How to Be a Victim of Restaurant Service Bias, Step Up with Summer Wine Classes, and Hello, Heat! It’s Time to Cool Down with Sashimi and Nigori at Sushi Mike’s
How to Be a Victim of Restaurant Service Bias
Here’s something that actually happened to me at a well-known Manhattan restaurant—oh, for the sake of argument, let’s call it Dos Caminos. It was New Year’s Day and our party of four had made merry the night before. There was Champagne, maybe some shots. Who knows? That’s all I remember. Anyway, the next evening, we found ourselves at this Park Avenue restaurant because our first pick, Blue Smoke, was closed for a private event. As we sat, our eager server greeted us with, “How about four of our famous margaritas?” I explained that we probably wouldn’t be drinking; we were all pretty hung over and would most likely stick to water.
And then it started. “How about a peek of our award-winning tequila list?” (At this, my husband went green, put his head down and moaned.) Then more desperate upsells: “How about sparkling water? Mineral water? Virgin cocktails? You mean you only want tap water???”
After we declined everything but tap water, the service for the rest of the meal (for the record, four apps and four mains) was comically bad: absent, surly, or openly resentful of small requests—like when we asked for cutlery in order to eat our entrées. The bill hit while we were still chewing and it was accompanied by a nearly audible message: “Get the hell off my real estate, you no-drinking cheapskates!”
Turns out, other non-drinkers also believe that they suffer bad restaurant service, and those teetotalers are not alone. Here are a few more ways to become a victim of restaurant service bias:
Arrive alone. Travelers and food writers share this perennial problem. When seated as a table of one (“loser,” in restaurant parlance, BTW – as in, “loser at table four”), we will often find ourselves in arm’s reach of either a toilet or the kitchen door. Why? The loserness of single diners simply bums out the rest of the room, so we must be hidden. The solution? Eat at the bar or just nut up and request a better table.
Be of color. You remember that Denny’s suit? Sadly, that instance was not some mutant redneck aberration of Denny’s employees. This study by North Carolina State University found that 40 percent of servers give inferior service to African American diners. The solution? Well, there’s always the Denny’s litigation route. But first, cease patronizing any mutant, throwback, racist restaurant as soon as possible. And no one will blame you for spreading the word among fellow diners as soon as you get home.
Be old. You know that guy behind the velvet ropes, picking only the cool people to get in the door? Well, tactics to “dress the room" have gotten even subtler. This Gothamist article ponders what restaurant people have known for ages. Basically, that when restaurants install dim lighting, slouchy tables, and a loud soundtrack, they’re aiming for a youthful, hip clientele (and to exclude everyone else). The solution? Go and be deafened to dine with hipsters, or find any one of many excellent restaurants that cater to bodily comfort.
Be European. Turns out that waiters are essentially people (who knew?), and, just like everyone else, prone to using stereotypes. And the stereotypical Euro-tip is 5 to 10 percent—if it exists at all. Unfortunately, many waiters won’t kill themselves for bad tips, plus, they might be figuring that tourists won’t be back, anyway. The solution? Comfort yourself in the knowledge that American tourists are often treated badly in Europe.
Be dressed unfashionably. This gets back to that sinister “dressing the room” idea. As Ruth Reichl explained in Garlic and Sapphires (her memoir about her days reviewing restaurants for the New York Times), merely dressing “appropriately” doesn’t guarantee good service. If you show up at a super-hip restaurant in three-pleat Dockers and a Le Tigre dress shirt, you’ll probably be dressed more “appropriately” than the guy in the faded vintage concert T, sneakers, and $400 jeans – but you’ll still be on the wrong end of the service sneer stick. Solution? I’m guessing if you’re rocking that Le Tigre, you’re already immune to sneers.
Have you ever been on the wrong end of service bias? Drop me a line below—I’d love to hear about it.
HotDates: Summer Wine Classes
Dude: Don’t be the hooligan rocking winter wines post Memorial Day! Here’s where to learn about refreshing summer wines.
$35 per person (for “educational materials”—that means wine, folks).
(914) 273-WINE (9463)
Reservations are required as seating is limited.
“Pinot Noir Smackdown”
Friday, June 15
7 - 8:30 pm
Are you a New World wine fan or an Old World enthusiast? Compare and contrast Pinot Noirs from the US and France. Discussion led by sommelier Derek Todd.
“Wines For The BBQ”
Thursday, June 28
7 - 8:30 pm
The restaurant’s most popular food and wine pairing class every year.
Explore the whites, reds, and rosésthat compliment the sweet and spicy flavors of the traditional American barbecue, with treats from Port Chester’s Q Barbecue as a bonus! .
“Wines for Bastille Day”
Saturday, July 14
7 - 8:30 pm
Explore the great wine regions of France in celebration of this French national holiday. Discussion led by Sommelier Derek Todd.
“Wines in Tall, Skinny Bottles”
In-StoreSaturday, June 9
Noon -5 pm
From the site: “An old favorite tasting has come around again. The focus is on the whites and reds of Alsace, Germany, Austria, New York, and more.”
HotPlate: Hai! Summer Means Sashimi at Sushi Mike’s
How did you like last week’s run of three 90-degree days and air so humid that you could wring it and get a cup of hot, dirty water? Thought so. Craving AC, we dropped into perennial Dobbs Ferry favorite Sushi Mike’s Japanese Restaurant, for this killer, family-friendly platter of sushi and sashimi washed down with cup after cup of iced, milky, Sho Chiku Bai Nigori (un- filtered sake). Ahhhhh, so cool … and just the thing on a summer day.