Tag Archives: wine

I’d Like the Table Near the Outhouse Please.

     It’s inevitable. Whenever my wife and I take precious time out of our collectively busy lives and put our stomachs’ trust in the hands of other restaurant people, without fail, we always fall victim to bad dining experiences. Ok, so yes I must exaggerate for the sake of the story, but I have to honestly say that 70% of the time that we eat out at a full-service restaurant something bad that’s worth sharing with my restaurant friends always seems to happen. It is obvious that I hold the bar a little higher because I have grown up in restaurants, but I do always give benefit of the doubt to any situation, not just food related situations. Hey, if you worked in a high-end clothing store and had pride in the valuable products that you sold for a living, would you be pleased if you walked into another store looking to drop some cash and your experience wasn’t 100%?

      If I am spending more than $75 on a casual dinner for my wife and myself it isn’t out of the realm of normalcy to expect good to great to exceptional service from a server or bartender, etc. who is hoping or hopefully working hard for a 20% grat (gratuity/tip). And if i get receive that service, whether friendly and consistent or formal and appropriate to the dining situation, I always hook it up, like 25%+.   

     That said, when I eat out I always seem to land the awkward table in the middle of the dining room or the server who is fresh off of their initial training week who can barely get a nervous word out of their mouth, or a “veteran” who just got out of the bathroom stall and seemed to have just shoved a good portion of a bag of coke up their nose. And why do I get mad about these situations? Well, It’s more than not having a good dining experience. It makes me look really bad because if I’m getting poor service then others are too. And this definitely dishonors people who take my line of work seriously. I’m not cocky, but confidant in what I do for a living. What I do, I do well. I am a good server; And I’m a good guy, a good manager, husband, dad, son, brother, drummer, joker. People like me, they really like me! haha. But just like the regulars I take great care of everyday, I expect great fucking service. And when it’s received my server will know it.

     I do love to eat out, but my wife finds it a tad annoying dining out with me. Basically, I end up paying attention to the servers’ interactions, the dining room decor, I always try to make note to find the manager and God forbid there’s an open kitchen because my wife will have to kick me to get my attention. I always try to dissect the hierarchy of the kitchen and dining room because I love to see who the real rock stars are out front and in the back of the house. This is when we are sitting in a well organized and managed restaurant mostly. I’m always studying the details, if any are notable, for the place I plan to open for myself one day. If our server makes my experience pleasant and I leave having felt that we had fun and want to come back the next time hoping to be in their section again, then I am certain to tip very well. However if you suck at taking care of me, the diner and customer not the career server, and I want another beer or my wife another glass of wine, if you disappeared for 15 minutes and return with no pupils and cocaine crusting your nostrils like salt on a margarita glass, or if we’re ready to roll out and I’m having to wait a long time as opposed to them waiting for me if I want to take my time leaving, then I will most definitely tip you deservingly. I work my ass off ensuring that I, hopefully seamlessly, make every new table I take care of regulars because that’s exactly how we have been successful for years. And that is how I make a nice living. So if you ever want to see me sitting at your table again, even regularly, you better kiss my fucking ass the way I ever-so-subtly and tactfully kiss ass six days a week because I will tip you better than any of the weekend amateurs will any day of the week. Slainte`

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Write It All Down, You Indignant Prick.

     If you let your guard down as a server, show a hint of hesitation or vulnerability-that you aren’t in control of the dining situation-you are so easily screwed and easily taken advantage of by that certain type of people who are on the hunt for hand-outs.  (Disclaimer: The vast majority of my customers/diners/regulars are awesome people and don’t give us the run-around) There are just some diners that love the little amount of control and power that comes with “ordering” [from] a “server” (around). Well guess what control freaks? I already know what you’re going to order and that your lunch table wants to split seven checks and I’ll be back every thirty-five seconds while you’re here to refill your diet coke because apparently you are really thirsty and love that sweet bubbly shit. Please forgive me if it’s been forty-five seconds before you see me table-side again, but I am a tad busy with my other thirteen tables. I definitely manage my time well and think in term of “economy of motion” to improve my efficiency to better take care of my people. My actions are all broken down in terms of the seconds needed to complete them. So I might be carrying someone’s wrapped up next day goodies while dropping a check off for the next deuce. I spin and my mind spins brilliantly together to get things done, and it’s a head rush when you’re able to multitask so many things together.

