Amazing Tales of Saintly Restaurant Customers
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 stories of amazing customers who prove there is goodness and light in the world. As always, these are real emails from real readers, though names have been changed.
Crapping on the server is not an ideal date move
"I used to work at a popular Mexican restaurant in Galveston, TX. 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
Twenty rowdy Scotsmen walk into a bar...
"I was between regular jobs and working at a sports bar (with a particular niche in soccer) to make a little money until I could find a full-time job. This was my first restaurant job and I had been learning the ropes slowly but surely. Because of this, though, I was given a lot of shifts at odd hours, which meant not very big checks and not very big tips. One night, though, I got to work the dinner hour on a Thursday and had made decent money.
I went to get my manager to put the large-group gratuity on the check, but he took one look at the guy who was paying and just said, "Nah, trust me."
"I was doing my side work in between checking on my one remaining table, as it was close to 10pm by then. Just me and one other server were on. Then a busload of Scottish people (we were in suburban Kansas; I don't know how they all found each other) on a bar crawl walked in and sat out on the patio. I got to take care of about 20 rowdy Scots all by myself.
"They were the most cheery, dryly sarcastic, heavily accented people I've ever served in my life. They went through literal gallons of Angry Orchard cider and a few XL pizzas for good measure. Much to my relief and joy, one guy was going to take care of the entire tab, which at this point was north of $400. I went to get my manager to put the large-group gratuity on the check, but he took one look at the guy who was paying and just said, 'Nah, trust me.' So I gave the guy the check sans included gratuity, and bid him and the rest of the now-well-lubricated group goodnight as they boarded the bus to their next bar.
"I opened the check, and he had given me a 50% tip. I about cried." -- Brady Cameron
Welcome to Good Burger, home of the Good Burger
"My first job was working at Chick-fil-A. One night when I was working the drive-thru and we were about to close, we had one last car come through. I grew up watching All That on Nickelodeon and loved the Good Burger skits and had been wanting to do this for a while. The customer pulled up to the speaker and instead of saying whatever the greeting was normally, I instead said, 'Welcome to Chick-fil-A. Home of the Chick-fil-A. Can I take your order?' and I said it in that raspy voice that Kel had and still does. The customer proceeded to say, 'Yeah, can I get a Good Burger and some Good Fries and a Good Shake to top it off?' I busted up laughing and said, 'You, sir, get a free meal tonight.'
"Best. Customer. Ever." -- Josh Gregory
Wait for it
"After five years or so of serving in various restaurants, I was pretty confident in my ability to read people. One Thursday evening, I get the best section in the house -- all booths! No big parties, no pouters who didn't get seated in non-booths, and usually not a lot of children. I get this lovely middle-aged couple. We engage in witty banter over the course of their meal and everything goes absolutely flawlessly. At this point, I would be happy with a 10% tip because it's so enjoyable to serve them.
"I drop off the bill and go tend to my other tables. I glance over and the female portion of the relationship is sitting there alone with the payment-less cheque, to which I think, 'Oh, the dude's probably in the washroom.' She sits there alone for 15 minutes when I'm about to go over and see if everything's OK, when I discover she left. I open the billfold and… nothing. No cash. No hint of a credit card payment. Zilch. I frantically ask my colleagues if they had paid with any one of them, to no avail.
"Fuck! I felt so good about this couple that I never for a moment saw this coming. I've been D'n'D-ed before, but usually you can look back on the evening and see all the warning signs. Not with these two. I have to sheepishly go to my manager and explain the whole thing, and I have to stand there while he lectures me about making sure to be responsible for the section, blah, blah, blah. Thankfully he comps the meal for me (one of the few benefits about working for a corporate chain). [Editor's Note: Unless Canada's labor laws are in this instance somehow more regressive than those of the US -- which I very strongly doubt -- it would be illegal for him not to comp this. Servers: restaurants CANNOT legally charge you the bill for customers who dine and dash on you. Yes, I know they’ll try to do so anyway. Tell them that is illegal. If they fire you for it, that is grounds to sue, because the law is very, very clear on that point.] Afterward, in a bit of a daze, I finish up for the night and go home feeling really stupid about the whole thing.
“However, I walk in for my opening shift the next afternoon and my manager is sheepishly walking up to me with a fat envelope. Turns out, the couple who stiffed me the night before had gotten into a lover's quarrel right after I had dropped off the bill, and the man stormed out. The woman didn't know he had left and waited for him at the table for a while. She then figured he went home and that he must have paid on the way out and off she went to go find him. After they conferred with one another, it dawned on them that neither of them paid. They were mortified and called the restaurant and arranged to settle their tab… with a 40% tip for me.
"Hah! I knew they weren't the type to pull that crap." -- Natalie Sironis
Watch out for airborne gravy
"I worked as a bartender/waitress at a bar inside a upscale health-food grocery store (it's a real thing, I promise). Most of our clientele was well-off retirees and 30-something recently divorced men hoping to get a date with someone coming in after a yoga class. Generally a nice group of customers, but definitely rich, uptight people. Forgetting to bring salt to some might be a huge offense, but automatically bringing it causes others to give you a lecture about sodium intake. It was a difficult balancing act.
"It was St. Patrick's Day. There was also a March Madness game with the local university team playing and we were short-staffed. Needless to say, it was an insane evening with me rushing around serving corned beef and cabbage, pouring Guinness, and making sure no one was becoming belligerent.
