Off The Menu

Restaurant Customers Who Might Be Saints

Off the menu
Jason Hoffman/Thrillist

Welcome to Thrillist's final edition of Off The Menu, where we bring you the best and strangest food stories from my email inbox. To close out the series, we have genuinely heartwarming stories of amazing restaurant customers. As always, these are real emails from real readers, though names have been changed.

The world’s most reasonable customer

“I was having lunch at a TGI Friday's with a friend of mine. The restaurant was fairly empty, only a couple of tables occupied. There was a 20-something girl sitting alone and reading something, keeping notes and looking pretty distracted.

“When the waiter served her a salad, she smiled, thanked him, and returned to her pile of books. She was sitting right next to our table, so we were in luck for what was about to come. She started moving her fork around in the salad, not really noticing what she was doing, taking small bits and eating them without even looking. Suddenly she stopped, fork midway to her mouth, took a good, long look and placed it back on the plate. She stopped eating but did not call a waiter over.

“When he came to check on her, she said: ‘Can you please take the salad away?’ He asked if there was a problem, and she replied ‘I wouldn't want to be a bother, but there's a caterpillar in it, and I happen to have had my protein for the day.’ She said it in a cheerful tone, not in an ironic way. The waiter panicked, apologized profusely, and removed the salad immediately.

“Not long afterwards, the manager arrived to the table to apologize personally and tell her they were replacing the salad, which would be comped. She smiled again, told him not to worry, she did not need it to be comped and the caterpillar was actual proof that their greens were fresh and tasty.

“The waiter came with a new salad. The girl fiddled with the greens once again and did not even take a bite. The server came back and asked anxiously if everything was OK. She replied, and I quote: ‘It looks amazing, and there certainly is no caterpillar in here. But you forgot that I’m allergic to celery and did not remove it, like you did with the first one. Now, I wouldn't want to become a liability by eating this. Besides, bloated, red, and puffy doesn't look good on me.’ She was not the least bit upset, though the waiter was mortified.

“The manager came over once again, and she reassured him it was no problem at all, told him the server was great and very helpful, and that mistakes happen all the time. No biggie.

“In the end the server comped her a giant chocolate-covered dessert as a thank you for her impossibly nice demeanor, and she left him a note on the receipt. Yeah, we checked it out, how could we not? Wouldn't you?

“‘You will need it for a good drink to calm you down, you look like you deserve it’ was written, under a $50 tip on a less than $10 meal after the comped salad and dessert.” -- Christina Spiriakos[Editor’s Note: Holy crap.]

Does your neighbor have crabs

“The summer of 2005 I was working at an upscale sushi restaurant in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. Every night we had a huge specials list, and all of the servers would stand around the board in the kitchen memorizing them. On this particular evening we had a delicious cream of crab soup (with a brown-butter drizzle) and peppered, seared duck breast wrapped in phyllo dough as the special appetizer.

“I went out to my first table, a nice couple there for dinner while on vacation. I got their drink order and chatted with them a bit as I dropped their order. They were my first table that night so I wasn’t in a rush.  I asked if they would be interested in hearing about the specials. They were. I started by mentioning the duck breast appetizer.

“‘Tonight we have peppered, seared duck breast. It’s wrapped in a phyllo --’

“‘Oh, stop. We can’t eat that. Our neighbor... he raises ducks. They’re like pets to him now.’

“‘Oh ok, Well, I don’t know if your neighbor has crabs or not... but --’

“At this point I realized what I just said. While trying to segue my way from the appetizer to the soup I had implied their neighbor may have VD.

“‘Listen, he’s our neighbor. We don’t know him that well.’

“‘Oh my. Um. I meant... ’  

“I turned beet red as they both laughed so hard I thought they might tip the table over. I turned and walked straight out of the restaurant to compose myself. They left me a huge tip.” -- Alissa Carpenter

Off the Menu
Jason Hoffman/Thrillist

Recovering addicts to the rescue

“It was another Saturday morning shift at a busy neighborhood coffee shop across the street from a city park. This auspicious morning a scrawny young man came in and was exhibiting all the typical confusion of somebody who had never been to our particular coffee chain (NOT Starbucks) before and didn't really like coffee anyway. After several minutes of explaining that we don't have frappuccinos but we do have this other type of sugary blended nonsense, he finally ordered a large flavored version. Then he "remembered" that he didn't have any money, but he was in this class next door and he would totally pay us back later, he just really needed that sugary blended nonsense.

