Skip

"Totally unacceptable in our world."
August 17, 2011 6:36 AM   Subscribe

Diner for Schmucks. GQ's restaurant reviewer Alan Richman had heard "nothing but great things about M. Wells, one of New York City's hottest restaurants—the food was amazing, the setting sublime, the ambience charming. And, in fact, everything was going quite well. Until..." More at Eater. (Via)

Single page version.

Richman is the reviewer infamously nominated for "Douchebag of the Year" by Anthony Bourdain. More.

The diner is closing at the end of the month. Here's their website -- the 'M' stands for 'Magasin'.
posted by zarq (238 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
Douchebag or not, so far the story sounds like the proprietors were full of shit.
posted by eoden at 6:49 AM on August 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


Richman was a notorious d-bag when Bourdain was still burning steaks at Les Halles, M.Wells is one of the most overhyped places the NYC/Eater hype machine has put together yet. On a level with Tailor. This is one of those stories where no one wins, but if Richman is lying expect to here many a tale of his inappropriate behavior to come to light. If the M. Wells folks are lying, then you have to assume their "woe is me" tale of losing their rent to an unreasonable landlord is also fishy, and that there is some sort of scam going on.

This is a pretty shitty story all the way around, and this FPP doesn't being to touch on all of the issues going on here. BTW an on-line acquaintance of mine who is quite a prominent food blogger was there that night with some people I know in real life, and they reported Richman being pissed off, but no sight of him doing something so glaringly obvious as grabbing a womans ass. For what ever that is worth.

I think the last page is the most interesting though when he addresses the decline of service in NY restaurants. Also check out the Eater thread on the incident - that place is ground zero for hype, and even there everyone talks about amazingly shitty the service at this place is.
posted by JPD at 6:51 AM on August 17, 2011 [8 favorites]


Richman also recently had a Sazerac thrown in his face in a scene in HBO's Treme.
posted by ghharr at 6:53 AM on August 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


While I'm going to avoid the dreaded "h-word," I do think he's right in that a lot of new restaurants that I've been to recently, particularly of the locally-sourced hand-crafted foodie types, have had absolutely awful service. As in, waitrons who seem to have zero experience or training.
posted by Bookhouse at 6:53 AM on August 17, 2011


The bottom line is that Bourdain slams him, and then he retaliates by panning Bourdain's restaurant as admitted revenge, without mentioning it in the review. He calls this honor. I agree with Bourdain now.
posted by Brian B. at 6:54 AM on August 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


Richman may be a douchebag, but nobody deserves to be falsely accused of sexual harassment. That's beyond the pale. (For what it's worth, I don't think he actually grabbed the waitress's ass, because if he had I would hope she would press charges.) So what we've got here is either a false accusation of sexual harassment or a false accusation of a false accusation of sexual harassment. What a rabbit hole.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:57 AM on August 17, 2011 [7 favorites]


Spite reviewing is pretty stupid, and the back-and-forth between Bourdain and Richman reeks of immaturity. Still, his criticisms of his restaurant sound very fair.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:58 AM on August 17, 2011


Yeah, I've eaten there a few times and the service has always been hit or miss (and that's probably a kind characterisation). Food was great, though.
posted by gaspode at 7:04 AM on August 17, 2011


I've had the poutine at Au Pied Du Cochon. His characterization of it as "Au Pied de Cochon added seared foie gras and was besieged with praise." seriously discredits him. They perfected the dish in all ways and made it worthy of praise; sure some of the cachet is that it was a peasant dish, much like elevating the hamburger, but it is also very very very good at APCD. If he tosses that off as just adding seared foie gras, I'd tend to think he has a problem with the genre.
posted by Bovine Love at 7:05 AM on August 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


Gentlemen, gentlemen, please.

You're ALL douchebags.
posted by louche mustachio at 7:06 AM on August 17, 2011 [91 favorites]


I don't know about this article, but I know I like the food at M. Wells. Here's the Brussels Sprouts & Bacon and the Beef Tartare.
posted by muckster at 7:06 AM on August 17, 2011


Les Halles does sort of suck, or at least it never rose above mediocre even when Bourdain was there, but Bourdain nominated him for d-bag of the year for his New Orleans article - which was one of those "take a grain of truth and turn it into some grand statement and generalization about an entire city just to be contrarian" sort of things that d-bags sometimes do.

(APdC is amazing. M.Wells is not APdC)
posted by JPD at 7:06 AM on August 17, 2011


Jesus Christ. Congratulations Mr. Richman, for making me feel sympathetic toward a diner that serves $42 burgers to trust-fund hipsters. I didn't think it could be done, but you, sir, stepped up to the plate.

I've had bad service, and have been inexplicably seated at bad tables (ie. on quiet nights), and yeah, it sucks, but sometimes happens. In this situation, you simply leave a very small tip, and write "I Waited 50 minutes for my food, and 25 minutes for my check. I hope you understand why your tip is so small." on the back of the receipt.
posted by schmod at 7:07 AM on August 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


I live in Fort Wayne, Indiana, but I have lived in Manhattan, and part of me still can't get over the disconnect in restaurant culture in the two places.

In New York, like in most major urban areas, you can actually do restaurant reviews for more than about fifteen minutes, because 1) there are a bajillion of them, and 2) they come and go faster than the seasons. But more than that, there's so much supply that you can actually afford to stand on things like quality of service, because you can always take your custom someplace equally interesting and new.

Out here in flyover country... we've got about a handful of non-casual restaurants in the entire city of 400,000, and none of them is younger than a few years. Some have been around for over a decade. So not only is there not much of a restaurant scene, but supply is so tight that even if you get abominable service, odds are decent you'll be back. It's either that or stay home, you know?

So part of me thinks the whole bit about getting in a huff about bad service at a restaurant is a bit overblown. It's a freaking restaurant, people. You're there for maybe two hours, and you aren't spending that much money. Yes, food culture and all that, but seriously. The idea that the fact that you're dropping a couple dozen bucks on some underemployed waitron means that they're somehow morally obligated to jump at your every whim just never made any sense to me.

Tl;dr: being a paying customer does not give you the right to be a dick, regardless of where you're at.
posted by valkyryn at 7:08 AM on August 17, 2011 [7 favorites]


For what it's worth, I don't think he actually grabbed the waitress's ass, because if he had I would hope she would press charges.

You've never been a waitress or tried to press charges for casual sexual harassment, have you? What's a cop going to do, arrest the guy who's saying, "It's all in good fun! My hand accidently brushed by!"
posted by muddgirl at 7:09 AM on August 17, 2011 [15 favorites]


The lack of decent copy-editing is Totally Unacceptable in Our World.
posted by clvrmnky at 7:09 AM on August 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


I don't think those of you who say "the service sucked - so what" understand what the complaint is. This isn't service sucked because the place was overwhelmed or understaffed. This is the service sucked because the wait staff just don't give a fuck, and the rest of the FOH doesn't care enough to fix the problem.
posted by JPD at 7:12 AM on August 17, 2011 [11 favorites]


I believe Richman, down to the last word.
posted by spitbull at 7:16 AM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't think those of you who say "the service sucked - so what" understand what the complaint is. This isn't service sucked because the place was overwhelmed or understaffed. This is the service sucked because the wait staff just don't give a fuck, and the rest of the FOH doesn't care enough to fix the problem.

Yeah, agreed. I used to waitress--at an IHOP, granted, but still--and even when I was in the weeds I tried to offer my customers courteous service. It's part of what you're paying for. Ignoring people for 45 minutes while leaving dirty plates on their table is really unacceptable, and you don't need to work in a restaurant that gets NY Times reviews to know that.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:19 AM on August 17, 2011 [16 favorites]


I've had bad service, and have been inexplicably seated at bad tables (ie. on quiet nights), and yeah, it sucks, but sometimes happens. In this situation, you simply leave a very small tip, and write "I Waited 50 minutes for my food, and 25 minutes for my check. I hope you understand why your tip is so small." on the back of the receipt.

Perhaps I've overlooked something but assuming he's telling the truth about not touching the waitress how was he a bad customer? His job is to write an account of his experience and he pretty much did: food was pretty good, service was bad.
posted by ghharr at 7:20 AM on August 17, 2011 [6 favorites]


The "hipster restaurant" service issue is real, and it arises mainly because these entrepreneurs hire friends and friends of friends. Their entire attention is wrapped up in the food and the atmosphere and other matters, and they imagine that if they hire someone they know, or someone who seems "cool," then the service will be a non-issue.

At a NYC restaurant I worked at, we were routinely sent new waitresses who'd been "hired" by the owner while he was out socializing somewhere. This girl who looked 19 and was covered in tattoos showed up for the brunch shift one morning, and upon questioning I found out that she had never waited tables before in her life. Brunches at our restaurant were insane, fairly challenging for even a seasoned server, even when everything was going smoothly. She lasted two weeks.

That's another thing that guarantees bad service -- restaurateurs create toxic environments where people only stick around for a few weeks or months. The high turnover means that no one ever gets good at their job, or cares whether they do. Service jobs can be amazing careers, they can take you all over the globe, but restaurateurs in NYC have created a world in which servers are disposable, they can hire a new one every week if they want to (and most do). Not only does this kill the service in their own restaurant, it also is a huge drain on time and effort to ALWAYS be training someone.

Anyhow, it's a vicious cycle, and the restaurant owners are entirely to blame. Restaurants that value good service are really hard to get hired into, because their turnover is low and they are very discriminating. Once you eat at a few of those, you'll never want to give your money to trendier places.
posted by hermitosis at 7:20 AM on August 17, 2011 [59 favorites]


These idiots should go back to Montreal.
posted by spitbull at 7:21 AM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


At first, before RTFA, I mistakenly read that this incident involved Adam Richman and wasn't surprised that snooty restaurateurs would be up in arms about being reviewed by the guy from Man vs. Food.

As for the actual event, I have to say, going for the accusation to undercut a potentially bad review is a horrendous thing to do, but given the behavior in our weirdo celebrity chef culture, it doesn't seem that surprising.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:21 AM on August 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


That's nothing, MCMikeNamara. I read it as Alan Rickman.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:27 AM on August 17, 2011 [29 favorites]


I would pay good money for a show with Alan Rickman in character as Snape reviewing restaurants with overblown senses of entitlement. Make it happen, Hollywood!
posted by zombieflanders at 7:30 AM on August 17, 2011 [80 favorites]


I thought it was Jonathan Richman.
posted by Obscure Reference at 7:34 AM on August 17, 2011 [7 favorites]


zombieflanders: "I would pay good money for a show with Alan Rickman in character as Snape reviewing restaurants with overblown senses of entitlement. Make it happen, Hollywood!"

Doesn't need to be Snape. I'd settle for pretty much any character that Rickman's ever played.
posted by schmod at 7:35 AM on August 17, 2011 [7 favorites]


I'd like to see a restaurant reviewed by Alan Richman, Alan Rickman AND Adam Richman
posted by pointystick at 7:36 AM on August 17, 2011 [20 favorites]


...which would be put into song form by Jonathan Richman?
posted by zombieflanders at 7:37 AM on August 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


Personal data point: the only two times in my life that I've refused to leave any tip at all (as opposed to just knocking 5% or 10% off) or just left a token tip were both in NYC, and weren't at expensive, flavor-of-the-month restaurants. One place was in Brooklyn Heights; several waiters huddled together near the kitchen door and completely ignored us, and we ended up having to gulp our food in order to make it to the show we were going to. The other was a bar in Park Slope that I went to specifically because they had a special on lobster; I was seated, then ignored for half an hour while other people were seated and their orders taken, and by the time I flagged down a waitress, the lobster was gone.