"For some reason, the bar supervisor always liked to have food specials on display for people to see. While I get the concept, it generally just caused us to get mean looks when we told people they probably shouldn't eat it, as it wasn't a sample and had been sitting out for hours. Since it was St. Patrick's Day, we had a giant display of the corned beef and cabbage dinner special, complete with gravy, potatoes, and Irish beer bread.
"As the night was beginning to slow down, I had an older couple sit at the only open seats -- adjacent to our food displays. I was clearing tables and leaned over to let them know I'd be right with them, and a plate slid off the mountain of dishes I was carrying, plopping right into the food display. The 12-hour-old gravy and potatoes somehow still had some fluidity to them, and flew up, then dropped… right into the man's lap.
"I was horrified and apologizing profusely while trying to set down the mountain of dishes. The man looked up and me and said, 'I just have one thing to tell you.' He slowly leaned in -- at which point I was thinking he was about to spit in my face -- and he said, 'I don't have to fart anymore, you scared it out of me.'
"It was the laugh I needed that night, and he wouldn't even let me give him a free beer as an apology." -- Belinda Farragut
The legend of stoner stripper
"When I was 16 I worked at a small Italian restaurant on a major road in my area. It was in the first of a series of shopping centers and was located in the back corner, out of sight and only frequented by our neighbors and those on our stretch of road. Since there were only about six to eight tables in the place, only one wait-staffer was on shift at a time. Our most loyal customer base was from the strip club in the neighboring shopping center.
"The strippers who worked there usually ordered delivery, but one fine afternoon, one of the strippers decided to venture in during one of her breaks. She wandered in HIGH AS A KITE. BAKED. TOTALLY FRIGGIN' STONED OUT OF HER MIND. I welcomed her to the restaurant and seated her. I brought her a glass of water and the menu and asked her if she'd like anything else to drink. She declined, and I stepped back to the waitstaff's counter to put back clean dishes/wrap silverware/whatever.
"I glanced over to see how she was doing, and noticed that she was looking at the menu, quite perplexed and tilting her head and squinting her eyes as if it didn't make sense to her, or if she had forgotten her glasses or something. After a few confused moments, she tilted her head further, whispered, 'Ooooooh,' then closed the menu, FLIPPED IT UPRIGHT, opened it, and then nodded to herself approvingly before reading the menu.
My hands were literally shaking as I pulled the lid off the dressing cup… now packed solid with weed.
"I gave her time to read the now-right-side-up menu, then went over to take her order. Her immediate question was, 'Do you have… eggplant?' I nodded, and proceeded to tell her about our various eggplant dishes, and she said, 'No no no no, I just want fried eggplant.' The restaurant had a vegetable napoleon, which had fried eggplant and zucchini and stuff in it, and after double-checking with the chef, I told her we'd be able to sub the other veggies for eggplant. She then asked me if we had a salad with bacon on it. I told her we did, and went through the four or so salads that had bacon on them. She picked one and asked for it without olives.
"I brought her the eggplant and the salad, and she immediately looked totally devastated. I asked if anything was wrong, and she looked up at me sadly and said, 'The salad has bacon on it…' I apologized and told her I could bring it back to have it fixed, and she shook her head vigorously and said, 'No no no, just bring me a spoon.'
"I brought her a spoon, and she scooped all the bacon off the salad and proceeded to eat her meal. I checked on her halfway through; she was fine and didn't need anything else. When she finished her food, I asked if there was anything else she wanted, and she asked for the check and a salad dressing cup.
"I didn't think anything strange of her asking for a dressing cup -- we made our dressings in-house and they were pretty great, so I figured she just wanted to bring the remainder of her dressing home for later use. I picked up one of the small (1oz) dressing cups and lid, and brought it over with the check. She took the check, then shook her head when she saw the small cup, 'No no no no, I need a bigger one!'
"I apologized, and went to grab the larger of our dressing cups (3oz), and brought it back to her. She had paid the bill in cash, and she told me she didn't need any change. I thanked her, wished her a good day, then went to close the tab (she had left me a 20% tip, which was INCREDIBLY generous of her).
"I was putting away more silverware when she came up to the counter and asked to see the check again. I obliged of course. She asked for a pen, which I provided, and watched as she flipped the check over and quickly scrawled something on the back of it. She slid the check and the salad dressing cup she had requested across the counter, smiled, winked at me, and said, 'This is if you ever need more.' She then picked up her back and walked out.
"I, being 16, innocent, and naive to everything ever, was totally confused by this. The busboy and dishwasher were snickering, and asked me what she slid me, probably knowing full well what was going on. I shrugged and brought the dressing container and the check into the kitchen with me. I looked at the check, and suddenly realized what had just happened.
"SHE WROTE HER PHONE NUMBER ON THE BACK OF THE BILL. I froze, petrified as the rest of the restaurant staff gathered around me. My hands were literally shaking as I pulled the lid off the dressing cup… now packed solid with weed. Fresh out of DARE, I was totally convinced that I was gonna be arrested and die because I had touched 'the marijuanas,' and put up zero resistance when the rest of the kitchen staff asked if they could split it.
"Looking back, that was a pretty superb tip. Thank you, stoner stripper." -- Melissa Harkov
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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