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 more bafflingly WTF restaurant stories. As always, these are real stories from real readers.
I used to work summers at this steakhouse in upper Ontario on a lake. The season was winding down and the other restaurants on the strip had closed. We still had a decent amount of business those last few weekends, so we stayed open in case we got any huge parties looking for a last hurrah before heading back to work and school.
We had a guy come in alone and order himself two rare steaks, two baked potatoes, two orders of fries, two 32-oz mugs of beer, and a piece of our deep-fried cheesecake (it was something like 1600 calories in the cheesecake alone). Dude couldn’t have been more than 25, 5’9″, around 140lbs, kind of skinny-fit-looking. He sat at a two-top, alone, never asked the server for a thing, and polished off everything. Never once broke a sweat. It was a slow Monday evening, maybe three other people in the whole restaurant. Everyone was sort of watching him already because of his strangely large order — especially us kitchen staff. We were all leaning up against doorframes, just watching the dude consume, fascinated by his ability to pack it away. It was mesmerizing.
Once he was done, his server brought over the cheque and placed it on the table. He turned to her, said, “thank you” in a very polite tone, and then proceeded to projectile vomit on her from the chest down.
The restaurant went still. Nobody knew how to react. All of us kitchenfolk were standing there, mouths agape. After a painful minute, he reached over the table and picked up one of his unused napkins, and handed it to her. “Sorry,” he said, in the tone one would use when apologizing for not holding a door, or giving the incorrect amount of change. Everybody else stood stock still as he got up from his chair, placed two crisp hundreds on the table, and walked out the door. We never saw him again those last few weeks or any of the following summers.
Around 1999, I worked in a great dive bar/diner in Bellingham, Washington. It was the type of place that had its share of old-timer regulars from 4-7 every day. They’d sit at the bar smoking and drinking $2.25 cocktails, served by our own resident aging Stevie Nicks bartender.
One day, a guy came in who would order a beer, sit in silence, then order another one — until he’d gotten up to seven beers. He didn’t seem to feel anything, his expression never changed, and he didn’t speak to anyone except to order. Well, on the seventh beer, the bartender opened it for him and said, “Okay, this’ll be your last one.” He said, “What?” And she repeated herself. The man stood up, slammed his hand on the counter and screamed, “I’m not Superman!!!” and walked out. Needless to say, we 86’d him. However, later that night he came into the diner and ordered a milkshake. When the server brought him the milkshake, he picked it up and poured it out on the counter.
Dude continued to come in sporadically, seemingly just to see if he’d get kicked out.
I was working at a semi-regional food chain in a relatively touristy-area. A mom, dad, and adult daughter come in and I ask for drinks. A soda, a tea, and a water — nothing special. Then the daughter asks for her water to be with no ice. This isn’t entirely unusual, as the ice can bother people’s teeth, so I don’t think anything of it. I drop the drinks off and take their order and they seem like they’re doing just fine. They’re tired, they’ve been traveling, they’re just glad we have burgers.
Here’s where it gets weird. They flag me down and the daughter asks if there’s a way she can get warm water. I’m thinking the daughter wants tea, but she clarifies, “This is still too cold, even without the ice.” I explain that no, the water just comes out of a machine and we can’t really control the temperature of it and she looks really unhappy about everything. The mom then asks if there’s a way to get tap water or something.
I’m a bit flabbergasted, but I go to the back and ask my manager if it’s okay if I just fill up a glass from the sink and explain why. He gives permission and I even turn the knob to warm so the water doesn’t come out cold. We don’t have the greatest water in the world, so what comes out of the tap looks a little chalky. This is why we have a machine. The water is perfectly safe to drink, but you can’t serve someone anything other than perfectly clear water or they throw a fit (the stories I could tell …). I go to serve this woman her warm water, and by now news of what’s going on has spread through the kitchen. Several servers and my manager are at the bar, just watching this table. Even one of the cooks comes and hangs out watching to see what will happen.
I deliver the water very tentatively, setting it next to the ice-less “too cold” water. She immediately grabs it and downs about half of it, then thanks me profusely. When I come back to check on them, the dad tests the water of the first glass, remarking that it’s warmed up a bit. Undaunted, the daughter sticks her finger in and then declares, “Nope. Still too cold.”
There was nothing wrong with the table, and they were perfectly normal except for that one request. She remains the first, and only, customer who has asked me for warm water.
