Dear Restaurateur…

Delmonico Menu April 1899
Reproduced from Wikipedia

Could this be your restaurant described below in a recent plaintive letter to the editor of the Princeton Packet? I reproduce it below with the permission of the writer, who hit the nail on the head. On behalf of legions of diners, we beg you to start printing your specials, and with prices. I actually had one restaurateur claim he thought asking servers to recite prices along with the description would be “awkward.” For whom? Awkward is the diner being forced to ask, and you should never make your diner feel uncomfortable asking for reasonable information like that, especially when those specials are priced beyond normal menu range. If you (or your manager) can’t be bothered to put pen to paper, or finger to keyboard, we might not bother to listen to your server drone on, no matter how delicious your food is (and this was a delicious dinner I was assured). Here is that letter to the editor:

Dear Editor,

It was New Year’s Eve and we had decided on a local restaurant with another couple. We were looking forward to a good dinner of well prepared food. We’re all senior citizens, not interested in staying up and out till midnight so our reservation was for 6:30 p.m.

We all arrived on time and were seated in a pleasant corner which was warm and cozy. Our wine was opened and sipped. The waitress arrived with the “LIST” of appetizers. I warned her to speak clearly and loudly as my companion has a hearing deficiency. My attention soon waned as she went through a long long list, some of which sounded delicious but we had come to the restaurant to enjoy the company of old friends, not to pass a test on who can remember most of the appetizer list and its accompanying frills. I interrupted her and asked if we could have a menu, so the four of us could enjoy our champagne without her monologue. She acquiesced and went away. A short interval later, our menus arrived with another server who began the listing of the evening’s main courses. I am somewhat more outspoken than the other three and I asked the obvious question for the main courses…”what is the price?” The young lady seemed genuinely perplexed…”did I want to know the cost”, she inquired. “Yes, I do,” I replied. All prices were more than the printed menu offerings.

I am writing this comment because I find the concept of interrupting people to “make them pay attention” to a server when they came to dine and enjoy the company of their companions more than a little irritating. I have been to this restaurant several times before and this was not a “New Year’s Eve” policy…this is their way of doing business. A copy machine is very inexpensive and a hand written menu lends a kind of charm for the chef’s inspirations of that day. and makes the expanded menu accessible to all. A postscript to this would be larger print on the printed menu…I love the dim lighting (I am a senior citizen after all) but I would like to be able to read the menu easily. Does anyone else find this an annoying practice?

Sylvia Temmer, Princeton

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