ByThe wub


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 more stories of customers who ate the weirdest stuff possible. As always, these are real emails from real readers.

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Mary Gascoigne

I have a friend who works at a restaurant that has one of those display trays of desserts that the servers bring around to each table after the main course. If you're unfamiliar with the process, customers look at the samples on the tray to make their selection, but the desserts are prepared fresh in the kitchen. The example desserts have usually been sitting there for days.

One of desserts this restaurant offers is a big, classic ice cream sundae. Obviously, you can't leave ice cream out at room temperature, so they use scoops of butter for the display tray instead. It's surprisingly convincing.

Anyway, one lunch service, an impatient customer decided he didn't want to wait for his dessert. So he marched himself over to the display tray, picked up the ice cream sundae, and promptly hoovered the dusty chocolate sauce, puckered maraschino cherry, and tennis-ball-sized scoop of butter.

He said it was delicious.

Sam Diekman

Two Thursday night prayer-meeting douchebags would come into the Friendly’s where I worked every single Thursday night at the same time (I worked every Thursday night) and would order the exact same thing: a small vanilla ice cream sundae for one guy, a small strawberry sundae for the other guy, and both would drink multiple cups of black coffee. I got stuck waiting on them almost every time, and although their total bill never hit $10, they never, ever thought it was necessary to leave me a tip. Nothing. Not 50 cents, not a quarter, zippo. I never received a tip from them.

One Thursday night, I had had it; I was sick of waiting on these clowns for nothing in return, so I kind of lost it for a minute. The servers usually made the sundaes on slow nights, so on this particular evening I decided to add a little "something extra" to each sundae. On the vanilla sundae I put one scoop of ice cream in the dish, then a good healthy scoop of tartar sauce on it (ours had pickles in it), topped by another scoop of vanilla. On the strawberry sundae, I did one scoop of ice cream, a large scoop of thousand island dressing (ours had pickles in it, as well), and then another scoop of ice cream. I delivered the sundaes and the coffees, as well as a full carafe so I didn't have to check on them later.

After I walked away, I suddenly became extremely worried about what I had just done; I was sure to be caught sabotaging these two dinks' food. I basically hid in the backroom for about an hour. When I came out, the two guys were gone. Both ice cream dishes were SCRAPED CLEAN. I was flabbergasted … but when I noticed the $1 bill on the table that they left as a tip, I nearly died laughing.

Peter Samuels

I was out to dinner with my parents at the local Village Inn, which in our hometown in Wyoming was considered about the nicest restaurant in town.

We are seated at a table close to a couple in their late 40s/early 50s. They were seated before us so while we are ordering they have already received their food. I am trying to decide what to eat so I glance over to see what this couple has ordered, hoping for inspiration. Just as I glanced over I witnessed the beginning of what ended up being an epic battle.

I looked over in time to watch the woman trying to extract ketchup from the glass Heinz bottle. This was a herculean effort. She tried the "tip" method to no avail. She tried the "pound it" method to no avail. She ultimately was successful with the "knife up the bottle" method. After working so hard to get her ketchup she must have felt that she deserved all the ketchup she could get from the bottle. She proceeded to lick the knife to clean all the ketchup off. That didn't bother me, as it was her knife. A little disgusting, but whatever.

Apparently, licking the knife wasn't enough. Once the knife was clean, the lady promptly picked up the innocent ketchup and proceeded to lick the mouth of the bottle. To this day, I cannot use a ketchup bottle in a restaurant for fear of what has been done to it by previous customers. And now my wife knows why I do not put anything on my fries when we eat out.

Eric Raymond

I used to work at a regional convenience store chain in northern New England while in college. There was one regular who’d come in who ordered the grossest thing I’d ever seen; we’ll call him the Taxi Driver. Taxi Driver would always come in around 10 PM and buy four packs of menthols and a soda.

The soda machine had these zero-calorie flavor squirt buttons that sprayed a noxious-smelling fluid into your cup so you can "enjoy" vanilla diet coke or whatever. Every night, Taxi Driver would pay for his stuff and walk over the the flavor station. He’d pull out a large plastic cup from the dispenser and proceed to fill the entire cup up with the cherry flavor squirt. Keep in mind, it only dispensed about a teaspoon per button press, so Taxi Driver had to stand there for several minutes leaning on the button in order to fill his cup.

Taxi driver would then drive away into the night, hopefully to an oncologist.

Josh Harrelson

I used to work at a family-owned and operated restaurant when I was first out of college. One of the most popular items on the menu was a reuben sandwich on 12-inch rye, piled with corned beef, sauerkraut, and, most importantly, probably eight ounces of thousand island dressing.

One night, a woman is seated along with two others at a table in my section, so I introduce myself and ask if there is anything that I can start them off with.

"As long as you still have that reuben, I know what I'm havin'!" I take their drink orders and return to the table a few minutes later. Reuben woman begins their dinner order with an … unusual request:

"Is it possible to order the reuben, but instead of corned beef, could I have tilapia?"