And, schmod, did you read the rest of the article? The part where the co-owner accused him of sexual harrassment without asking for his version of the story first? I don't think that that's the sort of thing that's treatable with a quarter tip and a snippy note.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:38 AM on August 17, 2011


muckster: Here's the Brussels Sprouts & Bacon

What's that....plop of goo...on the brussel sprouts & bacon? That's one of my signature recipies at home, and I can't imagine what that stuff could be.
posted by AzraelBrown at 7:38 AM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I would pay good money for a show with Alan Rickman in character as Snape reviewing restaurants with overblown senses of entitlement

Eff that. Alan Rickman cycling through characters.

"Yes Mr Cowboy, I understand that Roy Rogers doesn't offer free refills. FILL. IT. AGAIN."

"And you serve me this slop? I played Richard the third."
Special guest co-host Shaloub rolls eyes, says "five curtain calls" under his breath.
"There were five curtain calls! I was an actor once! I won't eat this crap!"

"And this? Overcooked. Say goodbye to that Michelin star. Pity. Clearly, fame isn't everything, is it, Mr. Keller?"
posted by phearlez at 7:42 AM on August 17, 2011 [39 favorites]


Well, my meal at Au Pied de Cochon last year was so good I don't remember a thing about the service. Which probably means it was pretty good. I do remember that I liked their bathrooms.
posted by activitystory at 7:42 AM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


zombieflanders: "I would pay good money for a show with Alan Rickman in character as Snape reviewing restaurants with overblown senses of entitlement. Make it happen, Hollywood!"

Doesn't need to be Snape. I'd settle for pretty much any character that Rickman's ever played.


Would you settle for Alan Rickman droning and intoning a narrative poem about lunch with an old girlfriend for the space of an entire film? It's even better than it sounds, plus he does mention the food. Best I can do for you.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 7:46 AM on August 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


I've had the poutine at Au Pied Du Cochon. His characterization of it as "Au Pied de Cochon added seared foie gras and was besieged with praise." seriously discredits him. They perfected the dish in all ways and made it worthy of praise; sure some of the cachet is that it was a peasant dish, much like elevating the hamburger, but it is also very very very good at APCD. If he tosses that off as just adding seared foie gras, I'd tend to think he has a problem with the genre.

Poutine has three ingredients. Animal cruelty is not one of them.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:46 AM on August 17, 2011 [6 favorites]


I've had several meals at M. Wells, and the food was always sublime. Also, I think there's something very fishy about Rickman's story.
posted by sensate at 7:46 AM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


However this restaurant experience went, I hate the supercilious tone he uses when he talks about Queens in general. He comes off as a typical food critic snob, and I wouldn't be surprised if he was understating / mis-representing how he acted....
posted by jonathanzoomer at 7:47 AM on August 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


I love food critics, and they serve an incredibly important function. If Richman wasn't a "douchebag" he'd be a lousy critic.

That being said, the idea that people read criticisms and take them literally, and make their decisions based solely on a single account is pathetic. Yes, I know, enough people do that it makes a difference. People are idiots. But there is an old nugget of wisdom, that goes along with "never discuss religion or politics". It's "never recommend a restaurant to a friend". Your favorite place is guaranteed to suck when your best friend goes.

The restaurant business is the most volatile in the world, service and quality wise. McDonald's is the zenith of quality control, but they have done it by sacrificing actual quality - both in food and in charm. They play a specific game, and are very successful at it, and sometimes I get food from there. But it's not a place to "dine".

Back to the article - Richman gives a straight play by play. That's all he purports to do, and that's what he does, and he does it pretty well. That's all he should do. On the other hand, I find his characterizations of the proprietors a bit off putting. Attending to service is a valid observation, but who the hell cares that they took eight days to respond to an email? Pompous asses do, that's who. You can bet there is a ton of email languishing in Richman's inbox.
posted by Xoebe at 7:48 AM on August 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


Personal data point: I really like M. Wells and they gave me free pie there. And the pie tasted like pancakes with maple syrup. And there was delicious fatty bone marrow with escargot, fresh squeezed orange juice, and a grilled cheese with a freaking hunk of luscious foie gras. And I only spent $30, which isn't bad for such a decadent meal. I don't think it's overhyped at all. When it closes I don't know where I'll be able to get similar food except by taking the train to Quebec.
posted by melissam at 7:51 AM on August 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


I don't know who this Richman character is, but he certainly comes off as a screaming douchebag in his own review. I've eaten at M. Wells and absolutely loved it, but it's important to remember that it's a diner with fancified food that features outlandish ingredients. It's well done fancified food, to be sure, but it's a *diner*.

I'm not sure what level of service he's expecting, but slagging the restaurant in the way he did is way out of line.
posted by ged at 7:52 AM on August 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


And yeah, he can take his Queens-hating tone and shove it up his ass. Queens has amazing food, and just because he's too much of a crashing bore to properly appreciate it doesn't mean he needs to be a condescending dick about it.
posted by ged at 7:54 AM on August 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


And yeah, he can take his Queens-hating tone and shove it up his ass. Queens has amazing food, and just because he's too much of a crashing bore to properly appreciate it doesn't mean he needs to be a condescending dick about it.

Yes, I'm going to get on the Queens-love bandwagon and say that Queens has some of the best food in NYC. Maybe Richman should get off his haute cuisine horse and try some of the Thai, Indian, and Himalayan food that is probably among the best of these cuisines that you can get in the US. When I was at M. Wells there were admittedly some annoying hipsters sitting next to me and we started talking about Queens and I gave them a list of restaurants to try when they asked for it. They told me they never thought of going to Queens before...
posted by melissam at 7:57 AM on August 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


it's important to remember that it's a diner

What does this have to do with anything? Nearly every diner I frequent has really good service. Chatty, attentive waitresses who care that you get taken care of. Just because some greasy spoon has tattered booths and chipped tile floors doesn't mean the service sucks.
posted by rocketman at 7:58 AM on August 17, 2011 [30 favorites]


ged, did you read the entire piece? The management accused him of inappropriately touching a server.
posted by hermitosis at 7:58 AM on August 17, 2011


I don't know who this Richman character is, but he certainly comes off as a screaming douchebag in his own review. I've eaten at M. Wells and absolutely loved it, but it's important to remember that it's a diner with fancified food that features outlandish ingredients. It's well done fancified food, to be sure, but it's a *diner*.

If, as Richman says, the hamburger is $42, then I don't think "diner" means what you think it means.
posted by The Bellman at 7:58 AM on August 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


If, as Richman says, the hamburger is $42, then I don't think "diner" means what you think it means.

The hamburger is meant to be shared among 4 people, which is actually a pretty good deal! But yes, it is an "upscale" diner and they do serve expensive food, though it's possible to get a delicious meal +drink for $20 or so during lunch hours. Queens has a lot of diners where you could get a meal for $5 though.
posted by melissam at 8:02 AM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


The management accused him of inappropriately touching a server.

The management accused him in an email, stated that they did not know how to proceed, and Rickman responded by publishing this accusation in his review, then accused the owner of attempting to silence him - essentially he is accusing her of blackmail.
posted by muddgirl at 8:03 AM on August 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


What a strange and delightful article. Glowingly decadent descriptions of calorie-laden foods that sound equal parts appetizing and disgusting, a little bit of passive-aggressive whining, a little bit of condescending douchebaggery, and then the whole story takes a salacious and unexpected turn with the accusations of sexual harassment, leading to a genuine come-to-Jesus moment for the narrator in which he realizes that the precipitous decline in NYC's restaurant service is an unfortunate but not unavoidable turn of events, for which he and his kind must certainly share part of the blame. 4.5 out of 5 stars!

Really, though, I enjoyed this.
posted by crackingdes at 8:04 AM on August 17, 2011 [31 favorites]


Waffle House has some of the most attentive servers I've ever had. You shouldn't have to pay a premium to get reasonable attention from restaurant staff.

But yeah, this article wasn't really a complaint about poor service so much as a complaint about the owners' terrible PR practices and offensive accusations. I can't really fault Richman for taking offense and shouting that offense from the rooftops (or rather, bylines).
posted by litnerd at 8:06 AM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Someday there will be a gender neutral word with an attractive sound that doesn't make people sound like robots. Waitron is not that word.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:06 AM on August 17, 2011 [16 favorites]


I thought the review seemed pretty balanced. He liked the food enough on the first two times to overlook some of the problems with some of the dishes and the general lack of discipline in the front of the house.

It was on the third visit that the wheels completely came off service wise. Ignoring a 4 top for 45 minutes even if you think it's someone else's table is pretty inexcusable, especially when it's pretty obvious that they were trying to let their situation be known to the the staff.

Waiters should not studiously avoid looking at the patrons seated at other tables, the front end manager should be focused on making sure that service is prompt and courteous (as well as step in to protect waitstaff when a patron is being a douchebag).

Poor service is definitely becoming more common in all areas of the country, I don't know if restaurants are trying to shave their margins but increasingly FoH staff and management seem less focused and poorly trained and bad service can doom even the most exquisite food.

Low brow meets high brow cuisine is not an excuse to skimp on service and it seems like the reviewer was trying to draw a proverbial line in the sand that good food alone does not equal good reviews.
posted by vuron at 8:07 AM on August 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


ged, did you read the entire piece? The management accused him of inappropriately touching a server.

Yeah, I did. And based on his own response, I think he probably *did* grab the server's ass. I was attempting to focus on his criticisms of the restaurant instead of his sexual harassment issues, but we can certainly explore those as well.

He needs to stop grabbing people's asses. I think that's a reasonable stand to take.

If, as Richman says, the hamburger is $42, then I don't think "diner" means what you think it means.

As pointed out, that's a four person burger. If you had ever eaten there you'd know that the rest of the menu isn't outlandishly expensive.
posted by ged at 8:08 AM on August 17, 2011


Maybe Richman should get off his haute cuisine horse and try some of the Thai, Indian, and Himalayan food that is probably among the best of these cuisines that you can get in the US.

this is the equivalent of anti-intellectualism. Believe me I've spent plenty of time in my lilfe out on Roosy eating at ethnic places. I've got a pantry filled with items bought at Mi Tierra and Patel Brothers. I've also eaten at many many a fine dining place. The two aren't mutually exclusive.

The management accused him in an email, stated that they did not know how to proceed, and Rickman responded by publishing this accusation in his review, then accused the owner of attempting to silence him - essentially he is accusing her of blackmail.


wait did we read the same article? 'cause the one I read included a back and forth of the owner backpeddling away from that accusation once challenged.
posted by JPD at 8:08 AM on August 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think he probably *did* grab the server's ass

how can you possibly get that from the article? Or is just because he's a guy who is sort of known as a dick? Actually I'm pretty sure that's why he tried to get in front of the accusations - because its totally believable given his rep that he did something.

As I said above, we'll see. If he's dumb enough to do that in a slammed restaurant the size of a rail car, he's dumb enough to have done it a million times elsewhere. The allegations will start running in. It isn't like M.Wells is some outsider restaurant - its clearly in the hype machine.
posted by JPD at 8:11 AM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Waffle House has some of the most attentive servers I've ever had. You shouldn't have to pay a premium to get reasonable attention from restaurant staff.

...so then go to Waffle House. M. Wells isn't Waffle House.

He said that his previous experiences there were good. My experiences there have been good as well and I've never gotten bad service there. I have no doubt that he's inflating the description of the poor service as payback for getting called out on his sexual harassment.
posted by ged at 8:11 AM on August 17, 2011


I guess my question is: what is the point of restaurant reviews? As a regular restaurant patron, I will probably never interact with the owner beyond a short stop at my table to ask about the food. If I have terrible service, I'm not going to get a passive-agressive email from the owner afterwards. The food sounds good and reasonably priced. The service was terrible. End of story, right? Especially since the restaurant was already slated to close by the time the article was published.