I had just driven through three states to see my sweetheart, after a three-month separation for work purposes. We were excited to see each other and had lots to talk about. We were thirsty, so we stopped at an A&W drive-in for a quick drink, still deep in conversation.
When the car-hop came, my husband smiled and told her “two cokes please” and went back to talking to me. “Is that Coca, Pepsi, or (local brand)?” [Editor’s Note: OK, the “Coke” as a shorthand for all soda people can seriously get fucked. You’re worse than the people who call it “pop.”] My husband told her and again turned quickly to me to continue talking. “Do you want a large, medium, or small?” Again, he answered, then waited a moment to see if she’d ask anything more. When she didn’t and he determined he was done, he started our conversation again.
“Do you want it in a plastic cup or a paper one?” she then asked. This time, he answered and just stared at her, waiting. “Will that be paid in cash, with nothing larger than a 20?” she asked…eventually. “Yes,” we answered. We waited, trying to think of what more she could possibly ask. She began to turn away. Finally, we started to talk again, trying hard to remember where we were in the conversation.
All of a sudden, we heard, “Do you want a straw with that?” 52 years later, this still makes us chuckle when we remember it.
In the mid-nineties, my older brother moved to a college town in South Carolina to be a chef at a new restaurant. After he settled in, my whole family went to visit him for the weekend, and we got reservations for his restaurant on a Friday night.
When we arrived (six of us total), the restaurant was slammed and the hostess apologetically told us there would be at least a 20-minute wait despite our reservation, but we could wait in the bar area until our table was ready. Unfortunately, the whole restaurant was pretty small, and the bar area was even smaller, amounting to not much more than a walled-off sliver of the restaurant that held maybe twenty people at the bar itself and a few two-top tables. Of course, the place was jam-packed, so my family had to split up and sit wherever we could: a few at a table, some standing, but I got one of the only open seats at the bar.
Not long after I sat down, a woman who looked to be in her late thirties or early forties came over and stood behind me. She was totally decked out for a night on the town with flashy jewelry, sky-high heels, and a dress that had a neckline that plunged nearly to her navel. I thought it was odd how close she was to me at first, but the place was full so it seemed understandable. After a few moments, she placed her hand on my shoulder and leaned past me to grab a cocktail napkin from the bar with a slightly slurred “excuse me” and left. I didn’t think anything else of it…until a few minutes later when she came back and did the same thing: stood too close, hand on my shoulder, grabbed a napkin, left.
Then a few minutes later she was back again, standing too close, her hand on my shoulder, but this time instead of a cocktail napkin she reached for a cherry and purred, “Mmm, I like cherries,” while making sure her breasts brushed up against my arm.
It was weird. I had no idea what to say or do, so I just sat still and didn’t acknowledge her. Still, this lady just kept coming back, and each time she was more flirtatious. It started with the light touches and gentle brush-ups, but soon it was much more: she would slowly run her fingers up my spine, caress my shoulders as though it was a sensual massage, press her body up against mine so I could feel her warmth, or cradle my neck and head between her breasts as she reached for yet another item.
Eventually, she stopped leaving and coming back, and just stayed there and started to talk to me. It was the inane kind of conversation that drunk people want to have with strangers at a bar, and even though I had no interest in this conversation, if it kept her from putting her hands and tits all over me, I was going to have it all day.
Of course, I wasn’t totally right about that, and the flirtatious stroking continued during whatever story she was telling me. A wave of relief came over me when the hostess came by and told me that our table was ready. I started to get up to find the rest of my family and go to our table, but as I did, the woman reached over one last time and grabbed a cherry and a napkin. She stuck the cherry in her mouth and just as quickly pulled out a knotted stem, put it on the napkin and gave it to me. Then she winked at me and walked away.
I was twelve years old.
[Editor’s Note: If you’re anything like me, your immediate question here was, “wait, how the hell did a bar let a 12-year-old sit there? Here’s Charlie’s response when I asked him.]
It’s certainly not standard practice! Thinking back when I was writing this, I tried to remember how exactly that worked and as best I could recall, my dad went up to the bartender and told him we needed to sit a bit while we waited for our table and asked if it was ok. My dad was able to sit at the bar too, but not with me; I think he was a seat or two away. Maybe that’s what made it cool for the bartender? I’m not sure. I remember they gave me a water or soda while I waited though.
Of course, there’s always the possibility that they just don’t give a shit in South Carolina, but I wouldn’t want to assume that.
[Editor’s Note: I’ll allow it.]
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.