Grumble. Grouse. Complain. (Restaurant Edition)

Posted by on August 18, 2015 in travels | 4 comments

So here’s a situation…  What would you do?

You and a companion spend a long morning traipsing around a national battlefield in near-100-degree heat. Around 1:45, you realize you’re ravenous. At 2:00 p.m., you enter the Tavern, the only restaurant visible on Main Street of the town nearest the battlefield. A sign says, “Seat Yourself,” which you do. About five minutes later, a waitress comes over, brings menus, and takes your drink order. She brings you your drinks and takes your meal order (for one plain burger and one chicken panini, hold the chipotle sauce on the panini; add fries to both sandwiches.)

Then, you wait. After about 10 minutes, the table of four that ordered immediately before you gets their food. After another 5 minutes (15 total since ordering), the waitress refreshes one of your drinks. After another 10 minutes (25 since ordering), the waitress re-refreshes both drinks. She says, “They made a mistake and put the chipotle on the sandwich. They’re fixing it now.”

About 5 minutes (30 since ordering), another party of four enters, sits, orders, and gets drinks. After about 15 minutes (45 since ordering), the second party of four gets their meals. Your waitress is nowhere in sight and has, in fact, been absent since telling you about the mistaken order.

Do you:

  1. Continue to wait, in hope that your meals can now be completed because no one else is waiting for food in the restaurant and you know you’re in a small place and people need to relax and be patient?
  2. Ask the bartender to track down the status of your meal, in hopes that he might be able to determine the cause of the wait?
  3. Pay the bartender for the drinks and leave, because you really don’t trust what you might say to the bartender, the waitress, or anyone else, in your ravenous state?
  4. Walk out without paying for anything?
  5. Something else?

We opted for option 3. We were fresh out of patience for option 1, and we didn’t trust ourselves to be civil for option 2. Ordinarily, we’d ask for a manager, but we suspected none was around, and we certainly didn’t want a free future meal at the place. We needed to get home within two hours, and we had 1.5 hours on the road, so we didn’t want to spend any more time waiting.

The entire experience was tremendously frustrating. I felt for the overworked waitress (right up until she didn’t manage to get our corrected order out before the second table of four’s food.) I understand that restaurants work on narrow margins, and we cost them three sandwiches, and I actually feel a little guilty for that. The locals at the bar didn’t-look-at-us with the sort of disgust locals feel for unreasonable out-of-towners.


But ultimately, we were left with a new catch-phrase – “chipotle sauce” – for a certain type of not-life-threatening disaster that we’ll certainly encounter in the future. And a new appreciation for the efficiency of McDonalds, which served us for half the cost in less than 1/10 the time. (Yeah, it was McDonalds, but by that point, we didn’t care…)


  1. Over here, when I’m short on time I tend to avoid regular sit down restaurants because the attitude is “we’ll get to you when we get to you.” As for this situation, I definitely think you made the right call. (and you only cost them 2 sandwiches, the third was their initial mistake)

    • When we moved to Minnesota in the early 1980s, we quickly learned that if we didn’t have our order ready the first time the waiter came around, we were likely to wait for half an hour for a return sweep…

      When I was in Vilnius, I ate in a few sit-down restaurants, but they were all-evening meals, intended to keep a large group busy for a long time 🙂

  2. Congrats on paying for the drinks. Because I think you need a chuckle, I’m going to relate our Chinese takeout story.

    My son and daughter were both at the house, it was dinner time, and no one wanted to cook, so we ordered takeout from the Jumbo Jumbo Cafe that always sends us menus in the mail, and my daughter said she had used before. We ordered 4 soups and 4 entrees and after 15 minutes my son and I drove up to the little shopping center on the Pike where we thought the restaurant was. We drove around and around the small parking lot but did not see any signs that said Jumbo Jumbo. My son whipped out his phone, looked for Jumbo Jumbo Rockville on the web and called to ask them where they were. They named another strip mall 2 miles north of where we were.

    So we drove north, found the place, and my son went in to pay for the food and pick up our order. He came out complaining that the woman behind the counter didn’t speak English very well, and she had called him Rick. We got home and there were 4 soups and 4 entrees, but they were not the ones we had ordered.

    Light dawned. I used redial on the house phone to call the Jumbo Jumbo cafe and asked exactly where were they. They said next to the Mexican restaurant in the 1st strip mall. I hopped in the car, and drove back to the 1st strip mall, where I now saw the place that had BUBBLE TEA in giant letters across the roof also had a small sign in the window that said Jumbo Jumbo. So, we ate Chinese for a week, and we hope we never run into Rick.

    • You’re right. This story made me laugh. (It’s also the sort of thing *I* would do, relying on my cell phone…)