When I’m out, I tend to be pretty easy going. I very rarely complain (though my wife might disagree with that), and generally I let wrongs slide. It’s just not worth making a stink, and being the bad guy. I even get embarrassed when someone unduly complains. If there are serious issues with the food, or service, that’s one thing, but for little offenses, especially when with a group, it’s best to keep your mouth shut, smile, and let the good times roll.

I can be a perfectionist to a fault sometimes, and while that can be an asset, it also is a curse. When things aren’t up to standards, I get annoyed. I recently had an experience at a food establishment that pushed a few of my buttons. It ended up being a cascade of annoyances. It got me thinking about things that annoy me, and common ‘wrongs’ I see perpetrated on the restaurant going, food eating public.

In no particular order, some things that annoy me:

Huge desserts. You go out, have a nice meal, and if you’re like me, you crave something sweet after dinner. But you’re full, you don’t want another huge course. Sometimes a coffee or latte with sugar in it is all I need. But sometimes I want something more. Maybe a scoop of ice cream, or maybe a few bites of a rich, dense, dark chocolate cake. I don’t want, and can’t eat, a piece of cake, or pie, or dish ice cream the size of a football.

Birthday and Wedding cakes. Specifically I’m referring to those spongy, flavorless yellow cakes covered in thick, heavy frosting that’s nothing more than shortening and sugar. Every birthday party, or wedding I go to it’s the same. The cake itself is like eating your bath sponge. And the frosting is essentially sweetened Crisco. Oh, sometimes it has that thin sliver of strawberry jelly in it. That sucks too.

Lukewarm food. Yep, I’m like a broken record on this one. It’s my number one pet peeve. And it annoys the hell out of me.

Carpets in restaurants. You ever watch those shows on HGTV where people are shopping for a house? And inevitably one of the bathrooms in one of the houses has carpet in it? And the reaction is always the same… “Who puts carpet in a bathroom?” I say, who puts a carpet in a restaurant? Restaurants serve food and drinks. Food and drinks do get spilled on the floor. Many times a day likely. Over time the carpet gets filthy. I don’t care how much they clean it. When a restaurant has a carpet in the dining room it’s unappetizing and detracts from the food and ambiance.

Waitstaff who, when picking up the check, say, “Do you want the change?” Why do they do this? Just bring back the change and leave it on the table! If I intend the change to be a tip, I’ll leave it there. Do they think that if they return my change without asking, I’m going to change my mind and not tip them? I pay with a credit card as much as possible just so I can avoid this annoying question.

Menus the size of the bible. Ok, I’m a bit of a hypocrite on this. I dedicated an entire post to praising Cheesecake Factory, and they have a menu with over 300 items on it. But they are the exception and most restaurants cannot pull off a big menu and do it well. When a restaurant has a huge menu, it’s guaranteed the food will be average at best.

People who don’t order the specialty of the house. They order chicken at a steakhouse or steak at a seafood restaurant, then they wonder why their food wasn’t that good. Sometimes you go with a group and you really don’t like the specialty of the house, or you just don’t eat beef, or are allergic to shellfish, or are a vegetarian. That’s fine. I get it. But if you want a delicious meal, your best bet is always the specialty of the house. I went to a lobster restaurant in Maine years ago. I ordered the chicken parm. That was one of the stupidest things I’ve ever done. The chick parm was terrible. Everyone else loved their lobster. I will never do that again.

Italian reastaurants that serve crap “Italian” bread. The Capital Region has dozens of Italian American restaurants. They all serve Italian bread before the meal. 95% of them serve crap. It’s soft and spongy. It lacks any flavor. This is not Italian bread. It’s sunbeam or wonder bread masquerading as Italian bread. If there’s anyone who should be serving good Italian bread it should be an Italian restaurant. Every time this happens I want to take the owner by the hand, put them in my car, and drive them down to Perreca’s and force feed them real Italian bread. Maybe then they’ll get it.

High prices. I’m not against high prices per se. If the food, ambiance, and service warrant it, I’ll gladly pay for it. But there are too many restaurants that are overcharging for mediocre food and service. This is especially a problem in the Albany area. Recently, my wife and I went to Babbo in NYC. Mario Batali’s famed Italian restaurant. The food and service were outstanding. Most of the pasta dishes are around $20-$23. There’s restaurants in Albany that charge that much and more for pasta, that isn’t half as good as Babbo. It’s shameful. And I’m using pasta as an example, it’s not just the pasta they’re overcharging you for.

Buffets. It makes me sad that so many people don’t dislike buffets. Food that was cooked in some cases hours ago. Anything crunchy or crispy becomes soggy. Vegetables become mushy. Sauces become gooey and gloppy. Nothing is hot, everything is lukewarm.

Potluck dinners. Potluck’s are worse than buffets. At least at buffets the food is in a steam table and kept warm. At a potluck, people invariable make casserole dishes. I’m sure they’re good steaming hot out of the oven, but by the time you eat it it’s barely warm and usually cold, and generally whatever it is, it fuses into a spongy, gluey, sticky mass.

Picky eaters. This is interesting in that I used to be a picky eater, and I think that’s worth an entire post of it’s own. We had several dinner guests over once and I was making a pasta dish. One guest didn’t like what was in the pasta, or anything else for that matter and I had to radically alter the menu. My 7 year old daughter is a picky eater, and it drives me nuts. She’s picky to the point of madness. You’d think being a reformed picky eater I’d understand, but I don’t. There’s foods I don’t like, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do, and I eat them. I expect others to, too.


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