The promenade, while beautiful, wasn’t quite what Morgan had expected for a first date.
People had taken her to fancy restaurants, cheesy movies, and even a hockey game where she froze half to death. This time, she was walking along a street that was fighting gentrification. A friend of Lisa’s, Benjamin, walked beside her. Morgan had agreed to meet him more out of curiosity than anything. Lisa’s friends could be, well, interesting people.
Benjamin turned out to be the normal sort of interesting, not the anarchist philosopher type. He asked questions about herself and how she knew Lisa, and was open to telling his own stories. Coming to the promenade had been his idea.
"Have you been down here before?" he asked.
"On occasion," Morgan said. "But only passing through, really. I always thought it was full of expensive boutiques and hemp shops."
Benjamin laughed. "Well, those are still around. But less than you’d expect. And there's still space for hidden gems." His eyes sparkled, clearly hoping to surprise her.
She took him up on the challenge. "Yeah? Like what?"
He nodded toward a kiosk tucked between a wig shop and a second-hand store. It took Morgan a minute to realise what he meant.
"A hot dog stand? Are you kidding me?"
He smiled a bit sheepishly. "They have the best in the city. And I figured it would be different to a standard first date. My treat."
Morgan blinked. She was as happy dining on a sirloin steak as a hamburger, but his idea caught her off guard. "Okay," she said. "Impress me."
Fierce Frank's, as it was called, had an extensive menu. All-beef, Polish sausage, even cheese-filled smokies were on offer, with dozens of combinations of toppings. At the pickup window stood a line of condiments and sauces, including beer mustard and chipotle ketchup. The sound and smell of cooked meat made Morgan’s mouth water.
She glanced at Benjamin. First date rules suggested that people shouldn't order messy food like this. But it felt more like an outing between friends than a wine-'em, dine-'em blowout.
Benjamin ordered a chilli dog, so Morgan went with one covered in cheese and bacon. She grinned as she collected her order, thinking of what her mother said last week.
Benjamin caught her smiling. "What’s up?" he asked.
“My mum told me I needed to be more ‘lady-like’.” Morgan loaded the dog with jalapenos, spicy ketchup, and grainy mustard. “She would be mortified by this.” The first bite covered half her mouth in mustard. “But so worth it,” she added from behind a napkin.
She might have been embarrassed if Benjamin wasn’t also having to make judicious use of the napkins. Morgan always appreciated an indulgent meal like this. She hummed in satisfaction as she took another bite.
Benjamin pointed to a nearby bench, and they sat to enjoy the rest of their food.
“Best in the city, right?” Benjamin said.
“It’s definitely up there.” Morgan took in the street. Most of the pedestrians were tourists or dog-walkers. A warm breeze rustled the leaves of the mature trees above them; it reminded her of the sea. The smell of the kiosk blended with mellow notes from the cafe across the road. It was a beautiful summer afternoon.
Benjamin had his face upturned to the sun between bites. He sat close to her on the bench, friendly but not crowding. He seemed comfortable with the silence as they ate. Morgan thought again of other dates. She often felt trapped in restaurants, especially with someone she didn’t know well. Movies didn’t offer any chance of conversation. And the loud, uncomfortable hockey game was a disaster. Benjamin had unknowingly picked the best environment for her.
She glanced at him again. His thick hair and impish smile didn’t go unnoticed by her, either. There might be promise in him yet.
A splat of chilli landing on Benjamin’s shirt distracted her, and she helped with a flurry of napkins and reassurances that it wouldn’t stain. That smile appeared again. “Guess I ruined my image of a suave gourmet,” he said.
Morgan laughed. “Don’t worry, you can try again.”
Benjamin looked up as Morgan realised what she said. She mentally flailed as she also realised she meant it. “Besides,” she said to cover up her confusion, “I need to show you where to get the actual best hot dogs in the city.”
This story is the third among the first volume of the Binge food fiction series. To continue following Morgan and Lisa, wait to read the rest of the five-part series.