KC Restaurant Week 2019

Restaurant Week can be a nice economic boost for local businesses in an otherwise slow month. It also brings out the worst behavior in the worst people who have the convenient cover of “charity”. Let’s look in on two of these idiots…….Oh, also, buy my book. There isn’t anything else in print that attempts to explore the spirit of the food community quite like The Bad News Cafe. But if you’re going to get butt hurt at me taking the piss out of Restaurant Week, you probably don’t want to buy the book. Stick to stuff like Sweetbitter.

Mark and Pamela Whitaker arrived at Corvino Supper Club and Tasting Room at 6:20pm on Monday evening of Restaurant Week. Their reservation was for 6:30pm. They were seated at table 40 in the northwest corner of the dining room at 6:52pm. Against all odds, Mark had managed to book the reservation that morning due to a cancellation. The previous holders of the reservation, Tim and Bonnie Clark, were at that moment sitting at home tortured, literally and figuratively, by the timing of Tim’s latest round of kidney stones. It happened every year around the holidays, and every year Bonnie reminded him at the height of his pain that this should teach him to drink more water and less beer. This year’s reminder was punctuated by her standing over him in the bathroom, making the phone call to Corvino Supper Club and Tasting Room to cancel the table they had booked a full month prior.

With the dining room at capacity and a prohibitively long wait at the door, Mrs. Whitaker was fixated on the empty seats in the private dining room to her right.

“Why aren’t they seating people in there? We waited over a half hour to be seated, there’s a line out the door, and they’ve got four, six, eight…FIFTEEN empty seats! They’ll cancel your reservation if you make them wait 15 minutes, but hey there’s fifteen empty seats. Way to go.”

“I don’t know Pam, maybe they’re reserved for a group or something. Are you getting a drink?”

“Oh, I’m getting a drink! No, those seats have been empty since we came in. If they’re reserved, they need to do a better job at scheduling times. They’ve been just sitting empty for an hour now. At least. Fifteen empty seats.”

“Who knows. Anyway, I’m just going to get a Hamm’s. Three bucks, not bad. What are you getting?”

She looked over the menu. “Maybe the Gimlet. I’m not sure what all of that stuff is. Might just go with a Manhattan.”

“Seriously? See? That’s how they fuck you for Restaurant Week…”

“What the hell are you talking about? I think today of all days I deserve a real drink. I don’t want a goddamn Hamm’s.”

“Babe, fine, whatever, you just can’t tell me they don’t jack up the drink prices this week so that you’re paying half the price of dinner on one cocktail. And the slow service. That’s how they get you to order more drinks. You’re bored and thirsty waiting to get your food. Like how dive bars serve you salty peanuts.”

person holding a wine glasses

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As was the custom with dinners during Restaurant Week, the meal in the Supper Club was $33 for three courses. Similar to the format of the prior year, dinner was two choices from the savory selections and one from the desserts. In addition to his tenacity at finding a last-minute reservation, Mr. Whitaker was especially invested in maximizing the value of his Restaurant Week dinner.

“This is cracking me up!  Who in the HELL is dumb enough to order some of this stuff? A carrot salad, focaccia bread, French fries VERSUS fucking cheeseburgers, ribs, and fried chicken! What in the hell? You have to be a dumbass not to get either a burger or ribs with the fried chicken. Normal price on the chicken is like sixty dollars or something.”

Mrs. Whitaker took a sip of her Manhattan which had just arrived. “Well I must be stupid then. I’m getting the carrot salad and cavatelli.”

“You know what I mean! I just don’t think they thought it through. Most people are going to get ribs and chicken. At least I think so. I have a hard time figuring out places like this. Then some stuff costs you another ten dollars if you order that. Soup! I didn’t know they were supposed to do that during Restaurant Week. Sounds like a screw.”

“Where else did you try to find a table?”

Mr. Whitaker had spent the better part of that morning scouring reservation times at some of the most beloved Restaurant Week spots; Melting Pot, Stroud’s, PF Chang’s, among others.

“I thought the Plaza would have been nice. There’s that place Hogshead where you can get dishes made popular by other restaurants. I heard it’s good, but it was booked. Same with Brookside Barrio…I guess it packs out faster since they can’t use the patio. That would have been good though!”

“Yeah, I figured you tried Brookside Barrio before anything else.”

“What do you mean?”

“You know what I mean, Mark. Two margaritas in and you’re scanning the room thinking you can work up a threesome.”

“That was one time! I know you don’t want a threesome! It’s Brookside…white rock garden swingers and Rodan and Fields selling soccer moms, I was just messing around. Damn.”

“And the weird picture-taking, Mark.”

“Goddammit.”

“Come on. Waitresses half your age don’t want you taking their pictures. It’s creepy. Like a hostage situation because you’re spending money and they figure they have to play along for a tip.”

“I’m getting selfies! What’s wrong with that?”

“How many selfies do you have with waiters? Count them up. I’ll wait.”

“Jesus, give me a break. You’ve been on my ass all night. What the hell is your problem?”

She took a big drink of her Manhattan. “You know…what my problem is.”

“He’s having the time of his life! Movies, candy, staying up late on a school night. He’s loving it.”

“It’s his birthday, Mark! He’s eight years old and he’s at home with a babysitter on his birthday!”

