Throughout the week, veteran restaurant world writers and critics will offer accounts of the worst shitshows they've ever encountered, continuing today with food writer Regina Schrambling. Want to submit your own story of shitshowdom? The tipline is open.
Not sure which of these dueling Shitshows is worse:
I can't remember when this happened, but it was the year an Allure editor took me to lunch at Le Cirque back when the Big Homme was chef; she correctly thought it was the perfect place to talk about the NY-LA story I was going to do on how restaurants can make women look good (or bad). And because they knew who she was and where she was from, we had an absolutely splendiferous meal and experience, with Sirio at his butt-kissing finest. I was so naively awed that I insisted on taking my consort there for his birthday dinner.
The only reservations for our sort, of course, were like 5:30 and 10, and we were too young to want the former. Bob still talks about the welcome we enjoyed, Sirio's own butt to us as he talked on the phone at his "host" stand while we waited to be acknowledged. We were taken to a crappy table back in a corner, far from the see-and-be-seen banquette where I'd sat. As we took our time with our silly glasses of Champagne, the waiter walked over and stood, tapping his pencil on his pad, and asked, "Did you come to talk or did you come to eat?" My cranial sieve has retained nothing about the food except that it did not come close to lunch. But I'll never forget the chairs being upended on tables all around us as we finished our sad celebration.
Then there was the incident we only witnessed, at Ernie's, a heavily hyped restaurant on the Upper West Side back in the age of stadium eating, when huge food halls like America were the big deal. We lived on 72nd then, so it was a location, location choice we occasionally suffered, and on this night we were eating whatever we were eating when a little Japanese guy in lederhosen started making a scene way back in the far corner of that hangar-sized place, and he was so loud there was nothing to do but put down our forks and gawk. We never figured out what had sent him around the bend, but he was pissed to the point of stomping as his poor Caucasian wife loomed by, looking as if she'd seen that show before. Finally the management called the cops, and still the railing continued, even after they broke out the billy clubs and beat him bloody. He did pipe down as they dragged him dripping out the door. But our appetites were gone.
I almost took it as a lesson in putting up and shutting up. But when we recounted the story the first time, to a Chinese friend who also lived in the neighborhood and succumbed to location, location, his reaction was: "A Japanese guy in lederhosen? He deserved to get beaten."
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