Eldorado’s Amazing Epicure Photo of John.

From the series, Travels With Tony

John E. Wynne

© Copyright 2000 by John E. Wynne

Eldorado is a large man. He makes his living as a security guard and martial arts instructor of a form of self defense that sounds like something on a Chinese menu. He had just bought a new Trans-Am and was eager to show it off the day he roared up to Tony’s house, where I had been hanging out. Tony is no lightweight himself. When we were kids we’d go out and cut lawns for our neighbors just until we had enough money to go to Vince’s Pizza Fair for a couple of cheesesteaks.

After we oohed and aahed at Eldorado’s new car while he stood by, beaming, it was agreed that we were all hungry. We climbed into the Trans-Am and disappeared into the night on a frenzied quest for flavor. We were heading down Route 13 outside of Philadelphia when I questioned where it was that we were going for this "gastronomical experience of a lifetime."

" There’s a little place down by the Delaware border that has a cow on the roof and a little train that runs all around the place, and they serve the best hamburgers, hot dogs and chili in the world," Eldorado croaked between salivations.

"Okay, thare’s the Mall, Eldorado agreed. "We’ll pull in there and get something to tide us over."

Whenever we’re in the neighborhood, we loved to frequent the German deli in the mall. It was one of those places that you make a point to walk into, if only to take in the aroma. We walked up to the counter and ordered three over stuffed sandwiches ( with potato salad, of course). While the three of us made short work of the corned beef with cole slaw on rye; roast beef with mustard, lettuce tomato and mayo; and knockwurst with everything but the cook’s apron, Eldorado was planning his next meal.

"Should I have the hamburger first, or the hot dog?" he asked.

"That’s a good question," Tony answered.

"And you know, since we’re going to be that close to Delaware, there’s a little Chinese place that has the best dumplings," he added.

I thought he was kidding, but one look at his crazed expression told me he was serious. I’d seen that look on his face once in the past—just before he proceeded to drop three guys in a bar who had been harassing one of the waitresses. This was ludicrous. The man was already thinking two meals down the road before he even finished the one he was presently inhaling.

We finished our meal and jumped back into the Trans-Am with the stereo blasting Phil Collins ‘Easy Lover’ into my ear. It was mandatory that you listen to this particular song at least five times in a row, because Eldorado liked it. I closed my eyes and tried to enjoy the ride.

I knew when we arrived at our destination because I saw the cow on the roof. I’m sharp that way.

This was not the kind of restaurant you go into just to take in the aroma. That is, unless you enjoy the smell of grease and the side effects thereof. We found a booth and sat down. "I can’t make up my mind, so I’m going to have one of each," said Eldorado. He was really getting creative now.

"You boys ready to order?" asked a sallow looking woman of about 50 who had been doing the waitress gig too long, and had eaten too much of the places fare.

"Yeah, I’ll have one of Big Frank’s big franks," said Eldorado.

"Okay, and you?" She had mistakenly moved on to Tony, thinking that Eldorado was done. Silly girl.

"Uh, I’m not finished ordering, Ma’am," said Eldorado in a low voice. He was being polite.

"What would you like with that?" she asked.

"One of Big Frank’s half pound cheeseburgers, a bowl of chili and a black and white shake," he concluded. Now , he was finished.

I ordered one of Big Frank’s big franks and Tony did the same, with just fries and cokes to round off the culinary delight.

The food was delivered in about 15 minutes—just time enough to get Eldorado’s appetite whipped to a fevered pitch. It was reasonably good, but Eldorado raved about it like was the evening special at Twenty-One.

As we sat back, patted our stomachs, belched and tried to get comfortable, I felt quite sure that Eldorado would abandon his idea of going across the border for dumplings. But I realized I was wrong when he turned the Trans-Am south in pursuit of more.

Two more turns of ‘Easy Lover’ and we were soon making a right turn off the main drag into the parking lot. I could see the large yellow neon sign announcing ‘The Golden Dragon’, with, of course a golden dragon breathing neon fire out of it’s nostrils. They were red.

We walked in and were led to a booth in the rear by a slim, attractive hostess who I was sure had never crossed the border for a taste of Big Franks. Unaware of our mission, she handed us menus.

"We don’t need these," I mistakenly announced. "We know what we want."

"Wait a minute," Eldorado broke in. "I want to see what thay have here."

He has to be kidding, I thought, but again, the look was there—the drop-three-guys-in five-seconds-over-a-waitress look, so I acquiesced.

A waiter came over with glassed of water, and asked if we were ready. Eldorado said that we were. Tony and I ordered the dumplings, as originally planned. Then it was Eldorado’s turn. By this time my stomach was about to explode, which made the following even more amazing. With a straight face and seriousness of mind and demeanor, he proceeded to order the dumplings, won ton soup, egg roll, fried rice and egg fu yung.

Tony and I looked at each other in disbelief. We were astounded, but inside we chuckled, knowing that he couldn’t actually eat it all.

Before we knew it, the food was brought out and placed in front of us. We tried the dumplings. The were good, then we sat back and watched in astonishment as Eldorado proceeded to eat like a ravenous wolf. It was a sight to see—him shoveling food into his mouth without even taking a breather. We watched—he finished—we left.

Walking back to the car, I was afraid he’d remember yet another emporium of culinary dubiousness, but it seemed he’d finally had enough. As we pulled out of the parking lot with Phil Collins screaming in my ear, I couldn’t help but think that the first thing Eldorado would do when he got home was look in the refrigerator.

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