Except Rickman isn't writing this review for me, he's writing it for other food critics. It's an industry gossip column.
posted by muddgirl at 8:12 AM on August 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


how can you possibly get that from the article?

By reading the article.
posted by ged at 8:13 AM on August 17, 2011


Whoops, meant to delete the line about the restaurant closing - I don't actually know the timeline.
posted by muddgirl at 8:13 AM on August 17, 2011


So far we have

1. Dont say nuttin' about Queens, you hear me?
2. If you're a food critic and you get bad service you should write the waiter a little note on the check rather than mentioning it in your review
3. If you get accused of sexual harassment which is then hastily scaled back from "a hardy pat on the ass" to an "inappropriate tap" you had better not refute the accusation publicly. Even if you have already written to the owner and denied them and offered to come to the restaurant and face any accusations in person.

He may be a dick but this review is far from out of line.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 8:13 AM on August 17, 2011 [21 favorites]


Food is just ingredients.

Douchebaggery adds zest!
posted by mazola at 8:15 AM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


ged: Why would a person in the public eye, who is dining with fellow journalists, and whom has personally made contact with the ownership about his presence that evening, and who basically considers dining rooms to be his workplace, do something as stupid as inappropriately touching an employee?

I mean, people do strange awful things, but considering the source and nature of the complaint (muddled) and the what the restaurateur had to gain (or at least, not lose) by making it, I'd like to know how on earth you can take that accusation seriously.
posted by hermitosis at 8:16 AM on August 17, 2011 [9 favorites]


I've not eaten there, but I have seen the menu. It's not a diner. It's an upscale restaurant whose gimmick is to look like a diner, and to serve fancy, expensive (though, apparently, excellent) food that is reminiscent of diner food. Not that there's anything wrong with that--I've happily purchased $15 lobster rolls off a food truck, Michel Richard's $23 chicken fingers, and $35 pies. But it's not a diner. If you think this is a diner, you need to find a real diner for comparison. Get the country-fried steak, and the cherry pie.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:16 AM on August 17, 2011 [8 favorites]


I guess my question is: what is the point of restaurant reviews? As a regular restaurant patron, I will probably never interact with the owner beyond a short stop at my table to ask about the food. If I have terrible service, I'm not going to get a passive-agressive email from the owner afterwards. The food sounds good and reasonably priced. The service was terrible. End of story, right? Especially since the restaurant was already slated to close by the time the article was published.

I like reading well-written criticism of any kind, as well as yummy food writing. Restaurant reviews are the best of both worlds.

...so then go to Waffle House. M. Wells isn't Waffle House.

. . . and that's exactly Richman's point--that there's this expectation in certain restaurants that "casual" restaurants serving a "hipster" clientele have terrible service, kind of like the snooty kids working at record shops back when you were in high school. But he's saying that it shouldn't, and doesn't have to, be that way--that customers deserve to be treated well even when a restaurant is trying to seem cool. He even cites examples of other NYC restaurants that balance the casual atmosphere with good service well.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:17 AM on August 17, 2011 [11 favorites]


Don't bash Queens by saying our millionaire diner ain't a diner! We are authentically nasty and rich.
posted by hermitosis at 8:18 AM on August 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


If you get accused of sexual harassment which is then hastily scaled back from "a hardy pat on the ass" to an "inappropriate tap" you had better not refute the accusation publicly.

Well, this is a serious mistatement of my comment, but that's to be expected. My question is, why publicise the accusation in a review of the restaurant? What purpose does it serve to regular restaurant-goers?

If the owner of M. Wells had publicly accused Rickman of bad behavior, then a public refutal is completely understandable, but that's not what happened. The owner of this restaurant is allegedly a jerk. Why does that affect me?
posted by muddgirl at 8:19 AM on August 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


hermitosis - Why would you not believe the server? Why give all credence to the guy? What makes you think people in power or in positions of authority don't do stupid things all the time?

MrMoonPie - Trust me, it's a diner. Have you actually been there?
posted by ged at 8:20 AM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


MrMoonPie: "Get the country-fried steak, and the cherry pie."

Just not in a Queens diner. Stick to the burgers. :D
posted by zarq at 8:20 AM on August 17, 2011


When it closes I don't know where I'll be able to get similar food except by taking the train to Quebec.

Oh, you New Yorkers have it SO ROUGH.
posted by goethean at 8:21 AM on August 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


Someday there will be a gender neutral word with an attractive sound that doesn't make people sound like robots. Waitron is not that word.

How bout 'server'?
posted by jrb223 at 8:22 AM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


...so then go to Waffle House. M. Wells isn't Waffle House.

My point was not that Waffle House is superior to M. Wells. My point was that an eating establishment being a diner doesn't mean that one shouldn't still expect excellent service.

And by the way, I really can't stand this kind of response to negative opinions. Why does it have to be an either/or? Why is it that when someone says they don't like something, or want something to change, they're told "well, if you don't like it, you don't have to do it/listen to it/eat there"? No one's forcing me to do anything, but that doesn't mean I'm not allowed to desire change in the problems I see.
posted by litnerd at 8:22 AM on August 17, 2011 [11 favorites]


Trust me, it's a diner. Have you actually been there?


I've been there - the only thing diner about it is the room,and what they are riffing off of. Just like APdC is a riff off a cabane a sucre and/or a casse-croute
posted by JPD at 8:23 AM on August 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


Is Richman's review of Les Halles on line anywhere?
posted by cilantro at 8:23 AM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


ged: " MrMoonPie - Trust me, it's a diner. Have you actually been there?"

I have. Several times. It's not a diner.

Not if we're comparing it to other traditional Queens diners, like Jackson Hole, Palace, Blue Bay, Kane's, Bel Aire etc., etc.

It looks like a diner. Some of the food is purposefully reminiscent of diner food. But the menu items are not at all typical of a Queens diner. They're more like an UWE restaurant with a very limited menu and very reasonable prices.
posted by zarq at 8:26 AM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Reading M Wells against Waffle House makes me want to start calling it W House.
posted by pointystick at 8:26 AM on August 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


My question is, why publicise the accusation in a review of the restaurant? What purpose does it serve to regular restaurant-goers?


If I've been falsely accused of sexual harassment I'm not going to worry a whole lot in my reaction about the accuser's feelings. Rickman seems to have done more than his fair share to handle this privately, writing immediately to the owner to deny the accusations, gathering testimony from his friends that he did not inappropriate, and going public only after not hearing back from the restaurant about their initial accusation. What's more, he's a journalist. As much as I don't care for him as a food critic he is a member of the free press, and if he thinks he's been accused of groping a waitress in order to shut him up, then I support him not shutting up about it.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 8:27 AM on August 17, 2011 [7 favorites]


cilantro: Kitchen Inconsequential
posted by zarq at 8:28 AM on August 17, 2011


I completely believe every word of Richman's account but I can see why the waitress was concerned because the man surely does have the face of an ass-grabber.

Even if he hadn't grabbed my ass, every time I walked past that face, I'd feel an involuntary spasm.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:28 AM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]



$42 for a burger? For that price, it better include something better than a quick feel! For $42 I can buy 5 lbs of organic beef, some great fresh baked breads and enough local veggies to compliment it and a pretty decent bottle of wine.

y'all want good food. Come to my house tonight, I'm doing my famous stir fry veggies with a lightly fried chicken breast (panko with a bit of fresh herbs from the window box) and a wild rice mix.

I promise not to grab your ass unless you say please.
posted by tomswift at 8:28 AM on August 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah I don't really get the overblown "Don't diss Queens" vibe some posters are giving off in this thread. He talked about the character of the area changing, becoming gentrified, etc. That a fictional diner a decade or so in the past might've charged $5 for a burger combo.

Now that same location has a restaurant that offers low brow meets high brow comfortable classics. At a not insignificant price point.

It seemed to me that his essential thesis is that just because high brow food is presented in a low brow setting does not mean that acceptable service standards should slip. Now maybe you've had good service in the venue and you really don't mind if the glasses aren't spotless and the plates are chipped because that adds to the ambiance and a restauranteur/ manager that is friendly and chatty is more important to you than prompt service but obviously that isn't acceptable to every diner.
posted by vuron at 8:28 AM on August 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


I've always assumed restaurant critics operate like that one did in that one episode of Life Goes On where the jerky guy demanding the total attention of the waitstaff plus off-menu blackened chicken was actually a plant by the real critic who was actually a single mom eating with her kids. So in order to do well, you'd just have to be like Corky and make up for the lack of attention by offering free milkshakes and you'll be fine.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:29 AM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


$42 for a burger? For that price, it better include something better than a quick feel! For $42 I can buy 5 lbs of organic beef, some great fresh baked breads and enough local veggies to compliment it and a pretty decent bottle of wine.



Ther burger is for 4. By NYC standards its not a crazy thing to charge 10.25 for just a burger.
posted by JPD at 8:30 AM on August 17, 2011


Thanks, zarq.
posted by cilantro at 8:31 AM on August 17, 2011


Does someone have a picture of this mythical burger that is supposed to feed four hungry hipsters?
posted by SkylitDrawl at 8:33 AM on August 17, 2011


By the way, this is Jackson Hole's menu. This is the Bell Aire's. Note the difference between that and the M. Wells menu. Also, to support JPD's comment, note the prices of the burgers at Jackson Hole. They're a chain known for their burgers, and prices range from $6-$16.
posted by zarq at 8:33 AM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


You're welcome, cilantro!
posted by zarq at 8:34 AM on August 17, 2011


Rickman seems to have done more than his fair share to handle this privately, writing immediately to the owner to deny the accusations, gathering testimony from his friends that he did not inappropriate, and going public only after not hearing back from the restaurant about their initial accusation.

So the matter was settled, right?

if he thinks he's been accused of groping a waitress in order to shut him up, then I support him not shutting up about it.

He conjectures that the owner's motive was to shut him up. There's no evidence of this at all, especially since the owner apparently did not respond to his friend's testimonials

Rickman wants an apology. Understandable, but why use his food column as a venue for eliciting that? "I demand an apology and I will accuse you publicly of blackmail unless you give it to me."

Again, I am not saying that the owner is right and that Rickman is a terrible person (although in many ways he has proven himself to be a jackass). I am asking why it is appropriate to use a column that is supposed to be about restaurants to air dirty laundry which has nothing to do with the quality of food or service at said restaurant.
posted by muddgirl at 8:35 AM on August 17, 2011


I don't understand waiting 25 minutes for a check, or for initial service. (Food? Sure.) Call me an asshole, but here are some of the things I have done when being blatantly ignored by waitstaff:
  • Stood up halfway in my chair to catch someone's attention.
  • Flagged down another waiter and asked him to send our waiter over.
  • Walked to the host stand and asked them to send over our waiter, or a manager.
  • Walked into the entranceway to the kitchen to find an employee to speak to.
  • Deliberately spilled a drink.
Obviously those are listed in increasing order of frustration and the last one is extreme, but I have done every one of them. And I'm talking about everything from a local two-dollar diner to a one-star Michelin restaurant. I will sit and wait, but I don't understand people who sit and wait and sit and wait and sit and wait and sit and wait.
posted by red clover at 8:35 AM on August 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Could everyone please stop saying burgers? I'm this close to driving over and breaking in to In-n-Out.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 8:36 AM on August 17, 2011 [8 favorites]


And maybe the answer is, "This is how all food critics use their column," in which case I'll happily continue to use Yelp instead.
posted by muddgirl at 8:36 AM on August 17, 2011


burger

2.4 lbs... still overpriced!
posted by tomswift at 8:36 AM on August 17, 2011


Does someone have a picture of this mythical burger that is supposed to feed four hungry hipsters?


ask and ye shall receive
posted by JPD at 8:36 AM on August 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


vuron: "Yeah I don't really get the overblown "Don't diss Queens" vibe" some posters are giving off in this thread.

