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P.I. Work Isn’t All Glamour

20 Nov

November 20, 2017

As my fictional detective Hollywood Russell would be the first to tell you, being an investigator is not as glamorous or dramatic as the movies make it out to be. There is a lot of drudge work and a lot of striking out and getting no results. But like any other job, there are silly, funny things that happen when you least expect it. Take this story, which actually happened to me last week.

My partner and I were in Queens checking out a witness. We were interviewing a hotel manager who was called by the police to provide the video from the hotel security cameras. There was an accidental (it seems) death and it may have been recorded. For the insurance company, we needed a statement. It was provided and we wrapped it up. Cut and dry.

My partner wanted to grab a snack. He’s been on the job for over two decades and it seems that one perk of longevity on this job is knowing every place to eat in the city. So we went to a small diner he knew on Roosevelt Ave and 111th street. I may be a rookie at this game but when it comes to eating out, my instincts have him beat.

The first thing I noticed, aside from the fact that it was dark and dingy, was that the Department of Health rating was “Grade Pending.” Now while I would not normally go into a place without an A rating that wasn’t a deal-breaker for my partner. Hey, it wasn’t shut down, right? That must mean no one has died from their food. (Recently.)

I’m not saying this is the place we went to but yeah, this is the place we went to. Notice that they USED TO HAVE an A rating.

So I wasn’t going to order any food and I figured the best way to stay out of the hospital was to just order a can of soda. It arrived and with it was a glass and a straw. No ice in the glass, just a plastic glass. So what was the point? I picked it up and I didn’t need to hold it up to the light to see that it was dirty. OK, I’m going to drink this straight out of the can. And I’m not going to use the straw either. The waitress did that thing where your straw has already been unwrapped and only the top inch is still on. Why do places do that? Is it classy? I don’t know but this place clearly did not care about class. Class to me is giving a clean glass. And since the straw was unwrapped and touching the dirty plastic that was no longer an option. I wiped the top of the can and drank it that way. But this was simple compared to my partner’s order.

ME: Just a can of Coke.
PARTNER: I’ll have a cup of tea with lemon and a toasted bagel with butter.
WAITRESS: OK, that’s a can of Coca-Cola and a toasted bagel and butter.
PARTNER: Don’t forget my drink.
WAITRESS: Do you want a can of Coca-Cola too?
PARTNER: I asked for a tea with lemon.
WAITRESS: No Coca-Cola?

A couple of minutes later the waitress came back and told him they had no lemon and no regular tea, just green tea or ginger. He took green. That came not in a dirty tea cup but in a paper takeout container so he was probably safe as long as nothing was floating on top.

Right after the tea came she brought over his bagel with butter. It had a big hunk of sausage on it. And not like a breakfast sausage or patty, it looked like a half of a bratwurst stuck between the slices. He looked at me and I looked at him. I had no sympathy. I never would walked into this place to begin with.

My partner called over the waitress (“Hey! Hey!”) and told her he didn’t order any meat on his sandwich. This confused her.

WAITRESS: You don’t want?
PARTNER: Meat. You put meat on it. I didn’t want meat.
WAITRESS: You don’t want?
PARTNER: No, you put meat on it.

I don’t want to give the impression that my partner is not a good communicator but he was definitely not getting his point across.

ME: All he wants is a bagel and butter. Nothing else on it. Bagel. Butter. That’s it.
WAITRESS: Ah.

She took away the plate and after a lot longer than it should have taken (which was another warning sign) she came back with his bagel, toasted, with butter and bacon.

My mouth slowly dropped open. I wasn’t surprised, not really. I was amazed at how stupid the situation was, not to mention the waitress. I looked at my partner who looked stunned and give him a look that asked “OK Champ. Now what? Dare you send it back?” (My facial expressions can be incredibly loquacious.)

“If I send this back who knows what it’ll have on it next. Liverwurst?” So he shrugged and ate it. And how was the bacon? “Crispy and tasty.”

So we left and as we walked back to the car he pointed out another dinky little place and told me that last year he had a whole chicken dinner there.

Next time I choose the restaurant.

