12 Things I Don’t Like About Restaurants

One of the best things about a big city is its variety of restaurants, so of course, before my recent jaunt I prepared a list of all the places I wanted to go eat. At the top of the list was an upscale vegan place with the unfortunate moniker, Fressen. In Germanic languages the word means “to devour feed like an animal.” I suppose they had their reasons for the name so I didn’t let the name put me off because Fressen has been named as one of the hippest vegetarian eateries in North America by VegNews.

 The menu looks enticing. The reviews, however,  are all over the place,  from gushing to “I’ll never set foot in the place again”.  I’ve never been to a place that advertises itself as a gourmet vegan restaurant, so I had to go regardless.

As I hinted yesterday, the whole experience was a disaster from start to finish. When I go to a place where an evening of dining for two adults (with appetizers, wine and dessert) will run close to $100, I have certain expectations. Fressen is an excellent example of everything I dislike in a restaurant — which is why I decided to blog it. It’s not so much a review as a list of things a lot of restaurants do that are extremely annoying. If it’s a sports bar, I take a deep breath and put up with stuff, but not at a place that pretends to be chi-chi.

We had reservations, of course, and were prompt, but there was no one to greet us as we came in. As I mentioned yesterday it was really, really dark with the only light coming from a few tea candles on random tables. And the music was nightclub-loud. We stood there looking stupid for about 5 minutes before some young chippy trotted over and said, “Oh!”

So,  here are some things that restaurants should think about, in my opinion.

  1. When a customer asks you not once, but twice to turn down the music, you should probably do it, even if you can’t really hear what they’re asking you over the bass.
  2. Servers should be properly and hygienically dressed. Unless it’s Hooters, bare midriff at face level is kind of an appetite killer, whether it’s the smooth tanned midriff of a 20-something woman or the taut, furry midriff of a 20-something man.
  3. Although we were aware that Fressen makes “everything from scratch” some indication from the servers as to how many hours this entails would have been good.
  4. I really don’t like it when the server handles my glass of wine by the bowl, so when they deal with the challenge of bringing a bottle of wine and several glasses to a table by tucking the bottle under the armpit, that’s seriously off-putting.
  5. And, though I know all the great products one can add to dishwashers to disinfect and remove unsightly spots are great, they leave a residue. They smell and taste funny. When you stick your nose in a wine glass and all you smell is chorine, this is not good. Rinse the glass, please. Don’t make me ask.
  6. When bringing a bowl or plate to a table, servers should find a way to do it that doesn’t involve sticking their fingers in your bowl or on the top of your plate. Licking their fingers after putting down the bowl/plate is a really big no-no.
  7. Servers having loud arguments with the hostess about “that table of 8” and why on earth she allowed them to sit there when a party of 12 has reservations for that table in less than an hour, should maybe be conducted in the kitchen and out of earshot of the customers.
  8. Making people wait, 50 minutes between courses is ridiculous. It’s vegetables, people. No vegetable or anything else, takes that long to prepare. Hire a few more prep staff.
  9.  Servers should check back with the customer once in a while to see if they’re still breathing or would like some more booze or bread or something to gnaw on while they’re waiting for their very elaborate broccoli to appear.
  10. It’s very haute cuisine to have signature sauces, but that doesn’t mean you have to drown everything in them. It’s one thing not to be able to see the food, but you should at least be able to taste it and/or find it at the bottomless pool of sauce.
  11. It’s probably very chic to serve everything in a gigantic bowl or other similar artistic vessel, but you should take into account that the person trying to eat the thing in the bowl needs to somehow divide it into bite-sized bits. It’s hard to cut things in a bowl.
  12. Oh ya, the food? Meh… who knows. I was so fed up with everything else I just wanted to snarf it down and get the hell out of there. I will never set foot in that place again.

Sadie’s Diner, (of the fabulous veggie bacon) on the other hand, was more than perfect. Friendly staff without  being overly familiar, lovely decor, (which you could see on account of the windows weren’t all blacked out and some lights were on), home-made, yet prompt service, soft background tunes. And did I mention the amazing veggie bacon??

Oh ya, and although I know it’s de rigeur for English-speaking wait staff the world over to say “youze”, it’s still really, really aggravating. So, just stop it, okay?

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29 responses to “12 Things I Don’t Like About Restaurants

  1. Wow! I’ve eaten at Fressen three times (twice for brunch and once for dinner) and had excellent food and service all three times! Granted, I haven’t been there since 2007 and it sounds like things have changed considerably.

    At least now we have our very own gourmet vegan restaurant.

    J.

