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

Carrot Top

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You know you're in the wrong place when even the moose head on the wall has dandruff...

All I know is I decided to go along with a group of friends to try a local place called "The Thirsty Moose" for a birthday celebration. Now the place has good curb appeal, nice signage, even outdoor tables should you decide to go al fresco...but being the wintertime, we decided to go inside. When we walked in, it began to snow, which spells that any restaurant in the area we were in would already be closing down once the first flake hit the ground. So we walk into a foyer filled with all sorts of moose paraphernalia, and as we open the inner door, the karaoke was blaring (Like I needed to hear someone kill 'Jersey Girl' one more time) and the bar area was filled with townie types. The atmosphere was a cross between the "Larry the Cable Guy" fan club and, oh I don't know, let's call it the "Second Level of Hell". So our hostess brings us to the dining room upstairs. There was better decor, more light, a view of the snow falling, which was nice. We had the table of honor, under a gigantic moose head. We ordered cocktails, which were damn near awful (Can ya not give me Bailey's that expired at least a year ago!) and an appetizer. The app, basic as it should have been, was anything but. We had no side plates, no utensils, not even napkins. It took at least 10 minutes to get the waitresses attention, but she said she'd be right back. As we discovered about a minute later, she was due on the karaoke stage downstairs, and that was waaaaay more important than helping us (or getting a tip apparently). So I walked into the pantry area and retrieved all that was needed for the table and we ate the app. Not bad, but would have been better if it was, hmmm, at least what I would call warm. So once our waitress/entertainment was off stage, she ran to fetch (and that was her word, not mine) our meal. She retrieved them and my rare steak was done so well, you could have dropped it on the floor and it would have shattered. Considering the fact we would most likely never see her again until she had the bill, I got up to get something to add some hydration to the meat. I personally detest steak sauces, as when meat is properly done, it shouldn't need A-1, but since I wanted to minimize my intake of pure carbon, I decided to once again venture into their back room to get some. As I got up, I hit the moose head on the wall above me and all of a sudden it was snowing inside. Now, I wouldn't have minded the precipitation from outside coming in (It couldn't have made the beef any worse), but I did mind that it was enough dust to send another of my dining companions into a sneezing fit and give a healthy sprinkling right on my steak. In a total act of self-preservation, I got up, grabbed my coat and walked out the door...leaving my fellow diners with the disaster that was dinner. They followed suit, but I imagine that the waitress didn't notice anyone leave because she was on stage, yet again...

Moral of the story...If you see a moose, and it's not hatching a plan with a squirrel, RUN! :-)

"What garlic is to food, insanity is to art." ~ Augustus Saint-Gaudens

The couple that eGullets together, stays together!

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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.

The wife and I were at that place (or one just like it) for our anniversary dinner few years ago. After entrée’s that would have been at home as part of a tasting menu (My wife’s “wilted spinach with balsamic reduction” was three baby spinach leaves) we left looking for something to eat.

I was in San Francisco last year, walking into a restaurant I was met with the unmistakable smells of overflowing toilet and meat that had gone WAY off accompanied by some sort of pine cleaner delicately overlaying the combination. Needless to say I left as soon as the waiter left me at the table.


If at first you succeed, try not to act surprised.

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Never walk into a restaurant where the lights on the outside sign aren't working.

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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I'm usually a fan of fatty foods, but when the ketchup has difficulty adhering to your fries because they're so greasy, I draw the line. (Actually, the real moral of this story is not to order food in run-down student bars).

Cutting the lemon/the knife/leaves a little cathedral:/alcoves unguessed by the eye/that open acidulous glass/to the light; topazes/riding the droplets,/altars,/aromatic facades. - Ode to a Lemon, Pablo Neruda

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All I know is I decided to go along with a group of friends to try a local place called "The Thirsty Moose" for a birthday celebration. 

Damn! And I was gonna host your birthday dinner there! :laugh:

Seriously, I am a "native of those parts" (northern NJ) and did the thirsty Moose thing a few times. It's considered a "big night out" meal for the good people of Jefferson, but then again for many folks, so is Outback Steakhouse. The place gave me the fantods each time I went there, but my dining companions, and many others at the restaurant, were cooing at the menu like they were at Aquavit.

Hey, I guess a night away from the crockpot is a night away from the crockpot, right?

