ROBERT ST. JOHN: Eating wings with head buried in menu

By Robert St. John

Last Sunday my son and daughter invited a group of their friends to spend the night. Our home was filled with the sounds of nine 13-year-old girls and four 9-year-old boys at play.
My wife made potato soup and the kids had a blast. Early the next morning, I wrote a warmhearted column about all of the running, laughing and giggling – the beautiful noise of kids at play.
Just after I sent the column to my editors – around 10 a.m. – I received a call from the house. “The girls want to have lunch at Hooters,” my wife said, as all of the previous night’s warm-heartedness evaporated.
“Why not one of our restaurants,” I said.
“They want to go to Hooters.”
Anything for the kids, I thought to myself.
I am not sure where taking 14 kids to a Hooters restaurant puts me on the responsible-parenting scale, but I would imagine it’s in the lower half of the single digits. And before you begin to criticize my math skills, we did add one more child for the Hooters excursion – a 13-year-old boy (go figure).
I had never been to a Hooters. Well, that’s a lie. I did go once in the mid-1990s, but I was doing restaurant research, and I only read the articles, err, ate the wings.
So, my wife, our friend Jessica, and two carloads of kids celebrated Martin Luther King Day in Hooters.
There was no beautiful noise in Hooters, just loud country music. All of the giggling teenage girls sat at one table. I kept the swivel-necked, wide-eyed 9-year-old boys with me.
The waitress was a very nice young lady. She was friendly and efficient. Though I was mainly impressed by her thriftiness. She is obviously a very frugal person, as she was wearing clothes she must have purchased in the sixth grade. One should applaud such prudence, though husbands should keep their eyes straight ahead while ordering, or just bury their heads in the menu.
About midway through the appetizer course, my son noticed a collection of Hula Hoops in the corner by the front door. “Look, Dad. Hula Hoops!”
This struck me as odd. I wondered why a restaurant that earned its reputation by hiring buxom women, and putting them in scantily clad uniforms would have children’s toys on the dining room floor. All questions were answered when my Hula Hooping son and his friends were joined by four waitresses and their Hula Hoops. At least I am told the waitresses were Hula Hooping; my head was buried in the menu.
The boys ate wings, the girls giggled and I stared at the ceiling.
My little hamlet of Hattiesburg had made it 125 years without a Hooters. Just nine short years ago we didn’t even have a sushi restaurant. Today we have eight. Can we now expect a run of Hooters-style establishments?
One day I think I’ll open a restaurant and hire only small-chested women. I’ll call it Peepers. Instead of an owl, I’ll use a sparrow in the logo. Equal time, you ask. No. I’d just like to eat some chicken wings without having to keep my head buried in the menu.

Robert St .John is a restaurateur, chef and author of numerous books.