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February 19, 2009

Restaurant Review

Restaurant Review

by Nancy

Now that our nest is empty, my husband and I tend to eat a lot of dinners in restaurants. Especially now that I'm bearing down to finish my manuscript, cooking a healthy evening meal isn't always one of my daily activities, so we eat out. Not necessarily in the kind of establishments with white tablecloths and extensive wine lists, mind you.  In fact,  lest you think you're reading the words of an epicurean snob with unlimited disposable income, the restaurant we tend to most frequent features a long-legged teenager who walks around in a chicken suit.  I like their Asian chicken salad, so shoot me.   

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Since we eat out so frequently, we've reached a few opinions about restaurant service.  So much so that I've even thought about creating an anonymous blog in my city to lambaste the most offensive restaurant behavior, but now that I've outed myself, I guess that idea's over before it started. And when my local newspaper ran an article this week listing the top pet peeves of diners and servers both, I sat up and took notice.

My first pet peeve?  The restaurant manager who barges in on our dinner to ask, "How's everything tonight?"   Not just once, but multiple times.  Does the man not have napkins to fold somewhere? Why must he inflict his idea of infectious humor on people who'd rather be left in peace? (I recall one evening we accompanied my husband's immediate family to dinner after the funeral of my sister-in-law's husband, and the manager tried to jolly us up while we waited for our meal. He took it as a challenge to make us each take a turn and smile. It was painful.  In fact, it was agonizing. I wanted to kick him. I should have. We should have sent him away with the truth, but we didn't want to embarass him.  Which is ridiculous, because he deserved to be embarassed.) And it's usually a man, isn't it? A woman restaurant manager would find something useful to do besides pestering people, but maybe I'm over-generalizing in a sexist pig sort of way.

Other diners quoted in the newspaper article said their biggest complaint was being touched by the server.  Me, I'm a toucher, so that doesn't bother me.  I once had dinner with a Klezmer band and didn't understand why they all kept edging their chairs farther and farther away from me.  Now, I know you're wondering why I had dinner with a Klezmer band, but since I've got to finish this book ASAP, I have limited time to write this blog, and I'm really curious.--Is there some Orthodox Jewish thing about not touching blonde Presbyterian married women? Touching people is a thing I have, and if that's a bad thing, I'd rather know now.  Am I breaking some law of the Torah? Does it creep you out to be touched?  I mean, I touch a person's arm, not his--oh, never mind.

Clearing one diner's plate before everyone at the table is finished eating is apparently a big gross-out for most people.  Now, I grew up with a younger sister who ate (and still eats) extremely slowly.  She's also quite thin, so maybe she's onto something diet-wise, but I've always assumed it was passive-aggresive sibling behavior subconsciously intended to punish us all for being born before she was. The rest of us get a little nauseated sitting in front of dirty, congealing plates for half an hour while she finishes eating her peas one by one. So I'd just as soon have my plate removed, thank you very much, despite what the etiquette books have to say on the subject. You?

Another beef among diners is when they pay in cash and the server asks, "Do you need change?"  To me, this question might be a little gauche, but for crying out loud it saves time, and every minute counts when you're finishing a book. But then, maybe I'd feel differently if the kid in the chicken suit wasn't around, and the restaurant was full of gourmets who tsk-tsk when the yokels misbehave. Does this practice bother you?  I mean, really, do you think it's rude, or just a time-saver?

Now, when I was on the other side of this equation--and I think everybody needs to spend at least a summer waiting tables because it's a very educational, socio-economic and humbling experience--I was bugged by people who pretended I was invisible.  They could bark their order at me, but they refused to acknowledge I'm a human being?  That's the kind of behavior that earns some diners a little spittle in their soup, although honestly, I never did it myself and I would probably testify that my friend Wayne didn't do it either.  Probably. 

So tell me, refined ladies and gentlemen of The Lipstick Chronicles.  What's your restaurant service complaint? And if you tell me it's employees in chicken suits and/or Klezmer bands, I'll deny I wrote this blog.


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Personally, I don't like it when they ask if I need change, but I will tell them when I hand them the money, that they don't need to bring back the change. The worst situation I had was when a waiter stood over me as I was signing the credit card slip. I put the pen down until he finally went away. I should have said what I was thinking, this tip is getting smaller the longer you stand there. But I was shocked at his rudeness and too chicken to say anything.

Here's a complaint that is not related to the service but to fellow diners (usually co-workers) who are embarrassing to eat with - (rude to the waitress, lousy tippers, etc.). What can you do, but add a little extra to the pot and avoid going out to lunch with them in the future.

