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You know you're in the wrong place to eat when...


Carrot Top
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It has happened to all of us, I imagine.

You are hungry. . .looking for somewhere good to eat. . .the options might be numerous in variety or extremely limited.

You know nothing about any of these places except what shows in the front window.

Finally, out of starvation and bewilderment, you make a choice and walk into a place, hoping that the meal will be good and the place welcoming.

Sometimes, though, this doesn't happen.

There is a moment of epiphany when you just know you've walked into the wrong place to eat.

This weekend it happened to me.

It was a tourist-y town in northern Virginia. The place was Italian, with nicely shining windows and polished brass details gleaming. No menu posted. White tablecloths showing on the tables. We entered and were greeted. The leatherette bound menus were taken along with us to the table with a smile. All was well and fine until that moment.

My epiphany?

You know you're in the wrong place to eat when one side of the menu is six pages of plastic laminate with big colorful shiny pictures of chicken nuggets and spagetti with meatballs and the other side of the menu is a print-out tied on with gold stretchie things, offering four or five specials like "Toasted Ravioli with Fresh Vegetables in a Creamy Curry Sauce" . . .(and all the specials are priced at $24.95 per entree).

Anyone else have any stories of this sort to share. . .so we all can tatoo them on our memories and run in fear when they see them happening in our own lives? :laugh:

Edited by Carrot Top (log)
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whoa, i don't think i can top that, but.....

i really knew that we were in the wrong place to eat when once, we found a little sort of log cabin place in the santa cruz mountains and it looked cute! it was sunday morning and we were thinking, hey, brunch! (maybe it was afternoon by then, anyhow....)

we thought we'd walk in the door and there would be people who all sort of were like us, but when we got in they were all red necks and lumberjacks and i thought we must be in the wrong state if not the wrong planet, and they were all EATING THE SAME THING!

And that was: thick gloppy white sauced dryish meat--creamed chip beef on toast i was told later. it was the uck-i-est thing i've ever seen, and we walked through the restaurant looking for a table and everyone, everyone, was eating this, and it didn't smell so good, well not bad but not especially good, and suddenly--the place was surprisingly big, we walked through a lotta rooms, there were 5 of us looking for table....

and suddenly we all broke out into a fit of the giggles, we couldn't see anything except these plates piled up with creamy gloppy meaty stuff on toast, and we couldn't get away from it, it was EVERYWHERE, and we started running, running past the tables from room to room until we finally found the front door, and ran out to the car and drove away as soon as we could.

we knew that we didn't want to eat there. it was like star trek or twilight zone, we feared that if we ate there we'd have to eat that thing and we would become just like them.

Marlena

Marlena the spieler

www.marlenaspieler.com

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whoa, i don't think i can top that, but.....

we thought we'd walk in the door and there would be people who all sort of were like us, but when we got in they were all red necks and lumberjacks and i thought we must be in the wrong state if not the wrong planet, and they were all EATING THE SAME THING!

And that was: thick gloppy white sauced dryish meat--creamed chip beef on toast

Marlena

Ah, yes. SOS. I remember it well.

Jim

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We went into one place with a fairly typical Midwestern menu. One of our party asked, "How's the catfish?" The server shook her head like, "You don't want to go there."

People around me all think I'm nuts I was laughing so hard....

For me, it happened a couple of years ago. I was alreadyu eating at this restaurant, finishing my apps. I overhead the table next to ours wondering what cous cous was (featured with a grilled salmon). The waited promplty came to the rescue. "Do you have any questions about our menu?" "Yes. What's this cous-cous?"

"Oh... eehhh..., it's like a rice.... like a mexican rice (I'm sure he really wanted to say moroccan)" "So, it's spicy, huh?" "Yup, somewhat spicy"

No, I didn't walk out, but I should've.

Follow me @chefcgarcia

Fábula, my restaurant in Santiago, Chile

My Blog, en Español

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I've been a lurker for many, many months - (I was always one of those kids in school that sat in the back of the classroom and didn't talk much....learned alot, though, from just listening - in this case, reading) figured it's about darn time I start participating.

So, while exploring Long Island a few months ago, we got a hankerin' for Mexican food. I know, Long Island isn't exactly the mecca for Mexican food, but we still searched for a place to indulge. It was the perfect time of day, right after the lunch crowd. We found a place! Boy, was my mouth waterin' for some good fajitas....

Parking was scarce, which wasn't a surprise, but we found a spot behind the restaurant. As we walked up to the back door, I couldn't smell the Mexican-food smell....I smelled something else, but couldn't quite put my finger on it. Odd, I thought. The closer we got, the worse the smell got - it was putrid, to say the least.

We got inside, it was empty. No patrons....."Where were all those people that belonged to all the cars outside", I wondered.

I started thinking that maybe they weren't open for business....especially since I didn't even see anyone working.

We sort of walked through the restaurant, heading towards the front, when a waitress popped out of the back and sat us at the nearest table and handed us the menu.

