Running into an iceberg at dinner - Zach Porter

Sometimes eating out can be a scary excursion into the unknown. You have to chose your restaurants carefully or you might wind up ordering a Caesar salad bowl filled with iceberg lettuce topped with a few prized scraps of romaine, as if you were a fool. And allow me a moment to tell you that iceberg lettuce has absolutely no nutritional value and if you like it then don't waste your time reading this column. You have no taste, just like the lettuce you eat.

Yes, going out can be more of a hassle than staying in. The other night my fianc?e and I went to the movies and after that we tried to decide on a good place to eat. As we went into the first big chain eatery that came to mind, it felt more like a daycare center than a restaurant. As we looked around, every table was overrun with little kids in highchairs throwing food and temper tantrums. I can't enjoy dinner with a bunch of kids running around and their parents yelling at them to keep their fingers out of their food.

So where to? Fast food? Serendipity was not our friend this evening, and hardly ever is when it comes to picking a restaurant on a whim. So we just settled on a little Italian joint that didn't look too bad. But in fact this is the place that proudly served up a big bowl of iceberg lettuce masquerading as a Caesar salad. And would you believe it cost almost $8 for such a hoodwink?

Getting a good waiter or waitress can be tricky too. While in Atlanta we went to a caf? in midtown where we discovered you had to be "in the loop" to get good service. Several people who appeared to be "friendly" with our waitress got their wine and appetizers before she even took our order. And once she did take the order, she took her sweet time getting it to the kitchen, stopping along the way to catch up with her table of midtown friends. The food was really good but the service without a smile ruined the whole experience.

If you think I'm one of those people who sends my food back to the chef with a litany of complaints then stop right there. I don't nit pick about the way the food is prepared or say "Can I substitute the side of potatoes with a fresh fruit medley?" Just make sure my steak is well done, that's all. I don't even believe in the "Have it your way" stuff. If you want it your way, then learn to cook for yourself and make it your way. People have too many choices as it is. I don't want to go into a hash-house and have to choose between a burger or eggplant parmesan. Just give me a burger and some fries.

Each outing to a local noshery must be carefully considered and mulled over. Or you can cook at home. And if you don't know how to prepare a nice meal for yourself then you will remain a slave to the inclinations and whims of others. The only way to really be free is to have the power to cook for yourself. Add a dash of this or a side of that with reckless abandon without adding undue stress on some poor hash-slinger who is just cooking by the numbers. If anything, cooking at home can fill up your heart with a warm glow of satisfaction instead of emptying your wallet for a head of lettuce.

Zach Porter is a photographer for the News Daily. He can be reached at (770) 478-5753 or zporter@news-daily.com