I don’t know whether it is some sort of über-hip response to conventional expectations, or maybe it’s the prevalence of young chefs who know how to cook but don’t have the experience to crack the whip with the help, but too many restaurants with solid, interesting kitchens and bars have lousy service. Oh, the waiters are unique in their own ways…with a fascinating collection of tattoos, piercings, odd haircuts, ripped shirts, pants around their thighs, pendulous breasts untethered by anything so pedestrian as a bra, ultra-cool facial hair (if they actually have enough testosterone to grow it), and many other irritating affectations that add nothing to the dining experience.
But the worst by far is the exaggerated disinterest in the job at hand. Look, I know that you are a playwright (or an actor or a performance artist) and not a waiter, but in the interest of paying the rent, why don’t you actually pay attention to the work for which your employer and I are paying you. My lovely wife is a soft touch with these people, and insists on a minimum of 20% unless the dreadlocks actually touch the food…and even then they get 18%. But I am putting my foot down after my recent experiences.
The Meatball Shop is a great place on the Lower East Side for a quick meal, or a snack and an excellent beer. But be prepared to tolerate some profoundly bored waiters. And we were almost in our seats when the greeter rushed over and gave our table to her just-arrived friends. Oh, here is a tip for our waiter: silverware is almost always a good idea.
The Redhead is an East Village pub with first-rate Southern influenced food, and some innovative cocktails that wowed the table. But you know what would have made the very good meal even better? Getting the drinks we ordered instead of being served the beer that came out of the closest tap. And that oldie-but-goodie advice about silverware? It’s just as true above Houston as below.
These two restaurants are worth a visit if you are in the neighborhood, but please, make the tip appropriate to the level of service you receive, and not a reflexive gesture. Maybe that budding actor needs some feedback so that in the unlikely event that he doesn’t make it big in the next off-off-Broadway production of Waiting For Godot, he has something to fall back on that he does well.