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 tales of truly epic and heroic smart-asses in restaurants. As always, these are real stories from real readers.
One of my best “what in the actual fuck” moments came from a late night trip to the unhappiest place on earth, Friendly’s.
I came in with a big crowd. I fully understand that this is not always a server’s dream, so I understood why our waitress was a little cranky. I get it, as I also hated seeing large, jovial groups of twenty-somethings come in after a big rec-league softball game when I was waiting tables. She took our drink orders, nothing unusual, just kind of unhappy in the job.
For my meal, I ordered something really uncomplicated, a grilled chicken salad. I made one huge mistake, though, and it clearly tipped this woman over the edge: I asked for my dressing on the side. She grumbled and went off to the kitchen. Our meals came and I was introduced to the most passive-aggressive presentation of all time: my salad was topped with an actual unopened bottle of Italian dressing resting comfortably on top of my greens and meat.
I didn’t go back there. I was worried that if I ordered a sundae without sprinkles, she may have poured them directly into my eyes.
My first restaurant job was working in the kitchen at Chuck E Cheese in the late 90s. One of my managers was an awesome guy who was a natural born smartass.
In addition to overpriced and inadequate pizzas, we also sold subs, complete with the stereotypical lettuce, onions, and tomatoes. The sub prep station sat next to the small rectangular pick up window and we would always have kids popping their heads into it asking where Chuck was.
During one particular rough and busy day (10+ birthday parties, kids puking in the ball pit, obnoxious parents etc), we had this one 8 year oldish kid who would keep sticking his little head through the window and screaming “Where is Chuckie?! I want Chuckie!” about every 10 minutes or so. About the 8th time the kid came back, my manager was slicing tomatoes, and he’d had enough.
Skippy: Where is Chuckie? I want to see Chuckie!
Manager (cutting tomatoes): I’m sorry son, Chuck isn’t coming back today.
Manager (lifts knife with tomato guts on it) Because I’ve stabbed him.
Poor Skippy, his face went from the typical bratty look to extremely mortified and I swear he went white as a ghost. Needless to say, we never saw Skips for the rest of the day.
Jeferson de Salas:
I was driving from Baltimore to North NJ with a friend — she a NJ native, me from Brazil. We stopped at a diner in Southern NJ for lunch, one of those all day breakfast places. The server heard my accent and asked “are you from England?”
I guess the only other foreigners she knew must have been British or something, since I don’t sound even remotely like someone from the UK. So I told her, “No, I’m from Brazil.” Blank stare. “You know, big country, way south of the border?” Another blank stare followed by, “Oh, you mean like Mexico?” “Yeah, go past Mexico a few thousand miles, and once the locals are no longer speaking Spanish, you’ve probably reached Brazil.” Another blank stare, while my friend was holding back her laughter.
So then she was ready to take our order. “I’ll have a waffle with a slice of ham, please.” Another blank stare, then “you want ham?” “…yes?” “On your waffle?!?” “Errr… yes…?” She turned to my friend and asked her “is this how you folks eat it where you’re from?”
My friend, without missing a beat, said: “Yes, that’s how we eat it in East Orange.” Another blank stare.
In the end, we enjoyed our meals.
I dated a guy years ago who was insufferable for many reasons (we didn’t last long), but one of his worst characteristics involved his absolute surety that anything French automatically made it better than anything else. French food was better than every other cuisine, the French language was superior to all other languages, French designers were more creative and talented… you get the gist.
This belief, of course, included his feelings on wine. At some point, he told me that he’d had a brilliant idea to make a lot of money: he was going to go out and buy a lot of cheap French reds, keep them for a long time, then re-sell them for the hundreds and hundreds they’d surely fetch. I told him that that’s not how it works; not all wines keep forever, and all have the potential to go bad in the right conditions.
He rolled his eyes and said, “You’re thinking of those American wines you’re always drinking. Of course they don’t age; they’re crap. All French wines start out great, and only get better with age.”
Seeing that this conversation was going nowhere, I just said, “Okay, cool. Enjoy the millions you’ll make with this idea.”
A week or two later, we just happened to be invited by some friends to a wine dinner being held at a restaurant. The sommelier went over each course’s wine, giving its history, etc. My dude could barely be bothered to pay attention to the information about wines from the US, New Zealand, South Africa, etc., but as soon as the sommelier mentioned the next wine hailing from France, he was all ears.
Over dessert, the sommelier was walking around, visiting with everyone. He came to our table, and after a bit of chitchat, my dude explained his brilliant money-making scheme to her.
When he was done, she said, “Well, if you want a lot of French vinegar, go right ahead.” I almost fell off my chair laughing.
We broke up not long after.
My senior year of high school, I worked part-time in Domino’s as a customer service representative (CSR). For those of you not familiar with Domino’s workloads, the CSR has to take all the calls and jump in for pizza prep whenever necessary. We always had a few recurring “problematic” customers who would take advantage of the phone ordering system. These people would get the exact pizza they ordered over the phone, but would call back saying the toppings were incorrect. They would demand a refund, discount, or want their order for free since the service wasn’t up to their standards.
An individual who we’ll call “Jimmy” would take this a step further, and always call us on our busiest day (Friday) at our busiest time (6:00pm) and would put in an extremely complicated pizza order in the hopes that we would miss something or mess his pizza up. We would then have no choice but to give him the pizza for free. The first week he called, we gave him the benefit of the doubt — it was an incredibly complex order. The second week he called, we made sure to make his pizza very carefully, but he claimed the driver brought the pizza cold — this was bullshit, as he lived too close by for the delivery to reach him cold. The third week, he complained that the order must have been entered incorrectly into the system, but seeing as our manager took the order in personally, this was a flat-out lie.
So when this guy calls the fourth time, we were ready. The pizza had to be exactly as he demanded:
Left Side: No Sauce, Cheese, Sausage, Beef, Green Peppers, and Cheddar Cheese on top.
Right Side: Sauce, Extra Cheese, Pepperoni, Chicken, Onion, and Jalapeño Peppers.
We made sure to make this pizza perfectly, and also got the driver to deliver the order quickly so that it arrived well within the period it would have still been hot. But, as we suspected, Jimmy called us back refusing to pay because the pizza was wrong. My manager decided to talk with him, and Jimmy complained that what he wanted on the left side was on the opposite side, and vice-versa. Fed up, my manager said into the phone, “TURN. THE PIZZA. AROUND” and hung up.
The driver came back with the money that was owed, and Jimmy never called again in the time I worked there.
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.