My main restaurant service complaint is when the server brings everything at once. My husband and I went to Red Lobster for lunch last week. I ordered the cocoanut shrimp appetizer to share, a ceasar salad with the dressing on the side, and crab alfredo. He ordered a garden salad and the shrimp and lobster pasta. After taking our orders, the waitress seemed to have disappeared from the face of the earth. After about 10 minutes, she finally brought our drinks. Within 2 minutes, she brought the cocoanut shrimp (overcooked and cold) and the salads. Mine had the dressing on it; his didn't. I hate too much dressing and restaurants (in my experience) always drench the lettuce. We both had one shrimp. My husband started his salad and I set mine aside to send back. In the length of time it took to walk to the kitchen, the server was back with our meal. Now we have the entire table loaded with food: a cold, overdone appetizer, an improperly dressed salad, and two plates of pasta. What exactly were our options? If we sent the pasta back, they'd put it under a heat lamp where it would dry out. (I've worked as a waitress. I know they're not going to pitch the order and cook fresh.) If we try to eat what's in front of us, we feel as if we're shoveling the food in. If we send it back, we're faced with food unfit to eat. The server plopped the food down and disappeared before I could open my mouth. (Oldest child syndrome, don't you know?) The last straw was when I looked at my pasta and found it sitting in hot water. Picture that pretty plate. Begin with a base of hot water, add a layer of noodles, top it off with a pink sauce that's already separating.

So I called the manager to the table and told him my complaints. He was ready to blow me off, when I said, "Look. I'm not paying for this plate of food. It's not good. Now you have two choices. You can take it off my bill, or you can provide me with the name and address of of your corporate headquarters. I'm not going to let this go." After a rather scorching look, he said, "We'll remove the charge from your check, Ma'am."

Timing is everything. Don't bring all the food out at once. Don't hide in the corner when the customer complains. Do something about it. Don't expect the customer to come back.

Red Lobster lost a couple of good customers. Panera gained them. Soup and salad is better for us anyway.

Oh! My other complaint is not really the restaurant's fault. The older I get, the less I can handle the smell of some perfumes. They turn my stomach. When a hostess shows me to a seat close to someone who has seemingly bathed in fragrance, I always ask to be shown to another table and explain that I'm sensitive to certain perfumes. I've never had a problem when I've asked to be seated in a scent-free zone. The problem comes when I don't catch the perfume smell soon enough and it begins to subtly permeate the area. Or when the hostess seats someone who's wearing too much of it in my area. What's with that anyway?

When either 1) the restaurant has someone other than the order-taker bring the food, with the order-taker nowhere in sight, and they have to ask who gets the Bleu Rock Burger and who gets the Chicken Caesar Salad, or (even better) 2) when the same person who took our order brings the food and has to ask who gets which dish.

Didn't waiters/tresses used to write something down so that they would know who got what?

In addition to the asking for change thing, I hate when I've only just opened the menu and the waiter/waitress comes over and asks if we're ready to order. I like a little time to actually read the menu. I hate the opposite too--when you sit there for five years waiting for someone to take your order.

The worst experience I had in a restaurant was at a little place in Coral Gables, many years ago. It was a long evening, and I was under the spell of Big Brown Eyes, two scotch and sodas, and most of a bottle of wine. By midnight, it was pretty dark outside and time to leave. The check came, I paid cash with what I thought was a proper tip for the waitress.

Next thing I knew, the bartender was out in the patio, in my face in a major way, spoiling for a fight, yelling at the top of his lungs about how hard the waitress had worked (cocktails, salad, entree, dessert), and he was sick and tired of cheap f***s who tipped badly.

I tried to calm him down, and asked to speak to the waitress. She handed me the folder with the check and my cash in it. I looked at the total, looked at the cash, and said, "Am I mistaken? 15% is not acceptable?" (This was 1979; standard was 10%) She went pale as a sheet, tugged the bartender's sleeve, and whispered she'd made a mistake, it wasn't me who had shorted her.

In the interests of detente, and wanting to get out of there as quickly as possible, I brushed it off while he glared at me just in case I'd done something, anything, to offend her. We got out of there as quickly as we could.

Kind of put a damper on the evening. And I never went back to that restaurant again. Ever. Not in this lifetime....

Wow, you guys are up early and feeling ranty! I think this means we're all eating out more. Are restaurants economy-proof, like plumbers?

Update: Last night after my husband and I had dinner in a restaurant (white table cloths!) the waitress picked up the folder with my cash in it, and she said, "I'll be right back with your change." Which was a nice way of asking "Do you need change?" At least, I thought so.

Sing. Ing. Hap. Py. Birth. Day. To. Peo. Ple.

Don't even get me started on making the poor victim wear a sombrero, or whatever.

Do that crap at your own house. I don't want to hear it.

Ramona, I've threatened my family with death--or worse, if they ever do that birthday thing to me in a restaurant.

And they know I mean it.

