I have been chasing a corn dog for six months. I offer this as a testament to my growing insanity.
Maybe not six, exactly. I can't remember the first time I went to the Lakewood Landing, that neighborhood's beloved dive, but I remember Nick Rallo mentioning my white whale.
We'd suffered through a meal at Rohst and arrived at the bar to recover with cold beer. Rallo told me of a secret corn dog that only appeared after midnight. I asked the waitress if I could try one, but it was only 9 p.m.. We drank till 11, then turned in the towel, too drunk and too tired to wait for our battered reward.
For the next few months I visited the Landing several times and always missed the beast. The story was always the same. Come too early, drink too much, go home empty-stomached.
Until last weekend.
Grabbing my seat at the bar, I looked at the small LCD readout of an alarm clock. 10:55 p.m. Just over an hour. I could do this. Tonight was the night.
I asked the bartender again if the corn dog would be making an appearance. "Yes, at midnight," she replied. I asked if they could make an exception; I've been trying to tackle the beast for so long, I said. She fell silent and moved on to her next customer, and I, once again rebuffed by the vaunted Corn Dog Defense Squad, settled in for a session at the bar.
I drank Budweiser after Budweiser and began to falter. My dinner had been small -- three surprisingly decent tacos and two sides at Urban Taco a few hours prior, plus some popcorn at the movie theater -- and my wait seemed long. I talked to a dude sitting next to me who cooked at the Capital Grill at the Crescent about bar food. He ordered some wings. I talked to some drunken Observer staffers who had stumbled into the bar on happenstance.
11:45 p.m. I could see the shore and knew tonight was my night. I grabbed my bartender and tried to place my order again. Her response shook me. Not only was she dead serious about waiting till midnight exactly to honor my request, but the tiny clock was 10 minutes fast. I had 20 minutes to go. My stomach groaned. I put in an order of ten wings, extra crispy, with blue cheese, please. I ate every last one.
Midnight. The tone of the bar shifted like an ocean breeze. Everyone crowded the old wooden structure, drunkenly putting in their orders. Corn dog. Corn dog. Corn dog. I put in my order, too, and sat with muddled anticipation tempered by a belly full of chicken wings that was now far from hungry. And then they came -- basket after basket of corn dogs, up and down the bar.
Lakewood Landing's corn dog is fun. It's fine that they have a time-honored tradition that patrons have come to expect and crave with drunken fervor. Over four or five attempts I'd listened to person after person describe the glory that is the jalapeño corn dog. Their enthusiasm had whipped me into a froth.
Turns out, though, that Lakewood Landing's corn dog is not that good. My first bite tasted of spent oil, my second revealed a slightly wet batter interior against a link with a cool center. The mustard was fine, but the jalapeño was all but non-existent. Only a few tiny black flecks were evidence that the pepper was included at all. I felt duped.
But you have to respect the game. Put a secret corn dog on your menu and talk about it but don't serve it. Not yet. Let patrons swill in cheap beer and whiskey as their hunger and drunkenness builds. At midnight release them unto a feeding frenzy. Who could notice they're not that great? Not terrible, for sure, but not great. Just another corn dog -- at least it would be if they served it before the clock struck midnight.
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