"So, you would like to switch out the corned beef in our reuben for the tilapia that we have on our menu? I … don't think it should be a problem, other than some minor price adjusting."

The cooks don't believe me, but they do say that it's technically possible. I ring it in, and 20 minutes later the abortion in rye bread sits in front of our protagonist at the table. The soft, broiled, pale tilapia sits in between a healthy helping of sauerkraut, rye, and thousand island. Tilapia is not meant to carry such a load. The woman is so excited that she's actually clapping. After I check back with the table, the woman cannot stop complimenting the tilapia reuben, to the point that I think she was covering up embarrassment for even ordering it. She assured me that she would be back again to order it very soon.

I continued to work there for six months after without seeing her again, and none of the cooks said that they ever made another tilapia reuben.

Amy Platt

I used to work at In-N-Out, and as many people know, they have a "secret menu," which includes various ways to modify the regular burgers. The most popular modification was ordering a burger "animal style," which includes adding a mustard fried patty, extra spread, grilled onions, and pickles. Customers often called animal style by various other names (monster style and doggy style being the most popular), and I would correct them and explain what animal style is to make sure that is what they wanted to order. One day a customer came through my line and the following conversation occurred:

Customer: I'd like a double double burger volcano style.

Me: Oh, do you mean animal style? It comes with a mustard fried patty, extra spread, grilled onions, and pickles.

Customer: No, I want it volcano style.

Me: I'm sorry, I don't know what that is. It's not on our menu.

Customer: Well, do you know what a volcano looks like?

Me: Um, yeah, sure.

Customer: Well, I want my burger to look like a volcano.

Me: *utterly confused and probably staring blankly at him*

Customer: I want you to cut a hole in the middle of my burger and fill it with ketchup.

To this day I don't know if he was some kind of burger genius, trying to mess with me, or just the strangest customer I ever encountered there.

Matt Freeman

When I was in high school back in the late 1980s, I worked the counter at a (long-since closed) French Canadian bakery in Manchester, NH. At the time, the city had a very large Quebecois population, and a lot of people followed French Canadian holiday traditions. One big Christmas tradition is the bûche de Nöel, or Yule Log: basically a jelly roll filled with chocolate buttercream instead of jelly, frosted with more chocolate buttercream textured to look like bark, and otherwise decorated to look like an actual log (including powdered sugar to look like snow, mushrooms made of marzipan or meringue, etc).

This bakery was locally famous for their Yule Logs. They were very popular at Christmastime, and people usually had to order them weeks in advance.

So, it's December 24th, early afternoon, about an hour before the bakery is going to close for Christmas. The bakery has just two Yule Logs left in the store: one pre-order that's in a box ready for pick-up, and one for display in the unrefrigerated display case. Now, while the display Yule Log was indeed made by the pastry chef, it's not actually food. The "cake" is really a sheet of yellow polyurethane foam, and the "filling" and "frosting" is made of brown wax. The "meringue" mushrooms are fake hollow plastic, and the "snow" is that fake snow from a spray can. The thing is also about five years old. That said, it did look almost identical to the real Yule Log cakes we sold, which is kind of the point of a display model.

A very frazzled woman walks into the bakery and tries to buy a Yule Log for a Christmas party that night. I explain that we're all out. The customer gets very argumentative and tries to buy the pre-order, which I flatly refuse to sell. I do offer to sell the pre-order to her if it hasn't been picked up by closing, which is in about an hour. The customer says she doesn't have time for that, and then points to the plastic Yule Log in the display case.

"I want THAT Yule Log!" (points to the display)

"I can't sell that one -- "

"Listen to me: I want to buy that Yule Log NOW!"

"Ma'am, that is -- "

"I don't care if it's a display, I want to buy it."

"Ma'am, that isn't really -- "

"You are GOING to SELL me THAT Yule Log!"

At this point, the co-owner of the bakery walks in from the back room to see what the commotion is all about. She is unable to calm down the customer either. The lady continues to cut off any explanation of why we don't want to sell her a fake cake made of wax. She keeps demanding, loudly, to buy the display cake.

After a good five minutes of arguing, the co-owner relents. "Okay, I'll sell it to you, if you insist. Now, I want you to understand: that cake has been in the case for quite a while, it's just for show. I wouldn't serve it to a dog. You sure you really want it?"

The customer insists that she does indeed want the Yule Log. The manager then rattles off a ridiculously high price for it (like, five times what a regular one would go for), and the customer agrees. The customer hands over the cash, and I put the five-year-old fake cake made of wax and plastic into a cake box and hand it over. With a look of smug satisfaction, the customer walks out with her Yule Log.

"Merry Christmas!" I shout as the door swings shut behind her.

I would have LOVED to see the look on her smug face when she tried to serve a plastic cake.

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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