I survived the Outback

I know: You’re probably thinking I took three airplanes and spent two days in the air to eventually land on the Australian coast, most likely in magnificent Sydney. And, from there, I took an in-country plane to the Outback, located in the hot, dry, desolate central region of Australia.

But, no. You are absolutely wrong. What I really mean to say is, I survived the Sarasota Outback — on Father’s Day, at 6 p.m. What were my son and my husband thinking? I know they are devout carnivores, and they probably dream about juicy, red steaks, perfectly grilled, accompanied by their favorite baked potato stuffed with butter and sour cream. I agreed to go along with their restaurant choice, knowing it was their first choice and also knowing there wasn’t a prayer that we would be eating broiled lobster and oysters on the half-shell.

The Outback doesn’t take specific reservations (probably too large a venue to manage them), but if you call ahead and request an arrival time, you will be put on a preferred list. I wasn’t taking any chances, so I called four days ahead, for the 6 p.m. feeding.

Upon arrival, my son miraculously found a parking space nearby. I jumped out of the car, ran into the Outback and excitedly told the hostess that we were scheduled for 6 and had called ahead. She gave me the beeper and moved on to her next customers. The noise of what seemed like a jubilant crowd reminded me of being in a disco with a friend and trying to be heard but losing out to the loudest music on earth.

A minute later, I spotted an assistant hostess who told me our wait for a table would probably be at least 30 minutes, “depending on the flow.” I wondered about the customers who hadn’t called ahead.

And then came the revelation that changed my life. This wonderful, helpful girl told me that the bar area (including tables) is all first-come, first-serve, and all I had to do was watch for people leaving, then run down and secure the table. Thirty seconds later, our wish was granted. As we sat down to eat, we all were still stunned by our incredibly good luck.

I like to say that my timing was impeccable. Surviving the Outback on Father’s Day, without waiting in line for an hour, was truly a miracle.

By the way, we all had the steak — and we loved it.