What a Buffet!!

a review of The Tree,
a restaurant at Wheel’s Inn in Chatham

by Ian Klymchuk

 So the wife, Heather, finds out she has to go to Chatham, ON, about an hour east of Detroit, to do some trouble-shooting for her boss. She has to be there for the two days after Civic Holiday, so we decide to go early and make a bit of a holiday out of it. Benny and Dot say they’ll look after the twins while we are gone, to save us having to worry about them, but I sorta missed having Benny along to share the excitement.

[For those of you who don’t know about Civic Holiday, it’s the first Monday in August. It became a holiday in most Canadian Provinces when the politicians decided to declare a holiday just so we could have a long weekend holiday in August. Pretty smart thinking, eh?]

Well, we’d heard so much about this place called “Wheels Inn” that we decided to stay there. It’s real popular with lots of folks cuz it has all kinds of things for kids and families to do – ping pong, arcades, water slide, pool, fitness center, racquet ball, bars, bowling, rides, restaurants, and a big sign that says “Wheels Inn” that fills the sky with bright red light each night.

The rooms at Wheel’s Inn are pretty much standard type rooms. There are inside halls and the rooms are long and narrow, with windows overlooking the parking lot. The main difference is that at Wheels there are 17 gazillion kids running up and down the halls and stairs, racing with the kids who commandeered the elevators, and all of ‘em dripping water all over the place from the water slide and swimming pool - in general they was having a ball! I’d swear there was seven or eight people to the room in most rooms, sort of like a family and three kids went there and each kid brought a friend and they all are staying in one room and the parents stay in the room all the time while the kids go out and play. It’s real great to see so many kids hooting and yelling and enjoying themselves so much.

When we was checking out, the yuppies in front of us (a coupla doctors, I think) complained because they couldn’t use their computers to check the internet while they was there. They was real worked up about missing some e-mail they thought was real important. But why did they come to a vacation resort if all they wanted to do was work? Wheels has so many interesting things to do, they shoulda brought their kids with them and left their computers at home.

The shower in our room was the most powerful I’ve ever felt. Now I know how a truck feels being power washed, I guess. Didn’t need soap, that’s for sure. And the tub had this real good feature that the water collected in it while I was showering so I didn’t have to worry about washing my ankles! I asked Heather if maybe we should do that with our shower at home, but she insists it wouldn’t happen if they’d clean the drains more often. So I suggest that maybe I’d like it better if she didn’t clean our drains at home so much cuz I like the way it worked in our room.

Another standard thing about motels like this, but usually in a lower price range – they use “Country Garden” air freshener by the truckload. Lucky thing Benny and Dot didn’t come along after all, cuz Bennie is real allergic to smells like that and we’d’ve had to leave and we’d’ve missed the real highlight of our stay.

We wasn’t sure about where to eat. There’s lots of choices: a bar and grill across the street, a Mr. Sub, pizza delivered -- right to the room, a bar in the hotel and a restaurant there, too. We walked around a bit and decided on the restaurant in the hotel. The place is called “The Tree” because, believe it or not, they actually cut down some famous tree somewhere and sunk it in concrete in the middle of the restaurant and have it all hooked up to the ceiling using chains. It’s real interesting, especially with the plastic plant wrapped around some of its limbs.

When we looked at the prices on the menu, we decided that the buffet, at $12.95 had to be a better deal, so that’s what we went for. Heather had some red wine to start. She liked it ok because it was good Canadian stuff, not like that French crud that makes you pucker up when you drink it. I had a beer. Can’t go wrong with that.

The buffet had all kinds of good stuff. A small salad bar, which suits me just fine since I don’t much care for all them veggies and seafood whatchamacallits that some of them real snooty salad bars have. I liked the bacon bits they had for the salad cuz they were good-sized solid chunks, but Heather held off; they was so clumpy and dark, she thought they was walnuts, but walnuts would’ve been fine with me, too, so I didn’t care which they were.

I’m telling you, that buffet was terrific, probably one of the best we’ve ever had: fishburgers, square fishcakes, eggrolls with shrimp, some chicken stew with lots of creamy sauce, the way I like it, some sort of fishy dish in cream sauce, and some good old pot roast, well done. Who could ask for anything better? Well, Heather wondered if maybe the tortellini's was a little old, but I didn’t care cuz I love the idea of using tomato soup as a sauce. Some of them gourmet sauces you get in fancy-schmancy places are just too weird or spicy for me. And the chicken wings was nice and dry and chewy and lukewarm, not hot, just the way I like ‘em. So I was in heaven. And when it turned out the waitresses was nice and chatty, well that just about put the icing on the cake for me.

And speaking of icing on the cake, you shoulda seen them desserts – tons and miles of ‘em. [I guess I should say “tonnes” and “kilometres” of ‘em, but I just can’t do that metric thing so much.] There was pies, cakes, cheesecakes, and nanaimo bars, plus pudding and lots more. I didn’t have enough room in my stomach to try them all, but I sure wanted to. And here’s why. You know how some of them more expensive dessert places brag about flakey, soft and light pastry. I hate that junk. But The Wheel’s Tree really knows how to make and serve pastry and desserts. They’re best after they’ve aged a bit. You make ‘em up one morning and then you let ‘em sit in a cooler, covered with plastic wrap for about two or three days. But why am I telling you all this? I’m sure them good chefs at Wheel’s Tree could say it better, and I ain’t about to start swapping recipes with anyone. Anyways, the desserts come out real solid with crusts that you can really sink your teeth into, and the puddings have a tasty skin on the top. I love that place!

Now, them snobby reviewers in most places would probably give Wheel Tree negative stars if they could. But not me. It’s a four and half out of five in the Ian Klymchuk book of fine dining.

Ian Klymchuk, President
Lucan Chapter
Philistine Liberation Organization
Care of econoclast@cabletv.on.ca