Restaurants, Mind Your Fucking Menus

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The paper menu isn't inherently evil. It's the logical option for restaurants that update their menus frequently. Printed on a nice, heavy stock, it looks better, or at least more contemporary, than an old-school embossed tome.

But this week and last week, my reviews have noted paper menus that were in sorry shape: stained, creased, rife with misspellings. If I had photographic recall, I could add many more restaurants to this wall of shame.

This needs to stop.

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Top 3 Pet Peeves of a Riverboat Waitress

In this series, food and drink professionals dish to Gut Check about their pet peeves anonymously but honestly.

Gut Check Code Name: Becky

Position: Server for the past four years at a tourist attraction so far downtown it floats

Pet Peeve #1
People ask which river this is. That seems kind of obvious!

Deborah Hyland

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Texas Eatery Holds Patrons Hostage Over Tip Dispute, We Grouse About Automatic Gratuity

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Watch us turn a $100 tip into 100 pennies!
Working in the food service business is a two-way street. Sometimes patrons offend with rude behavior, tiresome substitution requests or by carting along their obnoxious children who cry, run amok and spoil everything for everyone. And then, sometimes, it's the restaurant, chef or waitstaff who disappoint with their own rude, tiresome, obnoxious attitudes. While Gut Check isn't always the easiest patron to please, we do believe in tipping generously. We usually don't think twice about automatic gratuity being added to a bill of five or more people, but if the service is particularly bad and we don't receive exactly what we ordered and then we're held hostage by the restaurant management? Though it's a sitcom-ready scenario in story, it's less charming as a real-life business practice.

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Who Wants to Pay $500 to Eat the Last Meal Served Aboard the Titanic?

Wikipedia Commons
The real reason not to diet.
Man-made disasters and tragedies range from the historic to the Darwin Award-winning, but no single event has proven to be as romanticized or lucrative an enterprise as the deaths of those 1,514 people who went down with the R.M.S. Titanic on April 15, 1912. Though it hasn't been news in 100 years, the sinking of the Titanic has remained a morbid, nostalgic curiosity for historians, novelists, filmmakers and grave robbers.

This month marks the 100th anniversary of history's sexiest shipwreck, and in honor of those dead people who would all already be dead anyway, a lot of weird shit is happening. Don't get us wrong, Gut Check can indulge in pop culture's gross obsession with human misery to a degree -- we'll definitely be seeing Titanic 3D, but mostly for Kate Winslet's boobs, not to lust after maritime catastrophe. The Titanic 3D death rattle is no surprise -- Paramount Pictures wants the money, James Cameron wants to nerdily toy with his 1997 blockbuster.

Other tributes range in quality from the flowery but well-produced BBC series Titanic written by Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes to a disaster-boner National Geographic special narrated by Cameron. Oh, and who could forget the Titanic Museum in Branson, Mo., where, on April 10 and April 11, you can meet the grandson of the highest ranking Titanic officer to survive the sinking, who traveled all the way from Scotland to visit a bunch of gawking weirdos in Branson. Yep, that's a real thing.

The spectacle that bemused Gut Check the most, though, is one happening close to home. On April 14, the Fabulous Fox Theatre (527 North Grand Boulevard; 314-534-1111) hosts an entire weekend of events dedicated to the unsinkable ship, titled "A Titanic Centennial Weekend." In theory, Titanic-themed fundraisers to support the Fox make sense; it's an enduring cultural preoccupation and proven moneymaker. We assumed one of the many Titanic-inspired films would be screened, or perhaps an ambitious, loosely-based-on-real-events stage adaptation. How about a vulgar recreation of the last dinner that first-class passengers ate before meeting their watery graves? Because, yes, that's what's happening. For $500 you can experience the eleven course meal that for some would be the last meal they'd ever eat. What the actual fuck.

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Food Service Job Applicants, Mind Your Fucking Manners

RFT photo
Job research never tasted so good.
Fact: Gut Check frequently eats lunch at the Chipotle Mexican Grill (6316 Delmar Boulevard; 314-678-3200) in the Delmar Loop. Not only is the location just steps away from the RFT offices, it's ahem, Chipotle. We love its burritos, tacos, chips and salsa and burrito bowls, and, as far as we know, it's the only fountain soda in the Loop with Coke Zero on tap (because calorie-free soda is key to washing down a pound of burrito).

We visit that tried-and-true location so frequently that its very friendly staff often say hello to us and recite our order to the burrito assembly line before we can even try. Because that's just how fantastic they are -- they don't make us repeat, "Vegetarian burrito bowl, extra everything with chips and salsa and a large fountain soda to stay," multiple times each week. Today, while filling our obligatory large fountain soda with Coke Zero, we overheard a manager (the manager, perhaps?) interviewing a potential new Chipotle employee.

