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 sweet, beautiful restaurant revenge. As always, these are real stories from real readers.
I grew up in Hanover, NH, home of Dartmouth College (cue angels playing horns and sun shining through clouds). While in high school, I worked as a busser/food runner at a high end (for rural NH) Italian restaurant called Cafe Buon Gustaiao.
Being one of only two high-end restaurants in town, our busiest/shittiest weekend was always Parents Weekend at Dartmouth. That was the weekend all the rich, douchey New Yorker parents came into town and wanted to make sure their spoiled asshole children had a good meal for once since they were all clearly roughing it at one of the richest schools in the country.
Also, side note, for any of you who wonder why New Englanders hate New Yorkers so much, it’s for shit like this. Every fall, New York invades New England with legions of its douchiest nouveau riche assbandits to drive around in their yellow fucking Maseratis and stare at dead leaves like babies stare at Dad’s keys, all the while giggling about how we are so poor in New England that we can’t even afford to pave all our roads, and criticizing everything around them because things are so much better in “The City” (as if it’s the only fucking city on Earth). Go back to Jersey, and while you’re there, go fuck yourself.
[Editor’s Note: Harsh but fair.]
Back to Parents’ Weekend at the Italian spot. One such year, we had just a wonderful specimen of jackassery come in during a particularly busy time. I was bussing tables and could hear her talking to our hostess (who was also the owner and GM) about wanting a table for three. “What do you mean there’s a twenty-minute wait? How is this possible? No, we didn’t make a reservation, how many people can there be in this shitty little town? Did the whole town come out for dinner tonight?” (mental middle fingers being flipped by everyone in earshot).
To give you an idea, we were a small restaurant in a rustic (read: old and run down) building. We had multiple white cloth tablecloths on each table, actual flame candles, and vases with actual flowers. These details will be important going forward.
Anyway, Jackass McGoo is complaining non-stop while she waits. While she is doing this, a table near the host stand pays and leaves. As soon as they do, Jackass McGoo starts pointing at the table and demanding to sit. The owner calmly explains that we need to clean the table and reset it, then she will be happy to seat her and her family. Owner gives me a pleading look, and I get to work clearing the table, putting the candle and flower up on the top of the bench seating, and grabbing the dirty table cloths. As I walk away, I can hear Jackass McGoo announcing she is going to sit at the table while I set it up, and the owner asking her not to.
When I come back to the table with new tablecloths and silverware, Jackass McGoo is sitting at the bench at the table like a conquering queen. Meanwhile, her husband and son are still sheepishly standing over be the host stand. I start to put down the clean tablecloths when I start to smell something rank. Like, really bad burnt vomit-type smell. I stop what I’m doing and quietly go to the owner and ask her if she smells that. She nods and we walk over to the table to try to identify the smell. I see the hostess/owner’s eyes go wide and she says to Jackass McGoo, “Ma’am! Ma’am! Your hair!”
In her haste to get one up on all of us yokels, when Jackass McGoo sat down, she had plopped her hair right on top of the candle. By the time we figured it out, her hair was on fire. Once the owner pointed this out, Jackass McGoo stood up and started screaming and hitting her hair. I grabbed the nearest pitcher of ice water and, in what remains one of my favorite moments in life, dumped the pitcher on her head, dousing the flames and her in one go.
Needless to say, Jackass McGoo was furious, threatening to sue the restaurant, blah blah blah. The owner offered to comp her meal, but to her credit, stood her ground and correctly pointed out that Jackass McGoo had expressly been asked not to sit there. Jackass McGoo did not eat with us that night.
About a week later, Jackass McGoo called up the owner and demanded we pay for her haircut, oh, and by the way, she used a very expensive hair stylist in New York City. Jackass McGoo had consulted with her stylist, and to repair the damage done, it would take four sessions of about $200 each. The owner laughed at her and said she was welcome to come back up to Hanover and get a haircut at the barber shop down the street for 10 bucks; otherwise, she was going to have to talk to her lawyer.
We never heard from her again.
From my days working in a now-defunct DC-based deli:
ME: “Hi, what can I get for you today?”
HER: “I’d like a cup of coffee, cream on the side, and a side of lettuce like you put on a turkey sandwich, a side of tomato like you put on a turkey sandwich, a side of onion like you put on a turkey sandwich, a side of cucumber like you put on a turkey sandwich and some Russian dressing like you put on a turkey sandwich. Now, I know you don’t charge for any of that stuff when I order a turkey sandwich, so don’t try charging me for that stuff.”
ME: “Well, yeah, we don’t charge for sandwich toppings, but you have to order the sandwich.”
HER (huffy): “If you’re giving away that stuff for free, why do I have to pay for it?”
ME: “I can give you two choices. A small house salad for $3.95, or a turkey sandwich with the works, hold the bread, hold the turkey. That’s $6.95.”
HER: “Let me talk to your manager.”
ME: “Good news — I happen to be the floor manager. How can I help you?”
She took the salad. And didn’t tip.
I used to be a bartender at an Irish-themed pub in Illinois just off a hotel. Now, this place was pretty authentic — the entire bar was built in Ireland, dismantled and put into containers and shipped overseas to be rebuilt, and they flew the original builders out to construct it.
So, one Sunday morning I’m doing inventory and restocking the reach-in coolers, when this woman who was Irish — very Irish — sat down at the bar. She looks at me and says, in an accent reminiscent of the Lucky Charms leprechaun, “I’d like a Bacardi and white lemonade.” Now, I was only 22 at the time and had no idea whatsoever what she was talking about, so I asked for some clarification. She gave me a look of pure scorn and says, “I said I want a Bacardi and white lemonade. And make it strong, but I won’t pay for a double.” We went back and forth five more times before she finally shouted, “I want a Bacardi and Sprite, you dipshit! Bacardi and Sprite!”
