My sister-in-law, Tiffany, called yesterday. “Do you guys want to have lunch at the new Thai place?” she asked. We did. Kris and I are eager to find another cheap restauarant close by. We picked up Tiff and drove to the Thai place, but it wasn’t open. Instead, we walked over to Sully’s, a small diner nearby. The place was full.

“It’ll be ten or fifteen minutes,” the hostess told us. We didn’t want to wait.

“Let’s go to Hale’s,” suggested Kris. “They have good food.”

We climbed back in the car and drove ten minutes down the highway through heavy traffic. “We could eat at The Bomber,” I said, pointing out a local landmark. After World War II, Art Lacey bought a B-17, flew it to Portland, stood it on pillars, and built a gas station underneath it. He opened a restaurant next door.

“You don’t even like The Bomber,” Kris pointed out. “Every time we eat there you complain about how bad the food is. Let’s go to Hale’s.” But when we got to Hale’s we were dismayed to discover a line out the door.

“Wow,” said Tiffany. “The food here must be good.”

“Not good enough to wait in line for,” said Kris. After some discussion, we drove to The Bomber.


The Bomber is an Oregon landmark. Photo by vj_pdx.

The Bomber’s menu is a mess, with a layout so busy it’s impossible to tell what’s what. It’s also full of cutesy names for common food. (The on-line menu is much clearer than the printed version.) Kris ordered a “Lacey Lady”, which most places would just call a turkey club. I ordered The Dunkirk — a French dip.

As we were driving home Tiff asked, “So how was the Dunkirk?”

“It was awful,” I said. “The beef was like rubber. It was cold. And the mashed potatoes were inedible. The gravy was cold and chemically. The potatoes themselves were like the paste we used to use in grade school.”

Then, after a pause, I admitted, “I don’t ever have to eat at The Bomber again.”

“I told you so,” Kris said, laughing. “And think about it. We just paid $20 for the two of us. We could have had a healthy and tasty meal at home for much less. Plus, which would you rather have: five meals at The Bomber, or one nice dinner out?”

No contest. I’d rather have one nice dinner out. I’d be willing to give up many similar restaurant meals for a single excellent dinner. Better still, I would rather have the lunch special at the local Chinese place. We could have eaten there for $5 each (including tip) and had enough left over for another meal!

In all, we had a frustrating experience. We’d intended to have cheap meal at the new Thai place at 11:30. Instead we drove up-and-down the highway, didn’t eat until 12:45, and paid too much for lousy food.

A bargain is only a bargain if you get good value from it.