I am in Santa Barbara for the weekend and staying at my parents' place, where I have been joined by one relative and two family friends, one of whom is having a birthday. My parents were going to take us all out to some nice restaurant, and the birthday girl voted for lobster. (OK, so I encouraged her.) So we went to the only restuarant in Santa Barbara that offers live Maine lobster.

I called to make the reservation for 7:15, which I changed to 7:30 at the restaurant's suggestion. The six of us arrived at 7:30. Our table wasn't ready. The bar was full. So we stood in the aisle, getting bumped into, for twenty-five minutes. Just as we were about to be seated, an irate man pushed forward, exclaiming that he had been waiting an hour for a table.

We were seated next to the open grill station/wait station-- the part of the kitchen adorned with festoons of paper noting everyone's orders, which the waiters would go to, check, then pick up the matching plates. As the evening wore on, this turned into an impromptu crisis management center, or perhaps lack-of-crisis-management center, with semi-hysterical waiters clustered around, patting each other soothingly on the back and giving thousand-yard stares to the plates.

After a long wait, our waitress, who seemed to have been attacked and mugged by her uniform, came over to take our drink orders. She was a pretty, slim blonde woman, but her too-tight black pants were riding low and her too-tight black blouse was riding high, so that a bulging roll of fat (which was just about the only fat on the poor woman's body) was squished out and exposed between them. It was strangely hypnotic.

After another long wait, the drinks arrived. Sensing more long waits in the future, we quickly placed our orders. It was then that the waitress informed us that they were out of broccoli, jambalaya, and lobster. Annoyed, the birthday girl switched her order to the mixed seafood grill, I switched mine to the steamed Dungeness crab, and my visitig relative ordered the salmon.

About half an hour later, the waitress returned. "I'm really sorry about this, but there's a party in the back and they ate a lot... Um..." We all glared at her, guessing what was coming. "Um... we're out of the crab and the mixed seafood grill. I'll let you think about what you want to switch to!"

"I want to talk to the manager," said Dad ominously.

"I'll let her know," said the waitress, and fled.

Fifteen minutes later, neither waitress nor manager had arrived at our table. The crisis station at the grill was in full force, with waitress comforting each other and consulting in great confusion over the order slips. Dad got up and stomped over to demand to see the manager. At that moment, our waitress directed him to the manager, and he and the manager vanished into a back room together, and our waitress returned to the table.

"We're out of salmon," said the waitress, looking ready to duck. "But you don't have to switch!" she assured my visiting relative. "We do have one plate of salmon left. Just not enough for the seafood grill."

"Can you make the seafood grill without the salmon?" asked the birthday girl. "You do have shrimp and scallops, right?"

"Um... yes," said the waitress, rather doubtfully.

"Are you out of the cioppino?" I asked.

"Oh no, we've got some of that left."

"OK, I'll have that."

The waitress split, and Dad returned with a report. As he had been entering the office, another customer barged in, swearing and bellowing, "I'm not paying for this meal! You can call the police to chase me out of the restaurant!"

"We're not calling the police," said the manager.

"Everyone at my table is finishing dessert, and I never got my entree," continued the irate customer.

"I'm so sorry," said the manager. "I'm afraid we've had a total breakdown in the kitchen."

She comped both angry men the meals for their entire table, apologized profusely, gave them a seventy-five dollar gift certificate, then came over to our table to apologize and explain. Apparently the restaurant runs on half-staff on Sunday nights, but they had forgotten that the holiday on Monday made this particular Sunday the equivalent of Saturday, which is their busiest night. "I've been here for five years, and I've never seen anything like this," she said.

The waitress appeared with our meals. The visiting relative looked down at his plate. "Why do I have rice and mashed potatoes? I ordered steamed vegetables."

"We're out of everything," explained the waitress. "Vegetables, baked potatoes, cole slaw... I just grabbed whatever we had left, and threw it on your plates."

And then came the most unexpected twist of all: the food was really good.

From: [identity profile] tharain.livejournal.com

That's a wonderful story...and the last sentence really snaps and makes it so. Up until then, it was a typical Nightmare While Out Eating thing, but nope.

And the poor waitress. Grabbing anything and throwing it on the plate. Brilliant.

From: [identity profile] sophia-helix.livejournal.com

OK, now I want seafood. Is that bizarre? *g*

And which SB restaurant was this? I've probably been there. Is it the small, dark one right on the waterfront with the very large picture window, a couple blocks south of the white lighthouse thing?

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com

It's Enterprise Seafood, the one with a diving suit in the middle of the room.

From: [identity profile] minnow1212.livejournal.com

Fabulously told story. But aaaieeee, what a night.
cofax7: climbing on an abbey wall  (Default)

From: [personal profile] cofax7

Oh, I do love the last line.

But still! OMG!

I hope you got a discount on your dinner.

From: [identity profile] fiveandfour.livejournal.com

Wow, my husband and I thought that kind of thing only ever happened to us!

From: [identity profile] canandagirl.livejournal.com

I'm glad that the food was good. A few years back, my inlaws were visiting around the time of my birthday. Since I love Italian food, we went to the Olive Garden, because I really like their soup. Well, the waiter forgot to send our order to the kitchen, so we were waiting and waiting and waiting some more. My mother-in-law gave the waiter a set down (she didn't actually get up to seek out the manager), and the manager at one point came to us. It was horribly embarrassing, mostly because I hate scenes like that.

That was more than 4 years ago, and I still haven't been back to the Olive Garden since. Sometimes my mother-in-law laughs about it, but I totally blame her for ruining my Italian sausage soup experience, (especially since they have all you can eat soup).
oyceter: (angry dieter's fork)

From: [personal profile] oyceter

Good lord! Ooo did you get a gift certificate too, now that it has been verified that the food is good?

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