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"Chicken Tacos (2382785084)" byGlen Edelson from ATLANTA, USA - Chicken Tacos. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons


Hello, and welcome to the first-ever Wonkette edition of Off the Menu, where we bring you the best and strangest food stories from my email inbox. For our inaugural post, we've got tales of some of the worst restaurant customers the world has to offer. As always, these are real emails from real readers.

Some of you may know me from Jezebel's Kitchenette sub-blog, where I ran a similar but legally-in-no-way-connected-to-this-series-no-seriously-we-promise curated food stories column whose name I am no longer allowed to use because of butthead reasons. To those who've followed me over from there, hi guys! Welcome to Wonkette; it's a lovely place filled with lovely humans and you're going to love it here. To loyal readers of yr Wonkette who are reading my byline for the very first time and have no idea what you're in for, I'm so, so sorry.

Without further ado, here are your stories.

Stephanie Summers

I work in an upscale steakhouse; the kind that until recently made their managers wear tuxedos every night. As such, we don't get a lot of walk in business, so our sections are plotted to allow for everyone to get roughly equal covers. One night I had a four top and a five top celebrating a birthday plotted. That was it for the night.

Three of the five show up about a half hour later than their reservation time; in sweatpants and flip flops. I introduce myself, ask about drinks, and inform them that once everyone has arrived I'll be happy to go over the menu and answer any questions they have. It's important to note that since we have no descriptions on our menu, all the servers have tailored their spiels to preemptively answer the most common questions and save time.

After another 45 minutes go by, the other two people have not showed. The three there inform me that they are going to order. I ask if they'd like me to go over the menu for them. Nope. They were happy to have me describe 3/4 of the menu items to each of them individually, because it would have been asking a lot for them to pay attention the first time I answered it. We'll call one of the diners "Hell No,” since that was her most commonly uttered phrase throughout the night. Hell No asks me to describe the dish she ordered, so I do, to which she answers "Oh hell no, not for that price, you'll have to come back to me."

While Hell No is deliberating, the final two show up, ask how much soda is, and tell me "we'll have to discuss it." They discuss and decide that they do not in fact want anything to drink besides lemons for their water and some sugar, but they are ready to order. Hell No finally tells me "I don't know what any of this stuff is, (despite the fact I went over more than 10 entrees in great detail with her) so I'll have a Caesar."

The table never went more than five minutes without flagging someone down for something. Eventually the staff just avoided them all together, which was an impressive feat since they were directly in front of the open kitchen. Some golden highlights came while they were waiting for their entrees. I'll recap the best:

"Ya'll got Mountain Dew?"

"Unfortunately no, we have Coke products. I have Coke, diet, Sprite, lemonade, and ice tea. I can put grenadine in any of them, too."

"What the hell is that?"

"It's the cherry stuff."

"Naw, I'll have a Mountain Dew."

She ended up sticking with water.

After giving one a crash course in ordering soft drinks, the girl next to her tells me, "You can take my order now." Her friends assure her she already ordered, and I confirm that she did order and all of their food is going to arrive shortly. She says to me "Oh yeah? Well if I told you what I want, what did I order?"

"Well done pork chops, ma'am."

"I guess that's fine, bring that out." Literally waves me off with her hand.

Once their food is down, I assure them that is indeed what they ordered, and once again, it does not come with sides, but I'd be happy to get them some if they decided they wanted more food. They declined.

When I return to do my two minute check back, Hell No calls me over. "Something is wrong with my salad." I apologize and ask what is wrong with her Caesar salad. "This chicken is nasty. It's crunchy and hard. It's not even warm!"

I miraculously manage to keep a straight face and answer, "That's a house made parmesan crouton." Hell No tells me "Shit, that looked like chicken to me!" What the hell kind of chicken is she used to eating? I'm seriously asking.

I offer the birthday girl a complimentary dessert, which is not something we automatically do, and is certainly not promised when people make a reservation, but I was feeling kind. She orders one to go. They ask for separate checks and say they need to make it to their VIP booth at a club, so "can you make it quick?" I return with their checks, and two of them are in the bathroom. The birthday girl gives me cash, the other two credit cards. I make change for the cash, which is 37 cents. I return the cash, and collect payment from the two who have returned. One cash, one credit card. Cash tab two needs change in the form of 7 cents. I set down the change and the CC slip. "Have a great night," I say, and plan to go smoke half a pack of cigarettes.

