This week I've been reading Waiter Rant: Thanks For the Tip -- Confessions of a Cynical Waiter (Ecco, 302 pages, $24.95) and here is my unabashed recommendation: If you eat out with any regularity, read this book!
It's written by a New Yorker who calls himself "The Waiter," and he's the creator of the popular and award-winning Waiter Rant blog. This week, however The Waiter was outed as Steve Dublanica and though it's not been confirmed, the restaurant in which he worked -- which he calls "The Bistro" throughout the book -- is the Lanterna Tuscan Bistro in Nyack, N.Y., according to New York magazine.
Dublanica also appeared this morning on the "Today" show and announced his "retirement" from waiting tables. (Probably a good thing, since he also disclosed that one of his favorite retaliation moves was to pass gas near rude customers and then walk away.)
The book is hilarious and disgusting and very insightful. Dublanica not only tells tales about what servers might do to you if you're rude -- spit in food; fill coffee with regular instead of decaf; play hockey with meat if it's sent back; tell the customer his credit card has been denied -- but also gives good tips for diners: "If a restaurant's bathroom is nasty," he writes, "the odds are good that the kitchen doesn't bother maintaining Health Department-mandated levels of hygiene either."
Appendix A -- "40 Tips on How to Be a Good Customer -- should be studied and committed to memory. I've always thought of myself as a pretty pleasant restaurant patron, and as I read through the list my assumption stands, except for Rule No. 4: "Sit where you're seated!"
"Please let the hostess do her job," Dublanica writes. "She's only trying to seat customers evenly so that everyone gets the best service possible without overwhelming one server. And trust me, when your waiter overhears you whining about your table, he or she will know that you're an annoying table snob who thinks you're entitled to underserved rock-star treatment and that, in all probability, you're a bad tipper to boot."
I have a restaurant pet-peeve, and if I had a blog dedicated to restaurant pet-peeves, this would be my first entry: Getting seated next to the bathroom or the kitchen door, or the restaurant entrance door, or the busing station -- when the restaurant is FULL of empty tables! Obviously in that situation I don't think it's obnoxious to ask for a better table, but of course now I'll be much less likely to do so.