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Hagedorn and Richman Face Off


johnb
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This has to be the first interesting Food Section in seemingly months.

I have spent the last 14 years of my life managing restaurants of varying degrees of scale and Mr. Hagedorn's contentions embody everything that is wrong with managers, partners, and owners in this business.

He shouldn't have even tried to broach the bottle water issue. If customers adverse reaction to this nuisance of a "sales tactic" helped caused you to leave the business, three cheers.

Do you, as a restauranteur, have to bear a seemingly inordinate amount of inane, petty, and ridiculous comments and complaints? Maybe...if you let them get to you.

He made a very wise decision leaving the business, as, despite his obvious talents, his attitude was probably giving it a bad name.

Ms. Richman's rebuttals seemed, to me, reasoned and spot on.

Tom's chat is gonna be nuts.

Brian Reymann

*Edit to add my name, and other stuff

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The "Make Them Wait at the Bar" Scam: To maximize profit, a restaurateur wants diners to come and go as quickly as possible, but the greater priority is to serve people well. That's why, at busy times, even if a table is available, new arrivals might be sent to the lounge to avoid overwhelming the kitchen and service staff. More often than not, the owner offers the first round of drinks on the house, preferring to eat the cost rather than risk bad service.

Is he for real? And how often does that happen?

Edit: sending people to the bar for $12 cocktails when a table is available? If the wait staff and kitchen can't handle the restaurant at capacity then why take the reservations? Why not reduce the number of tables? Would that not be better than pissing people off?

Edited by Heather
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in what he sent to the table at trumpets, mr. hagedorn was one of the most generous chefs i know, and we miss this place, despite the fact that there were men in the ladies bathroom. i'm truly sorry he is suffering from overexposure to the public. however, as ms. richman points out, restaurants do occasionally pull things he wouldn't attempt. for instance, it has been awhile, but one of tom's favorite italian restaurants on p street played the price-on-specials game exactly as she describes it the last time we were there.

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in what he sent to the table at trumpets, mr. hagedorn was one of the most generous chefs i know, and we miss this place, despite the fact that there were men in the ladies bathroom. i'm truly sorry he is suffering from overexposure to the public. however, as ms. richman points out, restaurants do occasionally pull things he wouldn't attempt. for instance, it has been awhile, but one of tom's favorite italian restaurants on p street played the price-on-specials game exactly as she describes it the last time we were there.

That Italian place has been doing it for a while, and Tom always makes a point of telling people to ask the prices. There is nothing wrong with asking, although I believe that the restaurant should let you know without asking, especially if the prices are significantly higher than a normal dinner.

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Is he for real?  And how often does that happen?

Edit: sending people to the bar for $12 cocktails when a table is available?  If the wait staff and kitchen can't handle the restaurant at capacity then why take the reservations?  Why not reduce the number of tables?  Would that not be better than pissing people off?

Heather,

people are routinely told to wait 10 or 15 minutes after their reservation time if the kitchen is slammed. This has nothing to do with handling the restaurant at capacity:

Suppose a restaurant seats 300 people. All this means is that the maximum occupancy of the premises is 300 arses in 300 chairs. This does NOT mean that the kitchen or the waitstaff is prepared to take 300 orders, and the kitchen, to cook 300 entrees, at the same time.

The host staff usually has a "golden number" that they try to work with for every quarter hour. This means that the number of covers at every fifteen-minute increment has to stay within that limit, give or take a few, and that number is what the kitchen and the waitstaff are prepared to comfortably handle without causing undue waiting times.

Ideally, people would sit down and leave on the clock. As all of you know, this is rarely if ever the case. Sometimes the of walk-in traffic throws my designed flow of covers off. Then, even if your reservation is at 8 pm, and I see that my kitchen is slammed and the waiters are weeded, I will politely ask you to "give us a few minutes" - until the next quarter-hour, so that the traffic is more or less evenly spread over the evening. Some, not all customers, choose to wait over cocktails; some just sit at the lounge; some make phone calls; some spend fifteen minutes in the restroom adjusing their Wonderbras.

I hope this makes sense, and I hope no one will use "restaurant at capacity" as their idea of what we should be prepared to handle.

Edited by Nadya
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Restaurants frequently make guests wait for a table, even if it is ready. Sometimes, this is indeed to force a sale.

Other times, it is done for altruistic reasons. Nadya is absolutely correct in that any restaurant, regardless of their seating capacity, can only handle a certain number of people in a certain time period. Just because a table is empty does not mean it is ready to be served.

