Hello, and welcome back to Off The Menu, where we explore the craziest stories about food from my email inbox. This week, we’ve got more stories of wonderful restaurant revenge. As always, these are real stories from real readers.
My boyfriend and I went to a small cafe yesterday for lunch. It’s near his family’s lake house, and we were there in the off-season, so the other restaurant in town had closed until February. This cafe is attached to an inn that advertises “phone and cable TV.” Not expecting more than burgers and a plate lunch option, we were surprised that the menu offered brunch. It took nearly 10 minutes for the very kind, but very flustered and slow waitress to take our drink orders and tell us that they were no longer serving breakfast because their grill cook had left for the day, and the manager was cooking. We still don’t know how they could serve burgers and not eggs, but we were getting lunch anyway.
Food took forever to come out, but when it finally did, it looked really good. My boyfriend started eating his prime rib sandwich and dipping it in the cup of au jus. I asked if it was good, and he said yes, except that there was pancake syrup on the bottom of the plate. Now, he’s super easy going but hates to wait for anything, so he powered through the sandwich, worried he was eating on someone else’s dirty syrup plate the whole time.
When the waitress asked how the food was, I asked why there would be syrup on his sandwich plate. She offered to make a new one, which we declined, because a table of six people had just been seated, and we knew we’d never get it. He ate over half of it before realizing: the cup of au jus was actually syrup! He’d been going to town dipping it in syrup the whole time, but thinking he was tasting the syrup on the bun.
Now that’s a way to get brunch. Dip your prime rib sandwich in syrup.
In college, I had a summer job waiting tables in an infamous greasy spoon diner on Bourbon Street in New Orleans.
One night I was working the graveyard shift and got a table of heavily made-up goth/vampire kids dressed all in black. One of the young vampires asked for his hamburger raw — not rare, but completely raw. I asked the short order cook if he minded serving an uncooked burger patty to our customer. The short order cook made the vampire kid sign on a napkin that he was accepting a risk. We served the raw burger and the young goth ate it. I tried not to gag. Luckily, our shift was almost over, and the cook and I ran across the street for some cocktails.
One of my favorite unusual customers was a man who would come to Longhorn for lunch right when we opened for lunch at 11 am. The only time I had him, another server stopped me and said “hey, this guy is a little … peculiar. He doesn’t want you to upsell or schpiel him, or really even talk to him at all outside of taking his order. Just keep his drinks full and take away his dirty dishes immediately.”
I was thinking, there’s no way this guy can be THAT specific (it was just a few months into my serving career at that point). He sat down alone and proceeded to order and eat all of:
- a coke, a lemonade, and an iced tea
- TWO appetizers, one of which was a full onion blossom (I can’t remember the second)
- an entree sized house salad
- a bowl of potato soup, with a full loaf of appetizer bread
- a large (16ish oz) ribeye steak with mashed potatoes and fries (fries!)
- and a piece of chocolate cake with ice cream, which we served in massive, shareable portions.
He ate every last bite, said practically nothing and tipped me $40 on top of his ~$80 check. I didn’t mind waiting on him at all, but I just couldn’t believe the amount of food (namely starch) he consumed. I only saw him one other time, dining with another person and eating a single entree.
I spent my college summers working at a Max & Erma’s in the Chicago suburbs. The chain at the time boasted a build-your-own ice cream bar, which was a nightmare to keep clean/stocked during busy shifts.
One day, I had a really pleasant guy with his two kids, one preschool, one elementary. They each got a sundae and were back at their table when their father flagged me over. Turns out that in all the confusion of the evening, someone had swapped out the squeeze bottle of chocolate for the sundae bar with the squeeze bottle of BBQ sauce for the BBQ nachos.
The dad had a great sense of humor about his small child who had just killed a fair chunk of a sundae with sprinkles, chocolate chips, whipped cream and a nice, smokey BBQ sauce all over it: “He told me it tasted weird and I didn’t believe it for like half the sundae!” Maybe it was the exhaustion of a busy dinner shift, but I lost it — I doubled over laughing so hard there were tears.
