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The 10 Worst People in NYC Restaurants

Andrew Roberts

Through blogging, social media, and the rise of foodism, we've created a monster of a restaurant industry here in New York City. Unfortunately, that same momentum has spawned an equally scary rise in unsavory characters. Presenting the 10 worst people in NYC restaurants.

10. The Cancer-Curing Chef

He doesn't just run a restaurant. He oversees an "experience," an "exhibition," a "voyage." Every menu description proclaims his deep commitment to the locavore cause. He powers his stove by the wind of his own monologues, and tithes to the church of Michael Pollan. His food is of global importance.

He is the Most Virtuous Chef in the World.

You will know him by his server, who's forced to offer play-by-construction of each miracle that leaves the kitchen. "The chef preserved the tears of his first child and turned them into a life-enhancing salt, which he sprinkled on this beet to bring out the youthful essence of the true, Platonic meaning of the word 'beet.' By way of juxtaposition, he baked it in the oven with a bit of brick from the pyramids so that the tension of the Jews who carried that stone would be imparted into the dish."

9. The Bitchy Hostess

She's the icy queen in five-inch stilettos with the presence of a feral cat. Her eyes dart over you, simultaneously lazy and searching, as if deciding whether you're worth the effort to attack. "Reservation?" she'll challenge, concluding that you're not important.

Your self-esteem shrivels like a neglected tomato. You give your name, wondering if you should be here at all. "Your table isn't ready yet," she declares. Then she falls silent, clacking away at her computer. What, exactly, is she typing? Your name over and over?

She won't look at you again, not even when the mood moves her to beckon you to your seat. You study the wine list forlornly, wondering if everyone knows you're about to order the second-cheapest bottle. Her message: This is a club to which you don't belong.

8. The Waiter Who Disappears with the Check

We may have lingered over our coffees, but now we're ready to leave. Each minute has slowed to a glacial pace—pre-global-warming glacial, that is—and it's only getting worse with every attempt to make eye contact with him so he'll bring us the check.

Where is the urgency he possessed when he was cajoling us to order another drink? Why has he disappeared into the kitchen? Is there a craps game back there? And why is no other server capable of hitting the print button at this moment?

7. The Painfully Slow Cocktologist

He wants to dress like a 19th-century newsie and grow a hideous handlebar mustache? Fine. Name his cocktails for clichéd literary characters, marginally obscure song lyrics, or overused proverbs? Go right ahead. Make his own bitters from foraged bark and cut his own block of ice? Sure.

But if he takes longer than three minutes to deliver our drink on a slow night (we'll give him five on a busy one), he deserves to have his bartender title rescinded, reclaimable only after he's done penance in a greasy bar serving nothing but Grey Goose and diet tonics to coked-up calorie-counters.

6. The Trophy Collector

You may never actually have a meal with a trophy collector, since simply choosing a restaurant is an exhausting trial measured in days. After all, each invitation to dine out with this woman is a chance for her to inflate her self-esteem by dropping opinions about the new spots in town.

"I haven't done Alder, Charlie Bird, or the new Ippudo," she'll write in an e-mail, naming only spots approved by the most recent Eater Heat Map or Grub Street Power Rankings. If you counter with a different restaurant, you're setting yourself up for a soul-sucking spiral; any suggestion you make will be checked against food blogs and Yelp. Because if it hasn't been written about, it's not worth going to.

If you despondently give in to a trophy-collector pick and actually make it through the door of an approved eatery, your dinner conversation will consist of a prolonged comparison of where you have eaten recently, a game of one-upmanship that starts with recent blog heavy-hitters, continues into places where someone knows someone, and ends with the ultimate trump card: an Outer-Borough Voyage, probably to Queens.

5. The Late Joiner

Let's all swallow, for a moment, our collective rage over the absurdity of no-reservations policies in a city teeming with people dying to get into the same handful of restaurants. Let us focus instead on the friend who's persistently late, the person who strolls up cheerfully after we've already told the feral hostess cat that no, our group is not complete. She shook her head and gave our table to someone else, forcing us to the back of the three-hour queue while we fought back tears of hanger (hunger + anger).

4. The Line-Standing Techno-Narcissist

Caffeine-starved, you take your place in the coffee line. That's when you notice the person in front of you, thumbs jabbing furiously at her phone while a blue glow illuminates her unblinking eyes.

She doesn't budge when the line moves forward. You step toward her, letting your hot breath ripple the tiny hairs on her permanently craned neck. She finally ambles up to the "order here" sign and, mid-text, gazes at the menu, completely uncertain of what she wants. "Um, latte?" she says, after the people behind her have gnashed their teeth enough to cause a spike in dentistry revenue.

"No, cappuccino. Oh, one of those frozen drinks, maybe. What do you have?"

3. People Who Refuse to Split Evenly

We don't have a lot of sympathy for servers who insist that they simply cannot split your check more than two ways (most server-station software makes splitting idiot-proof). But the enemy of our enemy becomes our friend when the asshole we're dining with insists on parsing the bill by what each person ordered, instead of splitting equally.

What are you saving here? Fourteen cents? Five dollars? What is $5 among friends? It's basically worth the entire fabric of our relationship if you've forced everyone to endure an extra 10 minutes of awkward check-settling only to tell your server, "Put $14.33 on this card, $16.12 on that one, $12.72 on this third one, and the rest is cash." Is our friendship worth it to you?

2. People Who Round Down What They Owe

If you absolutely must force everyone to tally their individual orders, the rules of paying for your portion go as follows: Add up your meal, including your drinks, appetizer, and the $8 bacon supplement, and round up to the nearest dollar.

Add your appropriate share of the tax (don't get out the calculator—if there are eight of you and tax is $8, you owe $1) and then round up to the nearest dollar. Tip generously on your post-tax total and round up to the nearest dollar. Then throw in a buck or three to be sure you're not stiffing someone.

If you consistently round down, your friends know it. And every time they go to dinner with you (which, hopefully, isn't very often), they're spending the last minutes of your interaction trying to microwave your insides with the rage shooting from their eyeballs.

1. The Blogger

Of all vile beings, we might be the worst. You can spot us from a mile away, waxing annoying on how this restaurant stacks up against all the other restaurants we've visited recently. We usually arrive late due to our false sense of entitlement, believing no reservation rule applies to us. We even force everyone in our party to pay their individual share because we want to expense our own receipt.

The worst of all? We know we're assholes. But it's our job, so it doesn't matter. Right?

lshunk@villagevoice.com


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