The carnival of poor dining experiences
By JEFF BALTRUZAK
A bad restaurant experience is a lot like going to a carnival: you think it will be better than it is, you think the experience probably shaved six months off your life and you leave feeling like you're going to puke.
Going to a bad restaurant makes me mad because if I wanted dry, crappy hamburgers and "we don't give a damn what this place looks like, so screw you" atmosphere, I could go to the dining hall.
But one night, instead of trying my luck with the shepherd's pie of NDH, I decided to venture to a restaurant I'll just call "Lenny's," an establishment known for their baseball related breakfasts endorsed by actors from "The Jeffersons."
I trust the Jeffersons completely, like every TV family, so I thought Lenny's would be a good place to go for a burger and maybe a shake if the mood caught me right.
When I walked in, there was nobody in the restaurant. Now, you can interpret this in two ways: 1) "sweet! I'll get my food fast and have top quality service because I'm the only customer in here," or 2) "dude, there's nobody in here, not even drunk high school kids. This place probably sucks."
For some unknown reason, I went with No. 1. It would be the worst decision I have made since getting that "Bob Davie 4 Ever" tattoo on Spring Break. Lenny's also made it quite obvious that I was being filmed on their security camera. Since then, I have reasoned that most legitimate restaurants don't need to film you while you eat, because most legitimate restaurants don't get robbed like 7-Eleven. Looking back, maybe I should have eaten at 7-Eleven.
Anyway, I knew I was in trouble when I saw that Lenny's had three employees working at the entire restaurant, and they were all talking to each other behind the counter.
"Clearly they're talking about how to serve their customers better, in today's fast paced restaurant environment," I thought naively.
We ordered drinks and the waitress seemed in no hurry to get them, returning to her conversation behind the counter. At this point, I figured the employees' conversation had turned to the how-long-will-the-customers-wait game they were playing with us.
The waitress signaled her return to get our food order by saying "what do you want" in the same tone some one would use if their ex showed up drunk to their door at three in the morning.
We gave her our orders and I guess she gave them to the cook, who must have had to go kill the cow with a butter knife because it was taking forever to get our food.
When it finally came — literally 30 minutes later — the burgers were completely wrong. Apparently, at Lenny's "no Thousand Island sauce, please" means "slather a whole bottle of Thousand Island sauce all over the burger, and then take it to the customer saying `the cook must have missed that,' apologize insincerely, and then walk away as fast as possible."
I ate the burger and as I did, I could feel my stomach giving me the "you're going to pay for this one, buddy" feeling. All in all, my Lenny's experience was very dissatisfying, much like a dining hall experience — just off campus. But I still tipped the waitress and never complained. I just chalked it up to experience and went home.
I will never return to Lenny's and I figure they don't care. So, I guess they win. It's not like they are going under because I'm not going there. Lenny's beat me and took my money, much like a big corporate school-yard bully. Don't let it do the same to you.
The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.
Jeff Baltruzak should have just gone to Taco Bell, which he has for the past four days. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All Scene Stories for Monday, December 10, 2001