Welcome back to Off the Menu, where we bring you the best and strangest food stories from my email inbox. This week, we have our yearly special -- the best restaurant stories of the year. Enjoy 2016’s best restaurant tales, because there wasn't a whole lot else to enjoy this year. As always, these are real emails from real readers, though names have been changed.
He's a customer here, you know
"My husband and I are dining at a branch of the popular Mexican food restaurant Lindo Michoacãn in Las Vegas. Almost all the tables are full, and the servers are working their butts off to refill margaritas and chip baskets and haul out steaming plates of fajitas.
"A man comes in to place a to-go order. Not pick up, but place. He demands to be seated as he waits. They offer him a seat at the bar, but he insists that since he is a paying customer, he deserves a coveted four-top to himself, despite the waiting groups of dine-in customers. The server acquiesces, only to be flagged down less than a minute later.
"'Where are my free chips and bean dip? I'm a customer here, you know!' he demands. The server calmly explains that a complimentary serving of chips and salsa will be in his to-go order.
"'So I have to wait here hungry?' he roars. Note that at this point there is lively music playing and we are in a booth about 15ft away, and it still sounds like he is screaming across the table at us. The server shrugs and brings out chips and salsa.
"'What about the bean dip? I'm a customer here, you know.' Bean dip arrives. He proceeds to sloppily eat beans, salsa, and chips for the next 20 minutes, even getting a refill when they bring his to-go order. He also insists on a soda, since the salsa is spicier than he likes it and 'water isn't good enough.' He is a customer here, you know.
"He flags down the waiter and demands a second refill of free chips, salsa, and bean dip as his to-go order congeals on the floor beside him. At this point, it looks like eight chimpanzees have been finger-painting with salsa and beans on his tabletop and he is spraying the waiter with masticated chips when he talk-screams.
"After they bring the fresh round, he insists they package it up for him to take home because his wife is waiting on her food, which took quite a bit of time, if you ask him. The server makes the mistake of just bringing him a container to box it up in himself.
"'No, you need to do it. And make sure the salsa and bean dip containers are full and topped off, and I'll need an extra thing of chips. I'm a customer here, you know.'" -- Dana Samuels
Crapping on the server is not an ideal date move
"I used to work at a popular Mexican restaurant in Galveston, Texas. One afternoon the hostess seated me with two guys who were obviously on a date. The (much) older guy was OK-looking, but the younger fellow was hot with a capital 'drool.' The young, hot guy ordered cheese enchiladas and the older guy ordered the taco platter.
"All was going fine in my section until I brought out their food. I put the plate of enchiladas in front of young, hot guy and he thanked me. I put down the taco platter in front of older guy and he immediately exploded and jumped right in my shit. 'I ordered tacos!' he yelled. I was shocked, but I kept my cool and said, 'Sir, these ARE tacos.'
"'No they're not!' he yelled. 'Tacos are made with soft flour tortillas!' Did I mention I brought him crispy-shelled tacos, which were thoroughly described on the menu, and which he had ordered?
"By this time half the restaurant was looking at us, and young, hot guy's face was beet-red. 'I'm sorry, sir,' I said. 'I'll correct it right away.'
"I took his platter into the kitchen and explained to the cooks and manager what had happened, that the guy was a dick, and he wanted soft tacos. The kind, understanding cooks made the order right away so I wouldn't have to deal with older guy complaining about how long it was taking, and brought them out to the table within about five minutes. Seven or so minutes later I stopped by the table with the 'How is everything?' speech, and dickhead ignored me but hot guy looked up, smiled, and said, 'Fine, thank you.'
"I wasn't sure what asshole did for a living but I could hear him talking to hot guy about how great his job was and how important he was. Hot guy was very quiet, ate slowly, didn't touch his grande margarita, and let dickwad do all of the talking. I brought them the check almost immediately without even offering them dessert, because I could hardly wait for them to get out of there. Wad-boy paid with a credit card and tipped me 8%.
"They were getting ready to leave while I was setting the empty table next to them, and dickface said, 'Are you ready to go to the club?' Young guy said calmly, 'I'd prefer that you took me home.'
"Shit-heel said, 'What do you mean?' The young, ever-so-hot guy became my hero when he said, 'I don't want to go out with anyone who would treat a waitress the way you treated ours. In fact, don't bother taking me home; I'm calling a cab.'