I have seen three, four, five tables receive poor service for an hour because inexperienced managers and/or host/hostesses were so out of touch with how their restaurant was performing that they didn't understand one table waiting 5 or 10 minutes would make all the difference in the world.

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one of tom's favorite italian restaurants on p street played the price-on-specials game exactly as she describes it the last time we were there.

That Italian place has been doing it for a while

You guys wouldn't by chance be talking about AL TIRAMISU, would you?

Just wondering, since I once got nailed there with a recited "fish special" that was ten dollars more expensive than the most expensive item on the menu (and there was fish on the menu!). Almost $30 for this shitty little piece of fish, overcooked, dry, and sauceless. (Of course that's fairly representative of the meals I've had at Al Tiramisu, but that's for another thread...)

Cheers,

Rocks.

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Add me to the list of people who have experienced the rude sticker shock at Al Tiramisu. I think the special that one of us ordered was also about $10 more than the other items on the menu. It was a few years ago, but I was so turned off (plus kind of rude service and OK food) that we haven't been back.

Call me naive, but it never occurred to me that restaurants use "specials" as a way to jack up revenue. I always thought the phrase meant that the restaurant got something "special" that day (i.e. catch of the day, etc.) that was being served.

Although, has anyone experienced this: going to a sushi restaurant where everything was "market price?" In principle, I understand this (if fish/lobster etc can be "market price" then why not sushi), but I had never seen it before or since. Plus, this was not a fancy or particularly special sushi place, but a trendy neighborhood sushi joint in Philly.

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I have seen three, four, five tables receive poor service for an hour because inexperienced managers and/or host/hostesses were so out of touch with how their restaurant was performing that they didn't understand one table waiting 5 or 10 minutes would make all the difference in the world.

I've learned after seating everyone who came in during my first or second month, and that night most of the kitchen wanted to put me over the barrel because they've been reamed by orders. That experience, I am not looking forward to repeating. So if you have a good fortune to come on when I'm over my 15-minute-limit, it's off to the bar for you.

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I've learned after seating everyone who came in during my first or second month, and that night most of the kitchen wanted to put me over the barrel because they've been reamed by orders. That experience, I am not looking forward to repeating.  So if you have a good fortune to come on when I'm over my 15-minute-limit, it's off to the bar for you.

Yes, but does your establishment offer the "off to the bar" folks free cocktails while they're waiting?

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Call me naive, but it never occurred to me that restaurants use "specials" as a way to jack up revenue.  I always thought the phrase meant that the restaurant got something "special" that day (i.e. catch of the day, etc.) that was being served.

On a rare night I bet specials are something extra special that day, I am not so cynical to believe that they are specially made to jack up revenue. However to make good use of fresh food - a special combination of leftover meat or fish combined with other seafood that will go bad otherwise will force a combination of creativity that the diner may enjoy and the chef doesn't lose revenue by tossing the food even though it is fresh...

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Yes, but does your establishment offer the "off to the bar" folks free cocktails while they're waiting?

Nope, we never do. Maybe if the wait is inordinate - meaning half an hour or more, but in all my time, this happened only once. A 10 to 15 minute wait isn't really a hardship in a fine dining context.

Edited by Nadya
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Hagedorn's assertion that free cocktails are offered "more often than not" to patrons with reservations who cannot be seated right away... I find it a little hard to believe.

But maybe that's how things were done at his restaurants, and just not any of the restaurants I've ever been to, save one, which gave me a glass of white at the half-hour mark.

Very interesting topic. I went into it wanting to side with Hagedorn, because I do think that sometimes diners expect too much, but he's so furious and over-the-top in his assertions that it puts me off.

I do think the chat will be nuts today, as B.A.R. suggested.

Jael

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I understand Nadya's point about the kitchen being slammed and needing to space things out. Or at least I'm trying to.

But really, can't I just sit at the table and read the menu? The bars are smoky, crowded and generally not my cup of tea. Especially if I've got guests or in-laws with me.

Jennifer

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I understand Nadya's point about the kitchen being slammed and needing to space things out.  Or at least I'm trying to.

But really, can't I just sit at the table and read the menu?  The bars are smoky, crowded and generally not my cup of tea.  Especially if I've got guests or in-laws with me.

Jennifer

I am sure that some places might do this if you ask and state your concerns. If they did this for everyone and the server did not come by for 10-15 minutes can you imagine the gripes by the customers. Isn't the rule of thumb a 15 minute reservation grace period for both the restaurant and guest?

