My guidelines for radio commercials I perform come down to this: I wouldn’t want to give credibility to a sponsor unless I were reasonably certain that the outfit can perform as advertised. For restaurants, this is simply accomplished: if I’m not already recommending a restaurant in my reviews and ratings, I will not consider doing the commercial. This engenders some tension in the sales department, who has to work hard to sell sponsors in the first place, and who are understandably frustrated when I turn a sale down.
Things are different when I do spots for companies whose products are not eaten or drunk. I just need to know something about the sponsor before I start, and to speak from personal experience.
For the past six months I have done commercials for Loop Linen Company, a commercial laundry for the food service and medical market. I took this gladly, because I’m trying to persuade restaurants to put the brakes on the current trend of unclothed tables.
Scott Burke, the president of Loop, asked me to stop in someday and have a look around. Today, I did. It’s a sprawling complex in Westwego, where the company has been since 1929. One of the original buildings is still in use. It fits right in: Loop’s plant is on the river side of the railroad from which Westwego–originally known as Salaville–gets its name. The Southern Pacific Railroad–the second transcontinental line in the United States, completed in the 1880s–ran a train called the Sunset Limited to San Francisco. We board that train, and west we go! (The Sunset Limited still runs to Los Angeles, although it doesn’t come through Westwego anymore.)
I could fill a few pages with a description of the way things work at Loop, but I’d better sum it up briefly. The dirty tablecloths, napkins, aprons, chef jackets and innumerable towels enter the building on the north side. They pass through a variety of machines, all manufactured by the Pellerin-Milnor Company–one of the world’s largest producers of commercial laundry equipment, headquartered in Kenner. Who knew? (Actually, I did. I used to write brochures and newsletters for Pellerin-Milnor, about forty years ago.)
As the tide of laundry moves south through the washers and dryers and ironers, the mix becomes more ready to be shipped back out again. When it all reaches the old original building on the south side, it’s ready to go.
And that’s about all there is to see. It’s a good and essential business, but not a fascinating one.
One more thing, though: the name “Loop” came very indirectly from the rectangle formed by the tracks of the El trains in downtown Chicago. There was a Westwego hotel involved somehow, too.
I had eaten nothing since breakfast when I departed Loop. I thought about dining at the nearest major restaurant: Mosca’s. But I wasn’t hungry enough for the inevitable piles of food I’d eat there. And Mosca’s is not for singles, anyway.
I consult my mental map and realize that, crossing Veterans, I would be near Acropolis Cuisine. I am lately doing commercials for that place, and although I’ve dined there with pleasure many times, it’s been awhile.
It was raining hard when I got there. One good thing about torrents is that they obviate problems with marginally available parking spaces. The one closest to the door is claimed by the business next door, but would they come out in the rain to shoo me off? No.
I had not yet ordered when Teddy, who runs the Acropolis, came by to make it clear that I had not sneaked into the restaurant. Good! That will allow me to break the no-substitutions rule and get a little bit of pasta with red sauce instead of the baked potato that ordinarily comes with the redfish dinner special. I would not have to worry about their picking up my check–no Greek restaurant in my life’s experience ever offered to do that. I don’t take free meals, and sometimes it’s difficult to make that clear.
The great soup here is the classic Greek avgolemono (egg and lemon, with some chicken, too). But I had that last time, and it has been ages since my last taste of the signature dish here: the six-onion soup, a creamy job topped with a puff pastry. For six onions, this is a very mild soup, but good as it sounds anyway.
After a salad, the redfish comes with a light coating and the flavors and texture of having been sauteed in butter. There’s the pasta–enough for a light meal on its own. And here are some vegetables. With the bread pudding dessert, the price for the four courses is $19. They offer three or four of these dinners every night at that price.
The rain depresses the usually bustling business a little. Still nearly full, though, with people who are clearly regular customers. Teddy spends time with everybody. He can tell you all about Greece and the island he came from and how he didn’t finish high school–which seems impossible, given his high level of literacy.
Here’s another restaurant I’d dine in much more often if I didn’t have so many other places to check.
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