The Vibe: Getting off the train you have two choices: walk through the enormous parking structure into the terminal or exit the station into the lots of a dozen hotels and park 'n rides. We took the latter route, assuming that with so many lodging options crowded into the blocks across the road from the airport surely there would be several restaurants to choose from.
Hotel after hotel showed no sign of an attached restaurant open to the public. There was no obvious cocktail bar at the Hilton, no burger joint attached to the Red Roof Inn, no nachos at the Clarion. It was beginning to look like we might be stuck at Denny's when we saw, just past an old-timey trolley offering rides to the airport, a sign for...
The Café: Happy Hut Teriyaki at the Jet Motel, 17300 International Blvd., 241-2011.In addition to the trolley, the Jet Motel lot has what looks to be a car dating back to the 20s with rusted metal plates advertising long-term parking. In the lobby itself gleams a shiny red kit car, also in the style of the late 20s.
The receptionist doesn't know much about the cars but she says the owner, Gordon, came to this country from Asia in the mid-forties. Apparently he fully assimilated culturally, becoming enamored with classic cars. "He's kind of a collector," she explains.
We expected more of the same inside Happy Hut Teriyaki, but instead it veers dramatically from the look and feel of the motel. The dining room is decorated with Japanese-style screens and bamboo shoots between which a lovely waitress glides with trays of miso soup appetizers.
The radio is tuned to a contemporary Christian music station playing a Coldplay knockoff.
Almost as soon as we sit, the waitress--the only employee we see--arrives with menus. They're followed quickly by soup. In the mood for greasy comfort, my dining companion and I skip the sushi and order chicken teriyaki and beef yakisoba.
Our plates come out piled with food. There's a salad with some kind of sweet dressing, rice, and about two chickens worth of meat. The dishes are smothered in sauce and well-salted. Happy Hut does exactly what the name implies--fills our taste buds and bellies with joy.
We wash it all down with a couple of Japanese beers and wander back out to the lobby to take another gander at the kit car and meditate on how glad we are that we didn't have to eat at Denny's.