We wouldn’t have even stopped there, I wanted to just keep driving until we found a fucking Tim Horton’s. I mean, how long could it possibly be to the next Tim’s? But there I was with my wife trying to dismantle a suitcase in the passenger seat looking for Advil and our son in the backseat screaming– you know that really high-pitched scream-whine kids do– MOOOOOM, MAMA, I HAVE TO PEEEEE, AND I’M SO HUNGRY, and it was the middle of nowhere, basically just your absolute roadtrip nightmare. And I mean yeah the place looked sketchy as shit but seriously if I had had to spend one more minute in that car I was going to absolutely mcfuckin lose it, so. My wife said “look, there’s a restaurant,” and sure enough there was some sort of restaurant by the side of the road, though it looked extremely closed, but I figured at least if it was closed we could go make Conor pee in the woods and maybe he’d shut up about one thing at least. So we stopped.

And there there was this sound? It sounded a bit like a scream. But you know when you’re just not really expecting something, so your brain doesn’t parse it right or whatever, and fuck if Conor didn’t rocket out of the backseat the moment the car stopped and yank the door open, I mean, he’s eight and is just getting to the point where having his moms watch him peeing in the woods is embarrassing, I guess. So he yelled “IT’S OPEN!” and Allison ran after him so I followed them in and it was a pretty nice place, actually, but completely empty, which I guess is not surprising given the location– but, you know, cozy vibes, kind of thing. So we were standing around the entrance with Conor holding his crotch and jiggling up and down, and there were some voices from the back maybe arguing? And then a guy came out– suit, very put-together, not a backwoods type at all– and pointed to an alcove in the corner with the bathroom, and gestured around the room as if it were totally normal for the place to have exactly zero customers which I guess it must be, and said we could seat ourselves wherever we like. And uh, he didn’t bring a menu or anything? Which I guess was kinda weird, but by the time Conor got back from the bathroom he’d already brought this amazing bread, like not usual restaurant bread basket shit, the kind of bread that makes you remember why religious people worship bread or whatever, and with– uh, some kind of spread? Which, Conor is a really picky eater, but he ate damn near all of it and then yelled “CAN I HAVE SOME MORE OF THIS?” loud enough that the guy actually reappeared and refilled the bowl, and then brought even more in a glass tupperware and said we could take some for the road.

I was getting a bit weirded out that there was no menu, but Allison reminded me of the pancake place we’d gone to a few days earlier, which started out as a kind of cafeteria for logging workers where they’d hold union meetings and printed a socialist newspaper or something, and they have a menu now but it had a whole pamphlet about their history and were pretty keen on the point that it used to just be, you walk in, you eat what’s put in front of you. So I figured, maybe it was a place like that.

Honestly though I’m pretty sure the guy serving us wasn’t a union man.

But yeah, then he just brought more food, first this amazing salad with all these nuts and things in it and then a sort of meat stew, I think? And when he brought the salad and put the plates of it in front of us like it was an art show, Conor sort of made a face, and he leaned down beside him and said “do you trust me?” in this extravagantly serious voice, and Conor’s eyes went big as dinner plates staring into this weird European chef’s face, and he said “yes?” and the guy pointed to the plate and whispered “then eat the salad. You’ll like it.” And fuck if my kid, who throws a hissy fit at the mere sight of a head of lettuce at home, didn’t eat the whole damn thing.

And while this thing with the salad was happening… I think I saw another guy? I mean, you can’t really run a restaurant all by yourself, so I assumed there must at least be someone else helping out in the kitchen, and he just peered out for a moment, watching the first guy crouching down to talk to Conor. And idk, maybe it was a trick of the light? It just seemed to me for a second that he had this look. He looked like how I feel, sometimes, when I get hit with thinking about my friend K, who– anyway, what happened to her isn’t the point, it’s that it’s been years, and it’s fine, but then sometimes I see something or just smell this particular smell that reminds me of her and it’s like suddenly being hit by lightning. It hits and then just as suddenly it’s over and you pack it away and move on until the next time. But I only saw him for a moment so really I’m probably projecting.

Also, with the main dish the guy who I guess must have been the main chef brought Allison a pill and said “for your headache,” which she looked at for about thirty seconds before going right ahead and swallowing it. Which was stupid, yeah, but I can’t really blame her ’cause eight hours in the car with a screaming kid and an impending migraine will make all sorts of dumb shit seem totally reasonable. She cheered right up from it, though. Um, I just asked her and she says it definitely wasn’t Advil.

Then finally at the end he brought out ice cream, this really rich chocolatey stuff, and Conor said “HEY MISTER THIS IS THE BEST ICE CREAM I’VE EVER EATEN!” And he leaned down and said, “Would you like to know the secret ingredient? You must promise not to tell your mothers,” which Conor just loved, this guy was really just hamming it up like an MVP camp counselor.

And when I asked Conor in the car later what the secret ingredient was that the chef had whispered in his ear, he just erupted in hysterical giggles and said that he’d promised not to tell me and I’d never find out in a million googillion years. So hey, at least my kid’s got a sense of honour.

Only. I’ve been reading the news. Bad idea, I know. I really just need someone to tell me that the fact I’m even thinking about this is some new form of terminal internet brainrot and I need to put away the true crime sites. But there are these serial killers that all these sites are saying are suspected to have maybe crossed the border and be hiding out somewhere, and it’s basically a conspiracy theory that the government is trying to cover up the fact that they’re even alive. Total whackjob stuff, really. But I can’t stop thinking that maybe I do know what the secret ingredient is. It was pretty much the best meal I’ve ever eaten, to be honest. And when I tried to pull out my credit card when we were done, he said that they were just setting up the place, and the pleasure of our company was sufficient payment. So, like, fucking weird. But Conor’s decided that now he loves fancy salads and wants to learn to cook, and Allison says he’s actually getting pretty handy in the kitchen, which is nice.

Anyway, I know this is getting a bit long for a Yelp review so I guess I’ll leave it there. Will probably go again if we’re passing through the area, if only to return the tupperware.