Richman: "Queens is not a destination for residents of other boroughs, other than those en route to airports." That's snobbery & idiocy, especially coming from a food critic.
posted by muckster at 8:37 AM on August 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


Could everyone please stop saying burgers? I'm this close to driving over and breaking in to In-n-Out.

Double Double Animal Style. Double Double Animal Style. Double Double Animal Style.
Double Double Animal Style. Double Double Animal Style. Double Double Animal Style.
Double Double Animal Style. Double Double Animal Style. Double Double Animal Style.
Double Double Animal Style. Double Double Animal Style. Double Double Animal Style.

Have fun at In-N-Out.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 8:37 AM on August 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


villanelles at dawn: "Could everyone please stop saying burgers? I'm this close to driving over and breaking in to In-n-Out."

Could you pick me up one?
posted by zarq at 8:37 AM on August 17, 2011


2.4 lbs... still overpriced!


no it isn't - a non-diner 6 oz burger in NY is more than 10.25.
posted by JPD at 8:38 AM on August 17, 2011


So part of me thinks the whole bit about getting in a huff about bad service at a restaurant is a bit overblown. It's a freaking restaurant, people. You're there for maybe two hours, and you aren't spending that much money. Yes, food culture and all that, but seriously. The idea that the fact that you're dropping a couple dozen bucks on some underemployed waitron means that they're somehow morally obligated to jump at your every whim just never made any sense to me.

Before I unleash a shit ton of vitriol on this redonkulous opinion let me first say:
1) I have about 4 years of bartending experience under my belt
2) I have a couple years of waitron experience under my belt
3) I have been a chef in a high end restaurant
4) I spend a lot of money on food because I love it

That being said. "It's a freakin restaurant people"???? Do you know what eating out costs in this city? The mark up for the stupid ambience and exclusivity is crazy. I know what I'm paying for since I've done the buying at places like this. I'm paying for an 'experience'. Part of that experience is an attentive and knowledgeable staff. There are times when I am out eating with the main goal being drinks with friends. There are expectations for that context. There are also times when I am celebrating something or when I simply want to experience what a god damn passionately run restaurant can do..which is make your night transcendent. If I'm going to drop 150 to 250 bucks on dinner for two, you can god damn bet I'm not going to be happy if I have to wait 45 minutes SIMPLY TO ORDER MY ENTREE. I don't need someone to jump at my every whim. I do need someone to act like I'm a customer and that my time and money are important to them. I mean, do you take this logic to a theater performance? "Hey, it's just Broadway, people..you're only there for 2 hours. So what if the show starts 45 minutes late, they substituted the Tony winning star for a stand in 5 minutes before show time and the actors phoned it in."
posted by spicynuts at 8:38 AM on August 17, 2011 [39 favorites]


Mister Fabulous: " Double Double Animal Style. Double Double Animal Style. Double Double Animal Style. "

Villanelles, make it two.
posted by zarq at 8:38 AM on August 17, 2011


villanelles at dawn: Could everyone please stop saying burgers? I'm this close to driving over and breaking in to In-n-Out.

here is your plan
posted by Prince_of_Cups at 8:41 AM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


And maybe the answer is, "This is how all food critics use their column," in which case I'll happily continue to use Yelp instead.

Honestly I'd be less inclined to trust a review by someone who had that kind of experience at a restaurant and then left out any mention of it in their review. I'm quite happy with the all cards on the table thing. I also think that making an accusation and then not responding to any refutations doesn't mean the matter is settled and is actually just really shitty behavior and you get what's coming to you then.

On preview: I hate you all; that's my order too if you add fries and a strawberry shake.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 8:41 AM on August 17, 2011 [6 favorites]


That burger is beautiful. I would still not pay $42 for it, even if I had three friends with me and we were all pitching in. We could just go to Five Guys.
posted by SkylitDrawl at 8:41 AM on August 17, 2011


A couple data points that may or may not be illuminating.

Richman describes himself as an oldschool Philly sports writer, would ass grabbing in a diner of a waitress formerly known as Hon' be unexpected from a an old school sports writer?

If I recall both Frank Bruni and The New Yorkers Tables for Two gave the place favourable reviews, so the proprietors fears that a bad review will ruin them if published in a magazine most frequently read by rhohypnol buyers and frat boys with a preppy self image is doubtful.

The truth is, like most things, somewhere in the middle.
posted by Keith Talent at 8:43 AM on August 17, 2011


Richman: "Queens is not a destination for residents of other boroughs, other than those en route to airports." That's snobbery & idiocy, especially coming from a food critic.


But that's true. You can argue it all you want, but what are people going to queens for who don't live or work there? Food? sure - if you want ethnic food or maybe Parkside. But beyond that? The Hall of Science? Show of hands how many non-Queens NYers have been to the Hall of Science? Mets Game? US Open? sure. But you don't go to Queens to see Queens - and I say this as someone married to someone from Queens, who is out there at least twice a month to eat and or see her parents. But my friends who aren't NYers? Maybe they go out there to eat a few times a year. Sure. Queens just doesn't have the sorts of things Manhattan and Brooklyn have.
posted by JPD at 8:45 AM on August 17, 2011 [8 favorites]


Attending to service is a valid observation, but who the hell cares that they took eight days to respond to an email? Pompous asses do, that's who. You can bet there is a ton of email languishing in Richman's inbox.

Perhaps there is, but I expect those that pertain to his very livelihood get quick attention.

See, I took the eight day comment as an example of the owners' not giving a crap, which was the main theme of the article. Look at it this way - he's offering them a golden opportunity for some excellent free publicity, the sort of thing other restaurateurs would kill for. They make excited noise and then essentially blow it off. It's no skin of Richman's ass, but as a business decision, it's incredibly stupid. Close to a firing offense if they hadn't been the owners.
posted by IndigoJones at 8:48 AM on August 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Good riddance and go the fuck back to Montreal.. I'll stick to Court Square Diner for Long Island City greasy spoon goodness.
posted by ReeMonster at 8:48 AM on August 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


Richman: "Queens is not a destination for residents of other boroughs, other than those en route to airports." That's snobbery & idiocy, especially coming from a food critic.

There was no need for Richman to put that in his review, I agree, but it's unquestionably true. With the exception of a few cultural landmarks that he mentions (such as PS1) and one that he doesn't, but which people should know about (the awesome Museum of the Moving Image) Queens isn't a destination for people from the other boroughs. There's lots of great stuff in Queens and maybe people should spend more time figuring that out, but the Queens contingent in this thread is just coming off as defensive.
posted by The Bellman at 8:49 AM on August 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


The prices for the burger really don't seem that outrageous. I'm not sure that it's really possible to cook a burger of that size evenly but I guess if the meat is partially lamb and well sourced beef it might be acceptable. Those pictures looked pretty close to undercooked though.

As for the supposed ass grabbing, I doubt that Richman would be dumb enough to grab ass in front of colleagues. Food writer positions are pretty cushy and if there was truth to the claim his career and credibility would be fried. Which is probably why he's being so vocal in not only denying it but bringing in his fellow quests to refute the owner's statement.

Bad dining experiences happen all the time. Sometimes they even happen to food critics. I think he was partially shocked that given his relative standing that service would be that poor and partially shocked that in order to refute what was likely to be a very negative review the owner went on the proverbial offense.
posted by vuron at 8:51 AM on August 17, 2011


(the awesome Museum of the Moving Image)

I just joined there. I want enough of you to join so that they stay afloat, but not so many that it gets crowded.
posted by Jahaza at 8:53 AM on August 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


Good riddance and go the fuck back to Montreal.. I'll stick to Court Square Diner for Long Island City greasy spoon goodness.

I'll stick to the Shannon Pot directly across the street. Court Square is too clean and shiny for me.
posted by spicynuts at 8:56 AM on August 17, 2011


When it closes I don't know where I'll be able to get similar food except by taking the train to Quebec.

The train is only $60, but service generally sucks there too. Still worth it though, and then you can bring back lots of bagels.
posted by Salamandrous at 9:03 AM on August 17, 2011


I guess my question is: what is the point of restaurant reviews?

Well... I had thought about going to check out the place... but was borderline. After this review (which I read somewhere else yesterday), I probably won't.

In general, restaurant reviews are a big help here in Queens where there are a lot of places to eat and it helps to be able to winnow down the field.
posted by Jahaza at 9:03 AM on August 17, 2011


Why the fuck would you share a burger?
posted by adamdschneider at 9:04 AM on August 17, 2011 [12 favorites]


Doesn't need to be Snape. I'd settle for pretty much any character that Rickman's ever played.
posted by schmod at 10:35 AM on August 17 [1 favorite +] [!]


So just the one then?

*ducks*
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 9:08 AM on August 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


He had to mention the accusation. Can you imagine the reaction if he'd written the negative review without mentioning the claim and then the restaurant decided to publicize it? Then it looks like he's covering something up. He had to mention it.
posted by Bookhouse at 9:10 AM on August 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


Could this be a case of mistaken identity? Maybe Obraitis thought he was sitting elsewhere in the restaurant and had the whole restaurant crew focus on somebody else thinking that the other person was the critic?

Just wondering.
posted by I-baLL at 9:10 AM on August 17, 2011


There must be an Alan Richman impersonator! He sneaks in, soaks up the extra-attentive service, gropes all the waitresses, bills the meal to GQ, and leaves the real Richman fuming over in no man's land. Hmmmm.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 9:15 AM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


And maybe the answer is, "This is how all food critics use their column," in which case I'll happily continue to use Yelp instead.

Because Yelp is never used by petty people to settle petty differences, and their power is never used for extortion...
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:16 AM on August 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


Something about his response seems really off to me. I don't get why he put any of the sexual harassment stuff in the column.

The initial email from the owner didn't seem outrageous at all. He calls it an "indictment", repeatedly says she blamed him for being in a bad mood when he received poor service. What she actually said was EITHER the table received despicable service OR he was in a bad mood, but one of those explains the way he and his guests behaved which he admits was somewhat "out of line". It's not an "indictment", she's reporting what she was told and says she is concerned and unsure how to proceed. His response is over the top. Then in her second email she includes more details of the accusation she received and says she doesn't want to do the interview. She does nothing else. She doesn't make the accusation public (he did that, again I have no idea why)

His theory is the owner made up the whole thing to avoid a bad review, but why would she think she was getting a bad review? And how would making this up and sharing it only with him in private help her avoid a bad review? He calls her unapologetic for the bad service but I must be missing when he ever communicated to her that he'd received bad service prior to her first email to him.

Now I can totally believe the waitstaff made up some stuff because they knew he was a critic and knew he was mad about the bad service (since he snapped at the waitress, and one of the men in his group made a bunch of comments to them). But what I am not getting is anything bad about the owner here. Her emails sound like the rational response of someone in her alleged position. He comes off kind of crazy in this article. I think he would have been better off leaving out all of the sexual harassment stuff completely.
posted by Danila at 9:17 AM on August 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


this is all just so bizarre and embarrassing for all concerned. Like crackingdes, I have found this whole bloody little episode just delightful.

