Thursday, February 12, 2009

WHAT I HATE TODAY: Your daily dose of negative energy

Today I hate when I go to the Mercury Cafe, an allegedly good restaurant, and the waitress reads the specials in a monotone and can’t pronounce all the words.

I also hate when my dining companion asks a simple question -- “What kinds of fruit and cheese come with the fruit and cheese plate?” -- and the waitress replies, “I don’t know, I’m kind of new here… do you want me to ask?” which implies that my dining companion’s question is unimportant and puts her in the bad-cop position of having to say, “Yes, go ask.” The correct answer is, “Let me check on that and I’ll be right back.”*

Furthermore, I hate when I order an elk steak sandwich and the waitress looks confused and says, “A what???” and then, after I repeat my order, says, “Ohhhh… I thought you said an oak steak sandwich.” If you work at a restaurant that serves elk, shouldn’t you be able to extrapolate from “oak steak sandwich” to “elk steak sandwich” from context alone?

Likewise, I hate when the waitress returns and asks, “Do you want cheese on your elk burger?” and has to be reminded that I ordered an elk steak sandwich, not a burger.

Additionally, I hate when the elk steak sandwich is lousy, just a square of meat plopped on a crumbly bun without enough roasted potatoes on the side. This, at least, was not the waitress’s fault.

Also, I hate when we go upstairs for swing dancing, and order two glasses of wine at the bar, and the bartender says, “We don’t keep the wine up here -- I have to go downstairs and get it.” And then we have to hang around the bar for several long minutes while the bartender chases our drinks down. Am I missing something here? Doesn’t the wine belong at the bar where it will be served?

Finally, I hate when this happens at a place that should be The Awesome. The Mercury Cafe has a unique and beautifully decorated space, with an attractive hipster staff festooned with tattoos and dreadlocks. It strives to serve organic, locally sourced food. It acts as a community center, hosting club gatherings -- a Go club was meeting there during our dinner -- and poetry readings, and dances with live music. But I’ve been there three times now, and twice the food has disappointed (and it proved merely decent the other time). A restaurant has nothing without good food and good service, regardless of any frills it offers.

*I should add that the restaurant was not busy and that the waitress had time to go to the kitchen to get information for a customer. I have worked as a waiter and I have sympathy for their plight, especially when the place is slammed. But not infinitely so.


  1. Maybe instead of "an attractive hipster staff festooned with tattoos and dreadlocks." It should consider hiring a quality staff, or perhaps bad service is part of the atmosphere they are trying for (it works in Austin that way).

  2. It is possible to have the best of both worlds. There's another restaurant in town in the same genre (Food For Liberals) that also features an attractive/hipster/tatted/dreaded staff, except they are capable of pronouncing the specials and getting tasty food to your table.

  3. What did the waitress say when you asked about the wine offerings? Red, white, and um, pink?