Dysfunctional Diners at DTLA Restaurant

February 1, 2015

in Diner Stories

I work at a new restaurant in Downtown Los Angeles (DTLA). It’s awesome. The manager and two owners are amazing, fun guys who love people. They just do. They are genuinely interested in every person – customer or employee – who walks in that door. In fact, we became friends within 10 minutes of meeting each other, and I work for them (or, as they say, I “work with” them). The mood at the bar/restaurant is generally light, fun, and happy. The bartenders do some flair. The owners have a laugh (and a drink) with guests. Employees are all best friends. You get the idea.

Anyway, tonight I had a seriously interesting experience with some legit awful, delusional people. Upon walking into the dining room, the one guy smiles and extends his hand towards me and introduces himself, at which point he then says, “You are beautiful.” It’s not a compliment. It’s a totally I’m-now-creeped-out moment, because he was really creepy in an arrogant way (the type who thinks everyone loves them, because they’re so amazing… which they’re not). He also informs me that it’s his birthday, so I wish him a happy birthday. Then his friend says it’s not his birthday, but that his real birthday is tomorrow. Okay.

Once the whole party is there – dressed in the type of clothing and hats you would get at a shelter – and are seated, I introduce myself and tell them the specials. Then, I carefully inform them of our “shared plate” concept. Shared plates means that you, um… share them. Basically, we have no courses, so everything comes out when it’s ready. Then I ask for their drink orders. Three of them want Seagrams with Diet Coke. This is DTLA. We do not carry Seagrams. You can get that at any KTown liquor store for under $10.

Once their drinks arrive, they order. Of course, they order by person and not as a whole. I then restate the shared plates concept and inform them that I cannot guarantee everyone’s plates will arrive at the same time. They tell me it’s totally fine, as they’ve ordered four plates they absolutely want first – two crab cake plates and two Cajun corn nuts. Once these come out, it really starts getting good.

I should now note how vocal this table is. What I mean by that is that they simply cannot be (purposely) any louder about voicing their displeasure for every single dish. It starts with the crab cakes. One is apparently frozen. The corn nuts “lack flavor,” says one, but the other says, “they are too spicy.” I ask them if there is something else they’d like to order instead, but the guy at the end says he liked it all (and he has eaten everything), then proceeds to wave his hand in a “don’t worry about it” manner.

Next come out three larger plates which are placed in front of the people who ordered them. Now, three people are waiting for their dishes. They stare blankly at their empty places then up again, reminding me of a flock of demented seagulls looking for food. I walk over and tell them the rest is coming shortly, at which point I then reiterate (for the third time) the shared plates concept. They nod and say, “It’s okay.”

Another two minutes go by, and the ones with food are starting to slowly peck at their dishes, looking haughtily disdainful. I’m thinking that maybe they all would’ve ordered something small in the meantime, but they were too busy waving their hands and talking about how important they are because they live in DTLA. The employees are all confused because it is the strangest and most random situation we’ve ever encountered. Some of us are convinced that this table (who, as I’ve said, has been LOUDLY discussing in the greatest of detail exactly every single thing they particularly hated about each dish and the restaurant itself – including some of the employees!) has been sent by some crazy rival chef or restaurant owner to make a scene. Either that or they simply wanted a free meal because they certainly looked like they do that often.

A few minutes later (literally a few minutes later – in total it’s been about five minutes – with the rest of the food on its way up) I walk over to tell them it’s coming out and to ask how the present dishes are, but am greeted with an uncomfortable silence. At this time the unshowered man at the end looks at his dish then turns to me and says, “The chicken is horrible.” Now, I suggested the chicken. The chicken is really not horrible; it is amazing. It is moist. It is slightly smoky and spicy and sweet. It falls apart in your mouth. It is organic, for God’s sake. I would eat it every single night, and I’m pretty sure some people do. So I ask what the matter with it is and he says, “It’s not even the chicken [um, okay?]. The food is all terrible. We’re still waiting on plates, so my friends haven’t eaten.” Clearly they didn’t understand the “shared plate” concept I explained three times already. The girl on his left, who has been adding annoying side comments anytime anyone says anything, agrees. She is nodding her head so hard I’m afraid it might not be hinged to her neck. I apologize and say (again!) that the food comes out when it’s ready, so I couldn’t guarantee it would be all out at the same time. The man then makes a choking noise and says bluntly, “We are going to just leave.” It is such an awkward moment of silence. They all look so disoriented that I’m not sure if they are on drugs or some sort of hallucinogen. I apologize and tell them I will get my manager. That is when it really goes down.

My manager is an incredibly nice, fun, and light-hearted guy. I cannot imagine anyone disliking him. This table is not only incredibly rude but also very, very mean to him. The one guy (the creepy birthday-not-birthday one) keeps shouting at him, “I’m telling you/trust me, this place will be out of business in seven months!” Seven months is such a random figure too – not three, not six, not even eight, but seven. He is seriously emphasizing it. His friends are hitting him to be quiet. Then they are saying how terribly terrible it all was. The creeper chimes in, “You have a beautiful staff (he looks at me, and I cringe) and good drinks, but SEVEN MONTHS!” He is so loud and irate at this point that I feel like my manager is a French aristocrat during the Revolution. This peasant wants to guillotine him for sure. Everyone wants them to just leave. They cannot stop themselves from blurting out cruel things, and every employee wants to swoop in and rescue our manager. Finally, the manager gets up and walks away, comps their bill (except their drinks), and they pay.

Needless to say, we all feel the mood shift dramatically once they are gone. We suddenly feel that happiness can exist again.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

lnelson1218 February 4, 2015 at 12:23 pm

Clearly the goal of the group was to get a free meal.

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Jane July 21, 2015 at 10:38 am

The happy-go-lucky owners shouldn't be drinking with customers – it's not even legal, is it? – but attending to a group like this from the get-go. The owners should have spotted them, and they should have been asked to leave. Trouble isn't hard to spot.

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