These restaurant, cafe and bar experiences from across the country go beyond finding a hair in a salad or a rookie server. They’re completely wrecked.
Notice that none of Houston’s restaurants are on the list. That’s because Houston knows what’s up.
Where you bean?
Last month, after a night of camping near Charleston, West Virginia, I found a so-called “hip” indie coffee shop in WV’s capital city, but the terrible Americano I received was so diluted that I could nearly see the bottom of the cup through the translucent-like brown water.
An hour later, I stopped in Huntington, the home of Marshall University, which equals at least one cool, non-corporate coffee shop. Or so I thought.
I found a place that had multiple choices of espresso. After telling the barista what I liked in an uptight coffee, she brought over some beans that were contained in a sleek glass vessel and allowed me to smell.
This place is serious. Or so I thought.
I found a seat in the adjoining room and quickly got lost in a work task. Thirty-five minutes later, I realized I had never received my drink.
“I know you never got your coffee, but by the time it had brewed, it was cold,” said the flustered barista, who had a refund waiting at the counter. “I’m sorry. Here’s your money back. Please come back sometime because the coffee here is really good!”
Wait, what? How about just make me another one? Or at least walk a few steps over to where I’m sitting and tell me what had happened (and not waiting until 35 minutes after the fact)?
I was so flustered by the weirdo encounter that I didn’t protest. Instead, I went to the car, grabbed the half-consumed brown-watered coffee I had purchased in Charleston and brought that inside to drink.
Starved after doing dumb tourist stuff in Hollywood years ago with a friend who lives in Los Angeles, we found a fast-casual-type place on Melrose Avenue. At the counter, we ordered a chicken dish, paid, received our change and turned to find a table, when the cashier stopped us.
“We’re out of chicken”
“We’re out of chicken.”
In order to illustrate the ridiculousness of this scenario, here’s the one instance where we’ll name the establishment: California Chicken Café.
A few months ago, while in Fort Worth for a wedding, a friend and I found a place along the redeveloped Magnolia area to eat. We sat on the outdoor patio and shared a picnic table with two other diners.
It took about 15 minutes for the server to swing by. I ordered a beer and then waited. And waited.
About 15 minutes later, the server told me that they were out of that particular beer. I ordered a different one and we also placed a food order.
Ten minutes later, the server returned with a half-pint of beer instead of a full 16 ounces. “The keg just blew,” she said. “Would you like something else?”
“Excuse me,” said one of the customers, who sat at the other end of the picnic table, to the server. “When will our food be coming?” From what I could deduce, they had ordered food shortly before we arrived – some 40 minutes previous – and it still hadn’t come to the table.
“We were in Texas Monthly and so we’ve been slammed,” said the server. “It’s a small kitchen.” The diners seem to accept this explanation and went back to chatting over their beers.
In the end, our food arrived and we ate that food, which was just okay and definitely not magazine-anointed worthy, before our dining companions got their dinner at all.
“Fame” comes at a cost, I guess.
Two summers ago in Albuquerque, New Mexico, I visited an Irish pub on Central Avenue (née the old Route 66) with a friend. It was one of those rundown bars where there’s most likely diabetes, cholera and syphilis embedded in the totally gross carpet as well as an aroma of warm piss coming out of every corner.
In this shithole, the bartenders took themselves way too seriously.
I ordered a neat of whiskey. But instead of using the word “neat,” which I normally do, I looked around the dump, figured they might not know what “neat” means and instead decided to say “shot.”
The biggest mistake in ABQ history, apparently.
“We don’t do shots here,” the bartender said. “We ask that you sip our whiskey.”
I handed the barkeep a credit card and asked him to keep it open. We grabbed our not-shots that we had planned to sip anyway, retreated to a dark and unoccupied corner, and resumed a low-volume conversation that had started over dinner.
About 15 minutes later – at least two hours before last call – somebody from the restaurant walked over, placed my card and closed-out check on the table, and walked away.
My friend and I discussed protest methods. How about if we take two hours to drink the remaining four ounces of whiskey? Should we unzip our flies and add to the interior piss trough?
In the end, I finished my drink and thought about scheduling a blood test for polio and typhoid fever and whatever else might have been contained in that horrible carpet, diseases that probably soaked through the soles of my shoes and into my bloodstream.
The big, rotten apple
Last summer, I met a group of pals at a French bistro in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn. It was early evening on a Sunday, and the restaurant advertised $1 oysters starting at 6 p.m. and a movie on the backyard patio commencing an hour later.
We arrived around 6:15 and we were the only ones there. A guy behind the bar said the $1 oysters special didn’t apply and then he started arguing with somebody who had walked out from the kitchen.
Instead, we ordered drinks. Two more employees popped out from different rooms, and they seemed to be in a fight, too. Soon, there were about eight employees to the three of us. And they were all cat fighting with each other.
Later, the server asked us if we wanted to order food, such as the $1 oysters. We explained that we were told that there weren’t $1 oysters. The server then went over to the bartender and started arguing with him some more.
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“I’ve been overcharged here before,” a friend said minutes before our check arrived that overcharged us by about $30.
And what about the movie on the patio? “There’s no movie tonight.”
Down the street at another bar, while sitting outside, a random dude, dressed in all black, offered us a snort of cocaine with our whiskey cocktails.
Ah, New York City.