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A post-roach review of The Lone Wolf

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I was talking with someone who used to work at High Horse about a woman who has held down the Friday evening shift at Stackers for the last seven years. She’s long since graduated, moved on with her life and has another job, but she won’t give up that Friday night slot purely because of the money she makes from tips in one night. I’ve only been living in America for three weeks now so I’m slow to some of the social courtesies of this country, but one thing I quickly learned is that tipping is mandatory. To an American, handing over 15 to 25 percent of the bill after you have already paid is normal.

The etiquette of tipping is different around the world. In Japan, for example, no one tips and it is considered borderline rude to do so. The restaurant sets the price of the meal that shows how much they think it’s worth and how much they think you should pay. In England (Where I’m from), tipping is largely meritocratic. If you’ve had a great meal with good service then you tip more and a bad meal can result in no tipping at all.

So when I came to the end of my lunch at The Lone Wolf, a breakfast restaurant on Main Street in Amherst, I sat there thinking to myself, do they deserve this extra 20 percent?

The Lone Wolf’s reputation has been marred by a past infestation of cockroaches. Bugs were found in omelets in late 2015 and the necessary health inspectors were called. The restaurant is still open for business after a temporary suspension. Given the circumstances, I thought The Lone Wolf deserved a reappraisal in its post-roach era.

I turned up to The Lone Wolf around 1 p.m. and it was immediately obvious that service was soon ending. “I got calls from my family out in Texas…” a chef yelled whilst strolling from the public restroom back into the kitchen, wiping his face with a paper towel. This did not feel like a restaurant but more like eating at someone’s house.

It feels like the staff are part of the furniture – they come with the restaurant as part of the experience. Slumped in a booth where the voices come from bodies you can’t see, conversations floating across the dining room like having the radio on in the background, you ultimately grow accustomed to the talking and ambient noise.

The menu is comprised of every manifestation of the egg along with pancakes, waffles and some more traditional dishes like latkes and cheese blintzes. I ordered the vegetarian scrambled eggs with toast and home fries.

Home fries can be a thing of beauty. Parboiling chunks of spud and then frying them in hot oil is a brilliant way to eat a potato. I was in Rhode Island last weekend and ate at a diner out in Pawtucket that has been there since the 1940s. Their home fries were fluffy inside with crisp and perfectly charred skins that had been left on, a heavy hit of seasoning and even a touch of heat from the paprika. They were an important part of the plate. The Lone Wolf home fries appear to have come straight out of bag and into a fryer, neither tasting nor looking particularly like a potato.

The eggs were better, sparking a conversation about the vegetables you do and don’t cook when making scrambled eggs. Broccoli blanched, mushrooms sweated, red peppers left as they are with a reassuring sweetness. The red onions also come raw, which jarred slightly with the rest of the ingredients. The mushrooms were the real star, with a chew that countered the softness of the other vegetables.

For eggs and a coffee, the bill came to $12.25 and I paid $15 total. The waitress had been friendly. She originally forgot my order of coffee but she was polite and personable enough that it didn’t really matter. Was the meal worthy of the tip? Not really but I’m not about to deprive this place of that extra percent, this isn’t Reservoir Dogs and I’m not Tim Roth.

Felix Sanders can be reached at [email protected]

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