I was in Florida a few years back to cover a Detroit Lions game against Tampa Bay and my boy D Fry wanted to meet for dinner at a restaurant that he swore the tourist did not know about and served some good food.
It was a circular shaped restaurant with an open feel that overlooked a man made lake. We arrived and the hostess grabbed two menus and told us to follow her. We walked past a bunch of tables by the windows that overlooked the lake toward the back of the restaurant.
I could tell D Fry was getting annoyed.
“She better not be taking us to a table by the bathrooms,” he grumbled.
Bingo. That is where we were headed. He’d been to this restaurant twice and both times he was seated by the bathrooms. D Fry is black and I felt his pain. Black patrons are often seated in the back and by the kitchen or bathroom.
I think it is a subconscious thing.
I have a three strike policy and one of my wife’s favorite Mexican restaurants is on double secret probation. If we get seated by the bathroom on our next trip I am never going back.
They sat us by the bathroom twice in a row although other tables were available. The last time we went we took the entire family for my birthday. The hostess took us in a different direction from the bathrooms.
I was encouraged until she sat us by the noisy kitchen.
I was mad. The restaurant was about a third full and none of the other families were by the kitchen.
“Really,” I said. “This is ridiculous.”
My wife Abs said: “You are like my dad. He hated being sat by the bathrooms or kitchen all the time. And he used to tell the restaurant.”
Let’s go back to Tampa. I told the hostess that D Fry really loved this restaurant but if we don’t get a better table that this place is off his list. I did not make a stink. I simply said to the woman: “Could you sit us at the table you’d want if you were eating here.”
She picked up the menus and sat us by one of the tables that overlooked the lake.
I live in two worlds. There is the world where people know who I am and the world where people don’t know me. When the restaurant owner knows me I never sit by the bathroom. I’d say when they don’t know me that they try to sit me by the bathroom about 30 percent of the time.
No more. Unless the restaurant is crowded I will say something. I’m not taking this crap any more.
We traveled to a soccer camp outside Chicago and stopped at a restaurant with an open patio for lunch. The hostess paraded us through an entire empty restaurant toward the bathrooms. She had a perplexed look when I said we are not sitting here.
Could you sit us on the patio. She paused and had a look on her face like she’d get in trouble if she sat us there. But she did and I noticed no one else sat by the bath room during our stay.
I have a friend in California named Kalisa and she can get into any restaurant in the state because she is willing to sit by the kitchen. She is a chef and wants to see how high end restaurants work. There is a joint in San Francisco called Boulevard that often has a three day wait to get in. So we stroll in at 8 p.m. on a Saturday and I said she is crazy. We can’t eat here.
The place was packed. Home girl casually strolls in and tells the hostess we don’t have a reservation. The woman looked at us like we were crazy. Kalisa told her we want to sit by the kitchen. We got in. And the food was great.
She told me when you are spending $80 for dinner people are not just paying for the food, they are paying for the experience and atmosphere. They’d rather come back another time than get a bad table.