Soooo....one of my few perks when I was married was my wealthy mother in law who loved to go out to eat. It was always one of the fancy smanshy places I'd never been to or heard of and everything was perfect! A real treat.
My beef is people with screaming children. We did take my son sometimes as grandmudder loved him to pieces but I took great pains to make sure he never fussed or made a peep. If he did I whisked him out so fast the Perrier went flat.
Children belong where they serve happy meals if they are uncontrollable. Mine was ordering salmon at at the Biltmore when he was 4 years old.
Part of the expense is the ambiance...no?
Just saying.

Joyce, the only time I ever caused a Happy Birthday song to happen in a restaurant was at an Eat-n-Park, and it was strictly by accident. I swear.

But I'm not sure Nancy has forgiven me yet.

William, I had something similar happen. It was a nice restaurant. My 2 friends and I had had a nice meal, but the service was very lax and rude. So, we left just under 15%. Well, the waiter suddenly got very attentive . . . bringing the check back to ask if we "needed more time." No, we didn't. Then he asked what was wrong with the service. We pointed out a few things. Then he brought the manager over. At that point I was ready to take the check back and give him nothing.

I've never been back and have told the story to several friends. They're in no hurry to go there either.

On the other hand, I love it when the waitstaff doesn't rush us. Sometimes, dinner out is the whole evening's activity and we want to enjoy it and take our time.

I've actually been in restaurants where the manager SAT DOWN AT THE TABLE to chat with us. I don't want to seem like a jerk here, but I brought all the friends with me that I need, I don't need to make a new one right now. A simple "everything all right? need anything?" will be just dandy, thank you.

And speaking as one who's worn the waiter's apron, let me make this appeal to diners: PLEASE DO NOT LET YOUR LITTLE BRATS RUN ALL OVER THE FREAKIN' RESTAURANT WHILE YOU ENJOY YOUR AFTER DINNER COFFEE. Thank you, and God bless.

If we are talking low tipping for bad service, when my wife was visibly pregnant with our son, we went out to dinner at a mid-range place. Asked for crackers for the pregnant lady, which never came. Had to wait a half hour for the waitress to come over to take our order. Waited forever for our sodas, while we could see the waitress doing other things, like folding napkins. Got our food 20 minutes after people who had come in later. Had to wait 20 minutes after I started tapping my credit card on the table for the waitress to come over to get it.

On a $35 tab, I tipped five cents, so low that it obviously was not a mistake; a zero tip could have been an oversight, and a lower-than-15% tip could have meant we were just bad tippers. We got up and raced out of there, and that was the only time that the waitress went to our table quickly. We were 100 feet away and almost out the door when she opened the check booklet or whatever it is called (wallet?).

We never went back there and weren't upset to see the place go out of business a few years later. This event came up in conversation a week or so ago, so it's part of the family lore.

At least she didn't make me wear a sombrero.

My pet peeve is managers sitting around like bored royalty in crowded estaurants while waiters scurry around trying to serve and clear tables. Pick up a dish! Get a napkin or a drink! Do something.

Part of the problem is there is no or very little training. If it is a local mom & pop place, the training is great...usually...unless that is part of the charm of the place. National chains tend to be haphazard. My daughter worked in a national chain known to have a great breakfast service and attracted older people. They threw her out on the floor her first day, by herself, to figure it out. She raked in the tips because she was polite, funny, attentive to the older people. For some bazaar reason, she loves older men. And they loved the fact she would flirt with them and still paid attention to their wives. She cleaned up. Others who had the same amount of nontraining she had didn't fair as well because they didn't know how to wait on people. They felt demeaned because they had to serve people. When they say how much my daughter made in tips every day, they figured it out.

I hate when they come around and ask if everything is ok. Its like they wait until I have a mouthfull of food and expect an answer.

One thing that bothers me is while your eating a perfectly lovely meal and here comes someone with a mop or a push around broom thingie and starts cleaning the floor around or under your table. Drives me crazy !!

My husband traveled for business for 20 years; he detests eating at restaurants. Sadly, that means I have somehow become responsible for the contents of his stomach--a life sentence, it seems. Sigh.

He does have a point, I'm willing to concede. Restaurant food is generally unhealthy, covered in unnecessary sauces, and served in gargantuan portions. And what's up with that, anyway? The waste is shocking, and it has contributed to the obesity of Americans. I'd much rather pay less, get less, and be able to walk away from the table with a little dignity.

When our kids were small, I feared that they would be the screamers if we ever did go out, so we hit on a family tradition that really served us well over the years: Report card dinners. Beginning with the very first good report card, the girls were allowed to pick where they wanted to go, order whatever they wanted, and their dad was forbidden to complain (that was the biggie). All the conversation was kid-directed, so they got positive attention, and they learned manners and how to act at dinner.