"He proceeded to get up, walk to the payphone up front (no cellphones in those days), and call a cab. The scumbag was, to my delight, completely dumbfounded. He sat at the table for a moment then followed hot guy to the front and I watched them outside, my hero calmly waiting for a cab, and the bastard gesticulating like mad, trying to cajole him into not leaving." -- Vanessa Erickson
Your son < crab leg night
"A few years ago while I was in college, I was employed as the bar manager at a local seafood place. The owner was a cool guy and I had worked there starting when I was an undergrad.
"For the most part, the work was easy, the servers were cool, and I got along with the kitchen staff. I say for the most part because every Friday sucked -- Friday was all-you-can-eat crab leg night. CLN (crab leg night) brought out the worst, cheapest people ever. It was not uncommon for a server to get yelled at for taking too long to get more melted butter, or the upset diner that was mad they could not get more legs to go. Also, every CLN, the place was a mess, because the shells got thrown all over the floor. We all hated CLN, but the owner loved it, because he was off and I was in charge.
"The pinnacle of CLN was the night we had a family of four come in. As per usual, the owner was off and I was the only manager there. I was hovering near the host stand when they came in: a father, mother, and two sons. It was during the summer, so they were pushing our casual dress code with the finest NASCAR shirts and jean shorts Walmart sells.
"About a half-hour later, their server came over in a panic, telling me she thought there was something wrong at their table. I went over there and saw that one of the kids was wheezing, turning bright red, and breaking out in hives. I managed to get the father to stop eating long enough to ask if his son was alright. The father told me that his son had a shellfish allergy, and that he told him not to touch anything. I told him it was a seafood place and everything in there was covered in allergens -- it was not safe for his son to be there. At that point, the mother chimed in with, 'I think he is having a hard time breathing.' She then looked at me and asked what she should do.
"Freaking out, because being a bar manager in no way prepared me for handling a medical emergency, I channeled all the medical knowledge I knew from House and asked if they had an EpiPen. Of course they didn't. I told one of the servers to call 911 and shouted to the dining room if anyone had an EpiPen. Thankfully, we had a nurse eating there that had a pen on her, and, seeing the child, she administered it.
"A few minutes later, the paramedics arrived and took the child to the hospital. The last thing the father asked me was if he could get more crab legs to go, because he did not have all he could eat.
"That night, instead of one shift drink, everybody had two." -- Barry Porter
Ned Flanders is a dick in real life
"I worked at an Irish pub for a while, and for the most part we had pretty solid regulars who knew how to behave in a pub/restaurant… and then there was Mr. Schultz.
"Mr. Schultz looked like Ned Flanders and was by his own account some type of big deal in the CPA world (because I guess that's a thing). How did I find out his name was Mr. Schultz? Because that's how this fucking sociopath introduced himself to me and my co-workers. Not, 'Hey, I'm Bob,' just 'Mr. Schultz.' Honestly, we never even knew his first name.
"For some reason no one could determine, our manager was attached to Mr. Schultz's dick, and despite the fact that he was the cheapest, most exacting person, our manager always rolled out the red carpet for him. Here is a small list of things Mr. Schultz accomplished in his time with us.
"-- Created a training manual complete with illustrations on how to pour draft beer to distribute to the bartenders because he believed we were doing it incorrectly.
"-- Decided to bring in a book of Prohibition-era cocktails and demand we make him a random one from 'the book I purchased for the bar' every time he visited, then critique the results like an Iron Chef judge, being sure to tell us where we messed up.
"-- Despite our great state's laws banning minors from being in the bar area, he propped his kids up on both sides of him and was utterly dismayed when we informed him of this law. This happened MULTIPLE times, and his response? He would tell a server to take his kids to the restaurant and sit them at a SEPARATE TABLE and essentially babysit them while he waxed nostalgic upon the finer points of a hot toddy.
"-- Deemed our wine selection inferior (it's an Irish pub, for Christ's sake) and ordered three cases of (real expensive) wine on his own dime and had them delivered to the bar, then made a big production of telling people who didn't give a shit that he was drinking his 'private-label wine from his own private stock.'
" -- Once did us the favor of not sitting at the bar and decided to sit a table with his family. We were on a serious wait, and Mr. Schultz decided the best course of action would be to stand at the host stand, glaring at the hostess and impeding other guests from being sat until she relented and sat him and his family before the other guests on the wait list.