"Give me 8 hours, 3 people, wine, conversation and natural ingredients and I'll give you one of the best nights in your life. Outside of this forum - there would be no takers."- Wine_Dad, egullet.org

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  • 2 months later...

Ethnic restaurants in small towns with little of the represented ethnic population can be bad news. Or big towns. Like Chinese restaurants in Istanbul, at least most of them. (We went to one, the waiter really tried hard to get us not to order plain rice with the meal because it was boring, not good pilaf at all.)

In Modesto, CA we went to a thai restaurant that was obviously cooking for local tastes. We got a green curry that was very obviously thickened with flour. It was like a thick pasty green gravy. We knew we had blundered.

My father once told a story about going to a lunch diner in Davenport, IA, where he ordered a sandwich. As the woman made it, she stopped several times and reached back into her mouth with her finger to free some bit of something that was evidently stuck between her molars. She cut the bread, worked on her teeth, went back to the sandwich and put the meat and cheese on, then picked at her teeth some more. Dad finally cancelled his order and left. Don't think he stayed very hungry....

"Los Angeles is the only city in the world where there are two separate lines at holy communion. One line is for the regular body of Christ. One line is for the fat-free body of Christ. Our Lady of Malibu Beach serves a great free-range body of Christ over angel-hair pasta."

-Lea de Laria

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In Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain points out that, if the bathroom's disgusting, the kitchen -- which is infinitely harder to clean -- is much, much worse.

We were on the road and stopped for lunch somewhere in Virginia (I actually don't know what town it was), at a fairly innocuous-looking roadside diner type of place. The lunch is a buffet. The bathroom was, well, I can't really describe how filthy it was. They had one of those hand-towel things where a cloth towel goes around on a continuous loop. The cloth was black.

"I think it's a matter of principle that one should always try to avoid eating one's friends."--Doctor Dolittle

blog: The Institute for Impure Science

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Many years ago my friend Lightning and I were out "scenic-cruising" some back roads on a nice summer's afternoon. We spotted a roadside bar and grill and decided to stop for burgers and beers.

Inside we found a diaperless baby lying on a pool table with a dog on the (dirt) floor beneath. The only other person in the room was the bartender, an elderly gent wearing a t-shirt several sizes too small to cover his middle, smoking a big cigar and watching a soap opera on tv.

Lightning and I decideded just to get some prepackaged food, and settled on a couple bags of chips, some Slim Jims, and candy bars. We asked the artenderfor a six pack of beer to go.

He said he didn't have any six packs cold, but offered to sell us bottles from his cooler placed in a Coca Cola carrier as long as we remembered to bring the empties back. Since he'd never seen us before we thought this was pretty damn nice of him, and we made a special trip, one hour each way, to return the bottles a week later. (The same guy was working and the dog was still under the pool table, but the baby was gone.)

So, how should we have known this may have been "the wrong place to eat"?

The name of the joint was "Sanitary Harrys"!

SB (I assume the old guy was Harry) :raz:

Edited by srhcb (log)
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  • 3 weeks later...
Never walk into a restaurant where the lights on the outside sign aren't working.

We turn around and walk out when a certain "smell" hits us as we pass through the front doors. Its hard to explain, it a "thick" smell and interestingly it doesnt change from restaurant to restaurant. When this smell appears before we are seated, we simply turn around. Its like a beacon murmuring, "Danger, Danger Will Robinson!"

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Trip to Cocoa, Florida for basketball - 4:00 a.m. - starving - no hotel room (hotel overbooked, had to sleep in minivan until next day - stopped at a chain that serves breakfast all day - should have turned around when there were frogs stuck to the doors and windows, but after the day we had, we needed fuel - should have turned around when we saw the waitress (big hair, cigarette in mouth while she talked and took our order) and the cook - but after the day we had we didn't care - WE DID TURN AROUND when the waffles we were dreaming of came with fly syrup - guess that's what the frogs were looking at.