Really, it was one of my two best ideas of child-rearing. As they got older, the restaurants changed, from the local Big Boy place (never McDonalds) to the local, now closed, five-star French restaurant. That last one was my middle daughter's choice when she graduated from high school with an unbroken string of straight A's since kindergarten (perhaps incenticized by report card dinners? I like to think so). Coincidentally, my oldest had just graduated from college (took her 13 years), summa cum laude, and my son-in-law had also done something excellent, so the six of us spent one of our best evenings together ever.

We just had our last report card dinner last month. My youngest daughter graduated from college, and had a 4.0 for the semester. It was just the three of us, and she is now old enough to order wine, so it was very special. We decided to go to McCormick & Schmick's, and they put her name on a specially printed menu (in lieu of singing). How cool is that.

About the Klezmer band: if they really were Orthodox, no, men are not supposed to touch or be touched by women not their wives. I won't go into the reasons here.
Restaurants: well, if it's a $6 check and I give the waitron a $20, it seems disingenuous for him/her to ask "Do you need change?" But the thing I hate most is when there is still food on one's plate, perhaps one is in conversation or whatever but the server asks "Are you still working on that?" Sheesh. If it was *work* to eat this food, would I want to pay for it? Maybe they could find another way to say this.

Ooh! Ooh! I just thought of another pet peeve--having to ask for a glass of water. I asked one waitress for water 3 times because I was taking an antibiotic and didn't want to take it with coffee for fear the warmth would melt the capsule and leave a yukky taste in my mouth.

The manager came by and asked how everything was. I said, "I've asked the waitress for a glass of water 3 times and still haven't gotten it. I need to take some medicine." About 2 minutes later, the waitress comes out, shoots me a filthy look, slams a glass of water on the table in front of me, and shouts (yes, really!) "You got me in trouble!" Fortunately, the manager was watching and came to the table. He said, "You got yourself in trouble. No one should have to ask for anything more than once." He then comped our meals and brought them out himself. I just wanted to leave, but by this time other customers were complaining of poor service, too, so the manager had to soothe irate diners in her whole section.

Speak up people! I sometimes surprise myself these days by refusing to accept shoddy treatment, defective merchandise, or poor service. It feels good.

Attitude is everything. I'm willing to put up with more from a sincere, friendly server than I am from one who thinks she's doing me and the company she works for a favor by waiting me. Hello. That's why you're there.

As a 20 plus year restaurant employee, I have been on both sides. Restaurant managers walk around and ask how things are because they are told to. The good ones take note of what you say and either fix it if it is bad or thank you and pass it on to the server if it is good.

Always tip something. I have left loose change and then given a very LOUD lecture to the server and manager on why the tip was so small. Yes, I will. I have also had to clean off my table after the staff has. When the manager asked if anything was wrong, I told him the table was still dirty after his staff had two chances to clean it. I then offered to give his staff a training session at a reasonable rate.

Always let the corporate office know if the service is exceptionally good or bad. Some don't care, some do. Patronize the ones that do.

Any server who asks if I need change loses half of their tip for asking. I have paid my rent in tips, it's rude to ask.

If you consistently under tip at the same place, don't expect good service. I can't tell you the warm feeling you get standing in the snow on the porch of a million plus dollar house knowing that there is a quarter in your near future.

Oh, if you think a biblical tract is a tip, stay at home. Or better yet, try to pay your electric bill with it.

I once saw a waitress run pell mell down the street, chasing after a diner who didn't tip her. He gave her the reasons right there on the sidewalk, and I hoped she was thoroughly embarrassed for her behavior, inside and outside of the establishment.

" I mean, I touch a person's arm, not his--oh, never mind."

And therein lay the problem.

We stopped going to one restaurant around here after several incidents where three of the four meals would come and one would somehow be "not ready yet" until everyone else had finished eating.

I like people singing happy birthday as long as it's not happening everey five minutes!

Hi! Long time reader, newbie poster here.

I don't eat exceptionally slow, but my husband does eat really fast, so I'm always left eating by myself after the server has taken his plate. I hate it.

I also hate when you order an appetizer/salad and an entree and everything comes at once. I will always say something about that.

Tom, I just spewed coffee on my keyboard. That is priceless.

BTW, Dear Hubby would agree.

Auntie Knickers, thanks for the---uh--tip. I had a feeling that was the deal with the Klezmers. I hope I didn't send anyone directly to hell.

I worked in NYC at a restaurant on the Bowery -- if we were running down the street after people, it's because they were running out without paying at all, forget tipping--and we, the waiters, were responsible. Made for an interesting shift.

Rudeness or idiocy on either side of the apron annoys me. But to this day, I find my sympathy is usually with the waiter/waitress (but not the manager.)