"Finally, FINALLY, our old manager quit and the new guy curtailed Mr. Schultz's activities. Of course, Mr. Schultz came back in and asked for all of his 'gifts' back, and watching him fill a half-empty case of wine with all the stupid shit he had 'gifted to us' (exact quote) over the years was one of the best moments of my entire existence." -- Chris Daniels
I don't think we're ever topping this one
"A few years ago, I worked as a cook in a cafe/brunch/fancy lunch joint. It was kind of a hip, artsy place, and tried to cater to a progressive crowd. This wasn't an especially progressive town, though, and we had as many of the same rednecks come in as every other place in town.
"There were all kinds of ridiculous customers, but the ones we all really hated were the after-church crowd. They did nothing for business, because the place would have been busy anyway. Most of them were people who only went out to eat after church and who seemed mystified by the whole experience. Special orders, complaints over nothing, lousy/nonexistent tips, taking forever to leave even when there is obviously a line of customers. Usually, if I was on a Sunday shift, we would talk crap in the back kitchen, call them 'satanists,' etc.
"At one point, our local city council was considering a 'controversial' bill to address housing discrimination against LGBT people (because not allowing people to be bigots is religious discrimination, right?). This had become the topic of chatter among bible thumpers all over town.
"One busy Sunday during this time while we were totally slammed, one individual came up to the front counter and pulled our owner/chef (my boss) away from the kitchen, who was usually always ready to talk to a customer and be friendly. The guy asked my boss if we were a 'Christian-friendly' establishment. Then my boss, who had three minutes earlier been in the back talking about all the 'f***ing water-drinking Jesus f***s,' said, 'Of course, sir, we're friendly to everyone!' The man then said, 'So you don't employ or serve Sodomites?'
"It took my boss a second to figure out what the hell the guy was talking about. When he did, my boss (a hairy, greasy, definitely extremely hetero dude) had had about enough. He leaned over, kissed one of the male line cooks on the cheek, and said, 'We're all Sodomites! Would you like to see a dessert menu, or do you just want the check?'" -- Craig Gallo
She never gave a thought about messing with people's food
"I used to work at a mom-and-pop gas station/convenience store/restaurant. The restaurant was pretty much cafe food. Almost everything came out of a box, but the owner would swear to customers that everything was homemade.
"The owner was a heavy-set, loud woman. And when I say loud, I mean you could hear her in the restaurant when you were in the store part of the place. I used to call her the Barney Monster. She was like a cross between a big purple Barney and Cookie Monster. Whenever she ate, which was all the time, she'd be eating, talking loudly with spit and food flying everywhere, contaminating everything. She never gave a thought about messing with people's food. She'd sit down with customers, reach over and take fries and stuff off people's plates, and eat it. I even saw her fight with her sister and mother over food in the buspan numerous times. They'd even pull uneaten rolls out of the bustub and place them back into the bag on the line in the kitchen.
"But she just couldn't help but to jack people's food. For example, one morning I was on the line cranking out breakfast. I had just scrambled some eggs, plated them with toast and hash browns, and put the plate in the window for pickup.
"I went to go do something else. She was out taking cash, wiping down tables, stealing food, etc. When I turned around, there she was with both bare hands in the scrambled eggs!
"I was like, ‘What the hell are you doing?!’
"'I'm just fluffing them up,' she said.
"I screamed a curse, took the plate (eggs and all), and threw it in the trash, saying, ‘Well, let me just make this again!'
"They also served something they referred to as pie. It was a simple compote from a bucket, ladled into a bowl, and some crust placed on top and baked. This one particular time I saw her in the prep room making them. As I alluded to, you simply scooped the filling into a bunch of bowls, then went back and placed the crusts on top. But, no, not with the Barney Monster!
"I stood in the doorway and watched as she ladled the compote into a bowl, scraped the remaining filling from the ladle with her finger, licked her finger, then proceeded to get the next scoop of filling, put it in a bowl, scrape with her finger, and lick it off again. I almost died right there on the spot.
"I haven't worked there in many years, but I relayed some of these stories to a friend of mine. He recently came to visit for a week, and absolutely had to meet this Barney Monster I had spoken of. We got a table and decided just to split a large basket of fries.
"We got the fries, then she spotted me, sat down, and proceeded to screw with our fries. She went and got a plate and dumped them on it. She got up, came back with her own plate of fries, and proceeded to join us. Barney Monster got halfway through her fries, then dumped her plate onto ours.
"She'll never change." -- John Hellickson
Not today, Fry Lady!
"When I was 18, I was a relief manager at a Captain D's in a coastal city near Mobile, Alabama. Aside from 'relief' being a euphemism for being 'relieved' of extra pay and staff support, I rolled with it pretty well.