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what is worse, is when you think you are in the right place,

but it turns out to be all wrong after all.

case in point:

i used to live in a county in maryland

that was growing rapidly due to it being

close enough to DC to consider it commutable,

yet far enough to maintain some sort of rural splendor.

the name of the county is "Frederick", but was also known as

"Fred-neck", which should give you an idea of the local demographic.

imagine my surprise, when i found a remarkable, japanese resturant.

it was remarkable in the fact that such a gem of a restaurant

existed in Fredneck. it was owned and run by a japanese couple.

the menu was great, the sushi impeccably fresh. i beacame a regular,

and i built a great rapport with the owners. it was one of those places where

everything was done to somewhere short of perfection, to dead

on sublime. the itame would often make me little little treats

and send them to my table. they were cool to my kids, and any

guests i would bring. most of all though, the food was

always great. in the two years i had the great fortune

of dining there, i never had a bad meal.

it came to pass, that i became inundated with work,

and for various reasons of practicality, was unable to eat at

said joint for a month or so. my wife and i decided to

do it up large, and go there for my birthday, and

dig on the food that we loved so very deeply. we invited

members of our family, and a few friends.

when my wife made the reservation, she hung up the phone,

and remarked that she did not recognize the voice that took the reservation.

i did not think anything of it, because they often had hostesses in heavy rotation.

cut to my birthday:

my wife and i arrive early just to kick it,

catch up with the owners, and wait for our guests to post.

upon opening the door, i was met by the fatal red flag.

there was a wrapper from a drinking straw on the floor.

that was my moment of clarity.

i knew beyond any doubt, that in my absence,

the restaurant had flipped owners.

waka and noguchi, would never allow trash to sit on the floor.

ever get that cold feeling when you

are in a place that had been a source of pleasure,

has morphed into a shadow of its former incarnation?

that is the exact feeling i got.

i knew from the discarded straw wrapper on the floor.

we decided to eat there anyway.

the second red flag was when i asked what was

good in the way of sushi that night,

the reply i got was:

"everything is good."


the meal sucked. everything was flawed from,

salty dashi to sour ponzu, to overheated oil

that scorched the tempura. i was crestfallen.


i still cry blood to this day when i think about it.


stigmata, inc.

Nonsense, I have not yet begun to defile myself.

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Great stories, one and all!

I think the thing on the menu that always gives me a twinge is when every name or description of the item has "organic" somewhere in it.

Hey, I grew up on a farm, I know what "organic" means. I have no argument with "Certified Organic" if they also have a certificate on the wall but when I see something carried past me that looks like stuff I can buy in bulk packages at Smart & Final or Costco with the advisory that the contents are intended "For Individual Retail Sale" then I know I am in the wrong place.

I have, however wandered into places that look a little run down on the outside but are squeaky-clean on the inside with friendly, smiling ladies serving real, home-style food at very reasonable prices.

The original "Crazy Otto's" here in Lancaster was right next to the railroad tracks and when a train passed the entire, rather flimsy, old wooden building shook. However from 7 a.m. to 2:p.m. (closing time mid-afternoon) you had to stand in line to get into the place and parking was chancy at best.

That building was torn down when the light rail line came in after the '94 quake but there are a few second generation places under the same owner/management and they are all popular, especially on weekends. People drive down from Tehachapi and Ridgecrest for breakfast on weekends. During the ten days of the Antelope Valley fair, you can't get near the place because the people who come once a year for the fair always have to eat at Otto's, especially the first of the new generation, on 20th street West. There are some imitators but they are all poor seconds. No other place makes 6-egg omelettes. By the way, the prices are very reasonable and the portions huge.

Edited by andiesenji (log)

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett


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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....)


This is funny! I think I know exactly what place you are talking about. Well, at least there is a place that fits that description from the outside on 84 (between Woodside and San Gregorio). Whenever we drive by there I always think or say out loud that the place looks 'kinda neat' and we should check it out... Maybe I'll do it once but plan on a beer as I check out the food! There are always quite a few cars there!

edited to add: I just remembered that there are another bunch of 'log cabin' type places in another part of the Santa Cruz mountains as well--down south by Felton and Boulder Creek, nearer to Santa Cruz--so we may be thinking of different places. I guess I'll just have to check it out sometime!

Edited by ludja (log)

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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There's a new Sri Lankan place in my neighborhood. I walked in and it smelled like mothballs. I beat a hasty retreat. After first claiming I was smelling the "smell of curry," they claimed it was the fragrance they use. Whatever.

Michael aka "Pan"


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A friend and I were wandering on Robson Street in Vancouver looking for someplace to have lunch. Neither of us knew of a good place to go as I had just moved from Banff and he was visiting from Victoria. We were standing outside of an Indian restaurant, looking at the menu, when we noticed movement in the window. A nice-looking family of four were waving to get our attention. When we looked their way, they made subtle but very clear motions that we should keep on moving. Sort of a wry grimace with a slight 'no' shake of the head. I'm sure that restaurant had one of their slowest afternoons that day.

