As a recent transplant from St. Louis to Minneapolis, I knew there were many things I would have to get used to during my first year of residence. From the bitter sixth-month cold spell to the frequent questions about whether I'd seen snow before or why I didn't have a Southern accent, shedding my Missouri roots to become a true Minnesotan has been no easy task.
While I am no stranger to hockey, the realization that I was in the true state of hockey came not when I first saw children playing hockey on a frozen pond. Rather, it came several months before the first frost during my first Ole Piper Inn dining experience (Blaine location). One bite into my hamburger, I noticed they had mistakenly substituted the "juicy" meat for a hockey puck. No, this is not some clever way of saying that it was a slap shot in my mouth that lit up my taste buds like a scoreboard. Although the burger did have a faint taste of beef, its toughness and crispiness told me that I was eating something not fit for human consumption. Thankfully, I had only ordered The Piper and not its one-pound bigger brother, Piper II.
Being a good sport, I chewed my way through the burger, savoring every rubbery bite. I'm not one to turn away food, whether it's good or not, and the burger was just the ticket to hitting my daily allowance of protein (I've since read that hockey pucks actually have very little protein in them).
Luckily, our office orders from Ole Piper Inn about twice a week, so the restaurant had ample opportunity to redeem itself. Since I'd had my fill of vulcanized rubber for a lifetime after just one taste of The Piper, on my second try I ordered the Chicken Bacon Ranch Wrap, substituting the seasoned waffle fries. When the food arrived, it appeared that the main seasoning for the waffles fries was cold salt water. However, the limp, soggy potatoes did little to quench my hunger or my thirst, and I moved onto my wrap with low expectations. Unfortunately, my mind and my stomach had still set the bar too high. Picking up the wrap, my loose grip sunk into the wrap like it was a soaked sponge, enough ranch oozing out to drown a large chicken, and I wondered if that was the method they used for slaughter. Not completely deterred, I took a bite and tasted nothing but damp cardboard and cheap ranch dressing that tasted no better than a watered down version of a chain grocery brand. Needless to say, I was unable to eat all of my meal, although drinking it would have been a more adequate term for the consumption.
When it came time again to order from Ole Piper, I groaned but did not give up hope. This time I skipped down to the bottom of the menu and gave their breakfast a shot. I selected the Rancher's omelet with three of Piper's buttermilk pancakes. When the order arrived, I quickly attacked the pancakes. The dryness almost choked me, and I gave up halfway through before moving on to the omelet. With no expectations whatsoever, I pierced the omelet and pretended just for a moment that I was striking gold. Shockingly, this wasn't too far off. The omelet was among the best egg meals I've eaten in the past year, but it slid down just a little too easily, like a greased pig sliding through a tunnel. Although the omelet was quite delicious, the sliding didn't stop in my stomach, but that's a story for a different venue.
The omelet was by far the best thing I've had in my frequent Ole Piper dining experiences, but I've hesitated to order it because of the damage I believe it is capable of doing to some of my vital organs. With about eight trips to Ole Piper now under my belt, I'm beginning to think I should have an emergency lunch packed just in case we make that our lunch venue for the day.
Nathaniel Tower is the managing and founding editor of Bartleby Snopes Literary Magazine and Press. His short fiction has appeared in over 200 online and print publications. In 2014, Martian Lit will release his first short story collection, “Nagging Wives, Foolish Husbands.” He is a former high school English teacher and the former world record holder for the fastest mile running backwards while juggling. He currently lives in Lakeville with his wife and daughter. Visit him at nathanieltower.wordpress.com.