The telephone call came just slightly before my usual bedtime. It was a dear friend who was just slightly irritated at me.
Seems that she and a friend had gone to Fatty 'n' Mabel's Riverside Eatery in Port Richey on Saturday night, and their visit was less than wonderful.
The service was slow, the kitchen ran out of the soup she wanted, and her friend had been summoned by a very nice police officer who warned her to move her car — which she had parked on the street because the parking lot was full — or the city would have it towed away.
My caller teased me that it was all my fault.
To be sure, I had written a story and review of Fatty 'n' Mabel's for the May 23 Diversions page. I said nice things about the place, but it was photographer Brendan Fitterer's incredible picture of a juicy steak and "loaded" potato that I think induced so many people to try it. So it's really his fault (just kidding).
Fatty 'n' Mabel's is tucked away on the west side of U.S. 19 (turn west on Cedar Street just south of the Cotee River bridge, then right on Pier Road) and a little hard to find. It took me three tries.
Apparently, people found it anyway. About three or four times the usual number of people showed up last weekend, the staff was overwhelmed, and so the usual prompt service was uncharacteristically slow. Some people left when they heard there was a three-hour wait for a table; others left when they saw the parking lot was overflowing.
What people need to know is the overwhelming crowds won't last forever. Things will calm down and Fatty 'n' Mabel's will once again be a great place to go.
It's just that people love trying out new places, and when they learn of one, they go there. And when a lot of people learn about it at the same time, well, you get a big crowd.
A number of them came for special reasons: a bunch of Navy guys noticed that owner Michael Simpson had once been a Navy chef, and they wanted to support him; old friends of Simpson's late parents wanted to see how little Mikey was doing; and, of course, people were salivating for that loaded potato.
Simpson said he had to make two trips to the grocery store and numerous calls to his suppliers to get more food throughout the weekend. Even so, the wait for food was sometimes long and some people got impatient.
Some of them let me know about it by phone, mail and e-mail. Significantly, only one person said anything negative about the food (he called it "forgettable") and complained about the "high prices," though he paid less than $20 a person for sandwich and seafood platters with soft drinks, which, admittedly, isn't the drive-through at DQ, but isn't exactly the Black Pearl or Chateau France either.
What I'm saying is, "Be patient." If you're one of those who left after seeing the crowds, wait awhile and give the place another try. That strip of the Cotee River is turning into a terrific dining destination, with something for everyone: the party atmosphere of Hooters, the upper East Coast style of Catches, the friendly tiki-bar feel of the Crab Shack and now, the laid-back Fatty 'n' Mabel's with some of the best food around here.
We foodies hope they all live long and prosper.
A familiar face
If you saw the HBO movie Recount this past week, you might have recognized the actor playing Margaret Tutwiler, who was a member of George W. Bush's Florida recount team and later one of his assistants.
The actor is Pat Getty, a west Pasco resident who has had key roles in two shows at the Show Palace Dinner Theatre: pianist Jeanette Burmeister in The Full Monty and prison matron Mama Morton in Chicago.
Getty is a retired Philadelphia police lieutenant, so that Mama Morton role must have felt like a natural.
Recount will be shown several more times this month on HBO, in case you missed it.