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Welcome back to Off The Menu, where we bring you the best and strangest food stories from my email inbox. This week, we've got some of the dumbest restaurant customers known to humanity. As always, these are real emails from real readers.


Before we get to the stories, I'd like to again say thank you to Wonkette for giving me -- and this series -- a new home after The Company That Must Not Be Named decided to lay off thoroughly excellent writers like Dennis Mersereau and Jane Marie and Mark Shrayber and honestly, pretty much everyone they laid off. Everyone at Wonkette is every bit as nice and funny and wonderful as you'd hope they'd be, and I'm happy to be here.

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Now, here are your stories.

Jennaleigh Portinson

I was at a sushi restaurant in LA, seated next to a young couple who looked like they were on a date. The topic of the language of the menu came up.

The young man said, "It's sushi, so it's Japanese. If it was Chinese, it'd be in Thai."

The young lady replied, "I mean, the only difference to me is they're not English."

Al Traeger

I used to bartend at an American upscale eatery. One night, my girlfriend and a friend of mine came in for some drinks after she had finished work. It was the first time she had come to visit me at work since we first met (perks of the job). The bar was full, but we were properly staffed, so I had plenty of time to talk with her and my friend while making sure the guests were being taken care of.

After some conversation, she asked "what is the stupidest thing a customer has said to you?" Right then, there were two older women two seats down that I caught eyes with me and I could tell they needed help, I told my girlfriend I would be right back. I approached the ladies and they informed me they had a question on the dinner menu.

Me: "I would love to answer any question you have, and if I cannot I will be more than happy to ask the chef for you."

Lady: "Oh, that sounds great, is your bacon really, you know, like bacon-y?"

Me: "What do you mean?"

Lady: "You know, is it really bacon-y?"

At this point, I was leaning on the bar. I turned my head to look at my girlfriend, as if she had staged this. She and my friend were keeled over the bar laughing. I turned and looked this woman square in the eyes and mustered up enough professionalism to say:

Me: "Well, we offer an applewood smoked bacon. If you would not like that on your burger this evening, we can just hold the bacon for you.”

Lady: “No, that sounds great. I don't think that will be too bacon-y.”

I took the rest of their order, and as I was walking to my terminal to put it in, I looked over at my girlfriend and said, "THAT is the stupidest thing any guest has ever said to me." She was in tears from laughter.

The rest of the night was filled with my girlfriend and coworkers asking each other if our bread was really bread-y or our soup was really soup-y.

Albert Morrison

I work at a restaurant in the Midwest where one of our more popular appetizers is "plantain chips and dip." So shavings from a plantain, deep fried, and served with dip.

I can't tell you how many people look at the menu and order "Plantation Chips." It happens at least once a week. And it's also always a really old white lady, so it makes things EXTREMELY uncomfortable. I'm not sure why people think that we would want to allude to such a dark part of American history on our lunch menu. I imagine these some people would be completely fine asking one of our servers to "tell me more about your '9/11 casserole.'”

[Editor’s Note: Are we positive it wasn’t this lady?]

Jemma Thackeray

During graduate school I worked at a national chain restaurant known for being "half store, half restaurant, all country." We were known for our comfort food, particularly the meatloaf (which - this will become important in a moment - is baked with ketchup on top). [Editor’s Note: *head-desk* WE KNOW YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT CRACKER BARREL.]

It was a normal Sunday night, with lots of church groups. I had a table with one of those middle-aged grandmother types. She told me that she wanted the meatloaf, but didn't want "that red sauce on top of it." I informed her that this "red sauce" (ketchup) was baked in, and we would be happy to serve it without, but that it would probably still taste like "that red sauce" (ketchup). She assured me that was okay. I put the order in, and a little while later her food came up.

I delivered it to the table, where she proceeded to inspect the plate for "that red sauce." Assured that there was none, she began eating. I then did my usual "is there anything else I can get you?" To which she replied "oh, yes dear, can you bring me some ketchup for my meatloaf?"

Jackie Carmichael

I work at my family’s bakery, and I have for about 5 years now. I hear some pretty rude and stupid shit almost every shift, but this one takes the cake.