(I do tend to fall on the side of Richman is a d-bag, with his officiousness and faux-humble bloated sense of the restaurant critic's power. And I'm someone who still thinks that critics matter.)
posted by peachfuzz at 9:19 AM on August 17, 2011


It's absurd to assert that M. Wells is "just a diner." It plainly is not. It is a middlebrow restaurant operating under the conceit that is is a diner and provides a "diner-like experience." No diner offers a $75 pot-au-feu and a $65 saddle of lamb -- even if these dishes are meant to serve several people. Diners also don't sell bottles of wine at $55 and $63. Middlebrow restaurants do. And, as others have remarked, if a non-abstemious non-pennypinching normal dinner for two is likely to run $120 or more... a 45 minute wait to take an order or check in on diners that have clearly finished eating the food before them is unacceptable.
posted by slkinsey at 9:20 AM on August 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Mr. F, as a San Diegan living in Cambridge, MA looking at a tupperware container of leftover spaghetti for lunch, with no decent fast food burger within 1500 miles, allow me to say to you: "Kindly, sir, go fuck yourself."
posted by Aizkolari at 9:24 AM on August 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


She doesn't make the accusation public (he did that, again I have no idea why)

I think it's better for him to get it out in the open right away than for it to become the kind of thing that is whispered and speculated about. It's what I would do, if I knew for a fact that I was innocent.
posted by hermitosis at 9:25 AM on August 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Aizkolari: "with no decent fast food burger within 1500 miles,"

*raises hand* Um... ah.... but....

nevermind
posted by zarq at 9:25 AM on August 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Nobody mention fish tacos.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 9:25 AM on August 17, 2011


villanelles at dawn: "Nobody mention fish tacos."

The first rule about fish tacos is....
posted by zarq at 9:26 AM on August 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Mr. F, as a San Diegan living in Cambridge, MA looking at a tupperware container of leftover spaghetti for lunch, with no decent fast food burger within 1500 miles, allow me to say to you: "Kindly, sir, go fuck yourself."

. . . but but but there are awesome greasy spoons all up and down the east coast. White Manna in Jersey beats any chain burger, easy.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:27 AM on August 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Bourdain, on Richman:

Bourdain, though, is unfazed by the attack: He tells Grub Street, “It was like being mauled by Gumby. Afterwards, you’re not sure it even happened.”
posted by R. Mutt at 9:27 AM on August 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


To all of you confused about why he put the sexual harassment comments in the column...

It's really quite simple. Let's say he left that out, praising the food and damning the service. Imagine that the owners of M. Wells don't appreciate the less than perfect review. Then, they can reveal the accusation, and Richman's review looks terribly compromised and suspicious. Then, all of you would be asking why he refrained from mentioning it.
posted by Edgewise at 9:29 AM on August 17, 2011 [10 favorites]


as a San Diegan living in Cambridge, MA looking at a tupperware container of leftover spaghetti for lunch, with no decent fast food burger within 1500 miles, allow me to say to you: "Kindly, sir, go fuck yourself."

There are 5 Five Guys Burger Locations within 10 miles of you
posted by anastasiav at 9:31 AM on August 17, 2011 [10 favorites]


Bourdain, on Richman

Think what you want about Richman, by all means. But I always find it amusing when people post anti-Richman quotes from Tony Bourdain, of all people, like Bourdain himself isn't an asshole of the first rank. And even Bourdain would probably agree with that characterization.
posted by slkinsey at 9:31 AM on August 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


with no decent fast food burger within 1500 miles, allow me to say to you: "Kindly, sir, go fuck yourself."

I still have dreams about the Thurman Cafe in Columbus, OH (2300 miles away).
posted by Mister Fabulous at 9:33 AM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


anastasiav: " There are 5 Five Guys Burger Locations within 10 miles of you"

I sit here staring at my yogurt Pret Pot while cursing you all.
posted by zarq at 9:33 AM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


As you can see from the menu posted on Flickr, their regular burger is $10 not $42.
The giant $42 burger must have been some kind of special as it's not even on the regular menu, deliberately cherry-picked by Richman to make the place look overpriced. In fact their prices look very reasonable to me, with entrees around the $10 mark in general.
posted by w0mbat at 9:36 AM on August 17, 2011


OK, OK, 1500 miles was a bit of hyperbole, inspired by hunger and the fact that I've been slowly eating this ragu for a week. If I really did want great burger and fries for lunch I could always walk to the b.good in Harvard Square.
posted by Aizkolari at 9:38 AM on August 17, 2011


Nobody mention fish tacos.

i will fite you all
posted by elizardbits at 9:40 AM on August 17, 2011


Did anyone else read the "nominated for douchebag of the year award" link in the story? It's a quick Q&A with Richman and he flat out says, with absolutely no question, that upon being torn apart by Bourdain, he specifically and directly chose to go to Les Halles, even though no review was needed or warranted, specifically to get back at Bourdain.

Why the fuck would anyone read anything by this guy?
posted by jscott at 9:40 AM on August 17, 2011 [7 favorites]


As you can see from the menu posted on Flickr, their regular burger is $10 not $42.
The giant $42 burger must have been some kind of special as it's not even on the regular menu, deliberately cherry-picked by Richman to make the place look overpriced. In fact their prices look very reasonable to me, with entrees around the $10 mark in general.


Most of the posted menus seem to be either brunch or lunch menus. Look elsewhere, like here, to see a representative dinner menu.
posted by slkinsey at 9:44 AM on August 17, 2011


OK, OK, 1500 miles was a bit of hyperbole, inspired by hunger and the fact that I've been slowly eating this ragu for a week. If I really did want great burger and fries for lunch I could always walk to the b.good in Harvard Square.

Or, you know, Mr. Bartley's Burger Cottage.
posted by the painkiller at 9:46 AM on August 17, 2011 [6 favorites]


The giant $42 burger must have been some kind of special as it's not even on the regular menu, deliberately cherry-picked by Richman to make the place look overpriced.

And look here to see what you're getting into
posted by IndigoJones at 9:47 AM on August 17, 2011


Four Burgers in Central is my fav in the area.

Mr. Bartley's is overhyped and overpriced for the mediocre burgers they serve.
posted by 6550 at 9:49 AM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Look elsewhere, like here, to see a representative dinner menu.

For contrast, this is real Diner's menu, the Dakota out on Staten Island. ( Mmmmm Relish Tray.... )
posted by mikelieman at 9:51 AM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


spicynuts is so, so spot on. Non-NYC folks should bear in mind that a shared appetizer and two entrees at virtually any proper restaurant here will run you at least $50.

Me, I'm much more tolerant of bad food than bad service at all but the highest end of restaurants. Sometimes your batch of ingredients isn't great. A small mistake by a chef can ruin a dish. Bad service, on other other hand, is rarely a problem of "one rotten apple"; it's typically a top-down problem, a sign that management doesn't value service and doesn't teach its staff how to properly work the room. High-end service is an art, but basic dining room service is easily trained.

Consider this- if you get a bad plate at a restaurant with good service, they'll bring you something more to your liking. If you have bad service at a restaurant with good food, there's neither escaping it nor fixing it.
posted by mkultra at 9:53 AM on August 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


Did anyone else read the "nominated for douchebag of the year award" link in the story? It's a quick Q&A with Richman and he flat out says, with absolutely no question, that upon being torn apart by Bourdain, he specifically and directly chose to go to Les Halles, even though no review was needed or warranted, specifically to get back at Bourdain.

Why the fuck would anyone read anything by this guy?


Yup. This is exactly the kind of misplaced petty self-importance that drives me nuts about Richman. I like his food writing a lot of the time, but he's just so ridiculous.
posted by peachfuzz at 9:56 AM on August 17, 2011


> Look elsewhere, like here, to see a representative dinner menu.

For contrast, this is real Diner's menu, the Dakota out on Staten Island.


Or my local, the Broadway Restaurant. (Excellent) burger with fries'll run you $6.25.


Non-NYC folks should bear in mind that a shared appetizer and two entrees at virtually any proper restaurant here will run you at least $50.

Absolutely. And that's with nothing do drink, no dessert and before tip and tax. I'd say that a "proper full meal" (appetizer, entree, drink, dessert) at most any NYC middlebrow restaurant will run at least 60 bucks a person once tip and tax are figured in.
posted by slkinsey at 9:59 AM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I once had a Big Mac in an airport near Amsterdam, and it was the best hamburger I've ever had in an airport near Amsterdam, and that's like 5500 miles from here and I'm not sure what to do about that.
posted by cortex at 10:00 AM on August 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


Last paragraph: There is one thing more to say. It is not charitable, so I don't suppose it will reflect well on me. I do not forgive the people at M. Wells for what they have said. I wish there were some way they would not get away with it. I'm pretty certain they will, and I will always be sorry for that.

Uh, you just wrote up the whole fucking thing in a national magazine. You can sleep easy now.
posted by TheShadowKnows at 10:04 AM on August 17, 2011


Someday there will be a gender neutral word with an attractive sound that doesn't make people sound like robots. Waitron is not that word.

"Server" isn't gender neutral or isn't an attractive sound? I guess it does make people sound like computers that handle requests but maybe I'm too hung up on the idea that robots have arms and legs.
posted by phearlez at 10:05 AM on August 17, 2011


When it closes I don't know where I'll be able to get similar food except by taking the train to Quebec.

According to the NYT's (the FPP's second-to-last hyperlink):
"Customers were leaving big knots of bills on the tables and kissing Ms. Obraitis good night and wishing the couple well in their future endeavors. Both she and her husband have said these will include a new restaurant, also in Long Island City."
posted by ericb at 10:06 AM on August 17, 2011


Servers are those things in the computer room...

Can't we just say that from say, 1980 on, "waiter" is gender neutral?
posted by mikelieman at 10:07 AM on August 17, 2011


phearlez: "maybe I'm too hung up on the idea that robots have arms and legs."

...and wave them around, yelling 'Danger! Danger!'
posted by zarq at 10:07 AM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


OK, OK, 1500 miles was a bit of hyperbole, inspired by hunger and the fact that I've been slowly eating this ragu for a week. If I really did want great burger and fries for lunch I could always walk to the b.good in Harvard Square.

Or, you know, Mr. Bartley's Burger Cottage.


Exactly. And be sure to try the famous double cheeseburger ($5.25/includes fries) at Charlie's Kitchen!
posted by ericb at 10:12 AM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Server" isn't gender neutral or isn't an attractive sound? I guess it does make people sound like computers that handle requests but maybe I'm too hung up on the idea that robots have arms and legs.

I'm not a huge fan of server, it's just very sterile sounding, but it's fine. It's certainly more desirable than "waitron."
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:13 AM on August 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Food? sure - if you want ethnic food

I guess it's ultimately pretty much okay with me if people who think "ethnic food" is a meaningful term don't treat Queens as a destination. More food for us ethnics that way.
posted by RogerB at 10:13 AM on August 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


I can't find a menu online for Vegas diner in Brooklyn, so here is a menu for The Floridian. We don't need any other "diners" in New York besides those two.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:15 AM on August 17, 2011


OK, OK, 1500 miles was a bit of hyperbole, inspired by hunger and the fact that I've been slowly eating this ragu for a week. If I really did want great burger and fries for lunch I could always walk to the b.good in Harvard Square.

Or, you know, Mr. Bartley's Burger Cottage.


Which is both quite a bit over-rated and also not fast food. But there certainly are plenty of places to get a sit-down burger in Harvard/Central/Inman.
posted by atbash at 10:16 AM on August 17, 2011


This thread has descended into burger joint recommendations?