"The busiest time of year at 'the Captain' was Lent. On Friday nights there would be an endless line out the door and drive-thru from 5:30pm until 11pm when we closed -- picture hundreds of people ordering a ton of mostly fried seafood nonstop for hours. On one such Friday, our perpetual 50-ticket-deep nightmare had reduced us to a series of grunts and simple commands as we bore the onslaught -- behind! Hot! Fish! Hushpups! 26/30s! Knife! 26/30s! Fries! Fries! Fries!!!!
"In walks the Fry Lady.
"Her MO was consistent. She'd eat most of her fries, then complain they weren't hot enough and demand more. We'd give her new hot ones. This process repeated sometimes five to eight times in a row in a single night. I'd told both the owner and manager about her before, but they insisted I suck it up. 'The customer is always right.'
"Predictably, that night Fry Lady cut in front of the line and complained. I took the next batch directly out of the fryer with tongs and dumped them onto a plate. I was aiming for scar tissue with that batch.
"No such luck. Fry Lady returned. The counter person rolled her eyes as she gave me the bad news. I sighed. That time I raised the basket of fries above the pass-through window -- dripping with hot grease -- so Crazy Time could clearly see it. I put them directly onto a big new plate and sent it out. It was about five orders' worth.
"The Fry Lady glared. I glared back, then got back to work. Fifteen minutes later, Fry Lady was back again.
"Backstory: while I was living in the 'polite South' (a total crock of shit) at the time, I was actually born and spent my earlier years in Miami, FL in the mid-'70s and early '80s, then an insane, coke-fueled nightmare-land of random violence and corruption. I was also raised in part by my first-generation Sicilian grandfather who hailed from New Jersey -- a child of the Great Depression. As such, when pushed to a certain point, I could be less than magnanimous.
"I took my apron off, pushed through the swinging door, and stared down Fry Lady with the rage of 1,000 suns. Seething but composed, I told her in a low voice: 'I'm not playing this game with you anymore. We don't have time for this shit, lady. I need you and your family to leave now or I'm calling the fucking police and having have your ass thrown out in front of all these people. Understood?'
"It was pure New Jersey -- not a hint of my newly acquired redneck drawl or charm present. Stunned, she shook angrily, but slowly backed away to her table, where they quickly picked up their things and left. I was a bit surprised, actually. I expected her husband and teenage son to 'protect her honor,' as Southern men are inclined to do. They didn't.
"Fry Lady called the owner that evening. The next day I walked in, figuring I'd be fired. It was worth it. To his credit, though, the owner said that if she ever came back, we could refuse service.
"Several weeks later, that's exactly what we did. She came around the corner and, like a lightning bolt, my manager was out of the kitchen, pointing in her face, 'No!!! No!!! No!!! You leave right now!!! Right now!!! Leave!!! Now!! Get out!!!'
"I found out later she was pulling the same bullshit at other Captain D's across the city and county. The owner eventually banned her from all five of the ones he owned." -- Roger Freeland
The blow-up doll murderer
"A number of years ago I was working as a volunteer with at-risk teens. One night, a group of teens and I helped move a bunch of furniture an older couple was donating to the thrift store that funded the program. In the mix of things, the teens found two male blow-up dolls, and the kids lovingly named their new companions Randy and Karl. They looked exactly like Wayne Newton. To cap off the night of furniture-moving and blow-up doll shenanigans, we stopped at a local IHOP for dinner -- my treat. Despite their pleas, I maintained that the kids could NOT bring the blow-up dolls into the IHOP (they don't go over this in volunteer training, I just have great instincts).
"So, disappointed as they were, we went into the IHOP Randy-and-Karl-less. It was about 9pm, so aside from the six of us we almost had the place to ourselves. Halfway through our meal, a couple of the kids began to snicker and I turned around to see that before we came in, one of them had propped Karl in the bushes outside of the dining room window, forehead pressed against the glass, staring us down. He looked sad, left out of the fun.
"Suddenly, Karl disappeared into the darkness. We couldn't figure out what happened until we saw an older disheveled man standing in the light of the parking lot street lamp go mega-Hulk on poor Karl, tearing his head off, leaving his body deflating on the asphalt. A few of our guys were pissed -- I'll admit it wasn't cool -- until psycho blow-up doll killer entered the restaurant. Some of our guys froze while others hounded down their food so we could get the hell out of there.
