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6:08pm on Friday, 6th April, 2007:



The first time I visited the USA was some twenty years ago, when I went to Columbus, Ohio, to put MUD1 on CompuServe's mainframes, In the evening, I was taken out to a restaurant called Damon's. There were maybe 8 or 10 of us there, and I distinctly remember it because it served something I hadn't heard of before: onion loaf. This was a huge block of deep-fried onion rings, which made something of an impression. The food in general was very good, too.

A few years later, my wife and I were driving back to Essex from visiting my dad in Yorkshire and we decided to try a different route. So it was that near Lincoln, just off a roundabout with no other buildings anywhere near it, we spotted a newly-opened restaurant — Damon's. Intrigued, we went inside. Sure enough, it was the first UK franchise of the Damon's restaurant I'd been to in Ohio. When we went in, the waiter had his uniform on and greeted us with those immortal words, "Hello, I'm Carl, I'll be your waiter for tonight".

Delivered in an American accent, that sounds fine. Delivered in a Lincolnshire accent, it sounds like a parody. Poor Carl was desperately embarrassed to have to say the words, and we were desperately embarrassed to her them.

Quite why Damon's decided to open their first UK Franchise just off a roundabout in the middle of nowhere is unclear. Perhaps Damon's family came from Lincoln, or perhaps it was the fact that the city gave its name to a famous US president (surely Damon would know it wasn't the other way round?). Whatever, he did open the restaurant there, and it was just like its American counterparts.

Today, driving up to Yorkshire to see my dad, we decided to obey the SatNav. It took us via Lincoln. There were lots of restaurants and out-of-town shops on the bypass, and we decided we'd stop at one for lunch. We got to a roundabout, and hey! There was Damon's. From its being the only building in the area, it was now just one of many. We decided to go inside and eat.

It was really, really good. The waiters had been allowed to adapt to local conditions in the nearly two decades since we were last there, with the result that they were just what you want from a waiter in England: no glumness, anticipation of needs, and no feeling of being inferior or superior to the people being served. So, just like the waiters in Italy, in fact.

It turns out that Damon's now has four restaurants in England, the others being in Sheffield, Liverpool and Derby. I'm glad it worked out for them, after starting out in the bizarre place they did.

We had a quarter of an onion loaf, just so I could show my daughters what one is like. I think maybe I won't leave it so long before going back there this time.

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Copyright © 2007 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).