And yes, Nancy, you could be brunette and mumbling your Torah portion and the Orthodox men, with or without klezmers, would not want to touch you. Happily, I"m coming to visit soon, and I'm a touchy feely like you!

If I have a problem with the waitstaff, I find that undertipping is not the answer. It can be construed as a lousy woman tipper, and frankly I am a very good tipper. So I tell the manager. Just not tipping or telling the waiter/ess doesn't have nearly the impact as telling the manager. Once when I was eating alone at lunch (and reading, yippee) and when I went to pay the bill in cash, the waiter rounded down on my change. Thus he dramatically reduced his tip I can tell you. I told the manager who seemed not too interested. So I came home, called the company that owned the restaurant and received an immediate apology. About a week later I got a call from the company. I was told what action had been taken at the restaurant and that my particular waiter had received individual retraining. Wow. That's a company that values their customers, their reputation and their staff. Then there is this, I like it when the waiter keeps my tea/water glass full. Just a little thing but so important.

April, we love first timers, really. Just ignore Tom.
Because he---oh, nevermind.

Harley, I CAN'T WAIT for you to be here! April 7, Mystery Lovers Bookshop. Be there or be square, everyone.

Anyone who has ever worked waiting tables understands that wait staff are not paid even minimum wage, and that most of their income comes from tips. That said, I still think a waiter should earn those tips, just as I feel that CEOs of failing companies should have earned their multi-bajillion salaries, and bonuses, really? Bonuses?

My oldest daughter waited tables for a lot of years, and she routinely tips 30%, even in Europe, where tipping is largely unnecessary (it's not expected in most countries, and usually only Americans do it). I think that's excessive, although I would have done double back flips for anyone who tipped me that generously back in the late 60's when I worked at the diner. 10% was a fortune, back then.

I agree with most of those pet peeves. Have to say - I took my husband out for a birthday dinner last night at a Houlihan's restaurant. Everything was wonderful. The server was attentive, but did not hover. The food was excellent. It came in a timely manner: water, wine, then the appetizer, followed by the salads, and then the main course. Since I was paying for the meal, I tipped more than my husband would have. I worked as a waitress in the long ago past. Good work deserves a good tip, esp. since there are few servers who get paid well.

Vacuuming! Ugh!!!! That happened Monday night while I was out at a national chain. Eww, all of the filth being blown around. And it wasn't even close to closing yet.

I don't mind a quick "how is everything" by the manager. As long as they actually give me a chance to respond as I look at is as what may be my one opportunity.

Nancy...I do appreciate the "I'll be right back with your change", where I can then say thank you or no need (depending on my finances of the night).

I don't like the parents who think that their dinner shouldn't be interrupted by their own rowdy children, and allow them to go manic on the other diners.

I have sent food back before. The best was when I ordered med-rare, and it came out as charcoal. LOL! No way they could resurrect that piece of meat to being edible.

As a one-time waitress, I tip really well for good service and fairly low for poor service. I learned to say "I'll be right back with your change..." and brought five ones instead of a five or five ones and a five instead of a ten. Why bring back big bills and then waste your time and the patron's time going for change again?

For a short while a few years back, our family was eating out a lot. But it wasn't special any more and became a chore. The more we ate at the places we liked, the more we noticed the inconsistencies in the food and service. Sometimes we just went to the food court in the mall to get something different and not have to worry about the service.

Now that I fix dinner most nights, I like going out again. We also have some new restaurants which hopefully will prevent us from getting into a rut again.

I have a few select restaurants that I eat out at as they will be careful for me with my food allergies. Not only that, they remember my name! Two of the places I go don't expect tips, but I always do anyways.
I eat lunch out alone and it bugs me when I walk into a restaurant and say lunch for one and they look behind me and say, just one? No I need a seat for my invisible twin . . .
I don't like fancy restaurants that think it is high end service to keep you waiting 1/2 hour between courses or is it that the kitchen is just that slow!
Once at a buffet restaurant at Disney World the waitress came back and said thank you for the tip. She was working hard and being lovely and friendly to everyone and deserved the tip.

When I go to a restaurant, I really like our server to be clean and not sick, can't stand to have someone cough all over me to take my order. I'd like my meal to be hot, if it's cold I have to wonder if it set in the kitchen to long or on the plate too long waiting for service. If the managers going to ask how it I'm doing, ask AFTER I've eaten, not before or during. Screaming kids, stay home until they're taught some manners, if you're not big into manners, you'd probably be comfort sitting in your underwear in your recline at home. Manners have been a lost tradition in the United States (I don't know about the world, never been anywhere else). Don't ask me for a tip, I always leave one, asking makes the tip smaller, again manners.