"When our waitress addressed this man, it became evident that he wasn't your average unhinged patron, but rather was the manager of the IHOP. He resumed his shift with Karl's head rolled up in the back pocket of his ripped jeans, a keepsake for all to see. He didn't speak a word to us, didn't look our way -- nothing. Total business as usual." -- Melanie Gordon
Like the end of Ghostbusters, but streaked with blood
"Through high school and into college, I worked at a hot dog stand in Chicago called Fluky's. Somewhat surprisingly, it was a great job. The employees were a mix of high school students, burnouts, and illegal immigrants, and when we weren't just eating ridiculous amounts of food in the back, we generally just horsed around, drinking and smoking pot in the alley. I mean, everyone else drank and smoked pot -- I was way too boring in high school. Anyway, if the owner wasn't in the office, nothing would get done.
"So one Saturday, I'm working the drive-thru and it's slammed. We'd just gotten it put in, and it was the only hot dog place within miles with a drive-thru, so if anyone wanted a hot dog and didn't want to get out of the car, we were it. These were the days before electronic orders, so we had to call burgers and Polish sausage into the grill, and get the rest ourselves.
"In the middle of this huge rush, these guys come through the drive-thru. The owner of the place was in the office, and the drive-thru was piped in there, so he heard everything. They ordered a ton of food: burgers, fries, and drinks. The order came out to over $30, which in 1993, was a crap-load of food. In the middle of the rush, it took forever, and the cars were backed up the entire length of the drive-thru. There was a curb, so there wasn't even a way to pull out, and the lot was filled, so there was nowhere for them to go. It took about 10 minutes to get their food, which is an eternity on the drive-thru, with cars honking behind them and people coming up to the window to yell at us.
"I finally have their order ready, and I read it back to these two guys, probably college students, definitely stoned. I get about halfway through, and the driver says, 'Oh, wait, no. That was what we wanted to get at McDonald's.' They then drive away, leaving bags of food behind.
"The next half-hour is hell, with dozens of incredibly pissed-off customers to deal with. I'm apologizing and calling the manager over constantly. Then I hear a familiar voice over the drive-thru: it's the same guys, laughing and placing a second huge order, this time for hot dogs, Italian beefs, and shakes. Again, it all goes to hell. Everything takes forever, and I've got eight large handmade shakes to make, each of which is a multi-step process. That alone takes 15 minutes, at the end of which the first few shakes have melted. Finally, they arrive at the window, I've got their order ready, I'm dripping with sweat and the floor is littered with wrappers and food. I lean out, give them the total, and the driver laughs.
"'What took so long? Anyway, I forgot my wallet, so just cancel the order.'
"I can barely understand what he said, it's so inconceivable that he would do that. After a couple seconds, someone plugs my brain back in and I see red. Like, literally. I used to get nosebleeds, and one suddenly goes off, and blood is streaming down my face. I turn to the counter, pick up a four-count tray of large chocolate shakes, and hurl it through the window into their car. It exploded magnificently, and I had dripped blood into it as well. The inside of their car looked like the end of Ghostbusters, streaked with blood. They start screaming, and I just turned around, bloody and covered with the splashback of chocolate shake, dripping sweet.
"The owner comes out to yell at me, takes one look at me, and just sends me on break. The entire incident was never spoken of again." -- Greg Taurian
Sweaty flesh and God knows what else
"I was managing at a mid-level Western-themed steakhouse in the early 2000s that served decent food but had the most tacky atmosphere you can imagine. Mounted animal heads, lots of Spuds MacKenzie posters, and neon beer lights were the highlights. We also boasted a large party room that could hold up to 50 people and be rented for special occasions. I think we rented it out maybe two times in the three years I worked there.
"This party room essentially became overflow storage for the restaurant -- or a place for servers to sneak cigs/bowls and the occasional pants shenanigans spot for the staff. It had a wooden door with a window and blinds, so it was a sure sign to any manager on duty that if the blinds were closed and the door was shut, then shenanigans were happening. Most importantly, this room did not have a lock on it.
"As most restaurant managers do, I drank heavily during my shifts. When I closed the restaurant, I would simply stay there and drink alone (high-fives!), but when I was the early out I would take off and head to the bars down the street to meet friends. To get to my apartment from the bars I would have to drive back the other direction, actually passing the restaurant on my way home. On this night, I had left at around 8 and left the other manager -- a nice guy in his mid-30s -- to close the restaurant. We closed at 10, and if you had your shit together and the place was empty you could be out the door by 10:15. I left the bars around 11 and headed home.