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QUOTE(bookluvingbabe @ Aug 31 2005, 10:48 AM)

I understand Nadya's point about the kitchen being slammed and needing to space things out.  Or at least I'm trying to.

But really, can't I just sit at the table and read the menu?  The bars are smoky, crowded and generally not my cup of tea.  Especially if I've got guests or in-laws with me.

Jennifer

I am sure that some places might do this if you ask and state your concerns. If they did this for everyone and the server did not come by for 10-15 minutes can you imagine the gripes by the customers. Isn't the rule of thumb a 15 minute reservation grace period for both the restaurant and guest?

Exactly. It's all about perception. A few minutes wait for a drink at a bar isn't even noticed. Fifteen minutes alone at a table would seem like an eternity. And there would be the extra pressure for the staff to "get to you" before they were actually out of the weeds.

The specials $$ scam is truly the mark of amatuers and happens ALL OF THE TIME. To try to state it does not is foolish.

Giving drinks to most of the people who have to wait for tables? Only seen it happen if the wait was, as Nadya said, extraordinary. Mr. Hegedorn does seem to have been the one restauranteur who was overly generous to the clients he held in contempt.

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You are both right. If a guest has a problem with smoke or really wants to sit down, we may do that. But in my experience, people do not like being ignored, particularly when they are seated at a table and should be able to count on their server's attention. Even if you are just sitting and looking at the menu, you still will need the staff's attention in form of giving the menu, serving bread, butter and water, taking the drinks order - no one will just leave you alone at your table.

So we prefer not to seat guests until we feel we can give them the attention they deserve. And really, we are only talking about a short wait, 10 to 15 minute tops.

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The specials $$ scam is truly the mark of amatuers and happens ALL OF THE TIME. To try to state it does not is foolish.

...I still respecfully disagree that specials are a scam, they help make the rest of the food affordable by not putting perfectly good food to waste... At some reputable restaurants the specials have been quite tasty and I am sure not cooked by amatuers. I find the best way to avoid being scammed is check the prices or don't order them.

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My husband loves Al Tiramisu.

Me--not so much.

They lost me forever when my server failed to mention the lamb special during Mr. BLB's birthday dinner.

I'll almost always order lamb if it's an option. Price be damned.

Management waved off my complaint when the table next to me was offered the lamb special 10 minutes later.

Fortunately we don't live in the neighborhood anymore so the urge to go is much less.

Jennifer

Add me to the list of people who have experienced the rude sticker shock at Al Tiramisu.  I think the special that one of us ordered was also about $10 more than the other items on the menu.  It was a few years ago, but I was so turned off (plus kind of rude service and OK food) that we haven't been back.

Call me naive, but it never occurred to me that restaurants use "specials" as a way to jack up revenue.  I always thought the phrase meant that the restaurant got something "special" that day (i.e. catch of the day, etc.) that was being served.

Although, has anyone experienced this: going to a sushi restaurant where everything was "market price?"  In principle, I understand this (if fish/lobster etc can be "market price" then why not sushi), but I had never seen it before or since.  Plus, this was not a fancy or particularly special sushi place, but a trendy neighborhood sushi joint in Philly.

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What great reads in the Post today!

Is he for real?  And how often does that happen?

Edit: sending people to the bar for $12 cocktails when a table is available?  If the wait staff and kitchen can't handle the restaurant at capacity then why take the reservations?  Why not reduce the number of tables?  Would that not be better than pissing people off?

Having people wait at the bar is a common practice and one that I am accustomed to, so it doesn't really bother me that much. Nobody is forcing you to order a drink while you are waiting. As for getting a round of free drinks for having to wait, I have only had this happen to me once at Tony's in St. Louis when my parents took me there for my college graduation 10 years ago. As some of you already noted, this is a very rare practice.
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What bothered me was his justification of the water scam. Any person who has ever been in a restaurant knows that you can order bottled water or sparkling water. I feel like it puts the person ordering in an uncomfortable situation if you are on a date/client, etc, basically anyone you dont want to look cheap in front of. By not just giving patrons tap water and letting them order sparkling or bottled, I feel like the restaurant almost wants to give the impression that you are cheap by drinking tap water. Really irks me when you are paying $100/person for them to imply that! Sorry..my little rant..

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There's a fine line with water, and here it is.

Annoying, upselling, presumptuous waiter: "Sparkling or still?"

Respectful waiter who really just wants to make sure you get what you want: "Would you like sparkling, still, or tap water today?"