So I quickly made this woman her Bacardi and SPRITE [Editor’s Note: Who in the fuck calls Sprite “white lemonade?” Is this an Irish thing?] and went back to stocking beer. I turned around a little while later and a man in his late 20s with a child who couldn’t have been more than nine years old had bellied up to the bar next to her. Normally, this would have been the ultimate no-no, because in the great state of Illinois, you can’t even sit at a bar until you’re 21 years old. It being a quiet Sunday morning and the place being empty, though, I figured the odds of a problem arising were minimal. I caught the restaurant manager’s eye and she just shrugged, so we figured we’d be fine.
Oh, how wrong we were.
A few minutes later, I turned around and saw this woman giving the child a hearty gulp of her Bacardi and Sprite. At that point, I’m not willing to risk a cop walking in and seeing me turning a blind eye to the delinquency of a minor, so I inform the woman and her companion that they have to leave the bar immediately…at which point the mother of all tantrums was thrown.
“How DARE you tell me how I am to raise my nephew,” she began. “You arrogant little SHIT. This is an Irish pub and I am from County Kildare. I am a guest of this hotel. You have no right to treat your guests like this. I am not leaving and I will raise my nephew exactly as I see fit. Get fucked.” Note that this was yelled at a volume somewhat reminiscent of an airhorn.
Being rather intimately familiar with the dram shop laws of the county where this establishment was, I leaned in closely to her and said, “Ma’am, this is an Irish bar. You are not in the Irish embassy. Allowing a minor to drink in a bar results in a $1,000 fine for the bartender, another $1,000 fine for the bar itself, and a suspension of our liquor license. Contributing to the delinquency of a minor, which you just did, is an automatic $2,000 fine for you. Now, I saw it happen, and my restaurant manager, who is standing right behind you, saw it happen and heard every word you just said to me. You can leave right now, or we will call the police and tell them exactly what just happened here.”
She ultimately did leave, but not without knocking over a bunch of barstools and whacking a bunch of crap off some tables on her way out.
My last gig before heading off to grad school was a fine dining (continental service with tableside cooking) restaurant in La Jolla. As everyone knows, waiting on wealthy patrons can be trying, to say the least. In San Diego, we have not only our local American wealthy folks, but also the rich Mexicans that come up from Tijuana for shopping, dinner, etc. I had been dating one of our hostesses for just a few weeks when, 10 minutes before closing time, in comes a large party of about a dozen of our moneyed neighbors from the south. As the captain, I inform them that the kitchen will be closing very soon so I would need everyone’s orders right away if we were to make this work (the manager had already mentioned this to the party’s host before they were seated).
As my girlfriend/hostess was passing out the menus, the host says (in Spanish), “Don’t worry about rushing, these people are just servants, they can’t tell us how much time we have. They obviously don’t know their place.” My very gringa-looking future wife, forever sealing a place in my heart, proceeds to tell the host in perfect Spanish, “Excuse me, but you might want to watch what you say, nearly every one of us speaks Spanish, and it’s not a good idea to insult the people who prepare your food.”
They ordered within five minutes and were gone in about an hour. Of course, he left a shitty 5% tip but that was fine because he missed the prominent “18% GRATUITY INCLUDED FOR PARTIES OF SIX OR MORE” both on the menu and his check. I told her I loved her for the first time that night. We’ve been married for 23 years now.
I work in a fairly large office building, and when sitting in the lobby last week waiting for my Jimmy John’s delivery (yes, I’m a bad person that eats bad food simply because it’s fast and easy), I noticed a very agitated older woman (AOW) pacing the lobby and holding a Jimmy John’s bag in her hand. At first, I thought nothing of it, then overheard this exchange between her and the security guard. This is obviously paraphrased, but fairly close.
Guard: “Are you waiting for someone?”
AOW: “Yeah, the delivery driver!”
Guard: “Oh, I thought you already got your food…”
AOW: “I got the wrong sandwich. I’m waiting for them to bring me the right one.”
Guard: “Oh, you got someone else’s food?”
AOW: “No, I ordered the wrong sandwich. I thought I just ordered a smaller one … that’s why it was cheaper. Turns out they sell sandwiches without any veggies on them too, that’s what I ordered. But, I want one with everything on it! Who the hell eats a sandwich without any mayo on it anyway?”
Guard: “Oh I see, so it was your mistake … ”
AOW : “NO! They should have known! I order from them all the time, they should have known what I meant. This is ridiculous!”
At this point I looked over at the security guard, who gave me the same perplexed look. Just then a Jimmy John’s car pulled up. As I walked over towards the door, AOW stiff-armed me and said, “This isn’t for you, it’s for me!” Even though the driver very clearly had a box full of orders. That’s when I hear this lovely back and forth:
AOW: “DO YOU HAVE MY NEW SANDWICH!?”
DG: “You’re (insert name I don’t recall), right? It’s right here.”
The driver then asks for my name, and before I can respond …
AOW: “Where’s my damn tip money!?”
DG: “Your tip money?”
AOW: “Yes the tip I gave you twenty minutes ago! I want it back since you screwed up!”
DG: “I’m sorry, ma’am. It looks like you used a card, so you’ll have to call the store to have them reimburse your card. Did I do something wrong?”
AOW: “You gave me the wrong sandwich and then took way too long to bring the right one! GODDAMMIT! Give me the tip money he was about to give you, then, I’m not waiting!”
Me: “There’s no way in hell you’re getting any money out of what I’m giving him.”
At this point, she stormed off and yelled back, “Have some fucking respect for your elders!”
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.