I was at Frank Richards the other day, a pleasant little liquor store I found because the owners have had a good time or two at the restaurant. This is in the Cedar Terrace Plaza across the street from the VA hospital on Garners Ferry. It is, admittedly, not a terribly polished area. This little plaza seems to have been forgotten in so many ways. There was a little hardware store with an old man, sitting on what appeared to be a bag of grain, with his old golden retriever. Anyway, as I was leaving (and deciding whether I should turn around or go over the apparently home-made speed bump through which someone had already broken through in places) I decided that I wanted to try the Chinese restaurant back there. In my explorations I've found wonderful fare in some unexpected places (the most amazing chili cheeseburger at Anthony's Dairy bar on the corner of Two Notch & Chestnut, just past Providence and that Benedict field. Very flavorful fried chicken and potato wedges at the Kwik Stop on Harrison(?) off of Killian Road. Neither situated in an area I'd feel comfortable alone and at night, but delicious food.) so I figured I'd give this place a shot.
The Canton Restaurant, situated next to the beautiful Canton Lounge (with its patio table and chairs chained to the wall and an 80s era security camera perched atop the air conditioner like a puffin judging a leap. If ever there were a place in town where I could imagine someone getting killed in a high stakes mah jong game, it would be here. I need to move some things around and make time to go there.) It had only been open for a half hour when I went in so I felt safe in getting the buffet. I tried to order a beer as I sat down but the man who seated me informed me, with an apologetic smile, that he didn't understand English. I tried speaking slower. I tried naming a few beers they might have had, including Budweiser as I pointed to the Budweiser clock on the wall. Each request was met with an apologetic smile, so I figured he didn't peg me for 21 but didn't want to ask me for my ID. I ordered a sweet tea (with no problem...) and served myself from the buffet. The food was fine. No better or worse than most of the Chinese food available in Columbia. The egg rolls, I thought, were pretty good. Crisp and flavorful. I remained the only person in the restaurant, largely bereft of decoration and sound, until the man turned on a television that was up in a back corner. Now, I've never really been a Wiggles fan but some of their songs do weasel into the mind. As I got up for another plate four soldiers came in, laughing and joking with each other. I have a great deal of respect for the armed forces, let me say, but I suddenly had flash backs to movies about the Vietnam war and I couldn't help but fear for the dignity of the man who worked there. Something about the quality of their laughter and chest-puffed brio made it easy for me to imagine them pushing the man around or, should a female employee come out, making cat calls and inviting her to sit on their laps. They were, of course, respectful to him but they continued to be quite loud.
It was at the moment that the four of them broke into "Mary had a little lamb" along with the Wiggles that I felt as though I was in a David Lynch movie.
I finished my food and paid ($7 something for the buffet and a sweet tea. not bad) and returned to real life.
I believe I'll make time to go back next week.
I could also see this happening here