We popped open our menus and the prices reflected those that one would pay for dinner at a five-star restaurant, in the middle of Manhattan. We were there for lunch, after all.

So that was the clincher for me, as if the wierdness prior to that wasn't enough. We got up and left....never did get our Mexican fill that day.

I know this doesn't compare to Marlena's experience, but at least I learned something from this....don't even walk into a restaurant if it doesn't smell good on the outside.

Sorry my first post is so long.

Jen

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My DH and I like to explore the area and find something new. One night we were driving around for about 45 minutes and couldn't agree on a thing. Finally, I was just too hungry to care. We stopped at this place called Sam's ________ (something) and figured we'd been by it often enough and there were always cars there...

We walked in the door and it was filled with smoke from the bar. We asked if there was a non-smoking section and we were brought to a glassed in room about 1/4 the size of the entire place. We were annexed for being non-smokers! Well we ate, I don't remember what and we've never been back!

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........ I learned something from this....don't even walk into a restaurant if it doesn't smell good on the outside.

Jen

Welcome Jen!

You hit the nail on the head for me, too--when people ask what I look for in a restaurant, I always say that I look for a place that smells good!

Marlena

Marlena the spieler

www.marlenaspieler.com

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Not for the faint of heart: we were traveling across country and stopped in a breakfast chain place (I know that should have been our first clue). But we were in a hurry and thought "how can we go wrong with mediocre chain food?" We ordered, everything seemed to be OK, then I went to the bathroom. There was excrement ALL OVER the bathroom. Walls, floor, toilet, sink. Just for fun, I had my DH check out the men's bathroom. It was the same. Kinda lost my appetite...

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Here are a couple of warning signs I've noticed over the years:

1. When everything on the menu is "foamed," including the flatware.

2. When you're served beer in wine glasses and wine in beer glasses.

3. When the waiter/waitress comes over to the table and tells you her/his name.

4. When the host/hostess walks you around the room several times before finding your table.

5. When your dessert arrives before your entree.

6. When the chef is talking to other diners, while you've been waiting for your food for an hour.

7. When the menu is written in a foreign language and the translation is in another foreign language.

8. When the price next to a menu item reads "see your financial consultant."

9. When the valet person takes your car, but never gives you a ticket stub.

10. When the host/hostess asks how you meal was and is obviously wearing a bullet-proof vest.

11. When they give you an electronic buzzer to indicate when your table is ready and you get a shock as it goes off.

12. When all staff members are wearing name tags.

13. When you walk into a place at 8PM for dinner and are asked if you have a reservation and just one table is occupied.

14. When you arrive home with a doggie bag and the dog goes for the Alpo.

15. When your food arrives less than two minutes after you order it.

16. When the menu states "cash only" for tips.

17. When the list of specials is longer than the menu and no one owns the movie rights.

18. When the menu ends with "...to be continued."

19. When you ask for the bill and you notice the waiter/waitress heading toward an adding machine.

20. When the host/hostess greets you in French and it's an Italian restaurant.

Edited by rich (log)

Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

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10. When the host/hostess asks how you meal was and is obviously wearing a bullet-proof vest.

Yeah. . .still a couple of those places in Staten Island, huh? :cool: But the vests are not always for protection from the diners. . .

Nice "little" list there, rich. Do feel free to add more ideas as they come along! :laugh:

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10. When the host/hostess asks how you meal was and is obviously wearing a bullet-proof vest.

Yeah. . .still a couple of those places in Staten Island, huh? :cool: But the vests are not always for protection from the diners. . .

Nice "little" list there, rich. Do feel free to add more ideas as they come along! :laugh:

Actually, BP vests are standard issue for anyone that works near a door in a Staten Island restaurant or barbershop. I hear they're better than the U.S. Army vests.

Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

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Actually, BP vests are standard issue for anyone that works near a door in a Staten Island restaurant or barbershop. I hear they're better than the U.S. Army vests.

The Staten Island phone book is better, too.

I always attempt to have the ratio of my intelligence to weight ratio be greater than one. But, I am from the midwest. I am sure you can now understand my life's conundrum.

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We were in Littleton, New Hampshire this weekend--one of those gritty/verge of trendy White Mountain towns. Wanted to have quick lunch and instead of going into the Littleton Diner and having a cheeseburger deluxe, made the mistake of choosing a cute cafe because we wanted to sit by the river. First mistake was ordering a "Tuscan" panini--second was waiting...and waiting...and waiting. After about 25 minutes, went in to inquire. The young thing that had taken our order looked at me blankly, then looked down at the order slip still sitting by the register. She had forgotten to put in the order. It took an hour and a half to order, receive and consume a dried out chicken breast under rubbery mozzarella. I kick myself every time I go into one of these earnest, crunchy granola type places because the service is always completely inept, and the food so leaden. Is there a correlation between quality of food and quantity of tie-dye?