Wait -- I meant to say it has ascended.
posted by eoden at 10:17 AM on August 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


eoden: "This thread has descended into burger joint recommendations?"

I have this vague nervous feeling that it's going to be deleted and sent over to AskMe.
posted by zarq at 10:22 AM on August 17, 2011


I admit that I have some affection for "waitron," just because the first place I ever heard it used was in the chorus of "Washingtron" by Tru Fax and the Insaniacs. (This was back in the 1980s, when a young Joe Piscopo taught us all how to laugh, and Ms. Pac-Man struck a blow for women's rights.)
posted by bakerina at 10:23 AM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


For me the main draw of a diner, at least in New York, is not burgers. It is Cole Slaw, Pickles and Roumanian Steak Sandwiches. Any place that does not have Roumanian Steak Sandwiches cannot call itself a diner.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:24 AM on August 17, 2011


For me the main draw of a diner, at least in New York, is not burgers. It is Cole Slaw ...

Wait, this draws you *to* places?
posted by atbash at 10:26 AM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Any place that does not have Roumanian Steak Sandwiches cannot call itself a diner.

You sound like you're new here in America. Any place that does not have burgers cannot call itself a diner. End of story.
posted by eoden at 10:29 AM on August 17, 2011


I guess it's ultimately pretty much okay with me if people who think "ethnic food" is a meaningful term don't treat Queens as a destination. More food for us ethnics that way.


you have no idea what you are talking about. Many of the chowhound posters who discover all those places in queens you fancy yourself special for going to are actual friends of mine.
posted by JPD at 10:30 AM on August 17, 2011


Someday there will be a gender neutral word with an attractive sound that doesn't make people sound like robots. Waitron is not that word.

How about "waiter"? It's not like it's "waitman."

Of course, I refer to female actors routinely as "actors" with the same rationale and get funny looks for it too.
posted by dlugoczaj at 10:32 AM on August 17, 2011


You sound like you're new here in America. Any place that does not have burgers cannot call itself a diner. End of story.

I don't really consider New York to be part of America. Take my word for it, Roumanian Steak Sandwiches.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:33 AM on August 17, 2011


When it closes I don't know where I'll be able to get similar food except by taking the train to Quebec.

Oh, you New Yorkers have it SO ROUGH.


I don't know. Have you taken the Amtrak from NYC to Montreal? It's... interesting.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:35 AM on August 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think diners need to go with one of 2 models. The Northern Model or the Southern Model

1)Northern Model - A massive menu with way too many options so that no matter what someone will find something they want on the menu. These types of diners become default options when you have a large group of diverse diners because the restaurant isn't anyone's first choice but it's always an acceptable compromise.

2)Southern Model - A small menu generally focused on comfort classics and daily specials. Because it's got a small menu that the regulars know by heart it maintains consistency and can hold the line of prices because it should have less food wastage. It should also have a ridiculous amount of pies.

Attempts to deviate from these models only seem to do well in limited areas (Southern California and parts of the NE) or for limited duration. Upscaling diners seems to be a risky proposition even in a relative foody mecca.
posted by vuron at 10:36 AM on August 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


Roumanian Steak Sandwich

O.K. I've eaten in a bunch of diners in NYC and I don't recall ever seeing this on a menu, but it sounds delicious. So where do you recommend.

I also hunt the elusive swordfish souvlaki... om nom nom.
posted by Jahaza at 10:37 AM on August 17, 2011


Open Sliced Roumanian Steak
$14.99
broiled with our chef's magic hands, placed on a bun with French fries, onion rings, lettuce, tomato, cole slaw & pickle
posted by mikelieman at 10:42 AM on August 17, 2011


like Bourdain himself isn't an asshole of the first rank. And even Bourdain would probably agree with that characterization.

In my experience, their very assholism is the thing assholes are often proudest of.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:44 AM on August 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


you have no idea what you are talking about. Many of the chowhound posters who discover all those places in queens you fancy yourself special for going to are actual friends of mine.

Oh, some of your best friends are Chowhounds? Then it's definitely cool to act like the most multiethnic borough in the most multiethnic city in the United States is an enclave of strange, foreign "ethnic" food that's just waiting to be "discovered" by normative bourgeois white people.
posted by RogerB at 10:44 AM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Blazecock Pileon: "I don't know. Have you taken the Amtrak from NYC to Montreal? It's... interesting."

Take the Quiet Car. Seriously.

For pure entertainment value, every 10th trip or so features a conductor shouting at a closed bathroom door: "SIR! SIR! I CAN HEAR YOU ON THE PHONE IN THERE! THIS IS A QUIEEEET CAAAAR. YOU CAN'T DO THAT IN THERE SIR! DON'T MAKE ME EMBARRASS YOU! GET OFF THE PHONE OR GO TO THE DINING CAR IF YOU HAVE TO TALK TO YOUR GIRLFRIEND!"
posted by zarq at 10:47 AM on August 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


"I have friends who post comments on a website" is not an especially persuasive appeal to authority.
posted by red clover at 10:47 AM on August 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


Anyway, my personal metric for diner quality is whether or not the waitress slaps ME on the ass. I leave it to you decide which side of the spectrum the ass slapping diners fall on.
posted by spicynuts at 10:48 AM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I still have dreams about the Thurman Cafe in Columbus, OH (2300 miles away).

Oh man. I guess it's only two thousandish for me. Hmm.
posted by Kwine at 10:49 AM on August 17, 2011


O.K. I've eaten in a bunch of diners in NYC and I don't recall ever seeing this on a menu, but it sounds delicious. So where do you recommend.

Try Sarge's (which calls itself a deli) They also have the Turkey Favorite, a hot open turkey sandwich on potato pancakes instread of bread.

Or The aformentioned Floridian Diner
or Vegas Diner
posted by Ad hominem at 10:50 AM on August 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't know this critic from a plate of beans, but I will say this: he is dead on point about the hipster mentality and lack of service in trendy restaurants. Austin is rife with it.

Before I relate a personal example that took place at one of our hipper East-side restaurants, I will fess up to myself being what many folks here would probably dub "hipster." I'm white, male, thin-to-average build...I play synth in a loud indie rock band, have near-permanent facial scruff, shaggy hair, and wear v-necks (and occasionally even skinny jeans). So yeah. Full disclosure, yadda yadda.

So on, then to example:

Mid-August, 5:00 PM, 193 degrees Fahrenheit outside. The lady and I decide to stop in to a restaurant on the East side of town that's getting a lot of buzz. All locally sourced food, craft cocktails, etc. Sounds awesome!

We get there, place is empty as it is so early, and we are given a table very quickly. Server seems nice. Menu is...puzzling. It's balls hot outside, and the offerings are all things like curried lamb shanks, and butternut squash soup. We have a cocktail and decide that we'll make a mini-buffet out of the small cold dishes. The two of us order 6 of these: cheese plate, charcuterie, bison carpaccio, etc. The waitress proceeds after our ordering of this fairly large amount of food to ask what we'd like for an entree. I politely explain that we think we'll stick to just sampling a lot of the smaller dishes, along with cocktails and dessert.

Then... she put all her weight on one leg, hand on hip, head cocked, and deadpanned back at us, "That's it?"

For the entire rest of the meal, we were bombarded with the worst service ever, and frequent inquiries along the lines of:

"How much longer do you think you'll be?"
"Are you done yet?"
"Do you think you'll be much longer?"

And so on.

We were going to stick around for drinks which, at an average of $12 per, would have been good for the establishment. We ended up getting fed up and leaving. And never going back.

When we left, the place was still not full, and we had spent $180 for two people. For shitty service.

And this is happening ALL. OVER. TOWN. Hip restaurants with novel food, a too-free-with-the-gushing-praise local press, and young chefs/owners are far too willing to adopt the attitude of "if you don't like the service, you just don't get it man". But no. Service IS important in a service industry.
posted by kaseijin at 10:53 AM on August 17, 2011 [23 favorites]


I liked the parts of the thread that were about Alan Rickman.
posted by Eideteker at 10:59 AM on August 17, 2011 [10 favorites]


It strikes me that his issue with the restaurant would've never happened if follow ups happened in-person or via a phone call.

Here's my sum of interaction:
  1. waitrons: poor service
  2. reviewer: flag down help
  3. waitron: weak offer for help
  4. reviewer: comment that could be interpreted as snarky
  5. waitron: unknown conversation with owner
  6. owner: report of bad reviewer behavior, disbelief
  7. reviewer: takes it as an accusation, responds defensively and confrontationally
  8. owner: screw you
Part of the problem is in (6) in which the owner should have assumed the best on the reviewer and offered the opportunity for an open dialog. That is lightly implied with "I don't know what to think or how to proceed. But I must relay my worry." which can be taken as "I don't what to do, any ideas?" The rest of the problem lies in (7) I can see how he wouldn't respond with anything but defense, but since there is clearly a difference in story, this calls for more/better communication, not an offer to come in and be confrontational - something that I can't imagine would ever end well.

which makes this interaction par for the course in internet age communication.

If he were alive, Alexander Pope would write an epic poem about it and post it on his blog.
posted by plinth at 11:03 AM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I still have dreams about the Thurman Cafe in Columbus, OH

That place is pretty good! You should come here sometime and have an Earthride at Kuma's (be prepared to wait...and wait).
posted by adamdschneider at 11:04 AM on August 17, 2011


we had spent $180 for two people

Are you fucking kidding me? Two drinks plus 6 mini appetizer plates...$180?!
posted by adamdschneider at 11:07 AM on August 17, 2011


As an addendum to the above, I recognize that one should not expect white glove treatment at casual restaurants.

That line becomes somewhat blurry when the restaurant is serving $20 slices of raw meat drizzled with truffle oil and crap like that, as opposed to...oh...cheese enchiladas with rice and beans. There can even be some relaxed expectations at nicer establishments that position themselves as more relaxed and casual.

But. I have never had service so nasty even at some of the grungiest dive restaurants in town. And if a patron complains at a dive restaurant, they typically aren't treated as either clueless simpletons or entitled douchebags.

If you put up a certain caliber of food...if you are featured in local magazines...if you think of yourself as part of a "food movement"...then you should probably at least put at least a modicum of thought into your level of service.
posted by kaseijin at 11:09 AM on August 17, 2011


adamschneider: 5 cocktails, 6 small plates, two desserts. Two hours (mostly spent waiting for food).
posted by kaseijin at 11:12 AM on August 17, 2011


Also, there is at least one too many "at leasts" in the above. But at least it's still readable.
posted by kaseijin at 11:14 AM on August 17, 2011


It's like some restaurants think, if we have some interesting food, but a crappy web site and terrible service and surly bartenders and dirty dishes and overcharge, people will still come for the interesting food!

There's a million restaurants, and I don't just go for the food.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:14 AM on August 17, 2011


$90 a person for 6 appetizers does seem excessive outside of fine dining unless your alcohol bill is unbelievable. Even at $15 an appetizer (which is a pretty hefty price point) that's only $90. You must of had a 4-5 drinks or so ($12 x 5 = $60) plus gratuity could definitely hit $90 a person.

I'm just not sure those prices represent a sustainable business model.
posted by vuron at 11:15 AM on August 17, 2011


Someday there will be a gender neutral word with an attractive sound that doesn't make people sound like robots. Waitron is not that word.

"Waiter" is already gender neutral, like "teacher." A woman who serves food in a restaurant is a "waiter."
posted by ethnomethodologist at 11:19 AM on August 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ah ha I missed the typically overpriced deserts. What $8 a piece? That probably brings the price point down on the appetizers to a more reasonable level. Still at that price point and the overall bill the waiter should've been more than accommodating.