I tried to choke out that I wasn’t laughing at his kid, but it was just the funniest goddamn thing I had ever seen at that particular moment. We comped their desserts, gave the kid a new sundae to start again and everyone parted ways as friends.
At the dawn of the new millennium, I was working at a Dairy Queen in a mid-sized Midwestern city. When I first started, the fridges holding the ice cream cakes were located within arm’s reach of the entrance, which was a problem, because people would dart in, steal a cake and run. So eventually the fridges were moved to the other side of the lobby. Would-be thieves would have to walk past the registers to get the cake and past them again to leave. This was supposed to deter theft because, apparently, us cashiers were supposed to leap over the counters and stop them or something. Cakes still got stolen, though, due to thieves coming in during the dinner rush and strolling out with cakes while we frantically made Blizzards for entire soccer teams.
Theft-deterrence was a pet project of one of the shop’s owners, Cyndi, who made and decorated the cakes personally and was always pissed when they got stolen. Can’t blame her — making those layer cakes was a pain in the ass. ‘Keep an eye on those fridges,’ she’d tell us. ‘Look for people lingering for too long. Greet people and make eye contact if they’re at the fridges so they know they’re being watched!’
Anyway, one rainy, slow afternoon, I was manning the register while Cyndi wiped down tables in the dining area.
A woman shuffled in and gave the usual signs of being On Something that all food-service workers develop an eye for. She shuffled over to the cake fridges while casting shifty glances at me and then hovered around the cake fridges for several minutes while continuing to cast shifty glances at me, as if hoping I’d go into the back so she could be alone with the cakes. I greeted her and asked if I could help, which made her twitch and jump.
I locked eyes with Cyndi, who was already edging toward the exit.
The woman finally plucked a large round cake from the fridge.
“Is there anything else I can get for you?” I asked as she walked past the registers.
“Uh. Um. Shit. Um. Yeah. French fries!” she responded.
“What size?” I asked.
“Large,” she said.
“OK so large fries and a 10-inch round,” I said, keying in the order on my register.
As soon as I looked down, the woman made for the exit. Cyndi popped out and blocked the door, arms splayed, yelling, “Stop! YOU DIDN’T PAY FOR THAT.” The thief froze, crouched, and then dodged left into our single-occupancy bathroom. The door lock clicked. “Godfuckingdammit, pardon my french!” Cyndi screamed and began pounding on the bathroom door.
No response from inside. The dude working the grill called the cops, who arrived 20 minutes later. During that time, no response came from the bathroom.
Much to our disappointment, the cops did NOT bust down the door but calmly spoke to the cake thief. “Just a minute!” she finally called out cheerfully. After a total of about 25 minutes in the bathroom, she came out with an expression on her face that was a mix of defiance and discomfort and calmly closing the door behind her.
The cops took the thief out to their car after instructing us to stay out of bathroom until they came back and checked it out because there might be drugs inside.
“I bet that strung-out bitch (pardon my french) smeared the cake all over the damn bathroom,” Cyndi said.
When one of the cops investigated the bathroom, he came out laughing holding an empty container with only small smears of frosting remaining. The bathroom was also pristine, with no cake on the walls or floor.
That’s right — this tiny woman had, in 25 minutes, ingested a 10-inch round ice cream cake (which serves 12 to 17) and licked the container clean. Cyndi had had her ear pressed against the door until the cops arrived, and she’d have heard the toilet flush if the thief had, indeed flushed handfuls of cake. So the entirety of that cake (and its layers of fudge, crunch, soft-serve, and frosting) were now within a woman who probably tipped the scales at 105 dripping wet.
“Well… we’ve got a ticking time bomb in our car,” the cop said before dashing to the car and peeling out of our parking lot.
The horrors of what must have happened within the police station (if not within the cop car) that day were confirmed when one of the guys quit DQ and we made him eat an entire 10-inch round during his goodbye party “just to see what happens.”
Do you have any food-related stories you’d like to see included in Off The Menu? Feel free to submit them to WilyUbertrout@gmail.com. New submissions are always welcome! (Seriously, you don’t need to ask if I want you to send them in, the answer is always yes). If you’d like to stay up to date with OTM news, my Twitter handle is @EyePatchGuy.