The birthday girl looks at me, laughing, and says "I would have tipped you, but I'm so broke." After curbing my urge to flip the table, I flatly say "Enjoy your birthday." As I'm walking away, I see her begin to reach into her wallet for, I'm assuming, more cash. Hell No stops her and says, loudly, "She makes enough money, she don't need ours." They beat a hasty retreat, and when I retrieved the credit card slips, they all had aggressively written zeros on the tip line.

I wonder if it was the monogrammed apron, the empty section, or the fact I smiled at them an hour after we closed and bought dessert while they fucked me that tipped them off to my secret riches.

Dave Johnson

In college I worked at a bar that also sold food, but an extremely limited menu. We had deli meat sandwiches that came with potato chips and a pickle. If you wanted a hot sandwich, I put it in the microwave for a minute, as that was the only means of cooking anything in the place.

So I was working one Saturday afternoon (by myself, as it was a slow time) and a family of five (mom, dad, and three teens) came in and sat at one of the tables. I walked over, brought them some menus, took their drink orders, got their drinks, and delivered them to the table. I was now prepared to take their order.

First kid: "I'd like a cheeseburger and french fries."

I cheerfully explained that neither of those things appeared on our menu, which was 1/3 of a sheet of paper (printed on one side) listing the 6 sandwiches that we did, in fact, have available.

Dad: "How hard can it be to cook up a burger and fries!?"

I cheerfully explained that it would be rather difficult, due to the complete lack of hamburger, potatoes, or any of the other elements that constitute a "burger and fries,” or a grill or deep fryer to cook such things, on the premises. I also helpfully pointed out that there was a Hardee's directly across the street, and they specialized in such fare.

Mom: "Do you have soup or salad?"

At this point I was looking for the hidden cameras. I informed her that we regretfully did not, and was rewarded with a large sigh of frustration and rolled eyes.

For whatever reason (my best guess is that I had angered the gods somehow) they stayed to eat lunch. Remember, I was there alone, so I was their cook, waiter, busboy, bartender, napkin fetcher, etc, etc, while also laboring to keep the early Saturday drunks topped up with their beer and a shot.

End of the meal, I took them their bill, they deposited some money on the table and walked out the door. I went over to clean up their table and realized Dad, in his exceeding generosity, had rewarded me with a tip of 25 cents.

Kira Davies

I was bartending at a nightclub on a very busy night. One of our regulars (who I loved) was at my bar with a guy I had seen once or twice before, and that had a super creepy stare that made you feel so gross you wanted a shower. But he had never actually said or did anything that would make me toss him out. Until that night.

I was completely weeded because the next bartender on was late. Creepy man hadn't ordered a drink, even though everyone else he was with was now on their second round. I kept an eye out, waiting for him to make up his mind and trying to keep moving to maximize my money. He called me over by name multiple times, only to just stare at me and show me his creepy-ass smile as people are demanding drinks all around me. Frustrating, to say the least.

He calls me over 2-3 more times, and I ask him each time what he would like to drink. On the 4th or 5th time, I am completely exasperated, because it's obvious he is doing this on purpose, and thinks it's funny/cute/flirty. I stomp over and go, "WHAT DO YOU WANT?!"

He looks me in the eye, and very, very slowly shifts his gaze to my chest, lets his eyes stay there for two more seconds than necessary to make his point, then slowly looks back up to my eyes. He smirks to himself, then says "milk."

I completely snap. I immediately scream expletives at him as I leap across the bar. I shove him in the chest (almost knocking him completely off his barstool) and shout at him to get the fuck out. His friends don't even attempt to help him.

My manager is close by and comes flying over to rip my hands off him and defuse the situation. He pulls me away back behind the bar by waist, screaming "what the hell are you doing?!"

I'm still seething--steam was probably coming out of my ears--as I tell him what happened. He gets a disgusted look on his face, turns to the guy, and says, "oh for fuck's sake--get the hell out of here and don't come back, you piece of shit."

