Dinner for Free

IMG_8743My son and I go out to dinner a lot. We always have. My ex and I were avid diners and we went out to eat at least 2 to 3 times a week when we were married and Kevin went along in his car seat carrier until he could get in the high chair. He was great and well behaved in restaurants because he was raised going to them. Now it’s a little tough as I improve my diet and health and my son wants to continue to eat french fries and pizza at every meal. We are working on better ordering skills. When I was a kid we never went out. There were three of us and going out to dinner was an ordeal. Plus my brother and I would always fight and cause a scene and my mom just couldn’t deal with it. So that was that.

Tonight my son and I decided on dinner and a movie. We set out with no particular plan. We left early as getting in a restaurant in my area of Phoenix is tragic on a Saturday night. None of the restaurants take reservations so you just have to go get in line or sit and wait.  It’s horrible! So we got there at 5:30 and the wait was only 15 minutes but we decided on the bar since we could sit right down.

We ordered barbecue because um it was a barbecue joint. I love barbecue! There’s a place in Poway, CA that is the best BBQ in the world – Kominsky’s. It is delicious. Second would be Dave’s famous BBQ. They have the best sauces. Anyway, we ordered our food and I ordered baby back ribs, beans and grilled veggies (to try to add something that resembled healthy). We got the food really quickly and I could see immediately it wasn’t going to be delicious. I could see the fat on the ribs… which they said were the leaner ones than the St. Louis ribs, and the beans were in a bowl and no steam coming off of them. The veggies were altogether dried out and not hot. Seemed like the plate had been under a heat lamp waiting to go out to the next baby back rib order. It was Ok I guess but not that great.

I started critiquing the experience immediately and my son started groaning and rolling his eyes. “Mom, please don’t say anything”. He is used to me by now and I never remain silent when food or service isn’t good. Especially when it’s expensive. I am bewildered by the thousands of restaurants that offer bad food and bad service. When faced with either challenge, I try to be nice and just state the facts. I usually end up making friends but my son just hates it when I speak up about it. He thinks I should just be quiet and accept it without complaint. I just can’t. However, he asked me nicely so I refrained from saying anything about my dried up mushrooms and the gooey fat hanging from my baby backs. Fat little cow… or is it pig. Whatever.

After dinner my son headed for his usual after dinner bathroom excursion. As I sat there alone, the manager appeared before me. A tall, dark and handsome guys with a great demeanor. He asked me how my meal was. I said “It was ok” with a shrug. He said “Just OK?” “Yeah just ok”. He told me he was sorry to hear that and I told him that I promised my son I wouldn’t say anything but that the veggies were cold and the ribs were too fatty. I told him I gave it a C. He laughed and I may have flirted just a little but then he did the unexpected. He said “I’m going to take care of this for you”.  My eyes widened in surprise. “The whole thing??” and he said “Yep, the whole thing! I want my customers to be happy and I’d love for you to come back and try again”. I thought well, I may not come back for the food but if you’re here, I’ll be back tomorrow!! Sorry I’ll admit it, I’m a cougar. I couldn’t believe it! I really wasn’t expecting anything, but I thought he might want to know the truth. The truth is not a bad thing in this situation.

So I was relieved that my son had missed the entire exchange, but couldn’t wait to tell him that my “feedback” had gotten us a free dinner! As I told him the story, the manager returned with another rack of ribs packed up as a gift! Wow. That is going the extra mile to keep a customer happy, and my son saw that sometimes demanding something better in a nice way can actually pay off.

I am a food critic. I just am. I like dining out and I have been to some pretty good restaurants and some pretty bad ones too. I used to go to some of the fancy, trendy fine dining establishments back in my Vegas days which is probably why I expect so much out of the experience. I just feel like there are a ton of choices out there for food and service and if a restaurant wants to stay in business, they should do a good job! Don’t you? I know for some people, going out is a real luxury and for those people to have a bad experience is downright unfair. They should have a nice meal and an enjoyable time with great service at any price point. Otherwise, get out of the business! In an age where everything can be ordered online including a meal, the restaurant establishments should seriously consider dining at their own restaurant to see how the experience is. That way maybe they won’t have to give away free dinners too often.