Off The Menu

Restaurant Customers Who Ate the Craziest Shit Imaginable

Off the Menu
Jason Hoffman/Thrillist

Welcome back to Off the Menu, where we bring you the best and strangest food stories from my email inbox. This week, we've got more tales of restaurant customers who ate stuff that absolutely should not have been consumed by a human being. As always, these are real emails from real readers, though names have been changed.

Extra, extra, extra dark

"My parents immigrated to the US from China and opened up a Chinese food carry-out in Baltimore, MD. Like a lot of kids of local restaurant owners, I worked there when I was younger.

"One time, a guy comes in and asks for pork fried rice, extra dark. People like it salty and dark sometimes, so it isn't an unusual request. I put the order in, he pays, he leaves. He comes back a half-hour later, angry, telling us that it's not dark enough. I mean, it's pretty dark to begin with; picture regular brown (not light brown) fried rice but twice as brown. But I apologize, take the food back, tell my parents, and we offer to make it again. He wants to see it this time before he takes it.

"Now keep in mind that when cooking fried rice, we didn't use standard bottled Kikkoman soy sauce. The stuff we used was oil black and a thick, almost molasses-like consistency. I'm not sure what kind of soy sauce it was, but it was black, very salty, and honestly kind of terrifying.

"So my dad cooks up this guy's meal and it's DARK. I take it out to the guy and he says, 'NO! I want it extra, extra, extra DARK!' He was generally polite, though, and my parents are like, 'OK, it's your funeral.' So my dad cooks it again, and this time it looks like it's been drained after swimming in soy sauce -- it's basically squid-ink pasta dark. I bring it back out and the guy exclaims, 'Perfect!'

"He actually became a regular. Came in almost every Friday and would say, 'Pork fried rice’ and I'd say, 'Extra, extra, extra dark, just how you like it!'" -- Steven Tang

Sambuca Man

"After graduating from college with no job prospects in sight, I started waitressing at a semi-upscale restaurant in my hometown. A few weeks into the job, I learned about a regular who everyone called 'Sambuca Man.'

"As I sneak around the service station to take a peek at the table, I see him dip his napkin in the sambuca and blot it all over his face and neck."

"Fast-forward a couple months, and I'm hanging around the service station on a slow weeknight. As I sat a one-top in my section, my co-worker looks over and her eyes light up, 'It's Sambuca Man!' she says. I'm excited, as I finally get to see what this guy's all about. I go over to his table to greet him, and, as expected, he orders a glass of sambuca. I bring it to him and he orders a steak. As I sneak around the service station to take a peek at the table, I see him dip his napkin in the sambuca and blot it all over his face and neck. He dips and blots a few more times, then puts the napkin down like that was totally a normal thing to do in a restaurant, or anywhere.

"A few minutes later, his steak is up and I bring it to his table, then rush back to the service station to creep. Sambuca Man proceeds to dump the remainder of his glass all over his steak, including the little coffee beans the bartender put in the drink. I watch as he finishes his entire plate of sambuca-doused steak and vegetables.

"Worse than watching him eat this mess was bussing his table after he left. A sticky lake of sambuca had covered his plate and dribbled down the sides, with an island of napkins congealed in the middle.

"He was a nice enough guy and left a normal tip, though." -- Holly Davidson

Because broth comes in mugs

"My husband and I were at a Russian restaurant, which is a lovely place and we've been more than once, but we still don't always understand what we're ordering because the menu doesn't get too granular on descriptions and also, no pictures on the menu, because it's a pretty classy joint.

"We ordered these special mulled fruit drinks to try, each of us a different one, with hard-to-pronounce names. For an appetizer, we each ordered a bowl of meat dumplings that came with optional broth. We both opted for the broth. We got the bowls of dumplings and two mugs full of hot liquid at the same time.

"Oh, but then the server returned, and gasped in horror, with two steaming gravy boat-type things on her tray...

"... full of BROTH...

"... right as we dripped the last drop of our mulled fruit drinks from our mugs into the bowls of dumplings. Because, 'yeah, broth comes in mugs,' said both our brains.

"Using our forks to hold the dumplings in the bowls, we poured the drinks back into their respective mugs and laughed our asses off, and then we poured the real broth onto the dumplings and started eating. We were stone-cold sober, so we have nothing to blame but our own ignorance and inability/unwillingness to ask the server a simple question, 'Hey, it's in a mug, but is this broth or a beverage?'

"The poor server was too stunned to offer replacements of any of it, and we felt too ashamed to ask for anything to be comped, so we assured her whatever flavor bled over was our punishment for our idiocy, and to our pleasant surprise, it wasn't too bad.

