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 old standby: horrible, horrible customers. As always, these are real emails from real readers, though names have been changed.
Grandpa's magic reappearing tooth
"My family owns a little country café in a suburb of Houston. One night, a large family came in and placed their order. Grandpa had the chopped steak. A few minutes after their food was served, grandpa asked for the manager.
"Grandpa: 'I found a tooth in my food!' *hands the tooth to the manager*
"Manager: 'I'm so sorry! I have no idea how that could have happened. It must have come from the vendor like that.'
"Grandpa: 'I certainly hope this doesn't happen very often. The health department will shut you down!'
"Manager: 'I'm so sorry, sir! We'll comp your family’s dinner.'
"Grandpa: 'Well, I guess that'd be OK.'
"After they left, we all figured we would be reading a complaint in the Houston Chronicle the next week.
"Over an hour later, we got a phone call:
"Grandpa: 'Yeah, I'm the guy that found the tooth in his food…'
"Manager: 'Yes, sir?'
"Grandpa: 'Well, it seems that I'm missing a tooth, so it must have been mine. Can I get it back?'" -- Paul Gray
How do beef work
"It was the afternoon after the Super Bowl, which to me is any other Monday. I'd been working at this slightly upscale, locally focused bar and grill for a few years, and had taken my first table shortly after noon. It was a pair of ladies in their early 30s. I brought them their waters as requested and asked if they had any questions about the menu.
"'Yeah, these elk tacos. What's elk like?' one asked.
"'Well, elk is actually fairly similar to beef or venison. It's a ground elk bolognese in the taco, and the taste is very close to lean ground beef. But I find it slightly sweeter.' This question comes up fairly often, and I was prepared.
"Her brows furrowed. She blinked at me a couple times and asked, 'So, it's, like, white meat?'
"I tried again. 'No… it's red meat, similar to ground beef…' I trailed off. This was a line of stupid questioning I was not prepared for.
"Her brows were still furrowed. Mine probably had, too. "OK,' she said slowly, 'but what's it TASTE like?'
"I paused for a lot longer than I should have before again sputtering something about ground beef, but sweeter. She blinked. I blinked. I was out of options, so I jokingly pretended to be recovering from the Super Bowl and offered to grab her a small taste of the bolognese from the kitchen.
"She and her friend laughed, joked about how they were recovering too, declined the taster, and proceeded to order a pair of garden salads with chicken." -- Erica Summers
Re-commence the Great Egg Wars
"I run a small country inn where we serve a full breakfast for our guests in the morning. Last weekend I had a guest request scrambled eggs, half white and half yolk.
"I asked if they wanted regular scrambled eggs but she insisted that it be half white and half yolk. I said this sounds like an egg, but she was adamant that it be half white and half yolk.
"We cooked her regular scrambled eggs and she was very happy." -- Ken Fiers
There is no such thing as an "Arby's"
"In my late teens/early 20s I worked at Arby's. I started as a cashier, then worked my way up to GM. This was 20 years ago.
"In the eight years I worked there, there were COUNTLESS customer-induced horrors. The one constant, however, was the inability of seemingly normal people to just order the food they wanted. Maybe it's just me, but I usually have a general idea of the type of sandwich I want from a fast-food restaurant. If I'm in doubt, I'll read the menu, ask a question, whatever. Generally, I believe what the cashier/server answers. I figure they know what they're talking about.
"Daily, customers came in and ordered an 'Arby's' or 'five Arby's.' There is no sandwich called an 'Arby's,' but since I am not an idiot, I understand context and could usually figure out what they meant. Still, imagine going to McDonald's and ordering a 'McDonald's.'
"The worst was when they'd argue with me: 'I want five Arby's to go. That's all.’ Me: 'OK, will that be the five Arby-Q sandwiches on special for $5? Those are roast beef mixed with BBQ sauce, like a Sloppy Joe; or did you want five regular plain roast beef sandwiches? The regular roast beefs are not on special, though (smile*smile*smile).'
"Them: ‘(heavy sigh) Just give me five regular Arby's.'
"Me: 'Alright, that's $11.41 please!'
"Them: 'What? Your sign says five for $5 (points to it)! Jesus, I guess you don't need a degree for this job (rolls eyes)!'" -- Courtney Raynor
The master criminal
"I worked at a local chain restaurant in the downtown area of Columbus, Ohio that had fare similar to a TGI Fridays. This particular location was right off the front entrance to a mall and had a very large picture window that overlooked the main street.
"I had been working there for a few months when a young man came and sat in my section. He was fine, ordering a normal order. Not very engaging, but that was cool; it was my requirement to be peppy, not his. After I had returned from the kitchen after waiting for an order from another table, I returned to find his table empty. After waiting a few minutes and asking a co-worker to check the men's room, it became evident that he had dined and dashed.
"At this particular restaurant, the manager frequently made servers pay the bills of missing customers. This was one of my younger, formative years in the restaurant business so I had not yet learned 1) this was illegal, and 2) how to tell shitty managers where they can shove it.
"I was panicked... until I turned my head and looked out to our massive picture window. There was the man just waiting at the bus stop outside of the restaurant (maybe 4ft away from the actual building where he had just committed a crime). Since we were in a mall, cops were readily available in the same building. It took less than three minutes to get them out there. A cop that arrested him told me he had two warrants out for his arrest.
"Good decision, buddy!" -- Tasha Kieran
"I worked in a mom-and-pop takeout pizza place. A woman called one day to complain about the tuna sub she ordered:
"'My tuna sub tastes like fish.'
"'… Uh… tuna is a fish, ma'am.'
"'It is? Oh…'
"I have no idea what she thought tuna was before then." -- Tim Braden
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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