One of the things I have come to dread is going out to a nice restaurant with the outlaws. Almost inevitably the manager will make an appearance at our table. Friday night, as we were out to celebrate B’s birthday, was no exception.
As we had some things to do earlier in the day (most notably pick up more lab forms at my doctor’s office), we decided to just stay in the area as traffic – especially on a Friday evening – can be a nightmare heading back into the canyon. What should take about 10 minutes can easily become an hour or more. That meant they had to drive themselves, which meant we didn’t arrive together.
Thankfully this restaurant didn’t make us wait for our entire party to arrive before seating us. We had been hanging out at the Starbucks across the street, where someone locked themselves in the unisex, so as soon as we arrived I made a mad dash for the ladies’ room. B was seated by the time I got back, but I found our table without any trouble.
Our server, Mary, stopped by our table before either of B’s parents arrived. She said she would come back and go over the menu and specials when everyone had arrived. The restaurant was packed. There was what seemed to be a rehearsal dinner going on at a private room across the way, and a few large tables in our section.
B’s mother arrived and it would seem had not found her prescription reading glasses that she lost. They could be on their way across the Pacific Ocean, or they could be under the bathroom sink, or they could be in one of the geranium bushes she planted. The reality was, it was hard for her to read the menu without them. B gave her the candle on the table to help illuminate things, but she almost burnt her hand.
B’s father was off trying to find a parking space. He doesn’t believe in valet parking, so arrived about 10 minutes after his wife. Mary had been back to the table at least once before he arrived. She took drink orders.
After we were all present, Mary came back to explain the menu and specials. It turns out that in addition to the huge menu, they also have a 3-course dinner option where you can pick a starter, a main course, and a dessert. There were also 3 specials: a soft shell crab, a fish, and a surf and turf with scallops. Did I mention this was a seafood restaurant with a brewery?
B’s father asked Mary to repeat the specials. B’s mother asked some questions about the specials. After Mary answered, B’s mother then rattled off her order. It took Mary a moment, but she sort of made it a joke saying I guess we were all ready to order. B and his parents each got the 3-course dinner. I like soft shell crab, so got the special.
We made some small talk. Someone brought some bread to the table. And then Mary passed by again. B’s mother stopped her and asked how much the duck legs were. She went to check and told her. She asked if it was too late to change her order. She now wanted the duck legs with a cup of the clam chowder. Mary said that worked out, as the first course was about to arrive.
When dinner came, the plates turned out to be quite large. B’s father immediately announced that he would just have his dinner boxed to go, and they would share the duck. Fine. It really wasn’t a big deal. They got someone to bring them an extra plate, and someone else to box up the steak.
It turns out the duck was fried legs of duck confit. B’s parents complained that it was salty. B’s mother insisted that it was because the legs were deep fried; B’s father said it was because they serve beer, which people like to enjoy with salty food. But almost on queue, Mary appeared again to ask how things tasted.
Mary apologized and sent over her manager. He also apologized and said he would bring it up with the cook. Meanwhile, he offered to bring them something else. He brought over a menu. B’s father looked it over and picked the drunken mahi-mahi. The plates with the salty duck were removed.
By this point B and I were almost done with our meals. As B’s father realized this, he asked Mary to bring out the dessert and just wrap his mahi-mahi to go. Mary agreed to do this, and took our plates from the table.
It seemed like forever, but finally the slice of chocolate cake that B ordered as his dessert with his 3-course meal and the dish of sorbet and fruit that B’s father ordered as part of his steak dinner arrived. The untouched and wrapped mahi-mahi and the steak dinner were put at the side of our booth so we could share the 2 desserts among the four of us. They almost wanted to get the cake wrapped to go, but B explained that it was a warm cake, and wouldn’t do well reheated.
When dinner was over, I made a bee line for the restroom as both my iced tea and water had been refilled during dinner. I really had to go and of course all the stalls were full. Thankfully I didn’t have to wait long, but I could not believe there was no toilet paper. Then again, I thought as I wiped myself with a seat cover – what a perfect ending to this evening.
I found B waiting for me at the front of the restaurant. He had both of his father’s untouched dinners in his hands. We were parked down the block and across the street as we figured it would be easier to just leave the car where it was, as parking on a Friday night can be hard. I told B we should just go back to the Starbucks and give the food to one of the homeless people we saw over there. At least we know it wouldn’t go to waste.
He called me a trouble maker, but later apologized and agreed that would have been the better thing to do. I am still not sure how an act of kindness and charity can cause trouble, but I suspect it might have pissed off someone.
They beat us home and pretty much called it a night. I brought in our laundry and folded it before going upstairs.
I know there is a reason B is careful with his restaurant choices with his parents. Our first dining experience with them was at the cafe upstairs at Chez Panisse in Berkeley. It was for his graduation. That was almost 20 years ago. We haven’t been back since.