The Stars at Night Are Big and Bright…

Recently we we went to the Texas Roadhouse because we wanted a steak in a casual atmosphere, and most places had exorbitant waits. I hadn’t been there since I was a kid, so I remembered only that they had peanuts and you could throw the shells on the floor. As a kid, that was all I needed in a restaurant.

But it means I missed out on the point of the restaurant. Like so many restaurants, it has a theme: it’s a parody of all things Texas.

At first it seems like just a Texas-themed restaurant. It has pictures of typical southwestern American scenes. It has cow skulls on the wall. (Because we’re in Colorado, it also had a moose head on the wall. I’m not sure how many moose there are in Texas.)

But things quickly turn from homage to parody. First of all, the employees are super chipper. Our waiter was ebullient, telling us he could read our minds and that we wanted to start our night with… SHOTS! As we were a couple out to dinner, and not a group of sorority girls out partying, we let him know he was wrong, but that didn’t dampen his spirits one bit. Many of the employees were also wearing shirts that said “I Love My Job” and other things of that nature. Now, I haven’t spent a lot of time in Texas, but my brother lived in Austin and Houston and I visited him in both places, and that was not the impression I got from the area. It was clearly a parody of southern politeness.

Several people were celebrating their birthdays at the restaurant, because shame doesn’t come naturally to everyone. When that happens, the staff has several waiters come out with a bowl of ice cream… and a saddle on two-by-fours to bring it to table level, on which the bowl of ice cream is served. Then, rather than singing some strange happy birthday song, they invite the entire restaurant to give “a big ol’ Texas ‘Yeehaw!'” followed by nobody other than workers shouting ‘yeehaw.’ I’m also fairly confident that doesn’t actually happen in Texas. It is obviously a child’s interpretation of what Texas is like. Magical.

But what finally sealed the deal was one delightful moment. On the jukebox came the stirring riffs of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s seminal classic, “Sweet Home Alabama,” which celebrates former Alabama governor and noted segregationist George Wallace. Once that haunting melody started playing, waiters and waitresses started line dancing in the aisle. As “Sweet Home Alabama” is widely thought of as a southern anthem, it’s easily used in any case when someone wants to show quickly and easily that the South is being represented, such as in movies or, apparently, restaurants. What really tied the moment together, though–what really brought tears of joy to my eyes–was the sight of a black waiter dancing along, with a look of pure misery on his face. At the first opportunity, he snuck off and started “working” at the computer showing available tables. This was clearly the greatest parody of all time.

You don’t see dedication like that from most businesses. Growing up in Florida, the first thought that came to mind would be to liken it to Walt Disney World. An experience was created that you couldn’t get anywhere, least of all in the place being represented, Texas. They took the stereotypes of Texas and turned them up beyond any sort of safety limit. They created what you might expect a Japanese businessman would set up in his home country to provide his guests an “authentic” taste of what could only be found a world away, but without understanding anything of what he was showing.

If you enjoy laughing at stereotypes that are greatly exaggerated beyond reality, then I cannot recommend Texas Roadhouse enough.

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