Our 10 Worst Restaurant Moments

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"Waiter! There's a finger in my soup!"

Mostly, the Fork in the Road staff has a good time in restaurants -- and we eat in lots of them. But sometimes our experience is so awful, that we never forget. So we got together and came up with our 10 Worst Restaurant Moments.

10. It was a brand new Lower East Side restaurant, and we arrived at 7:30. The menu for the night hadn't been printed yet, so four of us shared one handwritten copy. Our pretty, dead-eyed waitress treated us like we were her high school teachers and she, like, hadn't turned in the homework. With great effort, we finally communicated our order. We never saw her again. Only two glasses of water arrived. We rationed. The place filled up; other tables ordered. An hour passed, but not a scrap of food emerged. People at other tables also grew restless; we feared cannibalism. Two hours later, we received part of our order: a floppy-skinned chicken, with over-salting so severe it could cause chemical burns. We asked after our missing herring. There were still 13 orders in front of it.

9. Sometimes you don't know something was your worst restaurant moment until afterward. I was stoked to raid a post-football buffet one Saturday afternoon in Austin, Texas, at a motel on the Interstate called Villa Maria. In addition to the usual carved roast beef, pimento cheese sandwiches, and mayo-bearing salads that are the staples of Texas buffets, I was attracted to a tray of deviled eggs, liberally carpeted with paprika. I ate five or six, congratulating myself on having discovered the best thing on the buffet. Late that evening I woke up with vomiting, chills, cramps, and worse -- and haven't touched a deviled egg since.

8. As part of a job interview for a culinary website that shall not be named, I was required to go on a tasting dinner at a new Park Avenue spot. This website's stock in trade is interviews with chefs accompanied by numerous photos of their food -- which, I might add, is never paid for. Anyway, the editor and I showed up at this beautiful restaurant, camera, lighting equipment, and computer in tow. It was a five-course dinner. The first was a gigantic charcuterie plate. The editor wasn't happy with how it looked on the table, so she took the entire platter and put it on the floor. The she unzipped her boots, climbed up on a chair, and started snapping away. I was mortified. It was during the height of dinner service, and the incredibly gracious waiter looked like he wanted to kill us. The next four courses proceeded in similar fashion, with this woman jumping on and off chairs, and shining the bright light on food and diners alike. The food, by the way, was excellent, though I've never had less appetite. This woman also bragged that she'd once taken some of Daniel Boulud's food into a restaurant bathroom to photograph it, so I guess it could have been worse. I didn't get the job.

7. A friend was eating at a Greenpoint Thai restaurant. She was just finishing up a lovely papaya salad, when she discovered a horsefly lying amid the peanuts, dead as a three-day-old corpse. Upon further excavation, she discovered it wasn't a whole insect: It was a half insect. She never returned to that restaurant, and advises others not to go there, either. She frequently tells the story, and for the rest of her life she'll shiver whenever she thinks of it, wondering what happened to the other half of the fly.

6. Restaurants are like families -- sometimes they're happy and well behaved, other times they're ornery and contentious. Some friends and I hiked into deepest Ridgewood one evening in search of a fabled Romanian bar that also served food. One tiny corner spot had a chalkboard menu out front, so we went inside and sat down. Soon we were served by a middle-aged lady with her hair tied neatly in a bun, whose husband was clearly the barkeep. After she took our order for various appetizers and a grilled meat assortment, he followed her into the kitchen, and a screaming fight ensued for what seemed like 10 minutes. She appeared seconds later in a coat and hat and stomped out. After about 30 minutes, we realized she wasn't coming back, and we left as well.

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1 comments
MAtlas
MAtlas

Nice article Robert!

A bad experience at a restaurant comes anytime one of the three essentials (food, atmosphere and service) is not checked off. Its pretty much the blow since customers won't be returning ever again. I particularly think that the 9th entry is an important one though. Above all else, food safety matters since this can be fatal and could lead to lawsuits of epic proportions. 

I think it would be helpful if these restaurants were to put up a system of unscheduled audits of the kitchen to ensure that everything is in order. You have the normal inspections that they expect but even hiring a company that offers to do it for you (like this company called SQM for instance, link: http://goo.gl/IEOgB8) should help in identifying problem areas and make rectifications early on. This, I think, is possibly the most important thing any restaurant should be aware of.

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