My favorite girls' basketball team won their basketball game the previous night, now on to the championship game in Covington. Since the game wasn’t until 7:30, I had some time on my hands. The previous night of the tournament, when I was rushed to make the tip-off, I was forced to obtain a meal at the drive-thru at the Burger King. I seem to eat several meals a week alone in my car, food in my lap, driving at a speed that encourages local law enforcement officers to stop and introduce themselves to me. We all have bad eating habits that need correction.
I was determined to spend this extra time engaged in fine dining and cute company. Tonight I Finally had time for beautiful companionship and a tasty morsel from an establishment devoid of a drive-thru windows, dollar menus, or miniature toys for the young diners. This was an excellent occasion to call Candy who lived near by. I had not met her; however, we had been communicating on Facebook for sometime. I remembered from her profile that she was young, very attractive, and successful. Thus I was about to break rule number seven from the computer class I teach. (#7. Never arrange to meet someone you know only from the Internet! It could be dangerous!) I told myself that number seven did not apply to adults especially since we had been emailing for sometime and I needed a quick dinner date.
To my delight, Candy said yes, and she would meet me as soon as I sent her a text with the address of the chosen restaurant. I did not know where to get a good meal in Covington. I called my friend, a dupty sheriff, to ask him where to get the best steak dinner in town. I expected the obvious yet ridiculous answer of, ‘The best steak dinner in our town is forty miles south in Memphis.' Instead, the answer came quickly; it had to be Marlo's Down Under. I mentioned my excitement about my date with Candy and he explained that Marlo’s would be a large part of a perfect evening. In my true male-hyper style, I got the address and began to text Candy before I received any of the directions.
When I got to the proper street address, on the south side of the square in Covington, the place was a dress shop. I was confused for a moment until I realized that the term down under might mean that the place was located in the basement or Australia. I walked around back and the signs and entrance were clearly marked.
I was seated at the table, received my water with warm-up bread, and I started to go through my standard questions about reviewing a new place. The menu told me about the owner and his building. Ron, the owner, is a rarity among restaurateurs. A great chef usually needs to leave rural west Tennessee to learn his culinary skills in the big city. However, Ron came back to his small hometown to practice his art on the locals. The building is more than one hundred and fifty years old. During the civil war it was a dry goods store. Later it became the storeroom for the small grocery store above. After some lengthily demolition of the worn paneling, the original well-aged bricks are now visible. These old, chipped bricks seem to add a Tara-like atmosphere of charm to your dining experience. There is plenty of seating included in three separated sections, a private meeting room which holds around fifty, an outside courtyard, and a complete bar. The bar is very quiet and can't be seen from three of the four sections, so family diners are not a problem. The establishment is open 6 days a week for dinner starting at five. The kitchen stops serving around eleven, and the bar is open until one.
What about a dress-code? I was still in the nice shirt and tie I wear most days to school so I began to look at the appearances of others. When I saw the extremely robust woman who just walked in to the establishment, my answer was obvious, no hoity-toity dress code here at Marlo’s! The woman talking with the host proved that! This woman was the size of a gold-medal-wining Russian weight lifter, and it was obvious that the local Avon lady had not gotten rich off of her. She was wearing a pink crocheted tube-top, a pair of lime green flip-flops, and a pair of dirty overalls with one strap hanging with unbuckled freedom. As a southern male I have grown to appreciate big sexy hair, but not this big. I took one look at her coiffure and I determined two things about the stranger. I guessed that she drove a fast convertible and that she didn’t carry a hair brush. It was hard to envision the entire hairdo as the backwards John Deere cap hid much of the rear view of her head. I was having problems drinking my water while watching this comical site. I stopped giggling to myself when the host ushered the newcomer toward my table. As she was being seated across from me, I noticed the massive tattoo on her upper arm. No cute little Pooh, Mickey, or butterfly, the feminine type of tattoo that many women sport today. This was a large tattoo containing cobras, knives, skulls, and death. There are only two places to obtain this type of body art: in deadly combat for your country or in the state penitentiary. I tried to not stare at the tattoo, and took President Clinton’s advice: I did not ask where she got it, and I am sure I didn’t want to be told!
