"My way or the highway" restaurants

I just saw this tweet from Amanda Hesser, a food writer for the NY Times:

was refused milk with my Imperial Earl Grey tea at The Adore – love my-way-or-the-highway food establishments. Will be customer forever.

Thoughts on this? When you go out to eat, are you totally open to eating things the way the chef chooses to present them, or do you expect some degree of customization?

*I mean relatively minor changes-- like salt on the table, “hold the mayo”, and milk for your tea, not "can you make the duck a l’orange vegetarian?

I think it should always be give and take. On the one hand, you are the paying customer and should be happy with your experience. On the other hand, what’s the point of going to the type of restaurant that is supposed to be about the experience of chef x cooking for you if you’re not happy with the dishes as constituted on the menu?

My friend, big time chef and Fathers’ Office owner Sang Yoon, makes the Soup Nazi on Seinfeld look like Burger King with “Have it Your Way”. He has amazing Belgian frittes and they come with aioli, not ketchup and, should you try to bring some ketchup into the bar, you will be physically ejected. His food is finished when they give it to you, there are no substitutions and it rocks. The controversy on Chowhound about this may be his best marketing.

I told him he should print “If you were the chef you wouldn’t be paying for this…” on the menus.

this part of Father’s Office really ticks me off. The ketchup thing is stupid, but I’m not a big ketchup guy so I don’t mind that too much. What really does get at me are these two things:

  1. they put bleu cheese on their burgers … I hate bleu cheese – they will not make the burger without it.
  2. their beer glasses are congruent to pint glasses, but are only 12 oz in size. when i mistakenly ask for a pint, the bartender has never had the balls to tell me that i’m actually only get 12oz for my $6.

nonetheless, i go there somewhat regularly b/c it’s easily the best bar in Culver City. I don’t order food there very often anymore.

There’s a good hypothetical…

Your dining partner is allergic to penicillin, so can’t eat blue cheese. You go to Fathers Office. DP orders a burger.

They can’t really refuse to alter the food if the diner has a food allergy now, can they?

Yes they will refuse. That’s the world famous Office Burger and it’s the only one they serve. There are people waiting in line for it if you don’t want it. Capitalism at its finest.

One Thanksgiving I was the bartender at a private SangsGiving dinner at the SM FO and, while pouring drinks I would answer the phone and tell folks who asked if the place was open “No, we’re closed for a ketchup tasting…”. Sang really liked that one.

Like Yogi Berra would say, “That place is so busy no one goes there anymore”.

That’s always the give and take. I always like to order off the menu as is just see what they have created. Am always confused by people who alter dishes from the menu. Why not just cook what you want at home unless there is a serious allergy concern? But even then, order another dish!

As far as the restaurants that are subject of the thread, if they deliver a good product then it can be fun. And I think for people used to just getting whatever they want they can be instructional though they would most likely just be miffed by the experience.

We used to have one here in the OC long ago. Terrific steaks though the sides sucked. The owner was idiosyncratic to say the least and often on the run for tax evasion. If you asked for salt, pepper or steak sauce you would be humiliated in front of the surrounding tables or ignored. If you asked for directions they would hang up on you and there was no sign outside so you had to have been shown the way by someone. He refused to serve Jack Daniels as well. I loved the dingy old timey atmosphere there with a dude playing blues on an acoustic guitar in the corner and the aforementioned steaks. Was always a fun place if you were willing to play by those simple rules.

When it was still around a girlfriend wanted to go there for her birthday. We went and ordered a bottle of wine and sat at the bar to eat. Barely finished a glass each and had finished our salads on a Sunday evening when the waitress brought us some bad news. Apparently the owner, restaurants name sake ‘Sid’ was in town that day doing an inventory or something in the kitchen. Something or other upset him and the waitress told us that though our steaks were in the window to be served he would not allow them to go out. It was weird and left us with disbelief. But that was Sid’s for ya. We took the rest of the wine elsewhere.

Never had a burger there though have wanted to try it. Intrigued that they only make a bleu cheese burger because it’s hard to find a place that does this and does it right. Sorry you don’t like them but I’m not surprised getting to know your “tastes”.

their blue cheese isn’t very noticeable. Let’s go to FO cris!

I’m down. [highfive.gif]

Why in the hell would you go to a place that serves one burger and that puts bleu cheese on it if you 1) were craving a burger and 2) hated bleu cheese or were allergic to it? That’s just idiotic. If you really want a burger and don’t like the only burger they serve… go elsewhere.

I like the my way or the highway attitude mostly. However, it had better be justified or I’d never be back. For example, the fries only come with aioli? Great, I like aioli and if I know there’s no subs, I’m fine with not being able to get ketchup. If the aioli sucks and it’s my only choice? Well, I probably won’t be back, at least not for the fries.

basically, people who are totally into what they’re doing and rock at it… i love that. I don’t see why I’d start substituting my aesthetic choices for theirs… that’s why I’d GO there. If I wanted to go out and customize my meal, I’d just pick somewhere else to go.

He won’t be flexible even for you??? C’mon man, you’re FRIENDS fer Christ’s sake!!! headbang

Definitely totally open to it and expect nothing less. Like others stated above, I go to restaurants because I like the way the particular chef makes his dishes. And I can empathize with these types of chefs since I cook myself. If I’m making steaks, lamb rack, etc., for example, people who like theirs medium or, worse, well-done are not willingly invited by me. If they are invited by my wife or are relatives I cannot help but invite, I refuse to cook for them.

Though I tend to request for special menus every so often, I call or meet with the chef way ahead of time (also to allow enough time to source the ingredients), give broad strokes or specific dishes, but will always let them know that they should give me their own take on such dishes. For example, for the main course at a pre-arranged Riojan dinner I recently arranged, when the chef and I discussed the menu a couple of weeks ahead, we agreed on rabo de toro in chilindrón sauce - but that was it. He made his own interpretation (he’s a Spaniard though) of the dish, using an Alvaro Palacios Rioja in the sauce, etc. - that was all him.

Reminds me of a story. I remember hanging with Mario one night at Po. We got into a heated argument about Arborio rice verses Carnaroli rice in making the best risotto. he pushes me off the bar stool and luckily Bobby catches me. Wolfgang was agast. Giada covered her clevage, and Paula stopped speaking with that annoying accent for just a second. I grabbed a chair and whamm, bash it over Mario’s head. Alton takes his stethoscope out and announces he’s ok, but call an ambulance. I decide to ride with Mario on the way to the hospital. We walk through the door and Lydia comes up to me and smacks me square across the face, all while spewing Italian curses toward me.

Not my best night.

I take it you’re no longer friends with any of these people huh? [whistle.gif]

Giada still has something for me. (She uses Arborino).

Yeah…but where the hell was Tony Bourdain?

Eating cassava and maboke in the Congo. Where else? Godddddd!

That was YOU?


Noel, same here.