Every restaurant has one. Some have more than one. But no matter how many they have, they all suck when you manage to get one.
I’m not talking about the server who sees your empty martini glass but doesn’t have the foresight to bring you another, or the hostess who leaves you standing at the door for three minutes before saying hello.
I’m talking about tables.
This week I seem to have drawn the short straw when it came to getting a table at some of my favorite restaurants in Boca Raton.
Wednesday night at my new favorite red sauce joint, I knew I was in for something when the person I was meeting for dinner texted me and said, “this table is really bad wait until you see.”
Here we were, at a table not large enough for one yet alone two, placed in the walkway between the restaurant’s open kitchen and bar entrance. Between servers and other diners bumping into the back of my chair every 30 seconds, I kept my patience by drinking wine from a straw and silently screaming “serenity now!”
The only thing to make a small table even worse is to load it up with useless table toppers promoting ladies night, a water glass, a red wine glass and white wine glass, in addition to the glasses our drinks were in. All these unwanted extras quickly found their way to the floor in order to free up what little space we had to enjoy our meal.
If the restaurant wasn’t packed, I would have complained and waited for another table to open up like I did Saturday night.
This time it was at the red sauce joint at the club I belong to.
My friend and I arrived for our 9pm reservation and was escorted to an equally small table along a banquette. You know the kind I’m talking about.
Think breakfast at IHOP.
The table was sandwiched between two others with just inches separating my ass from the face of the people on either side if I attempted to squeeze in.
I looked at the hostess with my best disapproving look and said, “there’s no way I’m sitting there.”
She motioned across to the other side of the room and pointed to an equally bad banquette table and asked if we wanted that one instead.
“If I wanted to sit with those people, I would have called them up earlier and asked if they wanted to come to dinner with us,” I snapped back.
Now fully aware I didn’t want one of the worst seats in the house, she directed us over to the manager who asked what the problem was.
I once again explained that while others may want to share their meal and accompanying conversation with strangers, I wasn’t going to.
“I can put you at that eight-top over there,” he said.
What manager is going to give up an eight-top for two people when there were four-tops available? Clearly this was his way of showing me that something in his pants was larger than mine. I declined his offer at which point he snapped, “then just show me were you want to sit.”
“One of those four-tops over there would be great,” I said. He walked away without saying a word or without visiting our table during the meal to ask how things were despite his stops at every other table in the dining room.
As we scarfed down pizza, vodka, pasta, Prosecco, meatballs, lobster, vodka, mozzarella, Prosecco, salad, focaccia bread, and vodka, I spied a familiar face – the assistant manager who used to work at another restaurant within the club.
She came over to the table, her usual bubbly self, and chatted for a bit before I told her my tale of the table. As she was speaking with us, the hostess tried to seat two other couples at the same table we declined earlier, each asked for something different.
In a surprising move, she agreed and said those tables are “awfully close to each other” and also wondered why “we’re squeezing people into them.” I explained that usually if I’m stuck with a table like that and can’t be moved, I’ll sit down and strike up a conversation with my dining companion about genital warts, hemorrhoids and the bad stomach virus I just managed to overcome.
Throughout the two hours we were in the restaurant, we watched people come and go, all declining to sit at the table from hell. It sat empty the whole time we were there, being shunned like a leper at nudist colony.
Restaurants know they have bad tables – tables that take away from their guest’s dining experience. Instead of correcting the issue and either removing adjoining tables to give diners more space or reconfiguring the area, they choose to ignore it and piss off customers before they even sit down.
What’s even worse is a manager who acts as if the guest is deliberately inconveniencing the restaurant by being difficult.
I don’t like to be a difficult customer, but there are times when bad management forces me to be one.