Off The Menu

Customers Who Redefined 'Dumb' in Restaurants

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 have more customers who were mystifyingly stupid. As always, these are real emails from real readers, though names have been changed.

How dare the restaurant prepare the food correctly

"About five years ago, my husband and I made reservations at a pretty high-end bistro in San Francisco for New Year's Eve. The menu was prix fixe for the evening, with two choices for each of the appetizers, entrees, etc.

"This amazing couple came in to sit next to us right at the first seating. The dude was sporting a purple silk shirt, half-unbuttoned, fluffed-out chest hair, multiple gold chains. The lady was in leopard-print hot pants, just the best. Husband and I figured we were in for a treat, and we spent the meal mostly eavesdropping on this beautiful slice of humanity.

"We were not disappointed when they both decided to order the crudo for an appetizer. Now, I certainly don't fault anyone for not knowing what crudo is (generally Italian-style raw fish preparation, think sashimi). But their reaction, on the other hand…

"When the food was set down, they looked at it and began to poke at it with looks of horror on their faces. At this point, UglyShirt McJackass proceeded to stand up and holler at the server until they dropped what they were doing and came over to see what the problem was. Dude was irate, and began to inform the waiter at maximum volume that for the prices he's paying to show his lady a nice time on a holiday, how DARE the chef COMPLETELY FORGET TO COOK THE FISH. The server looked down at the thinly sliced, beautifully delicate pieces of artfully plated fish, and, bless his heart, said, 'Sir, I am so sorry, that is truly unacceptable. Let me take those back to the chef and we'll take care of this for you immediately.'

"My husband and I were at that point trying not to laugh as we both ate our own crudo, as the couple loudly grumbled next to us at any busser, server, whatever who had the misfortune of walking past their table: 'What kind of place is this? What kind of idiot completely forgets to cook fish? Did he even go to cooking school?'

"Not five minutes later, their server came back with the same beautifully composed plates, except now with these hideous, blackened, charred little shriveled slivers of inedible awfulness, which the server placed in front of them with a level of composure I have never achieved and informed the couple, 'The chef sends you his sincerest apologies and truly hopes you enjoy your fully cooked fish.'

"The proud winners of the 'Classiest Couple of the Year' award then dug into their disgusting plates of fish charcoal while wondering aloud about how hard it could possibly be to just cook the fish right the first time.

"That chef and that server are still my heroes." -- Lane Gregory

At least it wasn't Piglio Griglio

"Of all the many things I overheard on a recent trip to Vegas, this is my favorite: a conversation, had at the crappy bar (that serves you free drinks for gambling practically nothing) in a crappy casino on Fremont St in Old Vegas.

"Lady: 'Which chardonnays do you have by the glass?'

"Bartender (glancing over his shoulder at the box): 'For white wine, we have Franzia, ma'am.'

"Lady: 'Which other chardonnays do you have by the glass?'

"Bartender: 'That's it, ma'am.'

"Lady: (thinks for a minute) 'Which region is that from?'" -- Mary Jacobs

"Pizza people are so stupid"

"I worked for Papa John's in the Nashville area. Late at night, when we were basically an hour or two before closing, this particular location was dead, dead -- d-e-a-d, dead -- so we would always cut the staff down to the manager and one driver. This was rarely ever a problem.

"One of those nights, it was down to me and the closing driver when I got a phone call for a delivery. The lady was calling from one of the local motels and gave me the number to the Super 8. She wanted the pizza delivered to her room on the fourth floor. I took the order, made the pizza, waited for my driver to come back, gave it to him, and out the door he went… and returned in 10 minutes to let me know it was impossible to deliver the pizza because the Super 8 only had three floors.

"I called the number back, which got me the front desk of the Super 8, asked for my customer's room, and they told me that person isn't checked in. I told the driver to let it sit and to take the next round of deliveries.

"About 15 minutes later, the woman called me again asking where the hell her pizza is, and I said it couldn't be delivered because we weren't given the right address information, but if she would please give me her phone number again, that I would look it up again to verify. That's when she did this thing a lot of people did: talking shit to the person next to her loudly enough for me to hear. In one of the thickest Southern accents I've ever heard, she said, 'I hate pizza people, they're so stupid.' That's exactly when I decided I wasn't going to give her any benefit of the doubt. She gave me the number, I looked up the order, and it said it was going to the Super 8, just like the last time. That's when I explained to her that the room number wasn't right and that she wasn't listed as being a guest there.