Jael

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There's a fine line with water, and here it is.

Annoying, upselling, presumptuous waiter: "Sparkling or still?"

Respectful waiter who really just wants to make sure you get what you want: "Would you like sparkling, still, or tap water today?"

Jael

Saying "ice water" seems to alleviate the cheap feeling.

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Annoying, upselling, presumptuous waiter: "Sparkling or still?"

Respectful waiter who really just wants to make sure you get what you want: "Would you like sparkling, still, or tap water today?" 

When I am given the litany of water options, I like to respond "I will have the 'Mayor Williams Special' please." After blinking a couple of times, they usually get it.
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What bothered me was his justification of the water scam. Any person who has ever been in a restaurant knows that you can order bottled water or sparkling water. I feel like it puts the person ordering in an uncomfortable situation if you are on a date/client, etc, basically anyone you dont want to look cheap in front of. By not just giving patrons tap water and letting them order sparkling or bottled, I feel like the restaurant almost wants to give the impression that you are cheap by drinking tap water. Really irks me when you are paying $100/person for them to imply that! Sorry..my little rant..

Here's my question - how does the server accomplish not asking the table what they want first especially if the table wants bottled H20? The server could first bring tap water and pour it in the pre-set glasses, but then will the guests stop the server right-away, mid-way or after the water is poured? If the tap water makes it into the glasses then the server must take addtional time to remove the glasses and replace them if the table even realizes they can have bottled water. The table could be preset with addtional water glasses...

I think that would all seem clumsy and be a lot more uncomfortable than anserwing a simple bottled or tap question....

Really though, I personally prefer sparkling and don't think it's cheap to drink tap -I just like the fizz... In fact, I'd bet that some tables order $200 bottles of wine and still drink tap, while some tables only share one water bottle.

I'm positive the restaurants are not at all impressed with those who order bottled water any more than they are unimpressed by those who don't. I like how David summed up the water issue "[servers are] merely offering the guest a choice"

Edited by vsky
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I understand Nadya's point about the kitchen being slammed and needing to space things out.  Or at least I'm trying to.

But really, can't I just sit at the table and read the menu?  The bars are smoky, crowded and generally not my cup of tea.  Especially if I've got guests or in-laws with me.

Jennifer

The kitchen or the service staff get slammed if the reservations are not taken carefully. Reservations are a convenience for the guest, but they are also the only means of traffic control the restaurant has. Each restaurant has its own system. In the restaurant I work in, we take 6 tables every half hour. By 7 :30 the restaurant is full. The next reservations are at 8:30, which gives the kitchen and staff time to deal with every table in a calm manner. When the reservationist tells you on the phone that 7:30 is not available, it means that 6 other tables booked before you. This is why, if you arrive at 6:30, you will see empty tables. On the opposite extreme, imagine going to dine at Outback Steak House. No reservations. The restaurant sits empty till 7. All of sudden, 300 people show up within minutes of each other and there's a line out the door by 7:30. The result: CHAOS. The scenario that Nadya refers to happens like this: the 6:30 reservations all show up late. The 7:00 reservations all show up on time. The 7:30 reservations all show up early. This is the recipe for disaster without skillful help at the front door.

My 2¢

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In fact, I'd bet that some tables order $200 bottles of wine and still drink tap, while some tables only share one water bottle.

I am one of those people. In most cases I could care less if I have water. I kind of look at it as my wife's late grandmother "water is only for washing, and putting out fires."

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Here's my question - how does the server accomplish not asking the table what they want first especially if the table wants bottled H20?
I’ve usually seen this accomplished by the customer asking, whenever the busperson or server comes over with the tap water, “Can we have some bottled still/sparkling instead?” Works like a charm.

Years ago I managed a restaurant out in the country where people actually had a choice. We had well water at the restaurant, and there was a distinct minerality to the water. It wasn’t pungent, but it was apparent. The chef (who owned the restaurant), wanted all guests to be offered bottled still, bubbly, or tap. We worked out how much water a person would drink/waste over 2.5 hours (about 1.3 liters). We then raised entrée prices by about $1.00 each to cover the costs. People were always shocked, shocked, when they got their bill and weren’t “charged” (of course they were, we just decided to pass it through). On a nightly basis I got to here at least five or six tables tell me how much they hated being asked that “loaded question”, then ending up with a $48 bill for water during their meal. (Maybe little known fact, people drink far greater volumes of water when there is no ice in it).

