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 stories of restaurant employees who actually were very much the ones at fault in their given situations. As always, these are real stories from real readers.
A few years ago, I went to lunch with my husband, my aunt, and her two daughters. This restaurant was the only even vaguely “fine dining” place in its town, and it was maybe a step above Applebee’s.
It was around noon, and the place was completely, totally empty, except for one person standing at a host-desk sort of area. It took the only waiter a long time to get to our table, and he was very clearly chemically altered. My cousin guessed weed, but my husband said he seemed more like he was on PCP: blank stare, slurred speech, really sluggish, but with twitchy, blinky eyes.
Placing our orders with him was an ordeal. I don’t remember what anyone else got, but my aunt ordered a chicken salad sandwich. She asked a question about it: did the chicken salad have grapes, nuts, etc. in it? No. Okay, great, she’d like that.
The waiter came back a bit later and asked her whether she ordered the chicken salad or tuna salad sandwich. She confirmed that she wanted the chicken salad sandwich.
My aunt went to the restroom, and the guy came back AGAIN. “What kind of sandwich did she want?” The four of us at the table said, loudly, slowly, and practically in unison: “CHICKEN. SALAD.”
He brought our food. Again, I don’t remember anything about what anyone else ordered. My aunt got a green salad. With grilled chicken on it.
As soon as he placed it in front of her, she said, politely but firmly, “This isn’t what I ordered.”
He said, “Yes you did. You ordered a chicken salad.”
She said, still polite but now clearly annoyed, “No, I ordered a chicken salad sandwich.”
“I can bring you one, but we’ll have to charge you for both items, because you didn’t order a chicken salad sandwich.”
At that moment, I completely snapped. I’m usually an exceedingly polite restaurant-goer, but this was more than I was willing to deal with that day.
“No. You will NOT charge her for both items. You will go get her what she ordered: a chicken-salad sandwich. It’s what you asked about twice, and what we confirmed for you twice. NOW.”
The host-desk person (who turned out to be the manager) came over then, and the waiter was all “They’re trying to scam me.” The manager apologized profusely, told him to go get a chicken salad, said her meal was comped, etc.
The reason I snapped? We were all at lunch together because we had just gotten done at the funeral home next door. We had picked out the coffin my mother (my aunt’s sister) was going to be buried in. So no, I wasn’t in the mood to argue with a dude on angel dust over a damn sandwich.
I was working in a popular bookstore/coffeehouse in Campbell, CA that is no longer there. They went bankrupt while still owing me my last paycheck, so I’m not going to tell you the name (they later reappeared in San Diego with a store that is still open). This was back before there was a Starbucks on every corner, and we were just about the only place to get espresso drinks in the South Bay, and we were always slammed on a Saturday night.
This particular Saturday, I was closing manager, and we were desperately short-handed, just one barista and me. An employee who had just been fired for dipping into the till came in begging for his job back. Normally I would have told him to get lost, but I was desperate — we needed two to work the espresso machine and other food and drink items, and we had no busser. So I offered him that job for the night.
At closing, after everyone had gone except him, washing the last dishes in the back, and me, counting the tills in the office, he snuck up behind me and clobbered me on the head with one of those foot-long pepper-grinders. I bounced my forehead on the desk and saw stars, but I have a hard head, and I didn’t go out. I was even able to get up and chase him, for about two steps before having to sit down. Blood all down my shirt and pants. But he didn’t get the cash.
He was arrested shortly after and went to prison for it. Bonus round: twenty years later, in a different city, I got a call from a police detective, asking if I had any insights into his personality to help them prosecute him, this time for beating his grandfather to death.
A local 24-hour diner had just been bought out and changed its branding. With this change came new menu items. On my next late-night trip there, I was happy to see potato pancakes added to the menu. I ordered them with sour cream on top.
When the waitress brought out the food, I immediately spotted an issue. Potato pancakes generally look like small, round hash browns. These were too big, too flat, and too uniformly brown.
The cook had made regular pancakes and put sour cream and green onions on top. Turned out he didn’t know what potato pancakes were, and thought I just wanted weird toppings. We got it straightened out, but I did notice that potato pancakes were removed from the menu not too long afterward.
Saturday night I had dinner at Sushi Dojo in East Village. The manager of the restaurant appeared to be incredibly drunk and made us very uncomfortable. Some of the highlights include:
- The manager taking shots with some customers next to us all night, yelling and blaring shitty house music on the speakers.
- The manager several times giving my brother a hard time for not drinking when we said multiple times he did not drink.
- The manager interjecting into our conversation by telling us that Florida voted for Trump ‘because they are smart.’
- The manager telling us Hillary Clinton is a crook.
- The manager loudly talking with the customers next to us about how he much enjoys doing cocaine. He made sure everyone in the restaurant knew how much he loves cocaine.
- The manager loudly saying to one of the customers next to us so that everyone in the restaurant could hear: “You voted for Trump. Me too. Thank God you are not a fucking idiot.”
- The manager repeatedly yelling at one of the sushi chefs, “DO YOU EAT CLIT?”
- The manager going back into the kitchen and yelling, “WHERE IS MY FUCKING FOOD, I AM FUCKING STARVING?”
- The manager forcing one of the sushi chefs to take shots of sake when he clearly did not want to drink. He would pretend to drink it and place the glass on a shelf behind him.
- After repeatedly saying we did not want to talk about politics with him, saying over and over again, “Clinton voters need to stop crying.” He apparently said this to other customers as well.
The food was good. The rest of the staff was really nice and four people who work there apologized for his behavior but there was nothing they could do, because he’s their boss.
I’m not complaining about this as if it was a traumatic experience, I’m just trying to say don’t eat at Sushi Dojo. The manager is a jerk.
I have a story from a friend who works for a company that gives out samples.
He had a coworker who worked under him — let’s call the worker Chad. Chad was terrible. One day, he came in and had to give out these little microwavable lasagna meals. He asked my friend how he was supposed to cook them. My friend asked if he read the instructions each one of the workers got every day. Chad said no. My friend explained that you had to microwave it, then cut it into smaller pieces and put it on the sample plates. So Chad left to go about his business.
Get to the end of the day and my friend checked the microwave — a deck of playing cards had been accidentally left in there. They were fine, though; the microwave hadn’t been used all day. Chad had cut the mostly thawed out frozen-ish lasagna and handed it out that way to people all day.
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.