"As I approached the restaurant on my way home, I saw that the bar lights were left on -- not a huge deal, it happened sometimes. But as I looked closer, I noticed a whole bunch of cars parked behind the restaurant… where you'd think they would not be seen. I became concerned that one of our managers was treating his friends to an open bar after hours, which is super-douchey but had happened several times during my time there. I felt I needed to check it out.
"I walked in the kitchen door and it was pretty silent, but I could hear muffled music coming from somewhere. I peeked around the kitchen and there was no sign of anyone, but it smelled as if food had been prepared recently. I made my way out to the dining area, and while there was no one there, there was a strand of tables pushed together and the remnants of some type of appetizer buffet. I stared directly at the door of the party room and actually thought for a second whether I wanted to open it or just turn around and hope I passed out and forgot about the whole affair.
"No such luck: The nice manager who was closing that night came out of the door… wearing nothing but a party mask and a condom.
"Remarkably, he didn't see me and headed off to the bathroom (not wearing shoes, and that's fucking gross, even after what I was about to see). I opened the party room door just enough to peek in and there it was: about 30 people of all colors and sizes, male and female, just banging each other. They had lined the floor with air mattresses and sheets, and there were chairs and tables for different positions, all of which were being fully utilized. It was sensory overload. The room smelled like a nightmare, just sweaty flesh and God knows what else. At one point a woman -- who I soon realized was my manager's wife – realized I was there. At that exact moment the manager tapped me on the shoulder as a hush came over the room.
"I don't think I even said anything -- it was beyond words. My fellow manager begged and pleaded for me not to tell the GM or throw it up to corporate, and made all sorts of thin promises that a person makes when he is desperate not to get in trouble. I thought about it for a moment and figured that as long as he cleaned up the mess and made sure the inventory numbers weren't all fucked up I could keep his little secret. He thanked me profusely, then went back in the room and told his friends the good news, which was met with a cheer.
"The next day everything was spotless and there was no trace of what had happened. I looked on the daily sheet and it read 'District Managers Meeting, 11:30-3:00 PM, Party Room.'" -- Craig Devers
We're all fighting our own mustard war
"When I was in high school, I did my time at the local McDonald's. The place was an extraordinary cesspit, but the worst was the mustard guy.
"He was a repeat offender of completely ignoring the protocol of entering the drive-thru lane by driving around the building and past the menu, a process which sets off an alert within the restaurant and lets someone know you're there ready to order. Instead, he would swoop in from the other side of the lot and do a U-turn every time, ignoring the pressure pad and creeping up to the back window sideways. You'd have no idea he was there until he was banging on the window in a full-on froth, certain that the whole ordeal was YOUR fault for not just standing there at the window waiting for his arrival. Taking his pissed-off order was bad enough, but serving it to him at the pickup area was 1 billion times worse. When he was coming your way, you'd know it, because the order on the screen would always, always say:
"2 CH BRGR
"That's right. He wanted his cheeseburgers soaked with mustard. They had to be sloppy, inedible. They had to smear mustard down the inside of the bag. The wax paper wrapping had to slide off, more mustard than paper. They had to be drenched with an insane amount of mustard.
"The grill people were familiar with him and had a method of pleasing him: they would basically soak the meat, put cheese on, soak the cheese, then soak both sides of the bun with mustard, then sort of fold it all together. By the time they were done, the whole place smelled like that nostril-stinging, antibacterial gel-smelling McMustard. You had to use a napkin to take the cheeseburgers directly from the grill person who made them (they would stain the metal chute otherwise) so you didn't get the yellow dye all over your hands. They were terrible.
"One night, after handling this process flawlessly, I gave the guy his bag of mustard burgers. I noticed out of the corner of my eye that he lingered in the spot for a moment after I closed the window, but he slowly drove away. Minutes later, he was back, and I only knew this from the muffled screaming coming from the other side of the window. I carefully slid it open and there he was, a lap full of soggy, sloppy yellow food, mustard smeared all over his shirt and pants, mustard all over his steering wheel, mustard in his beard. And he was freaking out -- about THERE NOT BEING ENOUGH MUSTARD.
"I calmly told him that we would make his burgers again, and the grill person handed me two of the nastiest balls of mustard bread I had ever seen in my life. We even filled a child-size drink cup with more mustard for him. I brought him the new 'burgers' and handed them to him with an apology, which he ignored. He opened the bag and inspected the mess, and then hit the gas and made it almost all the way around the corner before reversing, just to splatter the original, not-mustardy-enough burgers all over the drive-thru window.