 

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Get Lost, Anthony Bourdain

9 Jul

July 9, 2017

Have you ever had Moroccan food? Neither have I. But a Moroccan restaurant opened around here and despite the fact that my taste in foreign food starts at pizza and ends at egg rolls I figured let’s give it a shot. I had no idea what Moroccan food was and my general knowledge of the country was, let’s say, limited.

OK, it was Saarah’s idea. It’s always a woman, isn’t it? Guys do things like holding their purses at New York and Company for hours on end while they try on various jeans that all look exactly the same, or carrying heavy pieces of furniture up and down stairs at random, or eating sheisty Moroccan food when a woman asks.

So we went to the restaurant and checked the menu. It didn’t look too objectionable and we went in. We checked it out on Yelp too and saw some reviews. It had five stars after only five reviews but that’s not bad since it just opened the week before. However, I should have seen the red flags. It was only later that I noticed that many of these reviews were by people who had just joined the previous week and reviewed just a single restaurant, this one. Some were duplicated word for word on Facebook. The same exact reviews but under different names. But there were people in the place and it looked clean so we went in.

The front of the place looked like every other place in Bay Ridge. Some tables, a counter, and a long steamer table. But in the back they made a room that looked almost, but not quite, totally unlike what someone like me who knows nothing about Morocco might think a place in Morocco looks like. I’m sure that sentence makes sense. Anyway, it had tables, sofas and cushions, drapes, ugly wallpaper, and a freezer full of cans of Coke. Just like Morocco!

SERVICE: POOR
We were served by a nice waitress who did so much wrong. Brought wrong drinks, did not give condiments after repeated requests, and brought our two main courses almost ten minutes apart. Saarah ate while I waited. (Of course.) Eventually we got tired of waiting for things and started going right to the counter to get what we wanted. I almost caused a riot when I asked the guy basting some sort of meat-like item for sauce. The guy said something to waitress, the waitress said something back to him, the manager got involved and it was all in Moroccan so I can only assume they were talking about me. “Look at this American! Probably wants decadent American ketchup!” Well I got it, but after that the waitress almost nagged us to death. “How is everything? Is everything OK? It is alright? Is it? IS IT???”

Saarah asked for water, expecting us to be poured two glasses of water. Instead she was brought a bottle of water. That wouldn’t have been much of a problem if it was Poland Spring or any name brand, but it was store brand water from BJ’s Club. (Pure bottled semi-clear Hackensack water, I think). She gave it back and asked for a soda. Instead, the waitress brought over a pitcher of water and poured it into the single glass that was sitting on the table when we arrived.

We did not understand why there was only one glass on a table with four settings, nor why only one of us got water. Rightly suspicious of the single odd glass (was it left behind by a previous customer? Was it the restaurant’s only glass?) Saarah asked for a can of soda. After two requests she actually got it.

FOOD: MEDIOCRE
The Chicken Kabob plate, despite being described as “marinated in Moroccan herbs and spices,” was bland. The “Moroccan herbs and spices” seemed to be simple black pepper. Hey! I’m a Moroccan cook too!

The Chicken Tagine is described like this on the menu: “Served with green and red peppers, carrots, potatoes, garlic, and olives.”

a section of their actual menu

What was served had no potatoes, no green peppers, no red peppers, no garlic, five tiny cubes of carrots (we counted!), and tons of olives. The chicken was tasteless.

Also, this place boasts “authentic” Moroccan food. I was not aware that French Fries came from Morocco.

We complained to the owner before we left. (I assume he was the owner since he was wearing a fancy sash, like Miss America.) Why were there no peppers or potatoes? What happened to the garlic? He said we had to ask for them. Saarah showed him the menu and pointed out that it said “served with.” He stuck to his answer that it had to be asked for.

We also had to ask the waitress to bring a salad despite, once again, the fact that the menu said “served with.” She seemed surprised that Saarah wanted it.

On the plus side the Chicken Tagine is served in a nice plate. If dishes are your thing you may be happy with the meal. We were not.

BOTTOM LINE: Poor and confused service, bland food, missing food, and a staff that does not understand their own menu. Do not even ask what I tipped. Or didn’t.

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