"Candy", I ask trying hard to keep any trace of confusion, dread, or FEAR out of my voice.
"My real name is Gunch, Modine Gunch; Candy bez my Facebook name. I like these here dinner dates! It’s been a long time since I done eat a good meal!"
This eatery would be a fine place to have great dinner conversations. It is quiet and you can hear yourselves over a small table; however, my date spent the remainder of the evening SILENT. Not another syllable was spoken by my dinner companion that evening. I kept trying, but this date would have as little conversation as if we had been in a twenty-year, bad marriage. I ask if she would like to start with a fried onion blossom to which I got a smile and a nod. I ask her what she did for a living and received a smile and a shrug. I ask about family and hometown and got no reactions at all. My mother taught me to be polite so I avoided the two questions I wanted to ask. I wanted to ask her if she had ever played linebacker for the Detroit Lions; I have no doubt she could handle that position if given the opportunity to tryout. She did not look anything like the cutie on Facebook I had been messaging. So I wanted to ask why she didn’t look like her profile picture; however, I think I already knew that answer. One of two possibilities was true. She either was very talented with Photoshop software or she had broken computer class rule number three. (#3. Never use a copyrighted image or picture without the owner’s expressed permission! It is plagiarism and could even be illegal!) I decided that since Photoshop does have some limits it must be the second reason. Candy, I mean Modine Gunch, never posed for nor owned that profile picture. She took possession of that model-like photo on her profile the new way; she borrowed it with the click of a mouse.
When the onion came, my dinner companion reached in her mouth and pulled out her excessive wad of bubble gum. This fashioniesta had a matching ensemble after all. The bubble gum was the exact same color as her tube-top. She slammed her gum, it had to be five pieces or more, firmly on top of her fine linen napkin. The very same napkin that was still wrapped tightly around her silverware, it would rest there on top of her unrolled silverware the rest of the dinner.
When it came time to order the steaks she pointed at the menu for the 12 ounce Porter House ($28), and I ordered the 10 ounce rib-eye ($24). The steaks were tender. They needed to be as my date was still not using her silverware, only her ten fingers and a pair of very sharp looking teeth. The steaks were perfect and presented in dry rub that adds a spicy flavor. Onion, cinnamon, I have no idea what else made the great taste, and I am sure the rub ingredients are secret. The kitchen knew the difference between medium-rare and medium-well. Mine came with a salad and french fries that I am sure never witnessed the inside of a plastic bag. Modine got a baked potato, and she managed to eat it just like I eat watermelon with two hands and a little messy. For those who don't appreciate a steak, Marlo's serves some wonderful seafood and pasta. My steak was the best I had this year and the service was great!
Patrons from several surrounding counties have learned to love their dinners on the square; however, some of the local people stop by just to indulge in the appetizers and desserts. One server told me she buys their desserts when it is her turn to feed her Sunday school class. I ordered two of fudge brownies topped with vanilla ice cream. Unlike my date for the evening I used a spoon. I Never did see anyone eat ice cream with their fingers, but she did an acceptable job while the ice cream was still firm. It was a great dessert and If I almost ordered another, a raspberry cheesecake I saw on a near-by table.
I ask Modine, a name that seemed to fit her much better than Candy, what she thought of the meal. She wiped her lips right across her tattooed arm, and reached down to pick-up the chewing gum and replace it into her mouth. Then she gave me a big smile and a thumbs-up gesture. The last time I saw her (I Hope!) she was waving at me and walking out that door. I was alone again at my table waiting for the check and contemplating computer class rule # 7. What more can I say! It was great food and an eventful night. I want another date! I plan on doing this again next Saturday. - Marlo’s not Modine Gunch. Next time you need a fabulous meal stop in Covington at the Square. Marlo’s Down Under is well worth the drive!