Patty Canedo is a chef in Palm Beach. She writes frequently about her kitchen exploits in this column, Half-Baked.
Since I'm in the industry, I tend to take the three-strike approach to dining out. You have to consider all the components that factor into the process, from the initial orders at the table to plating food. I'm pretty laid-back, so my "not even if you paid me" list is short. Actually, there's only one name on it. I never use the word loathe unless I'm referring to
this place. What really drives me crazy about this place is that it's everywhere -- every mall, downtown strip, or airport -- so someone's always trying to drag me there.
After almost two years of staying clear of this dining room, I was forced back in the other night because the in-law "just had a craving." Well, to be fair, she knows my opinion, but since I wasn't going to eat, I suggested going there. Two years since I walked into the overdone cluster of a lobby, and I was anxious to see if my revulsion had subsided any. Sadly, this visit just exacerbated my contempt.
With doggy bags in hand, my blasphemous protest was challenged. So with no intention on making conversions, I articulated a well-constructed argument in the manner of the times -- Top Ten Reasons Why I Über-Loathe
Don't sully the name of something I cherish by calling yourself a bakery when your goods are obviously brought in frozen, presliced with the paper poking out between each piece, and charge at least $40 a cake/$8 a slice. Most restaurants hide this behavior quietly in the back kitchen, not arrogantly flaunt it with a showcase in the lobby.
9) Who Are You Kidding
Seriously with all the décor and the dim lighting?! Odds are this place is next to a MovieCo or stationed at the corner of some mall. Either way, your main audience is not just casual but Florida-cas. White linens with a side of mandals, boards shorts, and tank tops.
8) The Clustered Menu
This novel/billboard is probably why this place is at every mall -- it's a food court but with table service.
7) SkinnyLicious Menu
The only thing that made this menu sound more annoying is the fact that the waiter had to say the name about ten times in the span of one sentence. All this needed was a picture of a teacup chihuahua in a pink sweater on the cover.
6) Pass the Peptos
Since I abhor this place (and I assume people are tired of my rant), I hear that someone has ventured there only after the fact. The comment usually begins with "My stomach is killing me."
On said evening, I was still full but didn't want to be munching in the late hour, so I ordered a "Greek Side Salad." I laughingly asked my industry hubby at my side if it was a new trend to serve a "Greek Salad" on (two ounces of) baby arugula with goat cheese? They charged me only $6 for the tiny thing, so I didn't complain that they got only the olive on it right. I hear all the arguments, portions, consistent, convenient, blah blah. But really, four ounces (at most) of cold chicken on a $15 salad even made my in-law stop and think.
4) SkinnyLicious Menu
(That's right -- it's on here twice!) This diet menu had a whole section of salads loaded with 600 calories! The establishment's biggest fan at the table had to correct me out loud with "actually it's 590 calories" to realize that that was not much better. A nasty look came flying across the table when I had the nerve to utter, "I can only imagine how many calories are in the regular salads."
3) Location, location, location
Yes, it's the first rule in this game, but you can't escape this beast.
2) Corporate Training
Years ago, investors in a private restaurant I worked in brought with them their corporate manuals and thinking. Knowing how much goes into it, I laugh at how this corporation must spend millions in training every year when its staff still acts like the crew from Waiting in a tie.
1) Don't Hate the Player...
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SHOW ME HOW
Chef hits me with this fact every time this argument comes up: "You hate that it's so busy." It's like nails on a chalkboard, but he is right, again. It's frustrating to see a place where the best thing people say can about it is that "it's consistent" thrive while innovative, delicious dining rooms go empty. I know this is industry blasphemy, but the customer isn't always right.
*Dedicated to the Nuss family.