[Editor’s Note: This is late thru no fault of the illustrious Mr. Pinkham. We took Labor Day off like good Americans and forgot to hit “publish.” We regret the error.]
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 one of the most fun categories: stories of hardcore clapbacks in restaurants. As always, these are real stories from real readers.
The casino Charming Charlie’s is off the Las Vegas Strip and without all the new contraptions like ventilation or proper AC. It’s my favorite. I go to get the $2.99 breakfast. I seat myself and when the waitress comes over I’m a little disturbed by the fact she’s standing next to me facing forward to the wall. Perhaps she has a slipped retina? I’m not here to judge.
Then she opens her mouth “WHAT YOU WANT TO DRINK!?” She screams. Enough to where people look over. Feeling confused but feeling like maybe she is autistic, or having a rough time in life I timidly reply “water with lemon pl –“
“YOU GET NO LEMON!” I stare at her while she stares at the wall. Did I just get Soup Nazi’d with citrus? She comes back and slams my water down so hard it splashes all over the table.
I watch her take another table’s order. She had a soft smile and polite laughter. I wonder for a second if it was a race or age thing? She was an elderly Asian woman and I was a young white girl who came from a generation of entitled pricks. I was dressed in a tank top and a long tie-dyed skirt, possibly brushed hair and no makeup. Maybe she thought I was on drugs? I wish I had been.
She comes to take my order. Again refusing to look at me, she yells to the wall, “ORDER NOW!”
“Breakfast sp –“
“HOW YOU LIKE EGGS!”
“Over med — “
“HASHBROWN WHAT TOAST!”
“What k –“
She yells the selection of bread with as much as enthusiasm as an AK-47. The brutality of the pronunciation of rye exclaimed her true disdain for my existence. I muttered something.
“No meat plea –“
“NO DISCOUNT! MEAT IN PRICE WHAT MEAT!”
“That’s fine, I just don’t want the meat!”
“YOU PAY FULL PRICE! $2.99 NO LESS!!”
“That’s fine! I’m a vegetarian!”
She walks away. At that moment I think I fell in love with her. She slammed down my food thirty minutes later, never looking at me, never refilling my lemon-less water. I paid that $2.99. I left her a $10 tip. Weirdest dining experience of my life.
Now that I write it out it’s totally possible she thought I was a hooker. I was easily 20 years the junior of anyone else there. Who knows.
One couple left 30 dollars in the book on a $29.50 tab. The waitress drew my attention to it, not for me to do anything, but just pointing out that they were cheap. I pulled 50 cents out of my pocket and ran to the parking lot.
“Sir! Sir! You forgot your change!”
“Oh, I left that for the waitress.”
“As a tip?”
“Oh, okay. So a 50 cent tip?”
“Was there anything wrong with the service? I have to ask, we need to know if waitresses need to be retrained.” (This waitress had been there for years, she was awesome.)
“No, she was great. I’m just not much of a tipper.”
“Okay. Well, good news! I bet her ten bucks you wouldn’t admit that it was a tip! So tonight, you’re kind of a great tipper!”
Back in the 80’s in Milton, FL a high school buddy of mine was working at a Tastee Freeze with a few of other good friends, making roughly $2.00 bucks an hour — the tipping wage at the time. [Editor’s Note: Still the tipping wage in most states, it’s worth noting, as always.] Given the weak compensation package, the crew pretty much had free reign to be as obnoxious as humanly possible.
One night, I popped in to say hello, and a woman came in to order a sandwich. In the process of this, she asked if they had any “lite” mayonnaise. With a faux confused look, my buddy said “Huh?” and then scooped some mayonnaise into his left hand and lifted his arm up and down slightly, as if to check its weight. After a few seconds of this, he looked her straight in the eye and said, “I’m sorry, ma’am, we only have the heavy stuff.”
I worked at Lou Malnati’s (famous Chicago Deep Dish place) in downtown Chicago for many years. During the summer, we would get slammed with tourists staying at nearby hotels. We would give hotel concierges a coupon for a free cookie pizza when they would send customers over. Every year, around the end of May/beginning of June, the Hilton hosts International Mr. Leather and the restaurant would be flooded with big men wearing little leather outfits. I loved IML weekend — the restaurant would go from a typical family restaurant to a daddy-moto leather night real quick.
While the restaurant was flooded with IML people, we were also still getting a lot of the typical family customers. One night, while hosting, a family of four came in to eat with their cookie pizza coupon. They handed me their coupon, and the father asked me, looking disgusted, “Is this your normal clientele?” I then summoned my best customer service skills and the brightest smile and answered sweetly “Yes, sir.”
I sat them in between a leather bear and a group of men wearing assless leather chaps.
Many years ago, my brother-in-law Rob ran a pub/guest house in deepest Cornwall, England. It was a gorgeous place with 15th-century foundations, and a structure mainly dating to the 16th/17th Century. The beer was good, the floors were wonky and the food was pretty fresh. Like the pub, Rob was “proppur” Cornish, naturally spoke like a pirate and didn’t suffer fools gladly. Rob was happy to put up with the “emmets” (tourists) in summer to have sufficient to survive through winter, and to encourage custom at his inn he ran a small menu made from fresh, local ingredients.
One day about 10am a group of tourists arrived looking for refreshment. They ordered drinks and asked if there was something to eat. My mother, who was helping out, patiently explained that the kitchen was in the middle of prep for lunch but could rustle up some crab sandwiches or a decent pasty, although the pasty would be cooked from frozen.
The mention of crab began the cross questioning: was it local? Was it freshly cooked? Was it really fresh? Because (of course) all the party had sensitive stomachs.
As it so happened, any crab would be particularly fresh, because a local fisherman had just dropped off a bongo (a large drum) of crab about 15 minutes before the group had arrived and the first ones were already in the pot. One particular gentleman was dismissive of any claims of it being fresh, asserting that at best it would be the “usual frozen trash,” and said he would “do” the landlord for false advertising. Diplomatically, my mother went out the back to get Rob, who was already wondering who was creating the fuss. Rob told her to go back and say he would be out in a moment. True to his word, Rob arrived very swiftly with a drying cloth over one arm to lend a professional appearance. He asked what the problem was and the know-it-all, claiming he knew all about the tricks of the trade, started to give Rob a lecture.
Waiting patiently, Rob was finally able to say, “Is ‘is fresh enough fur ‘ee?” and pulled a 9″ cock crab from under the towel and placed it on the table, which caused a lady to give a little scream. Know-all said, “Don’t worry, it’s only plastic” and poked the beast with one finger.
The crab, understandably annoyed, took umbrage and snapped its claws onto a handbag and refused to let go. The tourists fled, one coming back after an hour to get the handbag, which Rob eventually had eventually freed from the claws. Everybody left at the pub was very happy, except for the crab, which made a delightful salad for the staff.
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.