On the way we passed a place on US 1 called Chap’s Steakhouse & Nite Club with a dozen or more cars in the parking lot. I have noticed the steakhouse many times in passing, but usually it looks abandoned, and more than once I’ve wondered if it were ever open. With all the cars in the parking lot and a blinking sign we thought we’d give it a try.
Passing through the front entrance we were both amazed at the size. It was huge. There must have been no less than a hundred tables and booths, a stage filled with amplifiers, drums, keyboard set ups and half a dozen guitars on stands, a salad bar twenty-five feet long, a dance floor big enough for thirty or forty dancers and at one end a square bar crowded with people. The bar was full but the dining tables, all one hundred of them, were vacant with not a soul to look at a menu, talk to a waiter-waitress or eat dinner. A vast empty dining room trembling with the huge sounds of a karaoke machine playing its wires and springs out without a singer at the mic. The hostess assured us we could order dinner then asked for my email address. I declined and started toward the dining area when she asked if she could give us name cards. Have you ever been offered a name card in a restaurant?
It wasn't long before the waitress-owner brought two wrinkled mimeographed menus sealed inside dirty plastic. All of it could have easily fit on an index card, but it didn't much matter since the first three things we ordered they were out of. Suddenly the waitress-owner went away and after ten minutes another woman came and introduced herself as Arletta. She must have misplaced her name card. Anyway, she continued to tell us what was not available on the menu until it was whittled down to a Rueben sandwich with French fries. I asked about the salad bar after which Arletta took a slow look over in that direction, then back to me to say that there had never been a salad bar no matter what the sign said.
With Arletta barely off with our order for two Rueben sandwiches, (stopping on the way to take her shot at the pool table) the live karaoke started with a shattering guitar twang and suddenly someone named Kenny was singing his heart out and our ears off. Neither my friend nor I could identify the song and figured it must be an original. Whatever, it was very loud, very long and basically made up of three, maybe four phrases repeated over and over in a Joe Cocker growl. Then it was time for Dennis to try his hand at “New York, New York" in a version that attempted to mirror Frank Sinatra. Well, almost. Dennis sang to himself just off the front of the stage, bobbing or throwing out an arm on occasion, at the end bowing, mumbling “Thank you, thank you!” and blowing kisses to the empty dining room. The next singer was a gentleman in his mid-sixties who did all right, hit the notes and made them sound not bad if thunderous. His wife moved from one side to the other taking photos on her smartphone, and at the end asking her singer-husband to pose for several shots as if in mid-performance.
The Rueben sandwiches took thirty-five minutes and when they finally arrived at the table we got a story about the “House Chef” not being satisfied with the corned beef and driving off to the store himself for a fresh supply. To be fair, the sandwich was tasty but the fries were a formerly frozen mess. And the ketchup bottle, half full, had not been opened in maybe a month.
Obviously, it’s the crowded bar that keeps the place going. But you have to wonder what the owner cum waitress was thinking when she put in all those tables and booths and a twenty-five foot salad bar that never met a leaf of lettuce. Well, I think that what it adds up to is this: If you’re ever driving south on US 1 between Edgewater and Oak Hill, Florida, feel a bit hungry and see a big lit up steakhouse on the right hand side, then keep that wagon rolling unless you’re especially fond of a long-time-coming Rueben sandwich in a red plastic basket.