Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Anyone for Dessert?

I am not much for fine dining. Sure, I've had (limited) experience with it; dinner at the Capitol Grille, tea at the Four Seasons, Double Double Monster style at In-N-Out, and yes, I appreciate the food and the atmosphere, but honestly, I never saw what the big deal was. Yeah, I like presentation, but I also like food. If I have a choice between a big ass burrito in tinfoil and a skimpy, yet beautiful piece of artwork on a plate, I'm taking the burrito. Make no mistake, I appreciate the experience, and certainly realize there are times when ordering up a burnt ends sandwich to go is not appropriate, but I also have a two year old's palette. If I order steak, I'd like it cooked, and preferably cut into tiny little pieces while I watch, so it's easily manageable. Corn? Sure... can you mash it up? Maybe after, if I'm messy, I'll ask my date to lick her hand and then clean off my face with spit.

Think I'm getting carried away? Think again. Oh.... fine. I'd have her use a napkin instead. Seriously, although I am not a connoisseur of finer restaurants I can usually act the part. I know to wear nice clothes when going to Locke Ober, and I know that my napkin immediately goes on my lap. I have my father to thank for my current table ettiquette (which, if you'll allow me, can be fairly good if I'm paying attention) and the civility with which I try to present when I'm dining out. Sometimes I succeed. Sometimes I don't. But, at least put forth the effort.

You'd be surprised how many people don't. New York Times food critic Frank Bruni spent a week as an "undercover" waiter at the East Coast Grille in Boston (a PHENOMENAL restaurant, by the way - I really have been to that one) and wrote an article about it. Much of what he went through I found fascinating, although not entirely surprising. I've known quite a few waiters/waitresses in my day and I have heard all sorts of stories regarding the bullshit that the average one has to put up with. Further, having worked in retail for four years I know the sense of entitlement many customers have by virtue of walking in the door. This in a way makes sense. They're (potentially) spending good money at a certain establishment, and they should be treated with respect. In fact, they should be treated with respect regardless. They're people. Too often though, it's not reciprocated. Yes, there's truth in the old adage that the customer is always right. Unfortunately though, the customer can also be a rigorous asshole. Too many customers (and we are ALL customers) equate good service with nothing less than a bootlicking, and that's a shame. Thankfully, I tend not to hang around with such riff-raff.

I do have several friends who hate wait staff though. At least I think they do. Any act other than the taking of an order and the serving of food is tantamount to obscene intrusion in the minds of these pals o' mine and they often let their server know - which I think is just dumb. First, it will accomplish nothing except get the server angry, and I can't think of anything more unpleasant while dining out than an angry server - particularly if your food hasn't been served yet. It's a great way to increase the probability of your getting a nice big wad of pus in place of a demiglaze. Secondly, if the service was that bad (and it probably wasn't), it should be reflected in the tip, although you should NEVER not tip your server. If you're unhappy, give them something lower than expected, but leaving nothing is equivalent to theft as far as I'm concerned.

This is all just my opinion, of course and there are exceptions to everything. Some wait staff really do suck. In fact, it's not terribly uncommon but..... er, what the hell am I trying to say? I don't know. Just read the article...... and be nicer to each other. It makes things better. Them there's my two cents.


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