“And we sang him Happy Birthday! He got his presents, and he’s probably stuffing his face with cake as we speak. He’d be going to bed in another hour anyway. I don’t get the big deal. It’s Restaurant Week, that’s only once a year too and it was blind luck to score a table anyplace other than Red Robin or something.”

photography of couple holding hands

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Mrs. Whitaker got up suddenly and headed to the ladies’ room without explanation, to compose herself. Her husband was insistent but he didn’t twist her arm to get her to agree to attend one of the biggest events of the year at one of the most highly regarded restaurants according to what she read on Yelp. Before heading back to the table, she stood in the hallway thinking about whether it would be worse to get home and find that their son was already asleep, or for him to be awake and asking where they went for all of that time on his birthday.

“I went ahead and ordered for you. Carrot salad and cavatelli. And a glass of wine. She said they didn’t have White Zinfandel but she recommended something close. Beltliner or something.

“Thank you.”

“Pam, I’m really sorry if I was an ass getting you to come out tonight. I shouldn’t have said you were stupid when you suggested spending another $33 for an eight-year-old.”

“I could have said no. He wouldn’t like it anyway. All the waiting.”

“And this whole thing is for the kids, right? It’s not like we’re out just to get a deal, it’s a ton of money for the kids.”

“I guess that’s true. It’s about charity.”

As the food began arriving, it brought peace and quiet to the Whitaker’s table. The fresh herbs and unfamiliar cut on the ribs caused some minor confusion for Mr. Whitaker, but overall their dinners of carrot salad, cavatelli, crispy pork ribs, and fried chicken were well received.

“So your fried chicken came out dead last. I wasn’t sure if we were going to get dessert and then finally get your chicken.”

“Yeah, I thought I was going to be asking for it to go. I almost got two orders of the chicken for my savory dishes. Glad I didn’t. The ribs were kind of weird. They tasted good but they need to be falling off the bone to be really good. How was yours?”

“Really good, can’t go wrong with pasta. That wine she recommended was good too.”

After the desserts arrived, Mr. Whitaker smiled and pantomimed a drum roll on the table.

“Okay! Moment of truth!  I looked up the regular prices for everything while you were in the bathroom, and this is where it gets good!”

“Well I’m assuming I ruined it all with what I ordered. Plus the drinks.”

“Doesn’t matter, Pam! Yeah, the salad, pasta, and chocolate cake would normally be $35, so you still ordered okay. BUT my ribs are normally $16 and fried chicken is $25.”

“Wow babe, you already killed it with just those.”

“I know! I don’t think they really thought this through when they wrote the menu. Guys like me are going to cost them money. But the best part, and the answer to your question about why I ordered cheese for dessert; that cheese would normally be another 18 bucks, bringing the grand total to $59!”

“Was it good?”

“It was okay, I’m not really big on cheese but that’s just the way to go.”

Their server checked on them one more time after the dessert plates were cleared, and dropped off the check at 8:30pm. Mr. Whitaker took his time reviewing the final bill to make sure none of the regular prices were included.

“Everything added up okay?”

“I think so. They list out all of the food and then the liquor separately, so just double checking. Looks okay I think. Good luck if you’re drunk trying to figure it out. Guess that’s their strategy. How much tip should I leave?”

“My sister said she and Rod tip on what the meal would normally cost, but I think that’s crazy. I’d say eighteen percent is more than enough. You know they’re getting way more business this week, so they’ll make out just fine with a packed house every meal.”

“I know, they brought my chicken out so late, but basically everything came out in a weird order. They need to work on that.”

“Yeah, they seated us late even though they have all those empty tables too.”

“Plus it’s for the kids! Everybody is doing their part for charity this week, including staff.  I’m sure they get that.”

stock-photo-couple-on-a-date-angry-at-a-waitress-in-an-outdoor-restaurant-they-are-upset-and-dissatisfied-1047178639

On the way to the host station to get their parking validated, Mr. Whitaker had a sudden panic.

“What time did we get in here? A little after 6?

“Yeah, I think so. I remember looking at my watch at 6:15.

“They better not have made us wait so long for everything that I have to pay for parking. I’ll be so pissed. They give us 3 hours if I recall correctly. It better be three hours or I’ll put them on blast as soon as we get home.”

“Mark, should we have gotten an extra dessert to take home for kiddo to eat tomorrow night?”

“Maybe. Too late to think of that now though. God knows how long we’d be waiting, plus it would be full price. Plus parking for sure at that point. He’ll have some birthday cake left. He’ll be fine.”

Traffic was still busy for a Monday night in the Crossroads. Customers with reservations and those hopeful for a seat at the bar were still lined down to the front door. A few hours past dark, Mrs. Whitaker was herself at the crossroads of her guilt and resentment.

“Hon, do you think he’s already asleep.”

“He better be! Otherwise he’ll be up god knows how late if we come in.”

“I just still feel guilty. Dinner was good but Corvino’s is supposed to be the best in town. I feel like they’d do more if they wanted us back.”

Still riding the high from maximizing his dining dollar, Mr. Whitaker moved closer to her and gave her a big hug.

“Babe, it’s all for the kids! We did our part. Next year we’ll plan earlier so we can book Melting Pot.”

“Oh, that sounds good. Definitely Melting Pot. You’re right though, we did it for charity.”

“For the kids!”

 

Copyright 2019, Hunter S. Fatback

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