"So that's how I got to spend the rest of the night, standing out there with a spray bottle, scrubbing at globs of mustard in the crevices of the sliding window, stepping out of the way and waiting, covered in mustard and in tears, between the incessant parade of drive-thru customers. Because of this experience, I'm EXCEEDINGLY nice to people in service positions, probably to a creepy degree, even if they're terrible or rude or whatever. It helps to remember that everyone is fighting their own mustard war." -- Jordan Waterston
Greg's TAYSTEEEEE adventure
"I was enjoying a guys weekend in Chicago in the late '90s which included plenty of drinking and stupidity only guys in their mid-20s could appreciate. My friends, all in med school and law school, were there with me, the guy who made the sparkling decision to work in restaurants as a valid career path. I had educated my buddies on how to behave in a dining establishment, so if I taught them anything, it was how to be respectful and tip well.
"We were seated at a large table for our party of eight at one of the ever-present brewery/bar/restaurant amalgamations that sprung up in that time period. Not my choice, but I rolled with it, because it was fairly inexpensive and seemed to have all the things my friends enjoyed. After the hostess had provided the menus, she glanced behind her and seemingly got a nod from a lady whom we thought would be our server. 'Your server tonight will be… (big exhale)... Greg.' Unless this woman was named Greg, she was not going to be our server for the evening.
"Greg appeared roughly five minutes later, a tall, stocky guy with a huge beard and beer belly that indicated he liked to party. My friends thought this dude was going to be awesome. Only thing was, during all that time in grad school, my friends didn't have the time to experiment with a litany of mind-altering drugs like their friend the restaurant manager had. It was clear to me within seconds: Greg was tripping fucking balls.
"Greg stared at us for an uncomfortable amount of time, before someone asked him what he would recommend for a drink. Greg leaned in, cupped his hands around his mouth, and whispered almost inaudibly '... beers …' Then he walked away. Literally just strode off somewhere else. I quickly informed my friends that all the signs were there that this dude was in rough shape, but before I could finish, the woman the hostess had nodded to earlier came by and started taking our drink orders. Her name was Julia, and apparently she was Greg's handler for the evening. She brought our drinks and took app orders, before appearing once again with Greg to attempt to take an entrée order. Greg was shaking by now, and had sweated through his uniform, and was in no way capable of being at work, let alone out of direct medical supervision. Valiantly, Greg recommended the seafood pasta and when Julia prompted him to list the ingredients, Greg did his best to say 'shrimp… and other shit.' As we giggled at the hilarity of that comment, Greg reared back, pointed his face to the ceiling, and bellowed 'IT'S TAAAAAYYYYSTTEEEEEEE!' The entire place came to a halt, people were staring, you could hear a pin drop. Greg took that as his cue to unleash another primal delivery of his 'IT'S TAAAAAYYSSSTEEEEE!' tagline. Then, once again, he just walked away.
"Julia crushed it the rest of the evening, and she was handling two sections with little to no help from anyone else. As we were getting ready to settle up, I heard a commotion coming, and looked toward the back of the place, only to notice Greg trotting in between tables, wearing no shirt or shoes while being pursued by what I can only assume were the shift managers for the evening. Greg was skipping and giggling and evading restraint at every turn. It was the happiest I'd ever witnessed an individual." -- Craig Devers
Quite honestly one of the best stories I've ever received
"My family (parents, maternal grandparents, aunt, aunt's then-boyfriend) and I are on vacation in Maui. I am an adorably chubby 3-year-old with a really loud belly laugh I employ every few minutes because, I don't know, everything is just fucking hilarious to a 3-year-old. Also, I think I insisted upon only eating Gerber's sweet potato baby food goop at this point, and despite still being in diapers, I was smart enough to have conversations and shit. I just didn't wanna grow up, and I didn't give a crap about how I acted in public as long as it didn't piss my parents off to the point they'd take me home. I think I may have flashed half the restaurant because fuck you, I'm a fat 3-year-old covered in non-Newtonian fluid sweet potato.
"ANYWAY. My grandparents are hard-nosed heavy drinkers from Jersey City. My grandma in particular is... well, you'll see.
"So, we go out to dinner. (I insist on this, because I liked covering myself in sweet potato in public and then groping myself as I played with my fat rolls or something. It's performance art, you judgmental little shits.) We go to a standard touristy bar/grill, with standard bar/grill rock music playing in the background, and I frankly forget what everyone else eats. I ate my goddamn sweet potato slime and I LIKED IT THANK YOU VERY MUCH.
