Credit cards accepted in restaurant except Sundays. Reservations. Price: Dinners average $6 to $9, breakfast buffet $3.75. Motel rooms $17 to $25.
There are a few things that went right," said the optimist of our group as he speared one last bit of burned, stale waffle. We were ending a weekend at the Cozy Restaurant and Motel, misguidedly trying to relive one wonderful rainy family outing at the Cozy two years ago.
Our first stay: two cabins that tickled our kitsch bone -- one equipped with fireplace, color TV and waterbed, the other with a full kitchen. Dinner was a long stretch of buffet foods that encompassed fresh vegetables galore on the salad bar, doughnuts fried to order, an array of pies and cakes so dazzling that one did not stock of subtleties of quality. It was fun. It was cheap. the carousel horses and penny arcade machines that decorated the restaurant and the groan of the buffet silenced any questioning of the Cozy's quality control.
We had forgotten the outdoor Muzak until we drove up this time. All set to get Cozy again, we greeted as old friends the Victorian doghouse with its own TV antenna, the covered bridge over the manufactured creek, the water wheel, the rose bushes in iron kettles, the stone walls and shingled roof, the Conestoga wagon mailbox.
I admit it was our fault. They had not received our deposit check, and later we discovered that we had forgotten to mail it.So five of us looked over the lone double room which was wall to wall beds -- two of them -- and tried to figure out where to put an extra cot. When hope of a second room came to naught, we sought, four hours later, release from paying for that impossibly crowded room.
The Cozy is a vast operation, with 600 seats in its restaurant several dozen motel rooms and a catering service, yet on a Saturday night nobody was running it. Our problem was answered by the motel clerk: "I just work here."
The crisis was compounded when we locked our key in the room in the confusion -- the motel had no second key or pass key.
We went to dinner, but our anticipation had been dampened by discovering that the buffett is not presented on Saturdays, Our hesitation was fueled by having noticed that the refuse bins outside were filled with cartons of Break O Morn frozen eggs, "Dutch Style" packaged potato salad, Chef Boy-Ar-Dee corned beef hash and frozen biscuits, bread dough and institutional pie shells. The fresh cabbage leaves gave one hope.
The dining room staff was cheerful, if harassed, the waitress sighing, "It's almost over."
Now, dinner at the Cozy is cheap, unless, as ours did, your bill has a $36 error on it. But normally a three-course steak dinner costs $9, fried chicken dinner $5.75. On weekdays the price includes that impressive groaning board of over 50 items from soups to desserts, but even Saturday you get a decent soup or juice, a half-dozen relishes (apple butter, corn relish, cottage cheese, two kinds of coleslaw and pickled beets), little loaves of bread and a dessert of semi-homemade pie or ice cream. The roast turkey -- a fresh bird, and far tastier and juicier than most -- is the winner, although ordering it without the thick yellow gravy will cost you 25 cents more. The cozy seems to operate on a different system of logic that the rest of the world, for not only does not getting gravy cost more, but the platter of fried chicken and ham with raisin sauce is designated on the menu as low in calaories, cholesterol and fat. As far as we could discern, the platter was low only in satisfaction, for the fried chicken was chewy, salty and hard rather than crisp, and the ham tasted like salt-cured chicken in sundae sauce. But rainbow trout was fresh and moist, having been poached and left unsullied by any clumsy sauce. As for the vegetables, they were waterlogged green beans with blobs of cooked tomato, and potatoes steamed in their jackets. Looking back on the groaning board of our previous visit, we realized that stunning variety can patch a lot of flaws.
The Cozy's dining rooms, however, are a show. They are the reddest red rooms you will find outside of a Times Square steakhouse. They are labyrinths of railroad cars and jail cells, barber chairs and sewing machine tables.
Finally we realized that the man wandering around the dining room was owner Jerry Freeze, for whom we had left frantic messages. We asked again to see him, and he walked over, already knowing our problem.We dropped our inquiry over whether we could check out of the room, hoping merely to get into out room. He said he had left a key at the motel desk.
With the meal and the response, we weren't exactly satisfied, but we'd had enough. We returned to our room and found that the key did not work. We were sent back and forth between restaurant and motel, the clerk reminding us that the intercom wasn't working and adding, "I can't get Jerry [Freeze] with the intercom out. I can't get him with the intercom in, to tell the truth." She had already deposited a rollaway bed in front of our room, handed us the bed linens and declared, "I'm off now." It was 10:30 p.m.
Finally, a key was found. And we only had to deal with a credit card machine that did not work before we bid goodnight and the clerk locked the office door behind us.
The cot was broken.
By the time we checked out after the buffet breakfast of greasy pale fried potatoes, those waffles, that were enough to make you hate waffles, greasy tasteless sausage, grapefruit juice that turned out to be the syrup drained from the jars of citrus sections, and a succession of breakfast things among which the frozen eggs and the coffee were about the best, we were echoing the sentiments of our waitress from the night before: "It's almost over."
The Cozy is full of sweet little touches like daisies in the motel rooms and holiday decorations. And on such a low budget, a restaurant cannot be expected to rise above cheerful mediocrity. But with such a complex operation there is no time for anyone to wander around asking. "Who's in charge here?"