Are Restaurants Where The Staff Is Deliberately Rude To You, But In A "Fun" Way, A Thing Outside US?

You know how there are a some restaurants in the US where the wait staff is “rude” to customers, but it’s all shtick and comes from a place of fun? Like Ed Debevics in Chicago?

Are places like that a thing outside of the US?

The staff at Durgin-Park in Boston (which has been running since 1827) used to be famously surly. The Wikipedia article seems to suggest that this was a recently adopted attitude, but accounts from earlier eras indicate that it wasn’t a pose. These days it probably is because it’s expected. But the last couple of times I went there the waitstaff was accommodating and nice to me.

I don’t know enough about restaurants outside the US, nor do I know of any others IN the US. This is the first I’ve heard of the Chicago place.

For a more vulgar version of this, there is the Wiener Circle in Chicago, as well, on late weekend nights. I avoid this place at those times. Just look up some Youtube videos. Here’s a clip from “This American Life” that gives the place some context. It gets pretty no-holds-barred in there. It’s a bit of a shame that The Wiener Circle is mostly known for this, because they actually do have excellent char dogs there. (But my understanding is that the tips are good for the staff on those crazy late nights.)

It’s not quite the same as Ed Debevics in its “fun” factor (it certainly ain’t family friendly comedy), but it is urban theatre and it is a known destination for those seeking out that kind of deliberate rudeness.

Ed Debevic’s was pretty popular in the late '80s and early '90s, when I moved to Chicago, and they opened a couple of other locations, but, I think that the concept got tired, and they closed their flagship location (which I think was the only one left at that point) in 2015, with a “we’ll be back in a new location” message.

Late last year, they teased at a new location, but as far as I know, it hasn’t opened.

At Disney World’s Hollywood Studios theme park, there’s the 50s Prime Time Cafe:

"An Authentically Vintage Atmosphere
It’s a blast from the past when you walk into this all-American eatery themed like Mom’s kitchen.

Bring your appetite and your sense of humor, because Mom and the extended family aren’t above giving you lessons in table etiquette—and doling out punishment to misbehaving boys and girls.

Mind Your Manners!
Pull a vinyl chair up to the Formica table and tuck into hearty home cooking like Mom’s old-fashioned pot roast, Aunt Liz’s golden fried chicken and so much more. Just make sure you wash your hands, put your napkin in your lap and keep your elbows off the table, unless you want a stern talking-to from Uncle Fred."

A Yelp review
Staff wear classic uniforms and are a bit like being served by your surly mom or uncle.

Our server took this a bit too far, though, but he backed off a bit later. Yelling to get elbows off the table, put away the “walkie talkies” (cell phones - a must for a good yelper), etc. Other servers played it in a more good natured way.

Dick’s Last Resort has a dozen or so locations all in the US and do the “rude server” thing.

It may vary by waitstaff, but the last time I was there with a work group they took their lead from us. Our waitress heaped good-natured abuse on us once it was clear that was what we were looking for. When they are less crowded the staff has more time to give you grief.

Interestingly, there’s a Dick’s right across the way from Durgin-Park. I wouldn’t call them “deliberately rude”, but they do interact with the people they serve more than is usual, including making paper hats for the company.

we visited the Prime Time Café when at Disney many years ago*, and I wouldn’t call them “deliberately rude”, either. If anything, they were overly friendly, introducing other diners as cousins from far-off.

*They had the best cranberry chutney, which we got the recipe for. we make it every Thanksgiving, although we’ve modified their original recipe.

It would be acceptable to me as a patron if I could give them a shitty tip in return; you know, “in a fun way”.

  • and that was back in the day. We used to go to L’Ancien Chartier, 7, Rue du Faubourg-Montmartre, Paris, which back then was described as a “museum restaurant”. It’s been a good few years, and the name seems to have changed (very odd - anyone know the story? Or was I just using a nickname? https://www.bouillon-chartier.com/en/).

It used to be a proper madhouse (which is why it seemed to be fairly well known). It was LOUD. If there were two of you, chances were you would end up on a table for four with two other people you had never seen before in your life. If you wanted service, you more or less had to rugby tackle a waiter as they shot past you. Then you had to order instantly in the face of impatience which would make a New Yorker envious. Nothing was ever written down, except maybe at the end they might scribble your order from memory on the (paper) tablecloth; and that might or might not be right. I certainly remember l’addition being ripped right out of the table covering and handed to me.

Now I desperately want to go back there. Anyone been recently?

j

Not particularly unusual in many places in Europe, depending on the type of establishment. Sometimes Americans in particular seem offput by the custom, but it can lead to a fun night of random conversation with strangers from other cultures on occasion.

Here in Peru, hell no. Rude waiters are just badly trained, badly paid.

I have to share this TEDx talk How to Order Pizza like a Lawyer that talks about one such rude restaurant.

I don’t think it would work in Canada.

(Ending up on a table with complete strangers)

Indeed it did. On one occasion we met a former Labour MP and his mate, both from Wales, and over in Paris for the rugby. They had never been to Chartier before and simply couldn’t figure out what was going on.

j

UK- Teasing regulars at a casual place, sure, but not being rude as a general thing.

For one thing here, tips are optional and often pooled, and even at pretty nice places you often won’t get one person as ‘your waiter/waitress’, you’ll get whoever’s not busy, and that might be a different person for the initial order to dessert, and a third gets the bill. More efficient (in theory), less chatty than what I’ve heard as the US norm, so there’s less opportunity or incentive to get a rapport going.

Certainly when I’ve been waitressing and have had holidaymaking US customers, they seem to expect a lot more personal attention than the locals.

If you get someone surly here, that’s not policy, they’re just sick of the job…

Probably the tradition of tipping in the U.S. is the undercurrent which makes the “rude-but-in-a-fun-way” shtick work. Servers have to be obsequious, and they might not get paid even if they give good service.

Since most other countries don’t have this tipping system, there isn’t the same tension to make it amusing (if it ever was).

One of the most fun evenings I’ve ever spent was at Welser Kuche, when it was in Augsburg, Bavaria (it has since moved to Munich). This is a medieval themed restaurant, and you are “chastised” if you don’t adhere to the customs of those times. They have a number of punishments they impose, and it is all in fun. We went with a good friend’s family who live in the area, and it was so much fun.

It’s not fun. I’ve been to a few, including a local steakhouse where the chef would come out and change everyone’s orders because they “looked” like someone who would like “x” better. Ask don’t tell. Never went back.

There was a place in Vancouver like that. Apparently, it closed last month. (which I’m sorry to hear. I really liked it there).

There is this Chinese restaurant that a couple of friends have recommended many times. The chef/owner/server has the habit of telling you you can’t order this or that dish because he doesn’t know you well enough.
Fuck this guy, I’m never going there.