We went to the local Dog 'n' Suds one summer afternoon. It's a sit in your car and eat your food kind of place, and the server brings your food and hangs it on your window. Our bill was about $10.00 (one dog and two drinks, paid with a twenty, after waiting for our change for 15 minute, finally buzzed back up and ask when the server would bring the change, she said she assumed the change was her tip, she assumed a $10.00 tip, when the tip is as much as the meal, something is wrong. She never did bring our change and we've never been back.

We're empty nesters for the most part as well, but we don't eat out much at all. Maybe take-out once a week, but usually whoever is home first starts dinner. I guess this is mostly due to leaving the dogs alone all day, we don't want to leave them again at night.

However, I do agree with many of the things stated here. I like the attentive but neither hovering nor neglectful waiter. I had lunch the other day with a co-worker in a chain steakhouse type place, and the waiter brought the check basically with the food, insisted he would take it when we were ready and wasn't rushing us, then came back 3 times to see if we had it ready to pay yet. Very annoying. I also agree with Josh - it annoys me when they have totally different people bring out the food.

And I think saying "I'll be right back with your change" is a good way to do it, so you can tell them not to bother if that's your inclination.

My parents (77 & 83) frequent a place that most of the oldsters in our area patronize. My sibs & I hate it because the food is lifeless and has no seasoning. I guess that is why the oldsters like it. While the carpet on the floor is stained, tables & chairs rundown, and in general not a pleasant atmosphere, it is clean and the servers are fabulous. They know their customers by name and if they don't show up for a few days, they call. My dad had been in the hospital for a week when my mom got a message from their favorite server asking if everything was ok and if they needed anything. Mom called to let them know and they offered to deliver their favorite meals to them when Dad got home. Great manager & servers go a long way to make up for stained carpet.

Wow! Pam what a place. Glad your parents have such a wonderful support system in such an unlikely place.

See I know kindness and manners weren't dead in the United States and Pam's (Sister Zip) story proves it. Bravo to a great restaurant.

We kids just refuse to take them there. If they want to take us to dinner, we go elsewhere. lol!

But it is comforting that for oldsters that don't have their kids close someone is there.

Nancy, I tend to be a touchy-feely kind of person too, funny my sons are, but not my daughter who is my constant sidekick. I have learned to control that urge most of the time, but the other night, when went to pay the bill, our waiter was asking for information (some places like to know where their customers are from, how far you'd traveled-that sort of thing). Without thinking I reached out and touched his arm, perfectly harmless right, I mean he was standing at the register, saying something funny and it was my natural reaction, but then he gave me a strange look. Like you said, it wasn't as if I was reaching for anything else and even attempting to flirt, hubby was standing next to me--he would have noticed.

Pam, that place reminds me of Sterle's Slovenian Country Kitchen, which used to be (or maybe still is) on East 55th Street in Cleveland. My in-laws would always get Slava, the waitress. It was a great time.

Hey! Now that I think about it, that's where I had spetzle. When I was in Munich over the summer, I had it, but I was ordering from a German-language menu and I don't speak or read German, so I was just winging it. (I called my wife back home to see if she could translate it, but she was couldn't.)

Dot, you made me say "EW!" with the coughing waiter. Keep those germs at home!

Y'know, I should have put in a pitch for locally owned restaurants. I know the chains are sometimes cheaper, and the food will always be reliably the same. (When the "chef" is pouring that chicken parm out of a plastic bag, how can it not be?) But surely in this economy we ought to get smarter about helping our friends and neighbors by patronizing their businesses, not the equivalent of the "big box" stores?

DH and I both hate having to put up with someone's rowdy kids. We're there to enjoy our meal not to listne to kids scream.

If a server keeps my coffee cup filled the tip goes up. Rudeness will reduce the size of the tip.

I tend to over tip because I've worked the job.

I will not tolerate my meal arriving cold, overdone, incorrectly done--I'm paying for it (usually at overinflated prices) and I expect to get what I ordered, the way I ordered it. I will send it back or have them bring the manager to my table so we can discuss the problem.

Wow, Pam, that's amazing. Your parents are lucky to have such a place to go, with such kind employees and management.

My grandparents used to go to the diner I worked in during high school, they went after church on Sunday for the fried chicken (still the best I've ever had). They always tried to sit in Minnie's station--not mine, their granddaughter, because on Sunday mornings the owner made me hostess. That's after getting there at 6 AM to start rolling silverware in napkins so there would be enough for the after church crowd.

One customer had a ribeye steak, which was a specialty of the diner, and dirt cheap. The guy sent it back three times complaining that it was tough. Finally the owner came out and told him if he wanted a better cut of steak he could order one, and that the kitchen couldn't make rib eye taste like filet mignon, no matter how many times he sent it back. Because of that incident, it would take a lot for me to send something back to the kitchen.

What exasperates me about sending back an overcooked steak is that my husband has finished eating his meal before my newly-cooked steak arrives. It's too much to ask that both meals get re-cooked, but I don't like making him wait until his food is cold either.