  2. oh my word, they sound awful! haha! it did make for a very entertaining blog post tho, so not all was lost!

    licking the fingers — yeeg! *shudders* if only you’d been able to take video. seriously.

  3. I hear ya sister. I hate hate hate overly familiar crappy servers. I’m not a “you guy’ or a ‘youze’, I’m a sir and my date is a madam. We can even be folks, but we’re never ‘ya’ll’ or ‘you guys.’ I hope you didn’t leave a tip after all that crappy service and lousy food.

  4. J – Ya, I understand brunch isn’t too bad there. I guess you were lucky or you have different expectations. And where does Ottawa have a gourmet vegetarian restaurant??

    Hallie – Finger-licking is so tacky – in any restaurant. They were all just so gauche (and I don’t use that word lightly)

    Nat – Toronto is bursting with wonderful eateries. This ain’t one of them.

    Dr. Monkey – You know, the food might not have been too bad. The menu made it sound really good and special, but the service, ambience and sauces just overwhelmed whatever good qualities the food might have had.
    And the tipping thing? I’m never sure quite what to do in a case like this. Not all of this was the server’s fault.

  5. If you were just “youze” I think you’re overreacting.
    It is really really special though to have a group of women addressed as “youze guys”.

  6. You could copy/paste your post in an e/m ‘suggestion’ and send it to e’m … lol ;~) … sounds dreadful all-around.

  7. Wait–you had ALL of these issues at Fressen?? Yowzers.

    I, for one, can barely stand vegetarian fare on its own, much less with all of these complications.

    – RG>

  8. That sounds perfectly hideous. Why on earth would nightclub-level loud music even be playing in a restaurant? And “youze?” I thought you only heard that in New Jersey. That’s funny that someone in Toronto used (youzed?) it.

  9. Servers should check back with the customer once in a while to see if they’re still breathing… lmao. I think I would have walked out before the circumstances became that dire.

  10. I hate pretentious restaurants that put more effort into decoration and trying to be as hip as possible then into the food. Drives me nuts!

    It’s a restaurant, not a nightclub people!

  11. Bandobras – If I go to a place where they serve my food in a paper bag, on plastic, styrofoam or cardboard or in a basket with a paper towel, they can call me whatever they want. If they have the wherewithal to have acquired real dishes, forks and knives then they should just mention to the wait staff that “youze” isn’t a word.

    Olivia – It’s weird because some of the reviews I read raved about the place and others had much the same experience as I did. It’s hard to decide in that case. Maybe it depends on who’s working that night??

    Grouchy – I know, we were very disappointed because we’d been looking forward to it. Well prepared vegetarian food can be every bit as exciting and satisfying (even to an omnivore) as one involving dead creatured. Perhaps you’ve been going to the wrong places? Have you been to Green Door or The Table for instance??

    Geewits – No, you can hear “youze” in many restaurants all over Canada. It does seem to be pretty much restricted to restaurants for some reason. And as to why they played the music so loud — I have no idea. The server couldn’t even hear us when we placed our order. We had to actually shout. She kept yelling, “WHAT?? WHAT??”

    Charlene – If it had been just me, I would have been out of there as soon as I walked in to that loud, dark room and made left to stand there for 5 minutes.

    Hannah – Exactly. Even the staff were dressed like they were in a nightclub. But as J pointed out, they don’t seem to be consistently bad. Perhaps it depends on who’s managing that night or something — because I’m sure they wouldn’t stay in business operating like they did that evening. One group did actually leave because their meal wasn’t arriving and/or they were fed up with everything else. And the other tables looked distinctly disgrunteled, too — except for the two young women next to us who were drinking a lot and shouting all their exciting news to each other across the table. Also, it was maybe 1/4 capacity on a Thursday night, so maybe things aren’t going well all around.

  12. Wow, I’ve never heard “youze” except on television. I hear “y’all” everyday when it come out of my own mouth. If you don’t want to be called “y’all” don’t travel below the Mason-Dixon.

  13. “Youze” must be an East Coast thing?

    I tend to rationalize bad restaurant experiences, figuring the server is having a bad day, or the cook is overworked, or something. And then I think of the places that do it right and remind my self, “no, it’s not really that hard to be polite, prompt, and courteous.”

  14. It’s amazing how you touch on the EXACT topic buzzing about in my brain too!

    My girlfriend and I caught a dinner together the other night and although the food was super-delicious, the service was soooo bad. Similar complaints to yours — underdressed, no idea how to approach the table, refresh drinks, change plates, etc. They just don’t train this people at all apparently.

    But out biggest complaint was that my girlfriend left cash out for payment and the server said “did you want change?” First of all, it would have been a ridiculous tip of approx 70% of the bill, and second of all, one should never assume a tip — just bring the change no matter what! Then, as I was working out the math in my head for my bill, the server stood there and hovered over me, waiting.

