Kathleen of Aragorn (finarfiniel) wrote in bad_service,
Kathleen of Aragorn

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Surly =/= "a character"

So there's this little Vietnamese restaurant about three blocks from my house that I'd never been to, but several extended family members said was excellent. They loved the food, and thought the owner/server was a real "character". A fun place to go, right?

From the outside, this place looks alright. It's on a busy street full of pretty nice restaurants. Inside, though, is not what I expected. Wobbly tables, plastic chairs, really old scuffed lino, and dusty streaked mirror panels covering the walls. We had our first impulse to leave right then, but based on what people had been saying, we decided to stay and see if the food made up for the decor. The owner/server (the place is really small, so only one server) looks at us for a while before saying, "What?" I tell him we need a table for two, and he sighs and points us to the nearest table. Then asks, "You want the special?"

I decide, yeah, I do want the special, because it's what I would've ordered anyway (satay chicken and spring roll on rice noodle), but my boyfriend wants to see the menu. This, I guess, is a big deal. The manager huffs away and comes back a few minutes later to chuck a menu onto our table. Then stands there as if we're wasting his time while my boyfriend decides on what he wants. Everyone is supposed to just order the special, I guess. But the ol' boyfriend has to be totally unreasonable and order something crazy and different, like chicken and black bean stir-fry on rice. The nerve!

This is the only good part of the service: my boyfriend's food arrived with minutes. But the owner plunked it down on the corner of the table and literally shoved it in front of him before hurrying away. We looked at it, and while it looked great and tasty, it didn't look like what he ordered. It was some kind of chicken stir-fry, but no rice to be seen. Next time the owner walks by, boyfriend asks if there's supposed to be rice with this. Answer: an irritated "Yes! It's coming!"

Several minutes later, a bowl of rice arrives. My food is still nowhere to be seen. The owner has a handful of forks and chopsticks, and he asks my boyfriend which he wants. Boyfriend looks at me to silently ask which I want. Owner repeats, "Chopsticks or fork?" I say, "Chopsticks, please." Owner barks again at my boyfriend, "Chopsticks or fork?!" Boyfriend asks for both. Again, I ask for chopsticks. The owner, having conveniently not heard me the first two times, turns to me to curtly ask what I want. Chopsticks. He drops them on my napkin and walks away.

It takes another few minutes for my food to arrive. It was good, but no better than what I've had at any other Vietnamese restaurant in the city. Definitely not amazing enough to make up for the crazy bad service. I sure didn't get what all the hype is about, or why this place is so popular. Or why the owner has such a big reputation as "a character" when he's just plain rude. "A character" is the owner of the restaurant I went to in San Cugat (Spain), who insisted on sitting with me and my dad, telling us stories of his youth, and then giving us free lemon liqueur after the meal because it was his favorite and he wanted to share. This Vietnamese guy is just a dick. I overheard him blatantly insult two women at the table next to ours, and they laughed it off in a "oh isn't that cute!" way. WTF.

Anyhoo... we finished our food as quickly as possible to get out of there, and because the restaurant was closing at three, and also because we wanted to go see Batman at 3:20. We finished at about 2:45. At this point, the owner had already locked the door to keep other people from coming in. The two women he insulted finished at the same time and paid just before us. Then my boyfriend paid, by debit. There was no tip option on the debit machine. Neither of us had any change, but I had a few larger bills, so I asked if I would be able to get some change. This earned me the meanest look yet. The owner asked why I needed change, and I said I wanted to leave a cash tip. Biggest WTF moment? This did not change his attitude at all. He huffed and sighed and groaned and made a huge production of how HAAAARRRDDD it was to open the cash register and break my ten so I could give him EXTRA MONEY. Damn, now I'm sorry I tipped at all, but I feel like a jerk not tipping. Force of habit.

Final WTF moment: we and the two women were locked in the restaurant, standing waiting by the door, while he went to the back and did something. It was another huge deal to let us out, of course. The two women waved and said goodbye, but he just grunted, slammed the door, and locked it immediately after us.

Needless to say, I won't be going back to this place. I have no idea why some people like it so much.

TL;DR version: surly restaurant owner apparently hates his job and gets mad when we order, frustrated when we need utensils, annoyed when we try to tip, and put out when we want to leave.
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