My dinnermate dove into the mosh pit of side-dish indecision at McGrath's Fish House in Federal Way last week.
The wild roasted salmon stuffed with asparagus came with a choice of side dishes: red potatoes, pasta, rice, fries, tomato slices or cottage cheese. It also came with green salad or cole slaw, and an unspecified vegetable that turned out to be Chinese broccoli.
But, wait, there's more:
For an additional 59 cents, my dinnermate could upgrade her regular dinner salad to the one with pears and blue cheese or to the petite shrimp Louie -- or she could have a cup of chowder or seafood stew.
It didn't help that the server ran through the sides, salads and soup upgrades faster than a punk rocker on a power-chord drive.
Of course, my dinnermate said, "Huh?" and the server recited the whole thing again while I wondered why the restaurant was upselling a so-so salad instead of just raising the entree price by 59 cents. The whole she-bang, without the sales pitch.
I welcome Oregon-based restaurants like McGrath's and Original Roadhouse Grill into the South Sound market. They're casual, affordable, family friendly vein of concept restaurants. They're different from each other (McGrath's: "Pacific Northwest fresh" seafood, burgers and steaks; Original Road House Grill: burgers, steaks, peanuts on the floor) but similar in that they both give customers a number of side-dish choices.
I'll admit I enjoy ordering Whoppers without pickles and lettuce (as Burger King used to say, "special orders don't upset us"), but I've been chewing on choices since I enjoyed half of my dinnermate's salmon at McGrath's last week (she enjoyed the rest, although we both thought the early-season asparagus was stalky and stringy). It's left me with a simmering question:
Is choice empowering or burdensome?
I dared my dinnermate to tell the waiter she'd give him 59 cents if he told the cook to make the decision about her side dishes for her. She ignored me. How do you feel?