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 could not have been more on point. As always, these are real stories from real readers.
This is actually more of a security story, but the altercation took place in a restaurant. I was a doorman at a chain bar/grill that offered the longest Happy Hour in town and insane drink specials every night. We’re talking 32 oz beers for a dollar. Of course the place was almost always rowdy, bordering on riotous, and “doorman” often meant “bouncer.” This particular night we had a trio of customers, two guys getting shitfaced and a girl who only looked increasingly embarrassed/terrified as they drained their glasses. One dude we referred to as “The White Gorilla,” because he was fucking MASSIVE, like a cartoon strongman made flesh. The more he drank, the more obnoxious he became to the customers around him, and verbally abusive toward the staff, until finally every waitress in the place refused to approach his table. So the Gorilla just starts walking around the restaurant stealing other people’s drinks. Sometimes he at least attempted to be sneaky, but if he got caught he would just glare menacingly at the victim until they retreated. I reported this to my manager, as we had kicked people out for this behavior before, but I wasn’t stupid enough to think I could make this guy go anywhere without some backup. But the manager on duty that night didn’t want to cause a ruckus, and said they would just tab him out and tell him they could no longer serve him because he was visibly intoxicated (that’s a law in Texas).
They sent the male bartender over with his tab to explain things because he was the biggest guy on staff. But he was just a nice guy that liked to work out — he’d never thrown a punch in his life, and the Gorilla was still twice his size. So when the customer threw away the bill and told him to fuck off, that’s what he did. The manager told me over the radio that the police had been called and I was to “keep an eye on him” until then. The Gorilla kept telling me to get him another drink and I would tell him to leave and then we would go back to ignoring each other. But when his girl suggests that maybe they’ve had enough and it’s time to call it a night, he backhands her across the face so hard she falls off her stool. That was the line — I have three little sisters and if you EVER hit a woman in front of me, your ass is 100% done. I told him to get the fuck out right this goddamned second, and he gave me the response I was waiting for: “Make me.”
I grabbed the stool his girl had been sitting on and cracked it over his shiny, bald skull as hard as I could. He banged his head on the table on the way down and hit the floor stone cold unconscious. The manager came out and yelled that I was going to be fired and likely arrested for assault, to which I replied “Fine.” When the cops got there, they were mad at me all right — the Gorilla was so heavy they had to wait for him to come around before they could haul him away.
I didn’t get fired for that, but even if I had, I would have never felt better about losing a job in my life.
[Editor’s Note: If your response to this story is “THAT’S ASSAULT AND THAT’S NOT OK,” fuck you.]
I’d had an awful day. I hadn’t done as well on a test as I thought I should have, I left a book on the bus that I needed to finish a paper that was due the next day, and horror of all horrors, I’d lost my wallet with my bus pass ($50 to replace) and $100. If I hadn’t had a lunch date with my Mom, I would have gone home and just cried my eyes out.
I arrived about half-an-hour early, but they were willing to sit me. I sat there looking depressed and harried, and the waitress sat with me and tried to make me feel better with jokes. It helped somewhat, and I was able to have a decent lunch without spending all of it crying.
I had to go to the bathroom and when I came back she’d gotten me a dessert of sopapillas. This woman who I’d never met before was trying to make me feel better. It worked.
I went back a few days later with a box of chocolates to say thank you. It turns out she had her last day at work one day earlier. I have never forgotten her kindness, though, on a day when I really needed it.
My parents were visiting from out-of-state, and my wife and I took them out for dinner to a now-defunct mid-range steakhouse. Mom had recently broken her arm, so dad was helping her with all of life’s little annoyances.
We all ordered our steaks, and, when mom’s arrived, it was pre-cut into bite-sized pieces and carefully arranged back into a perfect presentation before being covered with mushrooms and onions. The waitress was surprised when he thanked her, but thanked him later in return for his generous tip — on top of my normal tip for the meal. A true win-win for everyone involved.
This story happened in the spring of 2012, as I was about to finish my Master’s Degree and move from Indiana to Washington state for a new job. I had lived in Indiana for almost 15 years prior and was moving to Washington alone, with no friends, and so my friends decided I needed a going-away party.
We made a reservation for 20 at a local semi-upscale German restaurant. They sat us in a sort of banquet room towards the back of the restaurant where they had pushed a bunch of tables together for us, but there were also a few other groups at single tables in the back room.
My friends and I ordered a ton of appetizers and launched into a reminiscence par excellence. Over a decade of raunchy old stories, shared for our own amusement and for the edification of my grad school friends who hadn’t known my nearly as long.
“Remember that time you bought a chicken from a Mennonite?”
“How about that time we almost got arrested for humping the camel at a nativity scene for that New Year’s scavenger hunt?”
“Hey, X, don’t get so drunk that you try to stick a bottle up your ass like that one time!”
(All of which are true. I roll with strange people.)
We were loud. I admit it. It was hard to control the laughter as we insulted each other for what felt like maybe the last time. I noticed a couple of the other tables laughing along with us before they paid their checks and left. At one point, a table of grumpy old folks was sat across the room for us, and after 45 minutes of them scowling in our general direction, the staff just stopped seating other people in the back room.
The waiter, to his credit, didn’t seem bothered by this at all. He kept a close eye on us and would always walk in halfway through a story and attempt to get caught up. Like “Okay, how is everyone doing? And who fucked the dog?” He was not only a trooper but an active participant in the evening. He gathered from our conversation that I was moving away in a couple of weeks, and offered me congratulations and good luck. Toward the end of the meal, after a couple of hours of this, he entered the room with a styrofoam take-home box and asked for our attention. He said that in celebration of my graduation and new job, he and the kitchen decided to comp me a special dessert. He set the box down in front of me and, with glee in his eyes, urged me to open it.
This is when I noticed that some other waitstaff were standing in the doorway trying very hard not to smile.
I opened the box to find a big old phallic slice of chocolate cheesecake, with two scoops of chocolate ice cream at the back end and a big squirt of whipped cream coming out of the tip. I lost it, all of my friends lost it, the gathered wait staff lost it, and they wouldn’t leave until I had taken a bite (just the tip).
My personal tab was almost $100, as I had taken one of the large appetizer platters and ordered myself a giant German dinner, and I tipped 60% on top of the 18% gratuity for our group. It was a banner night and a great send-off.
Picture it: 2005, Park Avenue, New York City. Fancy 350 seat white linen joint, Saturday night. The place was packed, wait out the door and full bar. I was working service bar, cranking out mojitos by the hundred (literally). Out of the corner of my eye is see a giant commotion in the middle of the dining room floor. All I see is screaming and turmoil. So, being the busybody I am, I duck under the bar to get a closer look.
Three businessmen are at table 403 … well, two are there, and the other is having a seizure next to the table. The other two are just sitting there screaming. This would make sense…except for what they were screaming:
“Where the fuck is our paella?!”
“Your friend isn’t doing so good, should I call an ambulance?”
“Did I ask you to do that? No, I asked you for my fucking food!”
The EMT showed up as my busboy was shoving his own wallet in the guy’s mouth to ensure he didn’t chew his own tongue off. I threw some to go boxes on the table with the check and said, “OK, we are done here for tonight.”
The poor waitress that had the table missed the whole thing, which took all of 3 minutes. She came over baffled.
In retrospect, the bus boy should have been given an award.
[Editor’s Note: Figuring out whether this story went in Employees on Point or Worst Customers is the toughest category decision I’ve had to make in OTM history.]
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.