"She started getting really nasty with me and says of COURSE the room number is right because she's on the fourth goddamned floor. To which I said, 'Ma'am, the Super 8 motel only has three floors.' There was a beat… and then another beat… and then she said, 'Oh my God, I gave you the wrong phone number, I'm sorry!' So, I asked her to give the number printed on the phone in her room (why she didn't do this before is beyond me), and it turned out she was staying at a motel next to the Super 8.

"I told her that my driver was out on a delivery, but that when he got back we'd get the pizza to her -- I did not offer to make it over again, and she didn't ask. The driver got back, I explained to him what happened, he rolled his eyes, grabbed the pizza, and left.

"He didn't get back for at least another 45 minutes, and when he did, I asked him what the hell took him so long. It turned out that when he got there, this lady couldn't pay him because she had sent her mother out to buy her cigarettes and her mother had taken all the cash. So he had to wait there until mom came back with the money. But, you know, pizza people are so stupid." -- Alan Frost

off the menu
Jason Hoffman/Thrillist

How do straws work

"I visited two friends who'd moved to Seoul for work, and after a long night of drinking and eating stew made of 80% salt we went to a place known for its bubble tea smoothies. These smoothies were the consistency of frozen custard and had gelatin bubbles the size of marbles. It also sold blended juices, and in dealing with the rush the server gave me a feeble, accordion-bending juice straw in my smoothie instead of the smoothie straw that is 2in wide and made out of commercial-grade hard plastic.

"One of my friends immediately realized the mistake and offered to fix the problem. He stood up like he was going to go back to the counter and ask for another straw, then pulled my straw out of my smoothie, yanked the bending accordion section as long as it would stretch, jammed it back into my drink, and sat down.

"My other friend and I locked eyes and then laughed as hard as we could. Even as we went on laughing, he didn't understand why -- he thought he'd fixed the problem. After one of us achieved the ability to breathe again, it was explained to this high-functioning postgraduate degree holder: 'It's not the length, it's the width, you fucking dumbass!'" -- John Kenney

Steak tartare

"At a restaurant in Paris, my wife had the steak tartare. An American woman at the next table said to the waitress: 'I would like what she is having, but make mine well-done.'" -- Ted Parker

The truffles in the RED wrapper

"I worked at a Lindt chocolate store in an outlet mall on the US/Canadian border about seven or eight years ago. When the US dollar dipped just one cent below the Canadian dollar, all hell broke loose, and Canadians pretty much invaded (even though that one-cent difference was basically overpowered by bank fees anyway). It was a crazy time, and as far as I know, it still gets pretty nuts.

"Lindt is most famous for its Lindor truffles. There are a TON of flavors, and each flavor comes in a distinctly colored wrapper. Some people would come in knowing only the color of the wrapper instead of the actual flavor. No big deal, and usually an easy mystery to solve. Our most popular flavor by far was milk chocolate, and it came in a red wrapper. We would give these out as samples to each customer who came in, and they were the most prominently displayed flavor in our truffle wall (a beautiful, colorful sight that went floor to ceiling).

"One day, a woman came in asking for 'the truffles in the red wrapper.' I let her know that she was looking for milk chocolate, handed her a sample truffle to eat, and guided her over to the milk chocolate truffle section of our truffle wall.

"'No,' she said without trying the truffle. 'This isn't right. I want the truffles in the RED wrapper.'

"'Are you looking for a fruity-flavored truffle, like maybe raspberry or orange?' I replied. We do have these truffles in pink and orange wrappers, respectively, but they are not even close to red. I figured that maybe her shade was off.

"'NO. Like I said, I want the truffles in the RED. WRAPPER. It's just plain chocolate, and it comes in a red wrapper. RED.'

"'OK, then you probably are looking for milk chocolate. These are our milk chocolate truffles right here,' I said, gesturing towards the red-wrapped truffles. 'These wrappers here are red!'

"'No, the truffles I'm looking for have a redder wrapper. Don't you have anything in a REDDER wrapper?'

"I'm not exactly sure how to judge 'red' from 'redder,' but I let her know that all of the different-colored wrappers we have are represented in the truffle wall in front of her.

"At this point, she whipped out her cellphone and called her mother to ask the actual flavor of the truffles she likes. She still had not tried the truffle in her hand. Lo and behold, she was, in fact, looking for milk chocolate truffles. She grabbed a bag and headed to the counter. As I was cashing her out, she said, 'Yeah, wow. I can't believe these are the same truffles! I guess the red is just redder in Canada.'" -- Katie Harrelson

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!

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