I can understand maybe trying to hurry along a big group table during the brunch window (church crowds during brunches are awful) but doing that to a couple ordering a ton of appetizers, drinks and desserts?

Yeah that place is not long for the world.
posted by vuron at 11:21 AM on August 17, 2011


Not really. If I recall correctly (it's been a year now since we went, and I refuse to return), the apps started at around $12 and ranged up to $22 or $25. Cocktails ranged from $8 to $15. The desserts? I thiiiiiiiiink they were in the neighborhood of $8?
posted by kaseijin at 11:25 AM on August 17, 2011


Of course, I refer to female actors routinely as "actors" with the same rationale and get funny looks for it too.

I was taught (by my parents) to say "Ack-ter" for a man and "ack-tor" for a person of either gender. I've never been able to figure out if anyone else does this.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:27 AM on August 17, 2011


To summarize: 200 bucks wasted getting bummed out....
posted by mikelieman at 11:28 AM on August 17, 2011


I was taught (by my parents) to say "Ack-ter" for a man and "ack-tor" for a person of either gender. I've never been able to figure out if anyone else does this.

Soda or Pop?
posted by mikelieman at 11:28 AM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


So, the two male friends who vouched that Richman did nothing untoward...which one of them was the one who was, in Richman's own words, "totally out of line with his mouth and his comments"?
posted by IanMorr at 11:29 AM on August 17, 2011


Soda or Pop?

They said cold drink, of course. Now, let's be clear, I don't say this, because I'm desperately trying to avoid giving off the impression that I'm an illiterate hillbilly. I say soda.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:31 AM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


An illiterate hillbilly wouldn't have made it past the sneaky registration screen....
posted by mikelieman at 11:33 AM on August 17, 2011


Good. Didn't want to have to call Child Protective Services on them.
posted by eoden at 11:33 AM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


They said cold drink, of course.

Bless their hearts.
posted by The Bellman at 11:35 AM on August 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


kaseijin: "I recognize that one should not expect white glove treatment at casual restaurants. "

Why?

It doesn't cost extra anything for a restaurant (any restaurant) to insist that their wait staff be polite, and the only reason why restaurants get away with anything less than decent service is that people put up with it. It has nothing to do with the "casualness" or "formalness" and definitely nothing to do with how much your meal costs.

As a cartoon cat once said "no one should be a cock to a stranger, ever". Holds true for life as well as restaurants.
posted by danny the boy at 11:36 AM on August 17, 2011


"I recognize that one should not expect white glove treatment at casual restaurants. "

Why?

It doesn't cost extra anything for a restaurant (any restaurant) to insist that their wait staff be polite,


I think "white glove" suggests something more than polite service. It suggests never allowing the diner to reach their seat without someone being there to pull it back; it suggests all entrees being served at precisely the same moment; it suggests little couches for purses to lie upon.
posted by Bookhouse at 11:41 AM on August 17, 2011


I loves me them purse couches....
posted by mikelieman at 11:47 AM on August 17, 2011


Yeah you're right, "white glove" is something else. But I do think it's strange how many people accept being treated poorly in restaurants as a thing that sometimes happens (and think leaving a 12% tip is punishment) when they would set the goddamn place on fire if they were treated that way in any other context.
posted by danny the boy at 11:49 AM on August 17, 2011


I think the essential mindset we're all hoping the places we choose to spend our dining dollars will follow the ideals promoted by one of our local restauranteurs, in this seriously large plate-o-beans about accomodating diner's special requests:
The pinnacle of this attitude comes from Brad Rosenstein, owner of Jack’s Oyster House in Albany, who says, “We’re not serving food, we’re serving people. If they want different vegetables, different potatoes, another accompaniment, sauce on the side: Whatever it is we can do to accommodate them, we will.”
Once, the OMGTHEY'RESERVINGPEOPLE!!! snark wears off, it really is the essential element of... I dunno.. success? Happiness? All I know is without it, a great meal from the kitchen can turn into a real bummer. And with it, I'm probably going to not give a shit about "the paella came out later than then tamales..."
posted by mikelieman at 12:00 PM on August 17, 2011


jscott: Did anyone else read the "nominated for douchebag of the year award" link in the story?

Yes, and this is what he said:
I wrote the piece with the intention of getting even with Bourdain. I admit that. But I had no ill-will towards Les Halles. To be honest, Bourdain is such an untalented cook that I expected it to be better than it was when he worked there. Instead, I found an appalling restaurant, one of the worst in New York. Read the review. Even more disgusting than the food was its dishonorable exploitation of Bourdain's fame. It was serving 600 meals a day, an unimaginable total, and if they were all like mine, nearly inedible. I think, in retrospect, it was one of the most useful and serviceable reviews I've written -- nobody else had said how dreadful one of the most crowded restaurants in New York had become.
And in the review itself, he makes it clear that the problems with the restaurant are probably linked to its connection with Bourdain's celebrity.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:00 PM on August 17, 2011


No one has said anything for Cook-Out, so I shall simply say that a Cook-Out style burger with one of their chocolate shakes is as close to heaven as I will ever get. I don't even care that they have religious slogans on their wrappers.
posted by winna at 12:08 PM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I feel like I was just given a glimpse into a world that I never knew existed.
posted by SpacemanStix at 12:11 PM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


FWIW, Alan Richman is well-regarded and recognized by his industry:
"Alan Richman is the most decorated food writer in history. He has won 14 James Beard Journalism Awards, a National Magazine Award (and was a finalist five more times) ... In 1998, Richman was inducted into The James Beard Foundation Who's Who of Food and Beverage in America, which recognizes culinary industry professionals for their achievements. He is the Dean of Food Journalism at The French Culinary Institute in New York, where he teaches a class in food writing. Richman's 14 Beard awards have been presented in restaurant reviewing, feature writing, and wine writing. He has also taken the top prize, the M.F.K. Fisher Distinguished Writing Award, twice."
posted by ericb at 12:17 PM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I write freelance restaurant reviews for a local independent newspaper/magazine in my city. I love to write and I love food and I went to culinary school specifically to merge those two passions.

I pride myself on writing honestly and I try to mention service in every review I do. I've been a server and I know how much it sucks to have "that" table; the one where everyone is an asshole and they have really nit-picky requests and they're really, really demanding. I also know what it's like to have the most awesome table ever, with people who treat you like a fellow human being and who are there to enjoy the experience. I worked long enough to know that you can't treat those tables differently, even if you want to. It's not professional and it won't make the night go any faster, believe me.

I also know my food. I know how to cook and I know what cooks do to cover up mistakes. I've worked in kitchens where you never, ever send out anything that's less than perfect and I've worked in kitchens where you try your best to stretch that last little bit of sauce because you're almost out but it's too late in service to make more. I know that salt and pepper go a long way to making food better and the lack of it can make something that would have been great merely mediocre.

I once wrote a not-so-glowing review and the restaurant threatened to sue the paper and questioned my credentials. They also said that the paper should have warned them that I was coming, so they could have prepared for the review. Restaurant owners can be a very temperamental lot and some of them take the business very, very personally. I've found that the ones who do are almost always the ones who end up closing because they didn't take criticism (professional or otherwise) seriously. If there's room for improvement and you don't change, you're not going to succeed.

Lastly, I never go back to a restaurant if I've had bad service twice. I always, always give feedback to a manager if I've had lousy service and I'll give the restaurant another chance to get it right. My life is too short and my money too precious to give to anyone who thinks that being "cool" is preferable to taking service seriously.
posted by cooker girl at 12:29 PM on August 17, 2011 [6 favorites]


I once wrote a not-so-glowing review and the restaurant threatened to sue the paper and questioned my credentials. They also said that the paper should have warned them that I was coming, so they could have prepared for the review.

Could be worse.
posted by kafziel at 12:34 PM on August 17, 2011


I thought it was Jonathan Richman.

He eats with gusto, damn, you bet!
posted by anazgnos at 12:37 PM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


mikelieman, quoting his local paper: "The pinnacle of this attitude comes from Brad Rosenstein, owner of Jack’s Oyster House in Albany, who says, 'We’re not serving food, we’re serving people. If they want different vegetables, different potatoes, another accompaniment, sauce on the side: Whatever it is we can do to accommodate them, we will.'"

That attitude may work in restaurants that have large menus (and therefore large pantries). And while I think you're missing out, it's fine to order a dish with a minor modification to it, like leaving off the sauce. But I completely stand by restaurants who are firm about "no substitution" rules- a good chef curates his menu deliberately, and is no different than any other artist in that regard.
posted by mkultra at 12:50 PM on August 17, 2011


Well, I've also seen the same attitude at "Dan's", where it's the person on the griddle and usually a waitress. There's no issue adding a piece of tavern-ham to my chicken-emmy... ( Creating something of cordon-bleuy goodnoess... )

But yeah, there are going to be those kitchens where they'll take the other side of the issue. In fact, that *can* be a good thing. I recall my wife being told, "The chef says he won't do that", when she asked him to destroy a perfectly good piece of tuna, and I concurred with the opinion of the kitchen.
posted by mikelieman at 12:59 PM on August 17, 2011


Goodness, even.
posted by mikelieman at 12:59 PM on August 17, 2011


I know what you guys mean about Mr. Barley's being overrated. Some people say it's the best burger in the history of the universe, when really the most you can say is that it's the best burger in America.
posted by escabeche at 1:00 PM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


If we're back to comparing Cambridge burgers, I will submit that b.good is better than Four Guys. The last two times I've been to Four Guys the meat has been very undercooked, red and quite bloody when ordered medium rare.
posted by Aizkolari at 1:11 PM on August 17, 2011


I think the proprietor of the restaurant is to be applauded, whether or not the waitress is ultimately telling the truth. She stood up for her employee against someone with a lot of power to damage her business, in a situation where she had little to gain. How many employers-- particularly in the service industry-- would do this?
posted by threeants at 1:28 PM on August 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


I have never seen an undercooked burger at Five Guys. (I assume that's what "Four Guys" refers to?) What's interesting about their business model is that, in order to expedite cooking and deliver "fast" food, they cook two extra-thin patties rather than a single normal-thickness patty. It's not especially delectable, but it's clever.

However, I wouldn't be surprised if someone got an undercooked burger after ordering "medium rare." I have never been offered different cooking options at Five Guys, nor would I expect to be. Their entire model, from the cooking process to the menu, is about being a fast-food restaurant. "Medium rare" is a request you make at a diner, not at McDonald's.
posted by red clover at 1:31 PM on August 17, 2011


It's interesting, because the "new casual" style of service was borne out of an effort to avoid intimidating diners and get away from being snooty. Traditional fine dining service can be very luxurious but it can also just be scary in a particularly class-fraught way - diners who were not raised going to fancy restaurants worry that the waiter is judging them for using the wrong fork, etc. Restaurants that combine serious food with more welcoming, casual service are a working from democratizing impulse.

The irony is that bad service in these new hipster/foodie restaurants mirrors the old experience. The worry that the waiter has pegged you as déclassé and is therefore freezing you out is replaced by the worry that the you are not cool enough to merit his/her attention in the first place. Yeah, some of it is not training people well in the first place, but some of it is about maintaining a particular kind of scene.
posted by yarrow at 1:31 PM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'd rather be judged for using the wrong fork than not get a fork at all.

And if this really is a hipster thing, now patrons are going to be afraid they're being judged for the fact that they listen to Dave Matthews. Which people deserve to be judged for.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:33 PM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


If we're back to comparing Cambridge burgers, I will submit that b.good is better than Four Guys. The last two times I've been to Four Guys the meat has been very undercooked, red and quite bloody when ordered medium rare.

