|Hungry? Foo you!|
The problem what? It's the appetizer you ordered that was never turned in, the dinner directions that were ignored ("Can I have the steak medium rare, please?"), the dessert never served. It's usually a communication screw-up between server and kitchen and it can happen easily on a busy weekend night when servers get flustered or the kitchen gets swamped.
One recent Sunday, at the nearly empty New China Tom's Chinese Restaurant at 2816 West 47th Street in Kansas City, Kansas, I was dining with two friends who ordered starters -- they were great -- and dinner. I ordered dinner too: a dish called Eight Treasures that the waitress had recommended. Twenty minutes later, a server brought one dinner. Ten minutes after that, the second meal arrived. The waitress not only never brought out the Eight Treasures, but we didn't see her again until she brought out the check. She seemed miffed when I requested that she deduct the cost of the Eight Treasures from the tab. "You mean no one brought it out to you?" she said, feigning surprise.
One of my companions said it was the best answer he'd heard since the day he asked a restaurant manager why he hadn't seen his waitress for the last hour and the unflappable manager told him, "Oh, she's crying in the bathroom."
Curbside service is not Chili's bringing pizzatizers to your idling minivan. Curbside service is walking up to a taco truck to get food that you can walk with and eat on the street -- something that doesn't much exist in Kansas City.
I think Kansas City only has one legitimate food truck in existence, the Jerusalem Cafe Truck (a 2009 Best Of Kansas City Extra for late-night eats). The other contenders are either stationary or not consistently around.
There's Fresher Than Fresh Snowcones in an old Shasta trailer on the West Side and Lulu's at the Ward Parkway Mall -- but both are parked trailers (for now). The S'mores cart and hot dog/sausage carts make appearances in the Crossroads and outside the Sprint Center for events, but neither are cruising regularly.
So hipsters and those with food-handler's licenses, I'm looking to you. I don't care if it's cupcakes or Korean barbecue or simply a sub shop on wheels, I'll be waiting at the curb.
[Image via Flickr: pheezy]
A friend of mine has a great story about buying wine in rural Kansas. When he went up to the bar and asked for a glass of white wine for his wife, the bartender paused. He didn't have any white, the bartender said to my friend, "but you're welcome to some of the yella stuff."
These days, I feel like that bartender whenever I enter a convenience store, grocery store or gas station. I just want a bottle of regular Gatorade -- the same lemon-lime flavor I've been drinking when I've felt ill or dehydrated since I was a kid. But Gatorade -- like too many iconic brands -- has decided that it's not enough just to sell the classic and best version of its product. Instead, there's G2 and the G Series and the X-Factor, which is now a part of the G Series, but keeps the X-factor on the label, so you don't end up with lemon-lime plus strawberry -- which looks exactly like lemon-lime.
I shouldn't have to think this hard about my sports drink. Let me make this simple again. Listen, Gatorade: I'll just have some of the yella stuff.
|Please use me!|
The other day, I was eating at the new Blanc Burgers + Bottles on the Country Club Plaza and saw a waiter commit one of the most foolish follies in the service business. Two men were sitting at a deuce, and the server didn't write down their appetizer order. And when he brought out their starter, it wasn't the Peppadew Poppers that they had ordered but the fried cheese curds instead.
There was a moment of awkward silence as the two young men stared at the basket of cheese curds and then -- to save further embarrassment -- begrudgingly agreed to eat the wrong starter. The server seemed relieved, although he did, to his credit, offer to replace the dish with what they had actually ordered.
Hey, as a waiter I made a half dozen variations on that same mistake myself -- until I finally learned the invaluable lesson: Always write down every order. And to this day, I'm wary of servers who don't write down everything. Invariably something goes wrong, like the time a vegetarian friend was served a dish that she hadn't ordered and, of course, contained meat. She sat without food for 30 minutes while the rest of us ate before our dinners got cold.
Such mistakes are so easy to avoid -- that's what makes them so unforgivable.
