301 Riverboat Row
True story #1: A few days after Steve and I had finished moving into our home in Newport's East Row it snowed. And snowed. And snowed. Over two feet of snow paralyzed the region in late December 2004; businesses and schools closed, flights were cancelled and the declaration of a snow emergency meant all non-essential personnel had to stay off the roads.
The local news mentioned that bus service hadn't been cancelled, so we decided to put on our wellies and walk down to the riverfront to catch the shuttle. Trudging through the neighborhood was more difficult than we had reckoned, and by the time we reached the Port of Entry at Third Street we had icicles hanging from our hats and were desperate for warmth. As we stood shivering at the bus stop we noticed that a floating restaurant on the Ohio River appeared to be open for business, so we slipped our way down the gangplank to Hooters.
Now anyone who has ever been to Hooters knows that the servers wear very skimpy uniforms of orange hotpants and white tank tops. Year round. So it's freezing outside and we walk into the restaurant covered in ice and are greeted by perky girls in next to nothing. They would huddle in big coats at the bar, but each time one of them visited our table the coat was off. We felt so sorry for them that we left a hefty tip for their trouble.
True story #2: One of our friends in England does a lot of business in Detroit, and on his very first stateside trip he went to Hooters on the recommendation of some Americans with whom he was working. He swears he had no idea what the restaurant was like - which is believable since it was his first trip and the restaurant's reputation hadn't yet reached the U.K. - but ten years later he is still trying to live down the penned heart and lipstick kiss that his server put on the receipt that he turned in with his expense report.
Back in 2004 there wasn't much for the vegetarian diner at Hooters, so we went back Sunday before the Bengals-Bears game to give them another try. Five years later and nothing much has changed. The servers still wear orange hotpants and there's still precious little for non-meat eaters. Basically we're stuck with a couple of appetizers and side dishes. The atmosphere is a sports fan's dream, with 21 flat screen TVs airing the games, but since the food is typical sports bar fare, I'll just let the photos do the talking.
Mr Veggie Option's viewpoint
The idea that Veggie Option should do a write up on Hooters has been a running gag in our household ever since my wife first started this blog. We've walked by the one on the riverfront on many an occasion, and each time I have pointed it out, winked jokingly and pulled her towards it.
However, this past weekend the NFL threw up a pairing of Cincinnati vs Chicago at Paul Brown Stadium and, even though neither of us are big football fans, it seemed like a fun idea to share the fans' P.M.T. (pre-match-tension) at a convenient bar. I once again suggested Hooters, and Veggie Option finally decided it was time to finally give it the once over for the purposes of a post.
So we headed off for an afternoon of Bengals, Bears, beer, banter, barfood and boo......
... ooops, nearly forgot my place there.
I have always joked with friends back in England that Hooters certainly has a couple of things going for it. If truth be told, it hasn't really risen much above that cliché. If you were to take away the diverse collection of suitably-endowed servers in their tight white tops and skimpies it would actually result in a decidedly less-than-average sports bar. The surroundings are worn & grubby, the seating feels cramped and uncomfortable, the food is decidedly so-so and the atmosphere lacks a certain something. It's akin to an untidy bachelor's pad made public.
Hooters' website suggested that they offered a Grilled Cheese Sandwich but we were already sat down and drinking our first beer before we discovered that this simple vegetarian staple was no longer offered and the online information was out of date. I always get irritated when businesses - especially corporate restaurant chains - fail to maintain websites, thus undermining the very usefulness of their own marketing tool.
Instead, V.O. was forced to adopt her 'fall back' position; a selection of items from the appetizer fayre. Once again, the combination of all these added up to far more than the cost of my far more substantial meat-based entree - a disgraceful solution to a problem that really shouldn't exist in the first place.
I think restaurants that fail to offer a respectful vegetarian choice or two on their entree menu miss a very big trick indeed. Possibly without even realizing it. Like many other 'city folk' we often have groups of people come and visit us, some from overseas, and every time a new set of friends are here we obviously take them out for lunch or dinner at a variety of local places. Now, given the fact that my wife wants to enjoy the meal as much as the rest of us, where do you think we are likely to take these friends; the diner with the selection of scrummy vegetarian options, or the place that can't even be bothered to whip up a simple grilled cheese sandwich?
We have removed SO MANY restaurants from our personal revisit list because of their inability to understand a simple business concept, that of properly providing for everybody who might walk in. Places like Hooters - for all its other 'charms' - is never, ever going to get our 'group booking' because it fails to cater for everyone that might be in that group.
Not only that, they gain a negative reputation from blogs such as this one. Given the fact that the restaurant trade is having an extremely tough time of it lately you would like to think that places would adapt themselves to a changing marketplace in order to assure a better chance of survival. Instead chains like Hooters actively remove vegetarian choices from the menus, evidently forgetting that men can be vegetarians too?!