Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Restaurant Price Increase A Good Thing

My wife and I visited the Home Plate Diner last week.  While walking in the front door, we noticed the woman behind the cash register taking old menus out of the plastic holders and putting new menus in.
"New menu items?" I asked.
"No, price increase," the woman answered, then showed us to our table.
After 10 minutes, I couldn't find any noticeable jumps in my favorite foods (which are, basically, everything on the menu).
So I'm going to say something very odd here:
Thank goodness for the price increase.
It's rare that I ever welcome any form of inflation, other than in my car tires.  But this price increase is good news.
The Home Plate just celebrated its one-year anniversary.  In that time, it has become a regular stop on my family's culinary cavalcade.  The food is good, fast, inexpensive, and is served by friendly staff. 
Originally, the restaurant's schtick was a throwback to the 1950's, with 45 rpm records and old posters of the Three Stooges on the walls.  The service staff dressed in their interpretations of what that era entailed. 
Since almost none of the servers were even alive back then, their guesses were hit or miss.  To be honest, I wasn't born until the 1960's, so maybe I'm not the best judge, but I'm pretty sure that the waitresses with the tramp-stamps and full-sleeve tattoos probably aren't really capturing the essence of those "happy days."  (Even well-travelled and well-tatted sailors avoided the lower back tattoo.)
In the last year, the 50's garb has slowly ebbed away, and the eatery has settled into its comfort zone of providing comfort food.
During that time, the staff has also dwindled.  Worse, rumors of the restaurant's impending doom, closure, and eruption into an active desert volcano ran rampant.
Then, a few weeks ago, the restaurant actually shut down for a few days. 
It was that shutdown which metaphorically smacked me in the face, and was hopefully a wake-up call for the community.
Like a lot of my neighbors, I've bemoaned the loss of businesses in Mesquite. 
And, just like a lot of my neighbors, I'm partly to blame. 
My Walmart addiction is well documented, as I've often ignored higher-priced local shops in favor of cheap Chinese goods.  I'm ashamed of that fact, just as heroin junkies on the TV show "intervention" occasionally show remorse at their own weaknesses.
I haven't been eating out much lately, ever since rediscovering my journalistic roots (which means returning to the heyday of when my partners and I first started a local newspaper, and I wrote story after story for no pay).  When my family and I DO go out, it's usually to one of the low-priced casino food joints.
So we weren't doing our fair share to keep the Home Plate going.
During the agonizing few days when the place was closed and rumors insisted that it would never again see the light of day, I felt bad for not being more supportive of a true local business (and, to be honest, because I was going to miss their fried chicken and chicken-fried steak).   
When they reopened nearly a week later, my family and I vowed we were going to stop in at least once a week, whether we needed to or not.
One of the reasons is the owner, David Morris.  For starters, he's a local guy, not a carpetbagger from Utah or Las Vegas hoping to carve his fortune out of the hides of Mesquite strangers. 
Another cool thing about Morris is the fact that he works for a living.  And I mean, really works.  His full-time gig is as a manager at the Walgreens across the street from the Home Plate.  Then, after working his regular shifts there, he puts in another million hours a week at his restaurant.  Anyone who works that hard deserves to succeed.
As for the rumors about financial difficulties...that's an easy one to believe when a restaurant is charging $6 for a meal that would be $10 just about anywhere else outside of a casino town.  I'm sure the folks at Playoffs, The Chalet, Vito's Ristorante, Denny's, Papa Murphy's, the Rio Virgin Grill, and a host of other local eateries could probably tell you, running a restaurant against casinos that boast prime rib for $5.99 is a losing proposition.
So if I have to open my wallet a little wider to ensure that a place like the Home Plate Diner will be able to continue putting out their tasty little chicken fingers and fries, I consider that a toll worth paying.  With or without the boob tattoo that says "Born to serve hot wings."

EDITOR'S NOTE: Less than two weeks after this story was published online, the Home Plate Diner was closed and evicted from its location on Sandhill Boulevard.