I concede. You win, Subway. If this requires some offering on my part in $5 increments, just let me know and I'll do it.
But the $5 Foot Long jingle needs to end. It was catchy in 2008. It was parodied to death by 2009. And here in 2010 -- it is slowly ending rational thought.
Quiznos was good enough to let its "We Love The Subs" rodents come and go, understanding that some jingles are just all that and a bag of chips. You need to think of the greater good here, Subway, and be a responsible corporate entity. It's time for Mr. Goodcents or Jimmy Johns to come up with a devastating ode to sliced meats.
In the Internet age, a three-year advertising campaign is an eternity; don't you want to "eat fresh," Subway? This is me waving my white napkin -- so please, please stop the ads.
|It doesn't even look healthy|
When did this gloppy mess -- traditionally a concoction of cream cheese, frozen spinach, sour cream and God only knows what else -- become one of America's best-selling starters? It's on almost every restaurant menu in town (sometimes with artichokes, sometimes in a bread bowl), and although the addition of the spinach evokes a healthy appetizer, it's typically loaded with fat.
True, most starters at popular dining spots are fattening and plenty of them are deep-fried. But spinach dip is fattening and boring. And green!
|The all-American processed favorite!|
What does it say about America that the nation's favorite cheese -- its namesake cheese -- has no earthy, sexy aroma, offers very little flavor and has the texture of malleable plastic? More than half of all cheese consumed in the United States is processed American cheese -- not something you'll ever find in any "artisanal" cheese shop.
American cheese is still favored for grilled cheese sandwiches (it melts easily), cheeseburgers and some macaroni recipes. It's also the choice of seriously picky youngsters turned off by the pungent fragrance of real cheese.
The biggest difference between real cheese -- which is often made using the same techniques handed down for centuries -- and American? In his book The Cheese Primer, Steven Jenkins describes the way that American cheese is manufactured: "It begins as young, pasteurized cow's milk cheddar ... milled into shreds, then 'cooked' with added dyes, emulsifiers, and assorted other 'modern technology' dairy ingredients in order to achieve a smooth, mild (yet cheesy), odorless, meltable, stable (long shelf life) commodity..."
In other words, it's the culinary equivalent of a Britney Spears album or a Dynel wig. It looks real, but it's not.
|Stop the madness!|
It's one of the first rules I learned working in the restaurant business: Never, ever, ever bring a glass to a table with your fingers anywhere near the rim. The first -- and last -- time I did that, a veteran waitress cuffed me upside the head. It's unhygienic, she told me, and undignified.
The proper way to bring any glass to a table is on a tray. Servers should lift the glass off the tray from the base of the glass (or in the case of stemmed glassware, from the stem), and set it carefully to the right of a patron's plate.
But we see this basic service crime committed over and over again in Kansas City, at fancy restaurants and low-down dumps. I blame the crime on poor training and neglectful managers -- but there's no excuse. Not even when a server is in the weeds, like the harried waitress who committed the indignity at Tasso's Greek Restaurant, which I reviewed this week. I didn't ask for a new glass, but I usually do. Other diners I know immediately ask for a straw -- and decide never to come back.
Too many times, a server spoils what's been a fantastic meal by bringing me a white styrofoam container to load up my own leftovers. I understand why restaurants do this: They want to let diners decide what to take home; they want to save their servers the extra effort; they might not have room in the kitchen to dedicate a space for boxing up leftovers. But none of those logical reasons compensates for the disappointment I feel when I'm confronted with the empty styrofoam box.
Up until then, if I've had good service, I've been enjoying the experience of letting someone else take care of myself and my companions -- now, suddenly, I have to do my own work. And it's the least-pleasant work of all: paying more attention to food that's made me full, which I really don't want to look at anymore (until tomorrow, anyway, when I'll be excited about it again). C'mon, restaurants: You work so hard to make the dining experience pleasurable. Why do you have to ruin it this way? Please, please don't make me box up my own leftovers.
[Image via Flickr: America: My Personal Observations]
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