Fresh Cut Lon's

Bite Me has a loving, trustful friend who didn't know what he was in for when he offered to treat your humble narrator to a birthday dinner just after she hit the Valley.

The poor sap suggested a swanky joint, not realizing that, when she's on a freebie, Bite Me can put away half the menu. And what a menu! Bite Me's light-in-the-loafers pal took her to Lon's, the fancy eatery at the Hermosa Inn in Paradise Valley. To his credit, Bite Me's benefactor didn't flinch as she ordered and consumed an appetizer, salad and soup, an entrée, a single-malt scotch and a bottle of champagne (well, she had some help with the bubbly), but her waiter did raise an eyebrow more than once.

Let him smirk. This was darn good grub, and Bite Me wanted her fill. Her friend, meanwhile, got all adventurous and requested the antelope, not knowing what the hell an antelope is. (Neither did Bite Me, to tell the truth.) But it was succulent and mighty tasty, and it helped gay buddy wash away whatever regrets he had when the bill arrived. (The Adam's apple always gives it away, doesn't it, girls? That ticket was a whopper. Gulp!)

But soon enough, Bite Me wanted to make a return trip. Stepmom had come to town, and she's one particular eater. Only problem was, Stepmom's tastes go well beyond Bite Me's budget. There was no way your ever-lovin' host could afford to take Stepmom to a dinner at the Hermosa -- and have Dad's old lady chomp down on antelope or any other four-legged deer-like animals that might happen to be on the menu. (Bite Me eventually did look up what an antelope is.) Bite Me's gotta think about making rent, and with what little she squeezes out of her heartless editor, that ain't always a sure thing.

Imagine her relief when Bite Me found out that brunch at Lon's runs only $19 per, not a bad price for a run-of-the-mill restaurant and insanely cheap for someplace as fine as Lon's. She and Stepmom were amazed by the mountain of food that arrived at their table: à la carte orders of grilled meats, ham, beef, sausage, bacon, a mass of hash browns, and a monstrous fruit plate doing that thing where every bit of unsavory pulp is skimmed away, as well as a mound of buttery croissants, sticky buns and blueberry muffins. The carbs just kept coming in the actual brunch order: a wealth of stuffed French toast, frittata, pancakes and huevos rancheros. The leftovers lasted a week.

Stepmom was duly impressed, and the brunch paid off major dividends. In no time, the family and friends back in L.A. were tellin' tales about Bite Me's new high-flying lifestyle. And good impressions can't hurt, especially on this salary.

Keith and Ann Edwards


Bite Me: Tell me how your brunch was.

Keith: It was great. This is our second visit here. We were here in January. We love the architecture.

Bite Me: Isn't it gorgeous? (Lon's has a kind of Southwestern ranch-meets-upscale chic kind of thing goin' on. The effect is best at night, when the staff fires up chimineas and warming lamps, and there's no other illumination. The Hermosa Inn sits in a dark, dark neighborhood without streetlights anywhere nearby. The place is so inky at night, Bite Me nearly misses it every time she goes.)

Keith: Our ranch is one of maybe two houses in the Solvang area with the Southwestern architecture. So we do like the architecture. But as far as the restaurant, the ambiance is great.

Bite Me: My parents are visiting from Oakland and we brought them here, and they freaked, thinking the prices were nutso. But you know, it's really inexpensive. They you give so much food compared to places in California. Did you get the brunch?

Keith: No, we didn't have the actual brunch; we had the steak.

Bite Me: Did you like it?

Ann: Yes, it was wonderful. When I was here before, I had their fruit salad plate. Delicious. Their steak today was "mm-mmn" good. (Bite Me was falling in love with sweet Keith and Ann, especially when they told her that they were spending their retirement years helping out a church organization that helps attack hunger in the Third World. Bite Me felt some serious guilt when she was asked about her own life's work -- accosting diners outside fancy food palaces -- but she did feel good about all the places she'd been and folks she was meeting since her humble origins in the Midwest.)

Keith: You haven't asked us where we're from. Don't we have an accent? Guess.

Bite Me: I was thinking like Ireland, or . . .

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