And some people may want to believe that the waiter is simply trying provide greater service. Some actually are. But a majority of them are looking at it as a short-sighted way to pad the check. And people hate it.

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You guys wouldn't by chance be talking about AL TIRAMISU, would you?

Just wondering, since I once got nailed there with a recited "fish special" that was ten dollars more expensive than the most expensive item on the menu (and there was fish on the menu!).  Almost $30 for this shitty little piece of fish, overcooked, dry, and sauceless.  (Of course that's fairly representative of the meals I've had at Al Tiramisu, but that's for another thread...)

Cheers,

Rocks.

We did, too! As a result, we will never go there again. Aside from the fact that when I asked for "pear" and "high acid" I got the equivalent of pinot grigio.

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Here's my question - how does the server accomplish not asking the table what they want first especially if the table wants bottled H20? The server could first bring tap water and pour it in the pre-set glasses, but then will the guests stop the server right-away, mid-way or after the water is poured? If the tap water makes it into the glasses then the server must take addtional time to remove the glasses and replace them if the table even realizes they can have bottled water.  The table could be preset with addtional water glasses...

I think that would all seem clumsy and be a lot more uncomfortable than anserwing a simple bottled or tap question....

Really though, I personally prefer sparkling and don't think it's cheap to drink tap -I just like the fizz... In fact, I'd bet that some tables order $200 bottles of wine and still drink tap, while some tables only share one water bottle.

I'm positive the restaurants are not at all impressed with those who order bottled water any more than they are unimpressed by those who don't. I like how David summed up the water issue "[servers are] merely offering the guest a choice"

You obviously haven't been exposed to guests that act absolutely appalled that you would even consider the fact that they drink water from a tap!!

They gargle and rinse in the morning with Evian. Their toilets are filled with Poland Spring. They only go to dentists to use Aquafina to waterpik their teeth. They water their lawns with Pellegrino. Their bidets are shooting Fiji water into their anal cavities. (OK...now I'm stretching it a bit.)

They make you feel like the lowest form of life on earth if you don't expect that they will be having bottled water. I'm not exaggerating. I swear.

Server: "Sir, would you care for sparkling, still or ice water this evening?"

Guest: "Son, are you kidding me? The water here sucks. I wouldn't use it to wash my brand new Corvette, much less drink it! We'll have sparkling water and make it snappy!...and one more thing...it's my birthday. The water is free here on your birthday right?!"

I'm exaggerating of course, but similar scenarios happen more than you might think. Trust me.

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I don't disagree that there are very particular people who would be aghast at the site of ice water coming within five feet of their table. But how often does that happen? Once a night? Once a week? I know that there has been no emperical study on this, but generally customers hate this practice. I've never once, in fifteen years of managing restaurants, had to address a serious diner complaint about not immediately being offered choice of bottled/tap/or still.

Just my two cents.

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I’ve usually seen this accomplished by the customer asking, whenever the busperson or server comes over with the tap water, “Can we have some bottled still/sparkling instead?” Works like a charm.

Knowing I'm beating a dead horse... (1)In a busy restaurant spending two table visits on water alone is just not practical...(2)Also why should the guest have to intiate any requests while dining... For ex: there are menus for everything in a restaurant except for water and the other "scam items" such as coffee etc.

For a server to offer options bottled or tap (sorry ice water - which does sound nicer I admit...); coffee, tea etc. or heaven forbid "Can I interest you in an 'after dinner drink' dessert wine etc. If the restaurant has those things why should the guest be assumed that they know and will take the incentive to order?

Let me make this last analogy: When I invite someone into my home, and I have a selection of water, bottled and ice to offer would I just grab a glass and pour tap? I hope not, I would take the second to inquire and then offer to the guests preference. Before it's said that the home is different because guests aren't buying, it is that same atmostphere of servitude that should prevail overall. If a guest wants tap regardless of $$ I am sure restaurants are more than happy to serve it....

It must be frustrating for restaurants/employees to feel they bend over backward to make a guest happy, and then are worried that they are being viewed as con-artists...

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Selling bottled water is not a scam. Waiters opening endless amounts of bottled water without asking is a scam. Ordering cocktails is not a scam. Ordering generic cocktails and being brought a $14 top shelf martini is a scam. Seeing "Market Price" on a menu is an invitation to scam. Selling after dinner drinks without presenting a menu is a scam.

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Selling after dinner drinks without presenting a menu is a scam.