"We tipped well." -- Angie Mayfair

Off the menu
Jason Hoffman/Thrillist

That's not vinegar…

"I was on vacation with my boyfriend and his buddy Ryan, visiting my boyfriend's grandmother, who lives near the beach. This beach town has a large boardwalk attraction with a locally famous small chain of French-fry 'restaurants' up and down the boardwalk. All they sell are fries, and they are amazing.

"So, this particular time, we get a couple baskets of fries and sit down. On the tables are those generic red, yellow, and white plastic squeeze bottles of condiments. Unlabeled, but obviously red for ketchup, yellow for mustard, and white for vinegar. My boyfriend and I preferred our fries with just ketchup, so Ryan and grandma share a basket of vinegar fries. The vinegar bottle on our table is empty, so Ryan leans back and grabs one from the table behind him and proceeds to liberally apply it to the fries.

"Both of them eat some of the fries, decide they don't have enough vinegar, and squirt some more on. They still can barely taste it, and again they put some more on. This repeats several times. By this point, the fries are soaking wet and they still can't taste the vinegar.

"They're about 3/4 of the way through them when a waitress comes out to wipe down a few tables next to us. This is when we discovered this place uses the same unlabeled white squeeze bottle for both the vinegar and the cleaning supplies. Ryan and grandma got through most of a basket of fries drenched in some sort of water/soap mix.

"They were fine, but Ryan always double-checks the vinegar whenever we go back." -- Emma Clarendon

Real-crab assurances are not to be trusted

"A few years ago a Japanese restaurant opened up in the small town next to mine in Western Connecticut. One night my husband and I decided to go there and try it out. I ordered a tempura plate that was described as including pieces of crab. When the server came to take our order, I inquired whether the crab was real or imitation, because I was going to order something else if the crab was imitation. The server assured me that it was real crab.

"When my dinner arrived, not only did I discover that the crab looked to be imitation, but it had been coated and fried with the plastic sleeves still on it." -- Brenda Langerhans

Well-done taken to extremes

"A member of the country club I worked at asked for the onions on his veal liver to be 'well-done.' The onions were already caramelized, so upon reheating them in a sauté pan, I took them as far as they could go (in my professional opinion) without being ruined. He sent it back.

"I deep-fried a new portion of the caramelized onions until they were quite crisp. Again, they were rejected. Taking no chances (and some offense) on a third re-cook, I spread a new serving on a small broiler platter and left them in the broiler until they nearly caught fire. I sent out the smoking, charred remains of what had been the product of great time and labor, with an implied message of indignant sarcasm.

"The server returned to relay the message from the guest that they were perfect -- 'Just like mom used to do it.'" -- Barry Harmon

A Subway legend

"I used to work in a 24-hour Subway in the centre of Liverpool. We were pretty close to student housing, so it wasn't the first time a customer came in reeking of weed after midnight. I greeted this ridiculously skinny guy with long hair and a heavy-metal band hoodie -- a stoner stereotype -- and he asked me for a footlong Italian herb and cheese with everything. Naturally, I assumed he meant all the veggies, because that's usually what people meant by that, so I asked him with what meat. He repeated, 'Everything.' What followed was about two minutes of back and forth:

"'This is going to cost you more than it would to buy three footlongs.'

"'That's fine. Everything on one sub, please.'

"'It's going to cost over £30, mate, are you sure?'

"'Yeah, everything on the one.'

"And then there was the actual making it, which was 10 minutes of me going:

"Are you sure you want the normal chicken as well as the teriyaki chicken?'

"'Yes, more chicken.'

"'Are you sure you want the tuna on top of these meatballs?'

"'Yeah, everything.'

"By the time I got to the veggies, I was basically piling it all on top of a sandwich which was never going to close.

"'No, more pickles than that.'

"'Yes, sir, if you say so.'

"And then we got to the sauces and he said, 'Just cover it in mayo.'

"'Are you sure? You've already got teriyaki and marinara in there.'

"'Yeah, just cover it in mayo.'

"At this point, I just did what I was told. I had to wrap the thing like it was a burrito and give him a fork from the salad bowls. He didn't complain about the £35 price either; he just paid on his card and left.

"I'll give him one thing: he knew what he wanted and he got it." -- Adam Plantier

In addition to collecting the usual restaurant, home-cooking, and any other food-adjacent stories, we're looking for stories of college assholes from dining-hall workers. If you have anything you’d like to see appear in Off the Menu, please email WilyUbertrout@gmail.com with "Off the Menu" in the subject line, or tweet @EyePatchGuy.

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C.A. Pinkham is a guy who makes inappropriate jokes about Toblerones on the internet. Follow him on Twitter @EyePatchGuy.