Ordinarily, a place like Mitchell’s Steakhouse is out of my price range. And this was certainly true when in my mid-twenties. But through a hilarious work related contest, I did happen to win a prize package for two, featuring cocktail hour, dinner at the downtown Mitchell’s, and then a room for the night at the Adam’s Mark hotel across the street. Also either $200 or $300 in cash, I forget.
At the time, I was seafood manager for the Kroger at Morse and Karl. A glamorous post, I know. But whereas nearly every single contest they ever ran, before or after, that I can recall – in fact I can’t remember a contest where this wasn’t true – revolved around reaching a certain sales figure, beating out the other stores, for some reason this lone competition was different. With this particular instance, the contest was to see who could order the most imitation crabmeat within the stated time frame. I’m sure you can see where this is headed.
Make no mistake about it, though located somewhat on the fringes of the hood, or at least resoundingly “inner city,” the Morse Road store was actually jumping. We were one of the higher volume stores in Columbus at the time. Though my shoppers trended toward cheaper options like catfish and perch, they nonetheless bought reams of this stuff. And the imitation crabmeat did okay, it wasn’t like I ever had to throw much out. But once I realized you could freeze this stuff, and that we had plenty of room in my small frozen backstock cave, well, it was off to the races.
For the contest to be worded as such, I think it’s safe to say kickbacks were happening on some level up above, so my superiors were probably not losing any sleep regardless. I had one awesome part-timer working in my department, Christine, and the deal I made with her was to push this stuff as much as possible, that if we won this contest, I’d give her the cash, but take the rest of the prize package myself. She was perfectly happy with this arrangement. It’s strange how these things work out, too. As it so happened, a relative of hers, a nephew I believe, died unexpectedly right after it was announced we had beaten all the other stores in the zone. She would desperately need the cash to afford this trip, and I only received it the night before she was set to leave. I drove over on my day off to hand it to her. She did a little jig and then hugged me. As for Mitchell’s, cocktails and the room at Adam’s Mark, my girlfriend Jill and I would be reaping the benefits of this.
They would be bringing in winners from other zones around the state, and bigwigs from the imitation crabmeat company were flying in as well, lending credence to my kickback theory. Our crotchety old meat merchandiser dude, though, who was heading up the operative, must have had some concerns when he called to say I’d won, telling me, “it has to be a girl, now, no guys.” So I’m not sure if he thought I was gay or something or if this was his own personal hangup in life. Maybe he was worried I’d bring one of my rowdy bros and we’d trash the hotel room or start a riot in the steakhouse. Whatever the case, Jill and I dressed up as required for this event, and I have to say she looked pretty smashing:
As for Mitchell’s itself, the experience is of course spectacular. They’ve got some kind of back room reserved just for us and the food just keeps coming, all of it amazing. A number of different appetizers get us started on a side table, as we continue to make chitchat, and the gratis drinks are flowing as they were up to a few moments earlier in the bar at Adam’s Mark. Among the appetizers is a huge hotel pan of a fairly good sized peeled and deveined shrimp on ice. Our cantankerous merchandiser points to them and asks us to name what size these are – I’m pretty proud of myself, at the time, for blurting out “26-30” instantaneously, although everyone else pretty much agreed with me, and this did turn out to be correct.
Regarding the rest of the grub, of course the filet mignon is off the charts, but you kind of expect that. For some reason what sticks with me most, unexpectedly, is the green beans, which I couldn’t get over then and still think about now. They were crispy yet dripping butter all at once, a series of amazing little flavor bombs. By the end, it’s the one time in my life where I’m so stuffed I actually sweat it for a split second thinking I might barf at the table.
Fortunately, this feeling soon subsides, and it’s back to the hotel, where we split into our respective rooms. And yes, I’m sure this is a top notch establishment, but unlike, say, a premium steakhouse, there’s just really not much separating even an Adam’s Mark from your average chain lodging. Particularly as you’re only sleeping here a handful of hours. I feel the need to fire up the coffee pot – pictured below – for let’s just say inspirational reasons. There are two beds in our room, and we somehow manage to mess up both, but crash out in the larger one.