Manager: What is your favorite part of eating at a Chipotle?

Interviewee: Oh, I've never eaten at a Chipotle. I love burritos, though.

And that is how not to apply for a job, anywhere, ever. To his credit, the manager handled the curve ball with aplomb and smiled before moving on to the next question. Gut Check isn't sure if that blasé response cost that interviewee the opportunity to work for Chipotle, but we kind of hope it did.

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Servers, Mind Your Fucking Name Fields

His name is John, not "asian kid."
Recently a concerned reader sent us a letter, explaining that on a trip to a midtown sports bar, he was treated very rudely and handed a receipt that labeled him "asian kid."

We did hear both sides of the story -- a classic he said/he said, wherein the bar owner claimed that his waitress was being Mayberry-polite and the customer a rude maniac who "refused to leave his name," while the customer timidly recalled the waitress rolling her eyes at him and being generally unpleasant -- but since Gut Check wasn't there, we've decided to present the receipt without (much of a) comment.

For starters, it could have been worse. Much worse.

"Asian kid," while certainly rude, isn't a racial slur, at least. And as Papa John's proved a few weeks back with the "lady chinky eyes" debacle, and Chick-Fil-A (typically a pillar of acceptance!) did with its matching "Ching" and "Chong" receipts, these name fields are like the wild west of customer service.

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Arty, Soft-Core Childbirth Photo Has a Place, but a Food Blog Ain't It

Sandwiched betwixt some tasty treats and faux-Fieri lies some awkwardly staged placebo porn.
It takes a lot to make Gut Check lose our lunch. We've had to report some rather icky things in the past, from spicy rolls garnished with semen to, ahem, tainted asparagus. We even ate brains, just to prove we ain't scared.

And sure, our weekly meeting was entirely consumed by a conversation about the not-so-tasty aftermath of digestive cleanses. But we're multi-dimensional, and there's a limit to our fascination with all things yuck, thank you very much. That aforementioned limit falls right around that place where Dr. Oz fondles colons and tiny mammals are excavated from the orifices of larger ones.

Yes, while casually surfing the web for food porn and pouring a refreshing sip of smoothie down our gullet, our eyes were greeted with the above image of a lady human birthing a small, screaming monster. (Bask in the glow of high res childbirth here.)

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Restaurants, Mind Your Fucking Televisions

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Aw, OK, this one's kinda cute.
Gut Check has begrudgingly accepted the sad fact that there will often be an illuminated screen of one type or another shoved in our faces when we eat. Sometimes it's a date that won't put his damn iPhone away, and sometimes there's a blaring flatscreen in every nook and cranny of a restaurant. No, we don't simply dine at sports bars and wing joints, either. We're talking about decent places with nice decor that really should not have a television, much less eight of them.

But, what can you do? It's an ugly, tacky sign of the times.

So, we deal with it when we, mid-sentence, catch our friends staring past us and at a Jersey Shore rerun. Because, rude as it may seem, it's nearly impossible to ignore the screaming flash of the screen (and orange tans), especially when the set is situated just behind/right next to your dining partner's face.

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Daiya Vegan Cheese is Animal-Friendly, but Is It Fat Phobic?

Thanks to social media, corporations and public figures can now embarrass themselves (often by sticking their stinky, figurative feet right into their metaphorical mouths) more easily and more often.

While this is usually entertaining (hello, intentional nip slips!) and often illuminating (à la Alec Baldwin's airplane iPhone entitlement), the frequency of big-shot blunders means that some of them fall below radar.

Such as this post Daiya Vegan Cheese shared on its Facebook page yesterday:

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A winky face? Oh no, you didn't, Youtube.

Of course, it didn't go entirely unnoticed. With nearly 200 heated comments on the post itself (not to mention the dozens of comments all over Daiya's page) and even more "likes," it's clear that many interpreted "Should this be adopted in North America?" as "Wouldn't it be nice if this was adopted in North America?" After all, why is now the time to post a video that's been sitting on Youtube since 2008?

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A Beef With Chick-fil-A

Let's get real. We don't always feel good about ourselves after dining at a fast-food establishment. When we chow down at McDonald's, Taco Bell, wherever, we're filling our pieholes with highly processed substances that by and large bear only a passing resemblance to the natural state in which they (presumably) once existed. Not only do we not know where they come from, we don't know what they're made of, or how those ingredients were made.

In other words, we know nutrition isn't the value in "value meal." Of course, that's a tradeoff, one that most (if not all) of us make, and make knowingly.

But other compromises and consequences that accompany our consumerism aren't nearly as conspicuous as, say, mystery meat and jiggly thighs.

Multimillion-dollar contributions to radical special-interest groups, for instance.

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