     Yet (not so) funny enough, to my disadvantage my memory sucks in almost every aspect of my life except for the ever-revolving list of hundreds of people whose favorite tables, drinks, salad dressings, bottle of wine and meal happens to be stored for swift retrieval on the outer surface of my brain. So I must WRITE IT ALL DOWN. Uh hey Wifey? What did you need me to pick up at the store on my way home? Where’s the store anyway? I think I forgot to transfer my laundry. Did I even put my clothes in there after starting the washer? Shit! Whose birthday is it? Damn it! Yeah, I know. Sorry, whatever. [Who didn’t smoke tons of really good pot as a teenager? Oh, I’m the only one?] Oops! Ok, well…I’m doing just fine now. What was I about to tell you? I seemed to have forgotten.

   Oh yeah, so there are these people who feel out witted in very simple, yet hardly noticeable ways that it might just annoy them a bit because they realize that they aren’t totally in control of the situation. Even if I drop off their soda without asking if they would like a diet soda today, they want to TELL ME that they want a diet coke. I know what you want, so let’s cut to the chase because you’re going to want your check 30 minutes from the time you waltz through door, when your lunch isn’t going to be on the table for ten to twenty minutes depending on how busy we are. That leaves you ten minutes at most for me to pack up any leftovers, clear you table, get change for your 100 dollar bill (is that really all you have? Your check is $21.10!) and get back to you all while juggling 15 other tables during lunch.

     I really get a kick out of people telling me during our busy lunch rush that they “Really have to get back to work” and I keenly reply that “Everyone here has to go back to work, but I’m still stuck there!” Some laugh, some sneer. But hey, I’d rather my people feel cared for, maybe a little coddled and carried as well. I know what you want and I’m gonna do it without you telling me, silly child. Daddy knows what you want.  Oh and when someone isn’t enjoying what they ordered, I might get a little offended. It’s easy for us to take negative feedback personally. Most of our employees have invested years, YEARS!, of their lives in this institution. “Not a problem, I will have that remade for you and out to you as soon as I possibly can. Can I bring you something else while you wait? Can I have a small appetizer made up for you or bring you something more to drink in the mean time? We appreciate your understanding. This glass of wine is on me.” Basically because I know that everything on our menu is awesome, except the lasagna. It tastes good, a veal Bolognese, but it’s greasy and cheesy. It’s not for everyone.

     When someone orders our “Homemade Lasagna (meat and cheese)” They most likely envision a pillowy, stacked concoction with red sauce and spinach oozing out of the sides. Nope, not here. We make a large batch with the Bolognese and it’s sliced up and heated in the oven before it’s served more as a long slice, rather than the side-viewed stack. It tastes good to me but just not what people expect.  And here’s the thing…I don’t really back down if someone thinks their dinner wasn’t prepared correctly because I know how every dish on our very large menu is prepared, I can describe in detail down to where we source our products from what you might want to or are planning to eat. So please don’t tell me that you don’t see any JUMBO LUMP crabmeat in your pasta when I watched my brother drop a fifth of a pound of it in the cream sauce and plate it on top of the veal cutlets myself. I’m here to take care of you and make sure you ENJOY your time here!

    I once got in a confrontation with a middle-aged woman who, I later learned, claimed to have worked as an Italian chef in Baltimore for 25 years (she envisioned her egglpant parm) and the eggplant parmesan we served her did not in any manner resemble how she had  witnessed it in the past. In fact, she claims, it was not the way that eggplant parmesan is to be prepared in the traditional, Italian style at all, period! It was mushy and thinly sliced and probably smelled bad (to her) even. Need I mention…I think she is in insurance sales now.    

     I beg your pardon Miss, I just want to let you know that we’ve been making the eggplant the same way since the first location of our small privately owned restaurant group was opened like 25 years ago lady and everyone but you loves it. Oh and she didn’t even order it, her daughter did! Anyways, I described in full detail to this “experienced Italian chef” how we cut, lightly batter and flash fry our extremely fresh, daily sliced eggplant before topping it with house made tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese before finishing it in a baking dish in the oven. And that’s how it has always been made.