Many years ago I had one night to spend in Miami. Warped and misguided, I opted to economize on the hotel and splurge on dinner. I stayed at the $30-a-night Palmer House, a decrepit fleabag in historic South Beach, figuring I'd only be there to sleep and that modern comforts did not matter. I cabbed to The Forge, an expensive steakhouse that boasted one of the best wine lists in the United States at the time. I ordered a steak, baked potato and 1973 (yes, 1973) Faiveley Musigny, all of which I downed with gusto. The sommelier had chatted with me during the meal, and afterwards he asked me if I'd like a glass of cognac. Knowing very little about which cognacs were on the market then, I mentioned in passing that I had tried my first glass of Louis XIII the week before, an extremely expensive cognac which a friend had generously let me taste. The sommelier said, "Oh! I have something that's just as good and a small fraction of the price - will you let me pour it for you?" How could I refuse? Well, it was something by Pierre Ferrand, and it certainly seemed like a perfect after-dinner drink at the time. That is, until the check arrived and the glass was $65.

I cabbed back to Palmer House - stuffed, poor, blazingly drunk - and staggered up to my room around midnight and fell asleep.

I awoke with a start in the middle of the night. Something had CRAWLED on my face! I sat up, turned on the light by the bed, and to my horror, saw no less than twenty roaches in the room. They were everywhere: walls, floor, furniture. I had slept for three hours and was in something approaching a panicked state. Having no choice but to leave, I began playing cockroach hopscotch, trying to pluck my things from around the room, shake them out, and quickly stuff them into my bag. After about ten minutes, I had gotten myself dressed and had everything in my bag except one last shirt. I picked the shirt up, and there was a roach in it! I shrieked, dropped the shirt, and the roach simply disappeared. I grabbed the shirt, stuffed it into my bag, and headed straight for the door, down the stairs, and into my rental car.

It was 4 AM, and my flight didn't leave for almost eight hours. I went to a payphone and was successful in calling the airline and getting an earlier flight. Still having nothing to do for several hours, I drove to Fort Lauderdale, then back to Miami. Then I sat around and waited in a parking lot, then returned the rental car, got on the airplane and flew back home.

Around lunchtime that day, I limped into my bedroom, suitcase in tow, and began unpacking, looking forward to a multi-hour nap as never before I had. As I was taking out a pair of socks to put away, the roach jumped out of my suitcase and began running across the floor.

True story, unembellished.

Rocks.

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Selling after dinner drinks without presenting a menu is a scam.

While at a business dinner at a fairly nice restaurant in Portland the table was asked if we would like an after dinner drink. Several people opted for coffee, another a Jamesons, I asked what type of Ports they had. They waiter ran through the list. I picked a Dow's LBNV thinking it was not going to be too expensive. They charge $38 per glass :lol: I never heard the end of that. I tried to explain to my boss (he was a cheap bastard) that I ordered the cheapest port, and for $38 I could easily buy two bottles of it.

That was a scam.

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That was a scam.

At the (thankfully) now-defunct Rupperts, off of Mt. Vernon Square, I was a partial victim of a gigantic scam. We held a friend's birthday dinner there, and upon making the reservation a week before, asked that they prepare a birthday cake (which we planned to pay for). Confirming the reservation for our group two days before, I asked about the cake, and they said a cake would be ready.

We got there, all 15 of us, and had a very good--if a little overpriced meal. When it was time for the cake, the waiter walked out with this teetering stack of individual cakes. It looked like an 18-inch tower of fat pancakes. Mouths agape, we stared as he started around the table giving everyone a cake, which turned out to be just puff pastry with whip cream and chocolate on top; it was totally pedestrian. We were disappointed, and I was mad at myself for not requesting a particular cake, but when the bill came, that's when it started. By "it," I mean the shitstorm.

The place had charged us 12 dollars for cake--for each cake. That means the cake was $180 bucks, plus tax. FOR PUFF PASTRY. Maybe the chocolate was made with some kind of endangered animal, but I doubt it. This was, obviously, outrageous. Incensed, I went into the kitchen (since the restaurant was otherwise empty), and asked for an explanation. They said "you ordered a cake." What?! Great answer, assholes. Huge scam.

We ended up paying $40 dollars for the "cake." We should have stole things from there; what a rip-off. I still refuse to eat at Perry's, which scooped up the owner/chefs from that place.

Edited for misspellings, again. I misspelled "misspellings."