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A couple of my personal "danger, Will Robinson!" restaurant warning signs:

--If the bar is considerably busier than the dining room, even at the height of dinner hour (i.e. no regular actually *eats* there)

--If the patrons are several orders of magnitude more trendy-looking or beautiful-people-ish than I'll ever be in this lifetime (i.e. people are there to be seen rather than to eat)

--If the hostess or maitre'd recites a rote "wecoming" phrase while his/her face, voice, and body language all scream boredom

--If the decor is way over-cutesy--especially if it overworks a theme of any sort, especially if said theme bears no relation to the restaurant's geographical location (i.e. a fishing-net-and-bouy-bestrewn Rusty Scupper Cafe in the middle of East Pig's Knuckle, Arkansas)

--If the menu is way over-cutesy--especially if every over-cutesy entree name is followed with a "TM" or "R-in-a-circle" trademark bug

--If it purports to be an ethnic restaurant, and there is no visible staff of that ethnicity to be seen anywhere on the premises.

--If it purports to be an ethnic restaurant, and there are no visible customers of that ethnicity to be seen anywhere in the dining room.

--Anyplace that decorates their dining room with tons of taxidermy (cue "Deliverance" banjo theme)

Sometimes I've ignored these warning signs, and had a perfectly acceptable meal. But not often.

Edited by mizducky (log)
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whoa, i don't think i can top that, but.....

we thought we'd walk in the door and there would be people who all sort of were like us, but when we got in they were all red necks and lumberjacks and i thought we must be in the wrong state if not the wrong planet, and they were all EATING THE SAME THING!

And that was: thick gloppy white sauced dryish meat--creamed chip beef on toast

Marlena

Ah, yes. SOS. I remember it well.

Jim

good ol SOS!!......hub used to eat a lot of that when he was single and cooking for himself. And that's what he called it: SOS. I'd never seen nor heard of the stuff before I met him (guess I'd lived a sheltered life) and when he offered me a serving, I said Uh....thanks, but no thanks. As far as I know, he hasn't eaten any more of it in the last 22+ years.

CBHall

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In Cleveland a couple of years ago searching for interesting food. After finding an elusive Monte Cristo sandwich that was recommended but not very good, we ventured the next day toward one of two recommended diners. One closed at 3pm. The other stayed open much later, had been around for 50 years, and still had the original pullman car seating area although if you hadn't read about it you wouldn't know by looking at it. It was a little late for lunch, 3pm, so no real cause for alarm that no one else was eating there. There was a cook, a waiter, and two other people working behind the counter. We ordered despite the swarms of fruit flies buzzing the table and the cracker crumbs on the seat. The salad wasn't unexpectedly good. Neither was the coffee. We both ordered the meatloaf special. It had been made several days (or weeks) before with grade B meat and probably the cracker crumbs from the seats, frozen, then thawed and "crisped" on the grill. Re-fried meatloaf. The hardest thing was that all the staff watched us eat. I'm sure everyone knows that moment when you pop something in your mouth and you become instantly aware that you won't be able to finish the bite. Well I had an audience for that moment. I chewed and smiled. But couldn't swallow. The waiter, a guy in his 60s, came over and asked if everything was alright. I felt a little bad because they all seemed concerned. So lie #1: "No the food's fine, we're just not very hungry right now." We played with our food still being watched, then after 20 minutes, trying to make the staff feel less bad, lie #2: "Could we get two take out containers, so we can finish this later." A little redemption for us and relief for the staff. Now I know we could have said something, told them just how bad the food was but at this place I don't think it would have mattered. The staff that day had mostly been there for 40 years and probably doing the same meals the say way that whole time. The locals must like it, right? And they seemed geuinely concerned about how we were doing so I felt really bad when I was paying, and the waiter said as he was handing us our boxed meals how relieved they were we liked the meal and I replied with lie #3 (under the influence of low blood sugar mind you because we hadn't eaten since 8am): "Yeah, we're sorry, I guess we were just too hungy to eat just now." Realizing lie #3 contradicted lie #1, we left a large tip and bolted and didn't throw the food away until we gotten ten miles from the diner.

Edited by BeJam (log)

Bode

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The big warning sign for me is if none of the other diners have food in front of them. If they don't, it's inevitably a sign that the ordering process has gone awry and you won't be eating for ages. It also implies the FOH doesn't communicate with BOH.

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. . . you're in West Virginia and the only place open is named, "Eat & Run", the waitress weighs 400 pounds, is missing a couple of teeth, and promises to take you to places "tourists rarely get to see."

This is 100% serious. I still have nightmares about it.

Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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. . . you're in West Virginia and the only place open is named, "Eat & Run", the waitress weighs 400 pounds, is missing a couple of teeth, and promises to take you to places "tourists rarely get to see." 

This is 100% serious.  I still have nightmares about it.

Where in West Virginia were you???? We used to have a place around here called "Eat and Park," which we affectionately named "Eat and Puke."

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