LXVIII – What’s On The Menu

When you go to a restaurant, be it fancy or fast food, you go there for the enjoyment of the food, or perhaps out of necessity; however, there’s always something that catches your eye that’s annoying as hell. Let’s see what some of these things are.

One thing that comes to mind is cleanliness. Not only cleanliness of food, but the parking lot and facility in general. If you’ve ever watched Kitchen Nightmares, then you know exactly what I mean. Dated décor, lousy atmosphere, broken or torn seating and tables, and numerous other things. Don’t even get me started on the kitchen!

I know people who, when they go to a restaurant, they walk into the restroom even before ordering. If the restroom is filthy or is disrepair, they immediately excuse themselves and leave. They’re extremely picky about this—if the restroom is dirty, the whole place is unclean. I once worked in a certain fast food establishment (which I shall not name currently), where their district manager at the time said that whenever he went to do a restaurant visit, he would always check the mop bucket. His opinion was that you could not possibly get the floors clean enough with a dirty mop bucket. He may have had a valid point, since those mop buckets can get pretty damn gnarly if you don’t clean them periodically.

Many restaurants pride themselves on having that “homemade taste” and how certain things are “made from scratch”. Well, that could not be farther from the truth in many places. I doubt chain restaurants do much of anything from scratch. There might be things actually cooked or baked, but most things come in frozen or canned. Frozen fish, frozen steaks and hamburgers, heat-and-serve pies, the list goes on and on. I will say that Wendy’s and In-N-Out really have hamburgers that aren’t frozen. I worked for Wendy’s a few years back, and their signature square hamburgers really are kept in the refrigerator, and In-N-Out doesn’t even have a freezer. I can also vouch that many Cracker Barrel stores mix, roll and boil their dumplings daily. Biscuits are mixed, rolled and baked in-store and mashed potatoes are made from actual potatoes, milk, margarine, salt and pepper. This applies for the older-style Cracker Barrels. I hear some of the newer stores do things a little different, but I haven’t been to any of those, so I can’t say for certain.

Menus are a big deal. Food items pictured in fast food menu boards will never, ever look like they actually do. They actually have “food artists” to make everything look just perfect for the photos. When you get that Burrito Supreme from Taco Bell, you don’t get a burrito with the end open, everything perfectly stacked and placed. Sometimes you get a mess with sauce spilled in the wrapper. Or that Big Mac that looks like someone stepped on it, changed the paper and served it. Your food looks completely lopsided.

Bubble Bass

Another thing about menus that bothers me is, especially some of these higher-end ones I’ve seen pictures of (you think I’m rich enough to go to one of those stuffy, highfalutin places?) is the fact that the price is just listed as a simple number. Like it’ll say Prime Rib, 24 oz ……35. It doesn’t even put the goddamned dollar sign. At least write “$35”, or $35.00. It is assumed? They figure if you have the wherewithal to eat there, you won’t mind plunking a fortune for it (the adage “if you have to ask, you can’t afford it” comes to mind).

Of course, if the menu is laden with typos, you know something is suspect. At least run a freaking spell checker! Speaking of spelling, the Cracker Barrel menu bothers the hell out of me to no end. You will not find one single fucking ampersand. You don’t see “mac & cheese” or “sweet & smoky mayo”. Or any other occurrence of the symbol for the word “and”. You always see the bothersome combination of n-apostrophe (for example, the menu lists the macaroni as “mac n’ cheese”). Do they think that makes it sound “southern”? Or the aforementioned boiled pasta. They don’t call it dumplings. Not even in the recipe book in the kitchen. They have omitted the “g” and called it dumplins. For some reason, all that just bothers me to no end. Most people who know me know that seeing something misspelled bothers me to no end. Cracker Barrel’s blatant spelling changes really get under my skin. Admittedly, on social media, seeing people incorrectly using the wrong form of the homophones your (possessive) and you’re (contraction of you are) really makes my grammar Nazi skin crawl. The spelling OCD in me wants to just correct everyone I see (*you’re, for example), but I leave them be, knowing it causes more trouble than it’s worth.

What else bothers me in a restaurant? Oh, yeah, dirty dishes. Have you ever received your food, and you see your fork has some kind of god-knows-what on it? I certainly hope not. I would be seriously pissed if my food had the residue of a previous customer’s dinner on it. I would certainly not eat it. Dishwashers do their damnedest to get everything sparkling. Anyone who intentionally sends out a soiled plate should be fired. Same goes with food. Anything dropped on the floor is automatic garbage. There is no “five-second rule” in a restaurant. One episode of Kitchen Nightmares had a guy drop something on the floor, and, in front of Chef Ramsay, threw it into the fryer, saying that the heat from the fryer would clean the food🤮. As no one is perfect, everyone drops things now and again. I’ve dropped my share of food on the floor. But, I have never picked it up to serve it. It goes right into the trash can. In the same way, I will never intentionally serve pink chicken or undercooked fish. I’ve said numerous times to my management staff that if I ever intentionally sent undercooked fish or poultry, I would immediately fire myself. I’ll cook your steak or eggs however you want. You want your steak rare? You got it. You want it extra well done? It’ll take a while, but I’ll do it. Really soft scrambled eggs (that you practically have to suck through a straw)? By all means. Medium-rare chicken? Aw, hell no! You want that, you go home and cook your shit however you want, and get your salmonella while you’re at it! If you’ve ever bitten into pink chicken, it’s a nauseating feeling and you never forget it🤢. If I wouldn’t eat it or serve it to my kids, I won’t give it to the customer.

What is something you see at a restaurant that bothers you? Something about the food? A menu that’s as big as War and Peace? Interior décor that hasn’t seen an update since MTV launched? Feel free to comment!

Please have a great week, please enjoy some delicious food and drink, and most importantly, be safe and be well.

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