“Now, I and my coworker Mary both worked at this shop all the time -- if you were a regular, or had even been in once or twice, we would remember you and give you whatever you wanted. But if I've never seen you before and you just made me engage in a five-minute discussion about a stupid drink that you knew you couldn't pay for? No way.

"Dude leaves, we go back to the line that's built up behind him.

“One of the stressful things about our shop on a Saturday morning was this group of 20-30 male recovering addicts from a strictly religious recovery program who'd show up at some point in the day. If they were good, it was their one treat for the week to come to the coffee shop with the program staff and walk in the park across the street. Their vans would all pull up, then we'd be slammed with a bunch of extra espresso, extra flavor, extra everything orders. It was a pain, but when coffee and sugar are the strongest drugs you're going get, and this is the only place you get to go besides church, we could sympathize going a little overboard with it all.

“By the time we'd served the whole recovery group and caught up, we'd forgotten all about scrawny dude... but then he was back! He had borrowed some money from the security guard at his class, and really wanted that large mocha blended nonsense. Fine, no problem. I told him the total -- but even his borrowed money was not quite enough to cover it. He had enough for a small one with no added flavors, but that was it. Enraged at not being able to get what he so desperately desired, dude swore at us, reached in the tip cup, grabbed a handful of cash, and took off! I sighed, chalking it up to another moment of barista injustice, while my coworker Mary whizzed past me and after the dude in a burst of 'not today motherfucker!' adrenaline. I was now left in the store alone with a line of confused customers who I asked to hold on for a second while I called the police.

“Apparently, Mary chased after the guy yelling ‘you took our money!’ She caught up to him in the street and grabbed his arm (and belatedly realized he could have had a weapon and this might not be a good idea... ). He fought her off and kept moving, when suddenly the group of 20-30 recovering addicts pumped up on caffeine and God who were hanging out outside sprang into action. Scrawny dude went down hard, and despite his squirming, he was no match for a bunch of big guys really happy to be on the right side of the law for once.

“When the cops got there and sorted things out, they got us our money back and made a report and all that. Turns out the guy was on probation, and the class he was attending next door? Anger management.” -- Carrie Fiers

The Dippin’ Dots guardian angel

“I work at the Dippin' Dots stall in the San Marcos Premium Outlet Mall in San Marcos, Texas. This past summer was my first summer working there. Luckily I am in a covered kiosk with an A/C unit, but 60 degrees from an old unit versus 100 degrees at the window I stand at tends to cancel each other out to a humid and lukewarm 80. So it was very hot and busy, with the average shift being nine hours (small stall = one person working at a time).

“So I was working a particularly long shift (10am-10pm) and I had put up a sign in order to prod for more tips. They usually say something like ‘All tips go towards bills, school supplies, etc.’ For this shift, however, I was short on rent money since I had ended another and my boyfriend lost his job at Sonic. So I wrote that all tips go towards my rent so we wouldn't be kicked out of our apartment. A lot of people were very generous, tipping an extra dollar or two, sometimes throwing a $5 in. I was very grateful for any amount anyone could give.

“I had a rather large line and was working my way through it when one lady got to the front. I took her order, and as I was scooping her ice cream, she asked me about the rent sign, asking if it applied to me. I said yes and that all tips went home with me at the end of the night. She nodded and handed her credit card to me for payment. I don't look at the receipts from a long line until it’s over, when I then tally the tips once I get a break. After I took the order of the guy behind her, the last person, I sat down and looked at my receipts. On hers, she wrote $100 on the tip line and ‘Good luck with rent.’ I scrambled outside to find her, but she was gone. I made a total of $188 that night and was able to pay rent on time. I will never forget her act of generosity, and I plan to do the same when I have the means.” -- Amanda Jones

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This has been Off The Menu, where we've posted your stories of every stripe since we've been on Thrillist. Though this is Thrillist's last edition, the series will live on. For updates and news, please follow C.A. Pinkham @EyePatchGuy.