I have to admit that I have also worked in the service industry. I worked hard for the money I earned and since I know how the work is, I tend to leave a good tip. But I don't want to accept food that isn't good, so I too have sent food back. It's usually not the fault the server, but they have to take the heat for it. I try to remember that when there is a problem with the food.

We made our point with a manager one time. A couple, spending 'quality time' with their 4 little darlings (which meant they ignored the kids who had a running game of tag, complete with screaming all thru the dining room!) I called the manager over and loud enough for the parents to hear, asked that they be told to control their offspring. He wouldn't do that and risk losing them as customers!
So I gave him our orders "TO GO" and informed him that we usually have drinks before dinner, appetizers, desserts and after dinner drinks but since the atmosphere sucked, we'd take our entrees home and save alot of money.
He kind of blew me off, till 5 other couples did the same thing! That place went out of business the next year.
When I took my kids out to a nice restaurant, people would stop at my table and tell me what well behaved children I had. (just the threat of abuse worked!)

Since we favor mid-range or budget restaurants we don't expect anything but friendly service. Screaming kids annoy hubby but times are achanging. It seems that more kids get to dine out. Mom wants to escape the kitchen and hasn't drilled the kids with good manners. Older folks want to hobnob with others to enrich their social contact. Some elders such as myself don't utter a word to their partners, Not me. I try to entertain hubby with the latest news items such as "Did you know that there's a monkey loose in Seattle?" He counters with "Well that's better than waiter did you know there's fly in my soup?" Other things that I do which flusters my spouse no end is picking a sweet family with babies and toddlers and rewarding then with compliments no end.
Only pet peeve is timing my response when waitress asks if everything is alright and I must bob my head with an okay signal. What would she do if I nodded nno, no ,no?
The joys of eating out are numerous. I just hope the prices stay stable,


Tune in late and WOW... takes me 20 minutes to read all the comments.

Welcome April. This is a cool place to hang out!

I HATE HATE HATE screaming children, running around kids, etc. HATE them. I have asked to be moved when someone had an ill behaved child at a nearby table (and I am NOT talking about an infant. I'm talking about kids who know better)

I LOVE breakfast food (pancakes, etc). We were at a IHOP and hubs found something plastic in his pancake. Called the manager. He was very nonplussed about it. Said it was probably something from a cup. Brought fresh pancakes but DID NOT comp the meal. Unbelievable. At this same IHOP, two tree trimmers were in town after a bad storm and were eating there at 2 a.m. (You know how they go to areas where there are loads of trees down and make money). These guys kept complaining about the terrible service, but apparently the same "who-cares" manager was on duty. After they finished eating, they went outside, got their saws from the truck and CUT DOWN A TREE IN THE PARKING LOT!

I also hate when everything comes out at one time...appetizer, salad, and entree. And heaven help you if you want more water, coffee or iced tea.

Great topic Nancy. Seems like you've hit a hot button today.

What pesters me is when the server delivers your food then falls off the face of the planet. Sometimes the kitchen has fouled up. Like sending out lukewarm tea or or forgetting to give kids ketchup for their fries or neglecting to put hot fudge on a hot fudge sundae.

Another peeve: when the server takes for flippin' ever to bring the check. Um, hello? Not all of us like to linger after a meal. Some of us want to go home and have sex before we get too tired.

Cyndi, there are a few places of business where I'd like to drop a tree now and then!

Amy, I admire your advance planning.

I prefer the "I'll be right back with your change" method too. Especially since ATMs only shoot out $20s these days.

I like to torture my best friend by us having lunch at Red Robin, where you're pretty much guaranteed to hear "Happy Birthday" at least three times during the meal. It's become a big joke between us, but it's also a sign of the strength of our friendship -- I'll only ask her to go there if I absolutely must (sometimes you just get a craving, yeah?) and she'll always say yes to going even though it's not her favorite place. Sometimes she even suggests it herself.

I always try to tip big to bartenders. I like tequila drivers, which are screwdrivers but with tequila instead of vodka (alternately, tequila sunrises without the grenadine). Most bartenders have to ask what it is. If they don't, they get a big tip. This last week at bowling, the guy remembered me from that tip and not only guessed what I wanted but also made it twice the size (and really strong) for the same price. We also get great service at the sponsor bar for our kickball league since everyone not only tends to chip in way more than their share anyhow, but they also tend to comp us some stuff (like soda) without telling us. Since some people leave early, we just give them the whole pot. We've done $15 tips on a $35 tab. It all works out in the end, since they're putting up with rowdy kickball teams all Sunday afternoon.

