Friday, September 2, 2011

Penguin Sequel Is a Let Down

The Penguin Drive In
3900 Calumet Ave.
Manitowoc, WI

I’m always skeptical of sequels.

I mean, just because they slap a “2” or -- even worse -- a “II” after the name of some awesome blockbuster movie, why do they assume I’m going to go rushing to the nearest Cineplex to plop down my ten bucks to see it?

Especially when the movie doesn’t even have the same actors or director?

Give me a break.

Don’t even get me started about version “3” or “4”. Or “V”.

No thanks.

I began contemplating this not-so-profound theory of mine about 20 minutes into my toe tapping at the take out window of the latest incarnation of the famous Penguin Dive In here on the shores of Lake Michigan.

My bratwurst and onion straws were getting cold in the passenger seat of my Ford Focus rental.

See, I knew all about the famous Penguin.

How it has been serving generations of hungry Dairy Staters butter drenched cheese burgers, cheese curds and custard for six decades. How the art deco neon sign on top of the joint has become a virtual shrine of vernacular architecture.

Heck, a fellow suit of mine even shared with me fond childhood memories of her dining at The Penguin with her grandparents. (Let’s just say, that was a long time ago.)

But I also knew how The Penguin has been closed down.

And reopened. And closed down. And reopened. And closed down again over the past decade or so.

These things happen. Even to the best places in America.

My pre-trip research indicated (a quick Google search and a phone call to a disconnected number) that the latest status of The Penguin was – closed.

So I settled on a corporate chain version of a take-out bratwurst and onion straws.

But a funny thing happened on my way back to the Best Western.

I saw a flashing neon sign up ahead.

Could it be?


The famous Penguin Drive In was open for business after all!

Uh, oh. Dilemma.

I just plunked down ten bucks for dinner. It was sitting on the floorboard of the passenger side of my Alamo rental car.

Surely I wouldn’t stop and buy a second dinner?

Oh, yes I did.

I mean, when the hell will I ever again find myself in Manitowoc, Wisconsin during normal business hours?

Maybe next month. But, more likely…never.

Such is the life of a Suit in Strange Places.

So I veered my rental into the near empty parking lot and made my way to the take out counter.

“Three days ago.”

That was the answer to my question regarding how long they had been open. At least in The Penguin’s latest incarnation under its latest new ownership.

I must be one lucky Irishman!

Or unlucky, depending upon how you look at it.

Of course it’s not fair to judge a place three days into its resurrection. The two high school girls waiting tables and handling the take out orders were doing their best to learn on the fly such fundamental tasks as “How do you serve take-out cole slaw?”

When I finally got my cheeseburger back to Room 365 at the Best Western, it was clear that this was not the same burger that made The Penguin famous.

No dripping butter or oozing Daily State cheese.

Just a standard cheese burger. Not bad. It had a nice char-grilled taste to it.

But somehow I couldn’t help but feeling a bit cheated. Like sitting through a Michael Moore directed sequel to a Steve Spielberg classic.

It’s just not the same.

But why would I expect it to be the same?

The Penguin has changed hands more often than the gloves on the TSA agent who fondled my testicles this morning.

That’s the problem with sequels. It’s always a tough act to follow.

But at least I still had my now room temperature corporate chain bratwurst and onion straws.


You thought I’d let my second dinner go to waste? Not on your life.

And, just so you know, consuming two dinners has nothing to do with me being a glutton. It has everything to do with research.

For you. Our loyal Suits in Strange Places reader.

You’re welcome.

Rating: Would Wear A Free Shirt

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