    All in all, the service wrecked the experience. Which is really too bad since the food is great and the owner seems lovely.

  15. Although I had an idea of the location just by what you wrote, I had to look at the website to check if I was right and yep, Queen Street West… This is an area of the city that tries, not always successfully, to be hip, cool and artsy. yeah right… It’s pretentious at best. I usually avoid that area.

    Hate it when you’re forking out $$$ for a meal and it’s crappy. But all the things that you went through would have made me walk out or at least make many, many complaints to the manager. I can get over the “youze” but Fingers in food? Bare mid-drift? Loud music? Bleh!

  16. retail and service industry are going down in flames. i wish people realize their shift would be much less long/painful if they could be just a little friendlier.
    Life is a mirror people!

  17. Of course I had to make the sentence even “hick”ier than it already was. I meant “comes” out of my mouth…and now I sound like porno from the south. Y’all come back now, ya hear?

  18. Did you stay to the end just to see how long your blog post would be about it?

    I keep hoping the ‘youze’ thing will fade into the ether, but I fear it is actually, like, spreading.

  19. LoLa – Ya’ll at least is a contraction of “you all”. Someone goofed big time when they decided “you” could be both singular AND plural – because no one seems too comfortable with that. Ergo, you all (ya’ll) was born, as well as “youze”

    Dave – Not at all. I’ve heard “youze” all over. And yes, we experienced some excellent service in other places – service that made us feel like royalty, really. With a little training and some good customer service policies in place it’s completely doable. And, these days when the customer’s dollar is being fought so hard for, those who know how to woo them, will stay in business I think.

    Jazz- I wonder. Maybe some people like this??

    Julie – Oh, I hate that tip thing. Or worse, when they don’t bring your change back at all and assume it’s a tip and you have to go ask for your change. I was once in a hair salon where the receptionist insisted on punching in all the numbers herself and actually asked me, “how much should I put in for tip?” How would you get out of that one?

    Cedar – Yes, dammit, I did. Like I said before, I wouldn’t have even stayed if I’d been on my own. I did leave a very insulting tip, though. (do you mean youze say youze all da time?)

    Lebowski – A-yup

    UA – It’s not all bad up there. Sadie’s is on Adelaide West and it was awesome. But I know..what a horrible place. And you’re right, when you’re spending a lot of money for dinner you want it to be a good experience all around. And this wasn’t.

    Meanie – Life is a mirror – excellent point. I know often servers peg their customers right off the bat. Women together don’t usually tip as well as men or couples, so I guess they figure they don’t need to make an effort. Or they look at the clothes and decide who is going to be good for some extra cash and who isn’t, but we all know that very often totally backfires. Really, we should have just left right away. I don’t know what possessed me to stick it out to the end.

    Violetsky – Ha ha – maybe. I remember at one point during the evening leaning over and yelling “I’m totally blogging this”

  20. We have a restaurant just like that. I’m amazed it’s still in business – we will never go back, and have communicated our experience to all we know. It was a birthday dinner as well – supposedly a special celebration that was arranged with them in advance.

    I’d be interested to know whether you left a tip. 10c would be about right (no tip and they think you don’t tip at all)

  21. For me it is “guys” and “you guys”. Grr. About the finger licking, I suppose that is one way to clean their fingers after they have been dipped in your food. And I also suppose that it shows the food must be good!

  22. Zen Kitchen on Somerset is completely vegan and high end. The food is delicious and the service is great.

    And I think I have fairly high expectations of most restaurants. David is very particular and it’s rubbing off on me.

  23. Vic – Yes, I left 2 bucks. I reckon that got the message across. Thanks for visiting!

    Julia – Again, at least guys and ‘you guys” are real words. “Youze” doesn’t even make sense. And the finger licking doesn’t necessarily mean the food is good since really, would you trust these servers to decide on good food??

    Jo – Thanks. I will have to go to Zen Garden. And I wasn’t trying to suggest that your standards are lower, just that maybe the casual attire and loud music wouldn’t bother someone a lot younger. I’m sure you would have notice the finger in the bowl thing though?? From their reviews I gather it’s a kind of hit or miss place. Some people loved it, some hated it. Maybe depends on who’s on or something.

  24. I always swore I was a meat eater and would never like a vegetarian restaurant. Then my friends made me eat at a restaurant in the Glebe Community Centre called “The Pantry”. I always get the special and it is always delicious. I would be vegetarian if I could cook like that. Unfortunately, I think it is only open for lunch Mon-Fri.