"My grandparents drink a lot, and no one tries to stop them because they usually respond to that by just doubling their next drink order.
"They. Are. LOADED. Stupid-weird-giddy-Jersey City-old-people loaded. My grandma is... er... dancing? Along to each song. We eat, the food is fine, service is good, yadda yadda. And then Peeves the fucking Poltergeist possesses my grandma or something. What happens?
"Fat baby me is sad that grandma stopped singing. 'Again, grandma, again! Again again again!'
"Billy Joel's 'Movin' Out' comes on.
"Grandma determinedly sways back and forth, not at all in time with the song, but something has changed in her. Fat baby me is giggling because hey, my grandma is sooooo crazy lol where are my sweet potatoes lemme touch my baby dick for no reason. According to every retelling of the story, my mom and my aunt's Grandma Spidey Sense has been activated, because grandma drank like this even while raising them. (Ah, the '80s. Such a wholesome time.) When DGSS goes off, grandma is about to do something inexplicably crazy..
"'He works at Mr. Cacciatore's down on Sullivan St'
"'Across from the medical center'
"'Yeah, and he's tradin' in his Chevy for a'
"The chorus ends, Billy Joel no longer cares about the Cadillac. Grandma does, though.
"My mom's shooting daggers across the table at her mother because of the singing. Both her and my aunt are frantically shout-whispering 'Mom! Mom!' at her in an attempt to snap the beast out of its trance. Eventually, it works.
"Fat baby me is sad that grandma stopped singing. 'Again, grandma, again! Again again again!'
"'CA-DI-LACK-ACK-YACK-YACK-AH-AH-AGH--' (coughs, slurps her drink)
"The entire restaurant is staring at us. My grandma has been quite loud. The waitstaff is crowded by the host stand in stunned silence.
"'Mom! Stop it!'
"'Again, grandma, again!' I was an evil baby. Still am.
"The next round of the chorus comes on, this time you can never argue with a crazy mi-mi-mi-mi-mind.
"Grandma: 'YACK-YACK-YACK-YACK-YACK --'
"Entire restaurant: (agape, pointing and whispering)
"Waitstaff: (prob wondering if someone will tip more because of this)
"Me: (fat giggling baby covered in sweet potatoes)
"Grandpa: 'SHUT UP, MAYH!' (my best approximation of his JC-accented version of her name)
"Grandma: 'SHUT UP, JAWGE, YACK YACK YACK YACK YACK --'
"Family: (so ashamed)
"We left soon after. My parents tipped well." -- Ken Garretson
An OTM first
[Editor's Note: This is a unique OTM entry, because in two years I've never run a story in worst customers from the terrible customer's own perspective. This guy, though… wow. Just wow.]
"I was in law school and it was Friday night after a rough week of classes and exams. Along with several classmates and our dates we went to a small, locally owned restaurant near the university which served mostly Italian food. Our party grew as the evening progressed, ending up with about 12 people. Many pitchers of beer were consumed along with suitable pastas and pizzas, but the service was slow and inattentive and when it came it was condescending and arrogant, correcting our pronunciation of Italian terms on the menu. It took forever to get drink refills and food was served cold while our waiter congregated with other servers near the bar engaged in chitchat.
"By the time we were ready to go, everybody at the table had had enough of the poor, contemptuous service. It was agreed that I would handle the check when it came after collecting shares from my friends. We were paying cash and when the waiter returned my change I left one penny in the tray and we departed. When I reached my car in the adjacent parking lot, our waiter came to me and said, 'Mister, you forgot something.' 'What is that?' I asked. 'A penny,’ he said.
“I responded, 'I didn't forget it, you earned it,' which left him speechless and our crowd highly amused.
“Maybe you will find a use for this story in a future Off the Menu feature." -- Gary Danvers [Editor’s Note: In fact I did find a use for it, Gary, just not the way you expected me to! Congratulations, you are unbelievably terrible.]
Do you have a restaurant, home-cooking, or any other food-adjacent story you’d like to see appear in Off the Menu (on ANY subject, not just this one)? Please email WilyUbertrout@gmail.com with "Off the Menu" in the subject line (or you can find me on Twitter @EyePatchGuy). Submissions are always welcome! Also, we are now requesting submissions for holiday-themed stories, so if you have any stories pertaining to Thanksgiving and Christmas, please send them in!
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