>they put her name on a specially printed menu (in lieu of singing). >How cool is that.
Karen, very cool indeed! I love your special meal incentives.
I've taken nieces and nephews to nicer restaurants and have found that they live up to my expectations. Of course, I keep them entertained with conversation, stories, etc. I used to have crayons in my purse all the time.
I have my list of restaurants that are safe for my latex allergy -- in fact, I have them posted on my web site. If they start vacuuming near me, I ask them to stop (which they always
did ;-). The dust from vacuuming the absolute worst thing for anyone with a dust allergy. The condo had carpeting, and I hired a friend to clean for me and left the premises for hours.

Pam, what's the name of the restaurant that's so good to your folks. I'll mention it to my wet&mild aqua-aerobics class members.
Zinnia's in Webster (closed now) was always good to my mama. Once when the duck she ordered was too tough for her, the waiter sized up our predicament, brought a menu and selected another entre for her, without our actually asking! That buys some loyalty! The chef is now at Cafe Osage and says he likes having stalkers . . .
Today after my lesson at the Apple Store (amazing teachers!), I refueled at Starbucks, and the gentleman server returned change as $5 and 5 cents. I took $1 from my wallet for the tip jar, first saying that the change wasn't enough, then pointing out to him that it wouldn't have been amiss for him to deliver five ones. Of course, he might not have been thinking of tips at all???

Soooo....I forgot to mention the Cozy Corner in Beautiful Downtown Miami Springs. My father goes there (as do many old timers) for breakfast specials. He especially likes Wednesdays which is one egg, one strip of bacon and a biscuit w/ red eye gravy.
Reminds me of my dad's friend Pappy who has gone to the big pancake heaven now. He told me a story in church one time. He always kissed all the ladies hello in the Narthex. He said a lady had bought him breakfast and they brought a stack of flapjacks a show dog couldn't jump over.
I miss him.
They come to our little town and shoot commercials at the Cozy Corner and the Gazebo all the time. You'd think it was Mayberry.
Good food. Good service. Senior menu. Meatloaf & real mashed potatoes. Daily specials and you know everybody's name.
Just saying.

Mary, it is Gingham's right across from St. Roberts Catholic Church on 94. I think the delivery was a special thing, but they call ahead a lot of times (the manager has their cc number) and one of us picks up dinner for them. Great people, just a crappy looking place & boring food...for me.

I know the place, and a friend's parents also like it. I do think I remember seeing a negative health report on it once, but that was a long, long time ago.
Oh, there would be a serious gripe about a restaurant -- not being clean and healthy . . . .

I also don't like the "do you need change" question, especially, as someone said above, when the amount of cash you've left is significantly more than the bill. I keep wanting to say, "Duh, of course I want my change!" I am also tempted to lower my tip when asked that. "I'll be right back with your change" is much better, giving you a chance to say "It's all set" or whatever if you don't need the change.

My mother had a recent incident where a waitress actually added her own tip to the bill and totalled it... and it was for 20% rounded up to the next highest dollar - giving herself a tip of well over 20%. (And no, this was not a place that said on the menu that a service charge was automatically added.) My mother is still an exact 15% tipper (unless the service is exceptional), and she was highly offended. She complained at the register, and the cashier called the waitress over. The waitress said, "Well, people usually leave 20% and I just rounded it up."

Oh, and my other pet peeve - tip jars at jobs that aren't traditional "tip" jobs (which are taxed differently - at least they were back when I did both traditional waitressing and counter-type food service jobs). I won't tip at those places (and Dear Abby says I don't have to!).

Avis, what places?
BTW, I went off on a tangent on Ginghams without giving due credit to the caring staff that would offer to deliver food for regular customers -- that's really nice, and we need more places and people like that.

Mary, I'm talking about places where you order and pick up your food at a counter. Like ice cream shops, fast food places, coffee shops, etc. In this area, over the last few years, "tip jars" have been put out. At the beginning, it would say things like "to help with our education", now they usually just are labelled "tip jar." As someone said above, traditional tip jobs pay less than minimum wage, and IRS assumes you'll make at least enough tips to bring you up to minimum wage, whether you do or not. That's how it was when I worked a waitress job (though it was a lot of years ago). When I worked at Dairy Queen, we made more than minimum wage, and weren't allowed to accept tips. It's those jobs which are now begging for tips... even though I believe they are still paid minimum wage and higher, and are taxed like a regular job.

I love dinners out, and I'm pretty fine with most behavior as long as the server isn't deliberately rude to me (which has happened, believe it or not). As far as from the other side, two things: patrons who verbally compliment the service and then leave less than 20% (if you don't respect me enough to pay me, your compliment becomes an insult), and those who, having finished their meals entirely, answer the offer of dessert/coffee with "maybe later." What is this "later" of which you speak? Please please please, if you want to continue your conversation, simply pay your check and move to the bar, where no one will lose time or money if you chat until closing without ordering another thing.

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