A woman, probably in her late thirties, came in on a Saturday. I greeted her warmly, and she meekly replied, turning and looking through the small items bin, a bin of pre-wrapped, single serve foods. She picked up a single brownie, which we bake into cupcake liners and drizzle with different flavoring cremes, chocolates, or sauces.

“Are these the cupcakes?” she asks me.

“No, ma’am. Those are actually brownies, they’re just baked into cupcake liners so they’re easier to eat. These are the cupcakes,” I say, gesturing to the two clear containers in front of me full of the actual cupcakes, which are frosted and larger and of different varieties.

“Oh, well, what’s the difference?”

I am slightly dumbfounded. Is she asking me to explain the difference between a cupcake and a brownie?

“Um, well, these are cupcakes, they have frosting...the brownies are regular brownies, they’re just baked in those liners and shapes, they’ve all got a flavor, the one you’re holding is sea salt caramel...”

She stares at me.

“So...this is a brownie."

“Yes, ma’am, that one’s carame-”

“I know that.”

“Okay, well, yeah, I mean, it’s just a brownie.” By this point I am wondering if this woman had ever tasted either of these items before, but I was sure she had, and it seemed so much like a given.

“Okay, soooo...I guess I just don’t get the difference between these...” She points to the glass.

“Cupcakes?” I clarify. “They’re cake, that’s a brownie."

I mean, how hard is it? They’re two different pastries, and all of the flavors are indicated on our signage, right in front. It’s not a difficult system at all.

“Sooo...what’s the DIFFERENCE, though?”

“They’re two different things, um, the cake is...cake...the brownie is more like...like a dense...”

“Not the same.”

“No, not the same.”

“But WHAT is DIFFERENT?” By this point, the woman is getting pretty frustrated with my inability to explain, I guess, what a brownie is.

“Well, I mean, okay, a brownie is like a cake, but it’s thicker, it’s all chocolate, it’s chewy...”

“And the cakes?”

“They’re lighter...fluffier...some are vanilla...have you ever HAD a cupcake before?”

This question was apparently highly offensive. She is positive that she’s had a cupcake before.

“And have you had a brownie before?”

“YES!” She is now at peak irritation.

“Well, okay, that’s just a brownie in a cupcake liner! It’s really just a brownie!”

“But, WHAT- OKAY, you know what? I’ll just take two of each,” she says, sighing.

As soon as she left, I needed an Advil.

[Editor’s Note: “Well maybe she grew up on an isolated desert island where there were no cupcakes or brownies, have you ever thought about that?! STOP BEING BROWNIEST.”]

Sandra Samuels

I worked at a Mongolian grill place for awhile, the place where you go through a buffet of raw ingredients and then give them to guys at the grill to cook while you wait. I started when it first opened, and no one in my little town had any idea how it worked. One of the main issues management stressed was that no one was to eat the raw stuff from the buffet, not even the fruit, because it might be contaminated with raw meat.

Towards the end of my career there, I had a nightmare table full of rural diners who simply couldn't grasp the notion behind the restaurant. They had a little kid who kept running to the buffet and grabbing handfuls of raw pineapple, and my manager freaked out about it. I had to leave my insanely busy section and scour the BOH for a can of pineapple, which I then brought to the table. I was explaining to the kid's mom why she couldn't eat the pineapples off the buffet, and Redneck Mom was super confused. Turns out, none of them had even gone to grill, and they were all eating raw chicken! I panicked, and went to take away their plates so they could get some COOKED FUCKING MEAT, and they got mad at me and continued to eat their raw meat! One guy actually growled at me when I tried to take his plate, and Redneck Mom kept yelling about how I was trying to steal her food (It's. A. Buffet. There is literally ALL THE FOOD YOU CAN EAT!).

I told my manager to deal with them.

Send Moar Stories!

Do you have a restaurant, home-cooking, or any other food-adjacent story you’d like to see appear in Off the Menu (on ANY subject, not just this one)? Please e-mail WilyUbertrout@gmail.com with “Off the Menu” in the subject line (or you can find me on Twitter @EyePatchGuy). Submissions are always welcome!

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