Bob McLeod


The road goes on forever and the party never ends

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In Adams Morgan, DC. A Spanish restaurant with a menu I had eyed with interest many times as I walked past. This would be the day. I tell the waitress just one, but first I have to use the restroom.

From outside I smell something. Hard to place. The door shuts behind itself. I fumble for the light. I find that the toilet is infested with hundreds of maggots, and the putrid smell of god knows what overwhelms me. Did I get maggots up my nose?

I decided to eat elsewhere.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Spun out from the OIBL thread...

What are the warning signs that a restaurant won't be good?

The couple that we usually rely on:

1. A wide assortment of dishes, from a wide assortment of cuisines, that should never be on the same menu. Spaghetti (or pizza) combined with quesadillas and some kind of rare cooked asian-style tuna are usually the tip-offs here.

2. A sushi menu being served in a restaurant that clearly isn't even a little bit Japanese.

3. A dinner menu that includes a complimentary glass of wine.

What other signs do other people use?

I want pancakes! God, do you people understand every language except English? Yo quiero pancakes! Donnez moi pancakes! Click click bloody click pancakes!

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Any restaurant that says "an 18% gratuity will be charged on tables of six/eight or more."

Normally, if that's on the menu, I make sure I leave before the food arrives.

Rich Schulhoff

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

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We went into a new cafe for lunch. It was cold, menu limited, so I took the safe route and ordered a chili cheese dog. It looked odd and the chili looked funny. My son said "tell me it's not Wolf Brand". "No",I said, "I wish it was".

Cooking is chemistry, baking is alchemy.

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  • 1 year later...

You know you're in the wrong place to eat when it is a Japanese steakhouse and all the guys cooking and the girls serving look like refugees from Yale.

(Uh, refugees from Yale wearing traditional Japanese costume, I should say. :smile: )

(Tall, blond refugees from Yale. :biggrin: Not that WASPs can't cook Japanese but it sure didn't seem so in this case, in this place :rolleyes: ) Sigh.

Edited by Carrot Top (log)
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My most specific recent experience of this sort that was this past summer. I walked into a Thai restaurant in Albany NY at about 7 PM on a Friday evening and discovered that I was the only patron in the entire restaurant - in a place that seats about 80 diners.

At this point it was apparent that all the cars in the parking lot had to be for the Hong Kong style Chinese place next door that shared the lot. But I was still willing to give the Thai place a shot. Then I opened the menu and discovered that all the entrees were about 30% to 40% higher in price than comparable Thai restaurants in the area.

The Hong Kong style fried chicken they served me next door about 30 minutes later was quite tasty (friends in the Albany area inform me that the Thai place used to be very busy on weekends - I think their new pricing structure may not be working out too well).

From a more general standpoint I know I'm in the wrong place to eat when I walk in, the joint is close to empty, and the host or maitre'd follows his/her "Do you have a reservation?" inquiry with "I'll see if I can find you a table".

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You know you're at the wrong place when it smells of noxious, not even food-based, fumes.

We spotted a Hawaiian plate lunch restaurant, and you don't really see a lot of those in Northern California. So, we stopped in the hope that we could indulge in a little home-state nostalgia for my husband, who grew up in Hawaii. "Plate lunch" is basically Hawaiian fast food, so the fact that this place was located in a strip mall in an economically "transitional" neighborhood was not necessarily a bad sign. There were cars in the parking lot, but then it was a shared lot for several businesses.

We went inside, and BAM, a horrible smell hit us. I stood there, startled, trying to figure out what the smell could possibly be. Could it be some sort of melted plastic? Was it a roach bomb or some other poison fogging device? Or maybe, it was some kind of cleaning chemical? I hoped it was not the food, or in the food, but knew it had to have penetrated all the food there. There were no other customers and only one visible employee, who was at the cash register and facing the door. As we were about to go, the woman at the cash register, probably the owner, immediately asked us what we would like to order.

My husband, who felt like he simply had no escape at that point, ordered (to go), and I told him that I would wait in the car. The smell CAME WITH ME. I had to roll the windows in the car down to get rid of it. About 15 minutes later, husband and food arrived, both smelling of the stink. I tried (in that I opened the to-go box), but I couldn't eat it. Neither could he.

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