Edited by tenunda
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While at a business dinner at a fairly nice restaurant in Portland the table was asked if we would like an after dinner drink.  Several people opted for coffee, another a Jamesons, I asked what type of Ports they had.  They waiter ran through the list.  I picked a Dow's LBNV thinking it was not going to be too expensive.  They charge $38 per glass  :lol:   I never heard the end of that.  I tried to explain to my boss (he was a cheap bastard) that I ordered the cheapest port, and for $38 I could easily buy two bottles of it.

That was a scam.

Business dinners seem to be what this scam is made for. I've seen some ridiculous tabs from a round of after-dinner drinks. If they aren't paying for it, people go wild. Obnoxious guys I used to work with when I was a consultant bragged about the most expensive drinks they'd ever ordered.

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Business dinners seem to be what this scam is made for.  I've seen some ridiculous tabs from a round of after-dinner drinks.  If they aren't paying for it, people go wild.   Obnoxious guys I used to work with when I was a consultant bragged about the most expensive drinks they'd ever ordered.

You people obviously haven't indulged in after- or pre-dinner martinis in Moscow Hyatt at $24 a pop. mamafia2.gif

Edited by Nadya
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At the (thankfully) now-defunct Rupperts, off of Mt. Vernon Square.

It's funny you should mention this place, because this is one restaurant where i remember repeatedly seeing customer behavior illustrating hagedorn's point -- one diner loudly berating the waiter for serving small cheese pots for the bread instead of butter; another providing a loud and boorish reaction to his discovery of watermelon on the dessert menu, something like, "if i had known i would have had to come all the way here for watermelon we could have stayed home because i have a big watermelon in my refrigerator," etc.). i also recall wisecracks about the decor, which was white, stark, usually with a dramatic floral centerpiece, and carping about the prices. rupperts was maybe a bit too ahead of its time for some of the yahoos who for whatever reason found themselves there. it is the only place where i have been complimented by a waiter for ordering two courses of offal.

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I have no problem with the server asking if I want bottled water, I just say that regular water is fine. If they offer specials, I ask what they are priced at. If the menu says market price, I ask what they are going for that day.

Anyone who has such low self-esteme, or such an high opinion of himself that he can't ask, shouldn't be out eating dinner with civilized folks anyway.

The one time I really got caugh on wine pricing was at a place in Rockville. Upon arriving, the place was not at all full, so I asked for a table as far from the bar (smoke) as possible and thus did not examine the large and exposed (but humidity and temperature controled) wine cabinet that was acting as a wall between the bar and the dining room. Upon looking at the menu, I found that the wine list, while not great, was not at all bad for Montgomery County (meaning just average anywhere else), all American (mostly CA) and Italian. But . . . there were no vintage dates with the list.

I asked the waitress which of the CA Cabs that were listed they had available in a '99. She didn't know but went to ask the bartender and asked which one's I was interested in. I named four off the list and she went to check. She returned to say that they didn't have any '99s but there was a '98 KJ Reserve, but that the bartender said the '97s were very good. I perked up a bit and asked which did she have in a '97 as I had not even presumed that there would be anything of that vintage available (I was expecting a lot of '98s and '00 to be truthful). She went to find out and came back and gave me three chioces, two which I had never heard of, and a Signorello Estate Reserve. I said that I would take it.

At no time was price discussed, so I'm the sucker in this story. The CA Cabs that were on the list ran from about $28 to $85 (the Signorello wasn't on the list)

When the bottle came, she had a very hard time with the cork. She said that it was "soft". She was very careful (she was, I watched)trying to get it just right but the cork broke in the middle. After taking it off the screw, she carefully tried to get the bottom half of the cork. After a minute or two, she decided she had better let the manager do it (I guess in case a decision had to be made to open another bottle). She returned with it after the manager was able to get the last of the cork out without getting it in the wine, and with an offer to replace it with another bottle if I wanted. I said I would taste it and, since it was not "off" and I saw no cork in the bottle, I saw no reason to take them up on the offer. She was very apologetic and obviously embarrased but I assured here that no harm was done and that she shouldn't worry about it. What the heck, I was out on a date with my sweety, without the kid, and under no time pressure to be anywhere, so why should I get upset, the wine was still good.

We had a very nice meal, my steak was just the way I asked for it, my wife's pasta shrimp diablo was very good, the wine was very tasty, all was well with the world. Then I did a stupid thing, you long time married guys will know what I mean, I asked my wife if I could be a wine dork for a minute and ask to speak with the wine manager. I wanted to tell him that while I had enjoyed a very nice evening and a good bottle of wine, I really thought that they should list the vintage dates on their wine list. She said no, and then explained that I should have asked, etc. We had that "but dear" discussion - which I of course lost - and I just asked for the check. Then I got the first shock, $135 for the bottle of wine. I gulped a little, then decided that it was my fault, I didn't ask the price, (told the wife it was $100, I'm not that stupid) and paid the bill, left a nice tip since I had made the waitress go thru all kinds of gyrations to get the wine, and left the table.