     I’m not lying to you lady, I have no reason to. What am I gonna get out of this confrontation? You’re already pissed, even as I walked over to the table I could tell on your face that you were picturing crimson-tipped ivory devil horns sprouting through my brown curls. No one is trying to poison you or your daughter. I am not evil! We want you to eat here and to eat here often, so what the fuck is your problem? I’m not an MVA (DMV) employee, your health insurance policy representative or a pushy police officer. I’m the good guy. I bring you food and drink! I’m smiley and charming! (?). So what does this lady do after I offer to have another eggplant parm made for her daughter then offered her a menu to review after she turned that down? I chat with my brother’s business partner, let’s call him Craig, about having an unpleasable diner. It was especially strange because we had never seen her and I know everyone who regularly walks through our front door.  So after all of this, (wait for it)

…this menopausal bitch gets up from her table in a half-empty dining room while I am speaking to Craig and walks directly up to our front counter to my brother of all people, and funny enough he was standing there watching me handle the situation in our front dining room just fine by myself minutes before, and tells him that I am “an indignant prick” and should be fired immediately because I was rude and not receptive to her needs. Ha ha ha. Go fuck yourself right in the toosh lady! I’m not getting fired. In my brother’s own words, “I’m sorry dear, but I would be happy to make you something else to eat, whatever you want. But I’m not firing him. He’s my little brother and he’s really good at what he does and he’s not going anywhere.”  So she sits back down after he defuses the situation, I void the eggplant from their check and drop it off. They give me no tip at all, nothing, only to return the following night for dinner.

     This oh so charming woman, whose image has been permanently seared into my memory along with the other usual suspects happens to have walked in the restaurant and was sitting in my section. Shit…really?!?! I basically wanted to punch her in her Leno-sized chin as soon as I spy her mug across the dining room.  I’m certain she requested me, and so what does she do? Orders eggplant parmesan, claims it is delicious and leaves an appropriate tip. Seriously? What’s wrong with some people? She may have just wanted to announce her arrival. I might be a bit of an indignant prick though, I’ll admit it. I know it doesn’t sound good but I took it as a small compliment and my servers thought it was awesome. She hit the nail on the head.  But I’m only such because I am confident in this consumer-vs-service provider situation that is usually perceived to be controlled by the consumer that I call my job. I regretfully report that the customer is not always right.


It’s consumption that consumes me…

     It’s my only full day off of the week and the baby is napping peacefully upstairs while my wife is  preoccupied by some crafting project for our boy’s first birthday party. And where do I find myself during that sacred window of quiet free time? Well in my kitchen, of course! It’s a place of comfort for me i guess, as it is for many. But i’m always in and out of a kitchen at home and moreso at work. I just can’t ever be too far from food and what’s needed to prepare it I guess. Ha. I had to take a step back to realize that I am always preoccupied by consumption of one kind or another. My work finds me constantly staring at people while they eat and drink, some of them with horrible table manners, and I’m okay with it for some reason. And while constantly running from table to table to kitchen and back to dining room, in the back of my mind I’m always strategizing when I can steal another sip of my coffee (or in the past a quick smoke. i miss those moments at times!) or sneak in some lunch and later maybe a small dinner for myself. 

      I catch myself sharpening a few of my knives while waiting for coffee to brew and pondering what I should make for dinner later this evening.  Without getting too introspective, what is this passive preoccupation with consumption that rules my life? I don’t know, but I can’t wait to chug some beers later. Haha. Ahhh, and that fresh pot of coffee is ready for me to drain. It’s a small batch of locally roasted Viennese Columbian from the Baltimore Coffee Company to be exact. *gulp* Another cup please.

     So, while millions of others around the world enjoy another Tuesday night dinner with chopsticks sticking out of their Chinese takeout box watching the anticipated oh-so-exciting edition of (cue Ryan Seacrest) “This is American Idol”, I will be putting my newly honed knives’ edges to work  filling my precious time preparing a delicious gourmet dinner, while consuming many beers and probably a nice glass of wine with my wife of course.  

     And tomorrow is yet another day sure to be filled with many sips and bites.