Tarin Warner

I worked at a large, well-known teppanyaki restaurant. One night I served a party of eight horrible young adults, dressed to the nines--four young men, four women. I knew this table would be trouble when they couldn't be bothered to stop taking selfies while I introduced myself. They ordered only water and four meals to share, then asked if I could split the check eight ways. I apologized and told them that was impossible, I could only split by each dish, they could divide the rest themselves. Meals included soup and salad and I felt bad, so I gave them four free soups and four free salads so everyone could have a starter. They continued their pattern of disrespectful behavior through the night. I brought their checks, with a handwritten thank you and when I picked them up, found they had left me two cents in tip, using their own pink pen to write "could have better, sorry" with a heart.

The kicker though? They had the audacity to ask me to continue to serve them by refilling their drinks and bussing their dishes after that slap in the face. I just smiled and walked away.

Alice Newman

I worked for a fast food restaurant as a shift manager on a busy Friday night. I was standing at the fry bin when I felt a thump on the side of my head. I looked down and saw wrapped cheeseburger that had just bounced off my head. Looking up, I realize an angry woman had thrown it at me because she wanted her burger without onions, and when she went through the drive thru she got a burger with only onions.

Fair enough; (Editor’s Note: NO, NOT FAIR ENOUGH, WHAT THE FUCK) I apologized and I offered her a new burger and free fries/soda for the mix-up. I then leaned down and picked up the burger off the floor and tossed it into the waste bin.

The lady proceeded to freak out because I threw away "perfectly good food," and asked for the burger back. I told her I couldn't give her a burger that had been on the floor. While I was talking to her, the cashier was getting her new order together. At that point, she was so angry, she threw all of her new food on me and walked out the door.

(Editor’s Note: Genuine question: How are you not writing this email from Leavenworth after unaccountably failing your justifiable homicide defense?)

Sara McLemore

As a senior in high school, I waited tables at a Tex Mex restaurant. I had been working there for at least seven months at the time and had never really experienced any particularly crazy customers, until this one family walked in during the middle of a rush.

They were two grandparents, their daughter and three grandkids. I headed over to their table and get their order. I got them their food in a reasonable amount of time, but when I was at another table, the grandmother flagged me over and kept calling "waitress, waitress!"

She said that her food was too spicy. It's not uncommon that people complained about the spicy food, so we had a policy that if someone couldn't handle the spice, we would replace it with something less spicy and take the original meal off the bill.

So this woman wanted another taco, but her meat “shouldn't be spicy.” I said that we prepped and marinated the meat she wanted ahead of time, but if she wanted a fried chicken taco, it wouldn't be spicy and we would comp her first order. She grumbled and accepted.

I brought out her new taco, but then she complained that her grandson's quesadilla didn't have any cheese in it. She proceeded to open the tortilla for me to look...and it was filled with cheese. She demanded I make him another one, and also that we put some chicken in it. Then all of her grandkids wanted a new quesadilla. Then the grandfather demanded another taco because his was suddenly too spicy as well. Also, his Coke “didn't taste like Coke,” so he wanted a different soda, even though his glass was about empty.

I had already given my manager a head's up that I would need to comp the grandmother's food, but at that point I headed back to the kitchen and told her the table wanted all of their food remade. She asked if there was anything wrong with the food, and I said not really, and that they were just giving me a hard time. She rolled her eyes and headed out to talk to them.

My manager came back and said they refused to order new food because they'd have to pay for the extra remakes, but that she’d will comp the food that was too spicy. I asked what I should do about the kids' meals, and she said I should tell them that if they wanted another quesadilla, they'd have to pay for it, since nothing had been wrong with the first ones. I went back to the table with the grandfather's taco, and the grandmother asked where her grandkids' quesadillas were. I said if they wanted different ones, they'd have to pay for new orders.

The lady then grabbed one of her grandkids' plates and plopped it on the ground. Her grandkids followed her lead and did the same with their plates. All their food was on the carpet, and I just looked at them in disbelief. There was rice and food splattered all over, and I was just dumbfounded. She said her kids dropped their plates and needed another meal.

I get the manager (obviously) and tell her what happened. She's usually very cool and collected, but this time, she just stormed out, telling me she'd handle the table for the rest of the night.

It ended up that my manager charged them for everything. The grandmother had the audacity to ask for a free dessert for everyone at the table “to compensate for the bad service.” The grandfather also took the kids to the men’s room (we had a single toilet girls and boys room) and when a coworker went to do a bathroom check after they left, they had completely trashed it. They unrolled all of the paper towels and toilet paper all over the floor and stuffed most of it in the toilet.

They paid the bill (no tip, obviously) and never came back.

Send Us 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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