Guys named "Billy" shouldn't wear kimonos

A month or so ago, we managed to swing through Virginia to see my brother in Newport News, Virginia for a few days. We arrived in the afternoon, just after lunch time. "Are you hungry?" they asked. Sure, we replied, we're up for anything.

"Oh have we got a treat for you - it's a local specialty. The best you'll ever have."


I've got to admit, it was a pretty good chili dog. Cheap, filling, and with the opportunity to re-visit the flavor for hours afterwards, each time you burped. And that's a mark of a good chili dog.

A few days later, I had suggested that we try a restaurant where you could get any dish on the menu "with onions and relish, add 15 cents." You know, just to round things out.

My brother and his wife suggested we try a Teppenyaki place near their house. You know - one of those places where the chefs cook your food right in front of you while performing Dangerous Stunts With Knives And Fire - the Critter loves those places. They hadn't been to that one before, but they had heard it was really nice, and we figured what the heck. We like Japanese food - maybe we could even get some decent sushi, being right on the coast as we were.

We stepped out of the bright sun of the late Virginia afternoon into a very dimly lit waiting area, decorated in the same faux wood paneling my parents had used to transform the basement into the "Rec" room when I was growing up. A very nice Japanese lady greeted us and led us to our seats around one of those big Benihana grill tables and told us our server would be right with us. There was only one other party in the entire restaurant, seated at a neighboring table. We figured we had just gotten there before the crowd.

Meet Billy. Billy might have just turned 17. He's got red hair, freckles and bad skin. Billy is apparently trying to compensate for being 5'6" by using substantial amounts of product to spike his hair up an additional two inches. Billy is wearing a kimono. He'll be our server this evening. Billy hands us our menus.

No problem. I'm cool with the multi-cultural thing. I don't hold it against Billy that he's whiter than Neil Patrick Harris. I ask if we can see a sushi menu as well.

"Oh, no sir. We don't have sushi. This is a Japanese steak house."

Hmph. Thanks for clearing that up for me, sport. Meanwhile, young Billy wants to know what we'd like to drink. By the time he gets back around to me, I'm past the lack of sushi (because this is a Japanese steak house), and I ask for green tea.

"We don't have green tea. We have iced tea. Would you care for lemon with that?"

OK, now hold on. I get that this is Virginia and all, but I'm beginning to worry. I flash a look at my Bride and she's got the same concerned look on her face, but I'm already concerned that Billy's starting to not like me, and while at least I can be assured that my food will be cooked right there in front of me, he has far too much control over what ends up going in my glass back in the kitchen. I go with the iced tea.

When our post-pubescent waiter trotted off with our drink order, I looked over at my brother and his wife and gave them that look as if to ask if I was being too hard on the poor young wait staff. My sister-in-law was trying to hide her grin behind her hand, and my brother just shrugged at me.

Just then, a kid who looked like Billy's slightly-older brother, down to the same bad haircut and worse skin came out to the other occupied table pushing a cart full of raw chicken. He was wearing a giant knife on his hip. This was apparently the chef.

The four of us exchanged one look and collectively stood up and made our way to the door. "Sudden illness - must go. So sorry. Terribly sorry. Yes, really have to go." The Japanese lady in the waiting area didn't really look all that surprised.

We booked it across town to the one Teppenyaki place my brother and his wife had been to before (this one had sushi and green tea), and had a great meal, prepared by what can only be described as a Knife Artist - and yes, this one really was Japanese.

Poor Billy. He probably loses more customers that way.