Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Diners, Drive-Ins and the Downside to High Expectations




Bobo’s Drive In
2300 SW 10th Ave.
Topeka, KS



Not to get all Dr. Phil on you, but what do you think is the key to happiness?

Low expectations.

That’s right. Think about it.

Whether it’s relationships or lunch.

If you want a happy marriage, pick someone with low expectations.

You know what they say. Behind every successful man is a pleasantly surprised mother-in-law.

I guess that explains my disappointment in the world famous Bobo’s Drive In here in Topeka, Kansas.

Smack in the middle of a typical ridiculous Suit757 itinerary, I was desperately looking forward to the one and only meal of my trip through Florida, Georgia, Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Kansas, Illinois and Michigan.

All in 24 hours.

Eight states. Six airports.

One meal.

In 24 hours.

Yeah, this better be a damn good lunch.

My research led me here. Around for six decades, the Bobo has consistently been voted one of the top burger joints in America. It’s even been visited by that annoying guy with the spiky hair on the Food Network.

The place certainly looks the part of an all-American roadside classic with car hops and a vintage neon sign out front beckoning hungry travelers.

But for my only meal on my eight state journey, I sure as heck wasn’t going to eat it sitting in my rental car. Besides, that always spells trouble for my dry cleaning bill.

So I ventured into the tiny cramped dining room and grabbed a booth by the door because the eight stools at the lunch counter were all occupied.

To be honest, the cheeseburger wasn’t bad.

Pretty thin and small, but, hey, people weren’t such fat pigs 60 years ago, so tiny thin burgers can be cool in a retro kind of way.

The cheese was even thicker than the meat and kind out drowned out the flavor of the burger. Probably should have gone with the double meat.

The more interesting “Spanish Burger”, was covered in an oniony tomato sauce with no cheese at all. The powerful flavor was so familiar to me, but I just couldn’t place it.

I know I’ve had this before. But when? And where?

It took me all the way to my very last bite before it dawned on me.

Manwich.

Yes. Mom’s Sloppy Joes.

You know. You brown some ground beef and then dump a can of Manwich on it. Instant dinner. Quick. Easy. And so unhealthy, it’s now probably a violation of federal child endangerment laws.

I haven’t had that since my college days.

But that is definitely the taste of Bobo’s famous “Spanish Burger.” Good ol’ Sloppy Joe.

The highlight of the meal was the homemade root beer and excellent onion rings.

Perfectly fried and seasoned, these rings weren’t so much rings, as a mass of twisted, gnarled fried goodness. Onion rings don’t get much better.

Of course no visit to Bobo’s is complete without trying their world renowned apple pie. It’s a Topeka institution. This is so good, folks from all over Kansas flock here just to sink their fork into Bobo’s sweet goodness.

At least those were my expectations in those breathless moments before my warm slice was brought out to my booth. (See above about my theory on the relationship between expectations and happiness.)

Frankly, Bobo’s apple pie was kind of a dud.

A thick, flaky crust on top and on the bottom, the apples in this apple pie are diced up into small pieces. It needs more apples, more sugar, less crust. Maybe I should have gotten it ala mode. I don’t know. It just didn’t live up to the hype.

It just ain’t like mom’s.

(Okay, my mom may have lacked some culinary creativity when it came to Sloppy Joes, but she makes one mean apple pie.)

It had been 24 hours, six states and three airports since my last meal. It would be another 24 hours, two states and three airports before I’d get another. But I left Bobo’s just a bit disappointed.

I mean, it wasn’t a bad lunch. It just didn’t meet my over-heightened expectations.

If Bobo’s was some smoky dive sports bar that I just happened to stumble into next door to my Comfort Inn, I’d probably give it a higher rating.

But Bobo’s is world famous. It’s been on national TV.

Bobo’s Drive In should serve as a warning to all hungry travelers – and mothers-in-law – keep your expectations in check.

Rating: Would Wear A Free Shirt.



Bobo's Drive In on Urbanspoon

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