Well, no wonder. Fifth guy apparently didn't show up that day. Must've been his job to make sure the burgers were cooked properly.
posted by gompa at 1:40 PM on August 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


With Bourdain, he got in trouble for not mentioning the personal nonsense.

Now he's getting into trouble for mentioning the personal nonsense.

Huh.
posted by anotherpanacea at 2:02 PM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


In my experience, their very assholism is the thing assholes are often proudest of.

You must have met my ex-husband!




Regarding Richman's column, I believe him completely. What reason would he have to lie? He can mar the restaurant's reputation with a bad review on food and service. This sounds like he was trying to defend himself.

it's important to remember that it's a diner

Service should be good regardless of the price, location, or type of cuisine. One of my favorite restaurants is Camellia Grill - an amazing diner with amazing service. (And delicious, delicious freezes - not shakes.)
posted by mitzyjalapeno at 2:33 PM on August 17, 2011


It's a shame I'm late to the "what is a diner and how do you judge it" part of the thread. Then again, being late has never stopped me before.

Having fully cottoned to the idea of diners while traipsing around southwest Indiana under the tutelage of an expert I learned that a diner is rated first on the number of calendars on the wall. Second by the number of pies in the spinning (yes, it must be tall a tall glass cylinder that rotates as a very lazy speed) display case. And third, by the quality of a common dish served at any diner of record.

The gold standard for rating the kitchen is the patty melt. It is the burger variant that lets a proper kitchen shine. There is a fine line between grilled toast and either a soggy mess or a Gobi-like sandwich. If your diner cannot be arsed to lay in a supply of proper rye bread then you obviously don't care. Sourdough is right out. Grilled onions cannot be a gooey mass, but cannot have even a hint of crunch. They should go down in the same manner I imagine eating leeches would feel. The cheese must be melted just to the point it is able to hold the onions in place, but not so melted as to have soaked into the patty. The patty itself cannot be well done, that is what Morrissey was really on about when singing meat is murder. While I prefer my beef rare, a patty melt can get close to medium, but can never go over. Medium rare presents the right amount of flavor without saturating the toasted rye with burger runoff. If it isn't served with a dill spear, you might as well have not brought it out in the first place.

Any shortcoming on the patty melt test can be made up with extra credit from the pie case but only if the pie is rhubarb and they don't ask if you want it warmed with scoop of vanilla ice cream when you order it. Barring that, a proper cherry milkshake might just salvage a diner's reputation.

As for the linked article--an amusing read even if there was no reportage on the number of calendars or whether the sublime pie was properly displayed.
posted by Fezboy! at 2:54 PM on August 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


as a San Diegan living in Cambridge, MA looking at a tupperware container of leftover spaghetti for lunch, with no decent fast food burger within 1500 miles, allow me to say to you: "Kindly, sir, go fuck yourself."

There are 5 Five Guys Burger Locations within 10 miles of you


Was that supposed to be a refutation? I've got to try a different 5 guys, the local one has great fries and absolutely lousy burgers. I'm hoping that's a fluke and not a sign that many, many people wouldn't know a good burger if it smacked them upside the head.

Richman describes himself as an oldschool Philly sports writer, would ass grabbing in a diner of a waitress formerly known as Hon' be unexpected from a an old school sports writer?


Judge much?
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:57 PM on August 17, 2011


Attitude matters. I went to a newly opened wine bar with my wife. A bored Hipster server took our order.

We had decided to share a cheese and fruit plate with our wine. Upon arrival, I noticed that several of the grapes were overripe to the point of rot. I pointed this out to the server and she looked down at my plate. "Would you like me to bring you....[she began pointing to the rotting grapes with her index finger]... 5 more grapes?" she asked. "No, just the check." 20 minutes later the check arrived. Zero tip. Never returned. Recommended to EVERYONE that they stay far away. The takeaway for restaurant owners is that the servers are your restaurant to the customer.
posted by zerobyproxy at 3:19 PM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


> what are people going to queens for who don't live or work there?

To go to Format NY? Only one of three BMX shops in the 5 boroughs? we also visited Post in Brooklyn & Dah Shop in Chinatown. The guys at Post gave my kid a t-shirt because it was a Large & he wears Medium

Oh, yeah, their store's closed. Shitheads. Update their blog everyday, but can't manage to mention that 92-29 Queens Blvd, CU-4, Rego Park is a beauty salon now. fuck Queens! and everyone who pretends to sell overpriced bicycle-themed t-shirts there! yeah!
posted by morganw at 3:24 PM on August 17, 2011


hmmm...I enjoyed the article and tended to feel that his story is believable (I think the owners sound pretty horrible) but I've never eaten there and claim no first hand experience.

but, yeah, he just lost all credibility for me with this paragraph in an article on bay area food & trends:
Commis opened in 2009 on a desolate street in Oakland that is rapidly gentrifying, although somewhat disturbingly. Already there are too many shops specializing in what my mother called "tchotchkes," stuff nobody but a vacationer would buy. Nevertheless, credit goes to Commis for changing the culture of the neighborhood so that the innocents who desire such nonsensical items feel absolutely safe there. A year ago, when I ate at Commis, I almost swiped one of the rapier-like butter knives to protect myself while walking to my car.
this restaurant is on Piedmont Ave!!! any one who knows oakland knows that is a nice, safe, affluent neighborhood filled with non-threatening white people (oooh!) and has been for many years. the idea of needing a weapon there is laughable.
posted by supermedusa at 3:49 PM on August 17, 2011


The last two times I've been to Four Guys the meat has been very undercooked, red and quite bloody when ordered medium rare.

Did you mean to say medium well? Because medium rare should be red and bloody, but with a warm center. Rare would be the same but with a cool center. You're just ordering your burgers wrong.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 4:29 PM on August 17, 2011


$42 Long Island burger vendors and NYC restaurant critics that eat at such places multiple times, while trying to score interviews with the owners, deserve each other.

For a knock-your-expectations-into-next-week burger experience, Colonel Mustard's Phabulous Phat Burgers can't be beat.
posted by paulsc at 4:41 PM on August 17, 2011


Sure, that giant burger LOOKS good (how do four people divvy up a burger, anyway?) but how do I know there isn't escargot or bone marrow hiding in there somewhere?
posted by evilcolonel at 4:48 PM on August 17, 2011


All I get from this is that there are certain people out there who are paying way too much for plates of arranged meat drizzled with gravy. Fucking...grow up.
posted by tumid dahlia at 4:50 PM on August 17, 2011


. . . but but but there are awesome greasy spoons all up and down the east coast. White Manna in Jersey beats any chain burger, easy.

Yeah, and make sure you go to the one with two N's! Wear a sweatshirt so you can pull the hood in tight and relive the smell for the rest of the week.

Ugh... all the Double Doubles in the world can't replace a plate of four White Manna burgers or a Ripper from Rutt's Hut... I miss you, Garden State. I think I'd even willingly eat at Hot Grill or Johnny and Hanges, at this point.
posted by jstef at 5:25 PM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Rutt's Hut! My father-in-law is a big fan. Personally, I prefer a good Red Tower II chili dog. Om nom nom.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:44 PM on August 17, 2011


It sounds to me that the lady running the front, the chef's wife, didn't have a clue about what her job was. Total amateur. the butt smacking thing...jeez please, that's the kind of blame game kids do on the playground.

Anyway, good service is key. The food might be fantastic but if the waitstaff are assholes, not only will you not tip or tip poorly, you're gonna tell all your friends how the place sucks.

I can understand if a place is incredibly busy, but if it's moderate to slow and I see servers standing around or talking on the phone I get pissed and leave. If my wife is with me, she'll find a manager and very politely let him or her know what's happening on the floor.

My most impressive service experience was in very good and popular place and they were slammed. It was quite a wait for our food after we ordered, but our server showed up with couple of on the house appetizer plates (the chef's take on caprese salad---bacon? Hell, yea.) That was tops and I tipped like a mafia boss.
posted by snsranch at 5:48 PM on August 17, 2011


Kaseijin, when I was in Austin 6 years ago I made a reservation at Fonda San Miguel at the recommendation of an acquaintance who had gone to UT. I was told if I arrived 15 minutes beyond the scheduled time I would lose the reservation. I showed up 1/2 hour early, was led to the bar and handed a menu. I told the management that when I make a reservation, I expect to be seated in the dining room and to put me where they would seat a couple...they acted shocked that I would insist on this, but seated me in the dining room, where I was then treated gracio
All that USAians need to do to get good FrancoNorthAmerican is go to the Red Arrow or Chez Vachon in Manchester NH
-
posted by brujita at 5:48 PM on August 17, 2011


You showed up half an hour early for your reservation and were surprised that the table wasn't ready for you? Not really the restaurant's fault, there.
posted by kafziel at 6:12 PM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


If your diner cannot be arsed to lay in a supply of proper rye bread then you obviously don't care. Sourdough is right out.

When I moved to the Midwest I was surprised to find that a lot of diners here make patty melt on pumpernickel. I've seen this both here in Wisconsin and in Chicago. At first I was shocked and angered, but I've come to see it as a viable alternative.
posted by escabeche at 6:45 PM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


No, I was willing to wait the 1/2 hour.....and when I was finally seated in the dining room there were many empty tables. The impression I was given was that the dining room was for couples only.
posted by brujita at 9:05 PM on August 17, 2011


I can't comment one way or the other about the accusation of harassment as we only have his word on the matter (from the other links he's apparently right that the service is atrocious).

Having read his post-Katrina New Orleans review, I'm tempted to say that while he doesn't always know what the fuck he's talking about vis-a-vis food, his social analysis is interesting. Richman notes that small restaurants like Dooky Chase "...many of them black-owned, were harder hit by Katrina than large restaurants, most of them white-owned." However, he preceded this by stating that he saw "exactly one civilian tidying up." Apparently he didn't stop by Broadmoor where I was helping my parents clean up the first floor of our house.

What I can't get over is this line: "Maybe roux is magic to locals, but as a thickener, I don't see that it's much different from cornstarch." Really? A dean at the FRENCH Culinary Institute doesn't know that roux adds flavor as well as thickness to a dish? Admittedly, he showed his ignorance earlier in the piece by calling roux "the legendary Louisiana fat-and-flour mixture..." as though we had invented it.

Richman's slightly "get off my lawn" take on the decline of food service in America would be better served by noting the larger social forces at work instead of attributing it to his being to lax in his criticism, but at least he tries to make it about more than one shitty meal he had at a restaurant he's beefing with.
posted by ChutneyFerret at 5:46 AM on August 18, 2011


Pumpernickel is just rye bread on steroids so is a valid variation on the classic patty melt, generally served in heartier climes. It can be overpowering but is really just an excuse to add additional grilled onions and cheese in my opinion.

Want to talk about shock and anger? I recently had a patty melt served on toasted--not grilled mind you--white bread. It was an abomination. I had such hopes for the place too, being a truck stop cafe on two lane blacktop in rural Nebraska. The one saving grace: gooseberry pie was available and deployed to help ease the suffering.
posted by Fezboy! at 8:11 AM on August 18, 2011


"I mean, people do strange awful things, but considering the source and nature of the complaint (muddled) and the what the restaurateur had to gain (or at least, not lose) by making it, I'd like to know how on earth you can take that accusation seriously."

So the logic here is that he couldn't possibly have actually sexually harassed some because if he had he could have gotten away with it because no one but him is credible?

"$42 for a burger? For that price, it better include something better than a quick feel!"

Ugh...
posted by Blasdelb at 2:53 PM on August 18, 2011


« Older Silence of Love   |   The Body on Somerton Beach Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post