice of Jack Daniel’s onion rings, Camping World/Jim Beam french fries or the Crown Royal/Irwin Industrial Tools tater tots. Could I jump-start you with one of our appetizers? The Texaco/Shell/STP-marinated mushrooms are really good today.”
Diner: “I’m on a low-sodium, low-cholesterol, low-grease diet.”
Waitress: “Oh, no problem, sir. Just a second and I’ll bring you one of our restrictor-plate menus.”
In keeping with the NASCAR theme, the restaurant would have a loud PA system with Darrell Waltrip and Kyle Petty doing color commentary on all the eating action.
Kyle: “Hot diggity, D.W. ó just look at the folks at the No. 14 Home Depot/Lowe’s/Target table go through that Best Buy/Fed-Ex bean dip! They are really dialed in today! That has got to be a first-course record!”
D.W.: “Hold on, Kyle ó looks like we’ve got a bad spill on the backstretch between Booth 3 and Booth 4. Somebody couldn’t hold their draft. The yellow mops are out.”
One of the most exciting parts of dining at a NASCAR-themed restaurant would be the “pit stops.” When diners use the restroom, they’ll be electronically timed and videotaped in hi-def from start to finish. A pit crew will be strategically stationed at each stall to make sure patrons are in and out as quickly as possible. Just like on the track, the key person will be the “jack man,” who has the critical duty of making sure the toilet seat is raised and lowered at exactly the right moments. Anyone caught leaving their stall with an open fly or toilet-paper stuck to a shoe will be penalized and forced to go without dessert.
Finally, to commemorate the completion of the stock-car dining experience, NASCAR-themed restaurants should have something similar to the hallowed post-race tradition in which the victor engages his front brakes and floors the accelerator. This process, known as a “burnout,” basically melts down the rear tires and sends up an intoxicating cloud of smoke that obscures half the grandstands. Non-race fans will grimace and make sour remarks about the dangers of particulate pollution and global warming. Ignore them. These are the same obnoxious sorts who attend Al Gore rallies and do “the wave” at baseball games.
While some NASCAR fans might want to do a real burnout by setting the table on fire, a “burpout” would be more appropriate ó and less likely to cause bodily harm.
Ladies and gentlemen, start your forks.
– – –
Chris Verner is the opinion page editor of the Salisbury Post.

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