Ask Tom, Answer Gansie: Stop the Bitchin’
A semi-regular feature where gansie gets to pretend she knows as much about dining as the Washington Post food critic.
D.C.: Dear Diners,
We want to make you happy, we want to provide you with great food, great service and have you leave us satisfied and content. That being said, we also like to minimize any potential problems (make them invisible). So when you arrive for a table and the dining room looks “half full” and we ask you to wait for a moment it may be that a server has just been triple sat (three tables at once) and we need to make an adjustment in the seating to give you a table in another section or maybe someone in the kitchen just dropped a tray of prep items, or passed out or well, just about any and everything. Please try and understand we are not trying to make you day any more difficult or harried, we are only making last second adjustments to make everyones experience better. And yes sometimes we fail. We’ll try and do better. Ciao!
Tom Sietsema: Hear, hear. Thanks for shedding some light on what goes on behind the scenes. Tell us where you toil!
gansie: <Relief> Wow. I absolutely love this confession. Well, maybe that’s the wrong connotative interpretation. I love this gossip. Even though I worked as a waitress, I never learned the art of hosting. It’s a practice in politeness, mathematics, politics and patience. I too am guilty of being all pissy when I see empty seats and the host tells me it’ll be a few minutes. With the calm of a dining room staring me in the face it’s easy to disregard the backstage craziness and perform an under-the-breath huff of frustration. Here is a lovely reminder: chill the fuck out or go home and fry yourself an egg.
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Washington, D.C.: Here’s a tip from a bartender. When I say “I’ll be with you in a moment.” I truly and sincerely mean it. Please don’t give me your order then. I more than likely need to finish the order I’m making, ring it up, get the two beers for the guy in front of you, tell the other bartender his food will be delayed, print out a check for the guests at the other end of the bar etc. If you tell me what you want then, it is very likely I won’t remember when I get back to you. Which will frustrate you and me both. But I promise I’m coming back. The faster I can get you my drink, the happier we will both be, especially considering that my job is dependent on your happiness (happiness generally=tips). Thank you.
Tom Sietsema: You sound like my kind of mixologist.
gansie: My sister and I have this joke that she’ll be the one raising my children; my lack of patience frightens her. Actually, maybe that’s not funny. Anyway, I guess this is a gentle reminder that bartenders are people too. And busy ones at that. I think the only thing worse than waiting for another glass of booze would be Kobe winning another championship.
And has anyone been to one of these speakeasies that are popping up? Good christ it takes 8 full minutes to get a drink—and that’s not even with a wait of orders. Sure, the drinks yield clean sips of citrus and herbaciousness. There are no mixes involved (following the Jason Wilson gospel) and the drinks are so freaking fresh that I witnessed my bartender lob a chunk of skin off his finger while peeling an entire lemon for garnish. (The garnish really was beautiful: lemon peeled off in one long, wavy strip and then curled around the inside of the tall, clear glass.)
But there’s one thing I refuse to give the restaurant industry a break on.
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D.C.: Tom, there seems to be some discussion recently about restaurants ability to survive in these difficult economic times. I have a bit of a different take. My spouse and I would thoroughly enjoy dining out but we have been doing so a lot less lately not because of economic considerations but because my spouse is a vegetarian. The experience has become disappointing and frustrating rather than fun and enjoyable. Yes, I know my spouse has made this decision, which is not mainstream, but being a vegetarian these days is not rare and we know many who feel the same way. We cannot just decide to go out to dinner tonight at this great new or different restaurant because most menus have one token vegetarian selection. We actually have been seated at a restaurant and asked about a vegetarian entree and were told there was nothing they could provide! Yes, there are a handful of vegetarian friendly restaurants in D.C., which we frequent, but sometimes we want to try someplace new. If a restaurant can put two chicken dishes on a menu, why not two vegetarian entrees as well?
Tom Sietsema: I’m happy to post this for restaurants of all stripes to see: Pu-leeze consider the wishes and needs of those customers who don’t eat meat.
The potential audience for vegetarian-friendly cooking is greater than you might think; even those of us who consider themselves to be dedicated carnivores appreciate the option now and then.
Plea No. 2: Show some imagination with those vegetarian dishes. A bowl of noodles topped with steamed vegetables or a random plate of side dishes don’t cut it anymore (if they ever did).
gansie: Tom, I got your back.
I’m a firm believer in not limiting one’s edible options. We are born omnivores. Both steak and chickpeas should be a part of a balanced way of life. But this paradigm can only succeed with delicious choices. Vegetarian meals can be fabulously satisfying. The more thoughtful vegetarian meals that are pieced together the more self-identified non-vegetarians/vegans will choose a plant-based plate.
So if we promise not to bitch about waiting for a table in an “empty” dining room, and if we promise not to complain about a slow bartender, do you think we could see some premium vegetarian dishes on the menu?