Ah, the joys of dining out in a small town! For those of you who have never been to a Genuine Small Town, you’re in for a treat. Not just bad food and indifferent service, but quirky policies and clueless waitstaff await your pleasure!
Incident one: A table to wait at while you’re waiting for a table
Friday night, Mr. Athena and I decided to go out to eat. There’s a new steakhouse in town that we haven’t tried, but being aware of the dangers of Small Town Restaurants we didn’t want to dive right in and have a full dinner. We decided to have a cocktail and perhaps and appetizer, and check out the rest of the menu and the ambiance at the same time.
We pull in around 5 o’clock, thinking it would be early enough to not be crowded. Wrong. I forgot about the New Restaurant in Small Town phenomena, that is, everyone and their brother goes to the new restaurant because they’re so damn bored with every other restaurant in town that they couldn’t get enough of the new offerings. The parking lot was packed. People milled about the entrance waiting for tables. No problem, we just wanted a drink. We headed into the bar, giggling at the gift shop near the entrance. Always a good sign when a restaurant includes a gift shop. High class, that. :rolleyes:
We get to the bar, which is about 3/4 full. Enough people to make it feel cozy, but not enough to be crowded. A bar lined one wall, a few booths, and some of those high tables with stools you see in bars. We head to one of those, and start to sit. Before we can, we’re accosted by a high-school age hostess type. “Excuse me, but those tables are reserved for the wait.”
“huh?” I don’t get it.
“Those tables are reserved for people waiting for a table. Are you on the list?”
“No, we just wanted to have a drink and maybe some appetizers and look at the menu while we decide what to do.”
“You’re welcome to sit at the bar, but those tables are reserved for people on the wait list.”
huh? Excuse me? You have tables reserved for people waiting for tables? I can understand seating dinner patrons in the bar during busy nights… but reserving tables for those who are waiting? As often happens in this town, I just see red. Once again, the owners of the restaurant have made policies that are just bound to piss off customers. I looked at Mr. Athena. He looked at me. We went somewhere else for our cocktail. In retrospect I wish I had told her to put us down for a table so that we could have our drink in peace then take off, but I didn’t think of it at the time.
Incident Two: The cook is too busy to make your food
Sunday morning, we’re hankerin’ for some breakfast. We decide to head to the local Historic Hotel, which includes a restaurant. In fact, it’s the only high end restaurant in town. Of course, this is still Small Town Dining, so what that amounts to is the food is of moderate interest, and a big dose of screwed up ambiance. The restaurant is situated in a large room off the lobby of the hotel, complete with high ceilings and the potential to be quite nice. They’ve managed to ignore this potential by painting the ceiling a particularly unappetizing shade of green, and displaying art from local artists on the walls. Now, there’s some really talented local artists in this area. They’ve chosen, however, to display pieces from the not-so-talented artists. Furthermore, this month they’ve chosen to display close-up drawings of old cars. Things like a pen-and-ink drawing of a headlight. Not only doesn’t it go with the Old Historic Hotel feel of the place, but whoever put them up has no sense of composition. Large white walls have one small picture off-center to the left. Behind the cash register is a garish purple painting of… something.
OK, enough of the decor. We sit down, and peruse the menu. It looks pretty good. I order Eggs Benedict, with the hollandaise on the side as I like just a little hollandaise, not eggs swimming in hollandaise.
We sip our coffee, and talk. The waitress brings our food fairly quickly. This is looking good! She puts down my plate. There’s no hollandaise on the eggs, but there’s none on the side either. No worries, she explains. The cook was just making it, it will be out right away.
At this point, I’m not worried. I figured the waitress was running right back to the kitchen to get the sauce, and indeed, upon leaving our table she hustles into the back. She reappears with a tray of food for the table next to us. Perhaps one of those small pitchers on the tray is my hollandaise? No, that’s syrup. OK, I’m still waiting. I play around with my hash browns. The waitress disappears into the kitchen.
She reappears again, with another tray of food for another table. Hmmm… now I’m getting worried. She disappears again. Next thing I know she’s at our table.
“Um, I’m really sorry, but I just checked with the chef, and he told me he’s too busy to make your hollandaise right now. He has to get out an order for that table of 8 over there, and it’ll be at least another ten minutes. I’m really sorry.”
I look at her. I honestly am speechless. I’m in a restaurant and the cook is too busy to make my food? I gulp, and start thinking. “Well, I wouldn’t have ordered Eggs Benedict if I knew I couldn’t get hollandaise…” I start.
“I know, I’m really really sorry. We’ll comp your meal. Is there anything else I can bring you?”
My mind wheels. If I order something different, that will take more time than hollandaise I’m sure. I look at Mr. Athena. His eggs are getting cold as he stares flabbergast at the waitress.
“I can’t really order anything else now, can I? It would take longer than the hollandaise. I want the both our meals comped. I’ll just stop on the way home to get a bagel I guess.”
“Let me get a manager” the waitress says. I look at Mr. Athena. He’s been known to make scenes. This time, he’s too speechless to even do that. He stands up and says “Forget it, we’ll just leave.”
We stand up and gather our belongings. The waitress had disappeared, only to reappear as we’re about to walk out the door. “Look what I have!” she sings out.
I look. She has a ramiken with a few tablespoons of what appears to be crusty bright yellow hollandaise in the bottom of it. It looks distinctly unappetizing. “Um, it’s kind of too late.” I say.
“I’m so so sorry!” she calls out.
We leave, still almost speechless. I’ve had really bad service before. In this town, I almost expect bad service. But this truly is the first time I’ve been to a restaurant where the cook is too busy to cook my meal!