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At the now-defunct Rupperts, off of Mt. Vernon Square.

It's funny you should mention this place, because this is one restaurant where i remember repeatedly seeing customer behavior illustrating hagedorn's point

Other than being a little MIA at the end, I remember the waiter being supremely capable. The food was good too. No complaints there at all. I remember my soup being excellent. Even the squab was delicious.

I think the crazy diners can be seen everywhere in DC. We're in a place where people seem to be particularly insecure and choose to reinforce their egos by shitting on their waitstaff.

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At the (thankfully) now-defunct Rupperts, off of Mt. Vernon Square, I was a partial victim of a gigantic scam.  We held a friend's birthday dinner there, and upon making the reservation a week before, asked that they prepare a birthday cake (which we planned to pay for).  Confirming the reservation for our group two days before, I asked about the cake, and they said a cake would be ready.

We got there, all 15 of us, and had a very good--if a little overpriced meal.  When it was time for the cake, the waiter walked out with this teetering stack of individual cakes.  It looked like an 18-inch tower of fat pancakes.  Mouths agape, we stared as he started around the table giving everyone a cake, which turned out to be just puff pastry with whip cream and chocolate on top; it was totally pedestrian.  We were disappointed, and I was mad at myself for not requesting a particular cake, but when the bill came, that's when it started.  By "it," I mean the shitstorm.

The place had charged us 12 dollars for cake--for each cake.  That means the cake was $180 bucks, plus tax.  FOR PUFF PASTRY.  Maybe the chocolate was made with some kind of endangered animal, but I doubt it.  This was, obviously, outrageous.  Incensed, I went into the kitchen (since the restaurant was otherwise empty), and asked for an explanation.  They said "you ordered a cake."  What?!  Great answer, assholes.  Huge scam.

We ended up paying $40 dollars for the "cake."  We should have stole things from there; what a rip-off.  I still refuse to eat at Perry's, which scooped up the owner/chefs from that place.

Edited for misspellings, again.  I misspelled "misspellings."

This brings up the much denigrated (with good reason) Clyde's on this forum. To celebrate my Aunt's birthday a few years ago, the majority of the family settled on Clyde's in Friendship Heights. They allowed us to bring in a cake, which I purchased from the Palais du Chocolat in Cleveland Park. Not a bit of a problem. And no charge, either, for providing the plates, etc. I'm just sayin'

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On the theme of being scammed on after dinner drinks... Tonight at Aldo's in Baltimore, after a thoroughly mediocre, horribly overpriced, clusterfuckingly serviced meal, I decided what I really needed was a nice grappa. I asked the waiter about the grappa selections available at their "fine" restaurant, basically asking for tasting notes off of the menu he had given me. He mentioned a "wonderful chamomile infused grappa that doesn't appear on the menu"... and I bit. Like a chump.

Bill came, and my drink was $20. Not that bad, but folks this is Baltimore. And the most expensive grappa on the menu was $18.50. And the grappa was meh -- I could have had a Macallan 18 for less. (Mom, not a hard liquor fan but a fan of tasting what everyone else has, commented "This tastes like the stuff we use to kill rats back in the old country")

In conclusion, waiter, eff you for overcharging me and making an already sad dinner even sadder.

(more Aldo's reviewing in the thread I started earlier)

Edited by Kanishka
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Selling bottled water is not a scam. Waiters opening endless amounts of bottled water without asking is a scam. Ordering cocktails is not a scam. Ordering generic cocktails and being brought a $14 top shelf martini is a scam. Seeing "Market Price" on a menu is an invitation to scam. Selling after dinner drinks without presenting a menu is a scam.

thought i would just highlight what a grizzled, old restaurant vet had to say about this whole mess...i think he has it nailed right on the head.

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thought i would just highlight what a grizzled, old restaurant vet had to say about this whole mess...i think he has it nailed right on the head.

It's not that it's a scam. It's that, when servers become salespeople, trying to push bottled water, appetizers, top-line cocktails, more expensive wines than you want or need, dessert or whatever, it's annoying as hell. If I want that kind of treatment, I'll hang at the used car lot and listen to the undercoating spiel.

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