Saturday, August 30, 2008

When Dinning Out, Watch Your Toes

Recently I took a quiz that was posted by The New York Times' Well blog written by Tara Parker Pope. It was about seeing how well your personality can be summed up and Pope was taken by how accurate it had been; I was too. Nevertheless, I didn't appreciate the quiz until this morning. You can take the quiz here:

The veracity of the quiz was proven last night when I went out to dinner with friends. I ordered cow tongue tacos and they were amazing; the meat was just as tender as my aunt Tina's. this leads me to believe that tongue must be one of those delicacies where Latin American cuisine really shines, but I digress. This lovely meal was haunted by a dark shadow and that was: the pushy waiter.

In the course of the meal this pushy waiter demonstrated what the psychology quiz had assessed a few weeks ago, I'm nice, really nice and agreeable; yet, like a swirl of chocolate syrup in vanilla ice cream, I have a streak of aggression that keeps me from being saccharine, or what one might call a pushover. Indeed, when picking out a place to eat I let my friend take the lead. However, when we saw Mole I was intrigued and though we should see if they had a table. Since they did we sat down and hoped for some great food.

When the waiter came to take our drink order two people in the party ordered margaritas another said she would not be drinking and I said I would, but I did not know what I wanted. With a desire to be frugal, I knew that I would not have more than one drink. I decided to go with the cheapest margarita since it was only a dollar more expensive than the beer list and there are no Mexican beers that I am crazy about.

The drink took a while to arrive, but that was understandable given the fact that the place was very busy, always a good sign. While having taken the drink order, the pushy waiter had recited the specials. Two sounded good to me; I was curious about the scallop tacos and also about the cow tongue, which is a food that always peaks my interest. He had mentioned it was very tender so I definitely thought about ordering it. Nonetheless, I knew that my drink was going to raise my overall meal cost and he had not mentioned the price of the meal. While I was debating with myself my friend who had not ordered a drink asked about the size of the appetizer, which was slow cooked ribs. The waiter vigorously suggested that an appetizer would probably not be substantial enough but if she ordered a side, it might be okay. She ended up ordering her appetizer. The next person ordered an appetizer for himself of octopus ceviche and one of the dinner specials, which I believe was baked flounder. The following person ordered the first thing that had perked my ears, the fish tacos, but she chose battered fish rather than the scallops. 

Right before the person placed her order for the fish tacos, it was my turn. My friend had just said she only wanted the one appetizer. I was reviewing the menu and saw that they had sopes. I love sopes because they are so much like Salvadorean food. A sope is a thick tortilla that has been lightly fried. Then they place fried beans over it with a stewed meat and dress it with avocado, tomato lettuce and sour cream. I don't care for the sour cream because it pushes a heavy dish over the top. When I ordered this the waiter said, "now that's not going to be enough" and then he turned to the next person who ordered the fish tacos. I knew that he wanted to raise the amount we were spending because of his tip and I knew we were in a small restaurant on a busy night and I was apprehensive that the two sopes would actually be quite small, so I changed my order to the tongue tacos. I felt I was being considerate of the space we were occupying and I gave him the benefit of the doubt on his advice and prodding during our ordering.

Five minutes later the first person's appetizer came out. It was large, if oddly plated. They had put the ceviche in a parfait glass and served it with large tortilla chips that could not be dipped into the glass. My friend seemed overwhelmed, "How am I supposed to eat this?" he asked. We suggested he dig his spoon into the glass and then transfer it onto the chips. While we were discussing how he might overcome the strange presentation I also commented that his appetizer was quite large.

After a good while our pushy waiter came back and asked if we wanted our meal. It was nice that he gave us time to enjoy the space before brining the entrees out. In the meantime two people in the party ordered a second drink. He asked me twice if not three times if I wanted a second drink and I consistently declined.

When the meals came out the plates were really large, but the food was very good and we all merrily ate our food and my non-drinking friend finally ordered a margarita. After the meal we were asked if we wanted dessert and we declined and eventually asked for the bill. As we reviewed it became clear that the waiter had added an extra drink. At this point I had put down $30.00 which covered the tacos at $15.00 and my drink at $7.00 plus tax and tip. I put the numbers down to show that the pushy waiter wasn't getting stiffed on tip.

He thanked me by immediately making me regret having left a generous tip. We waved him over to ask him to correct the bill. We told him he erroneously added a drink. My friend who ordered the drink explained and then the man pointed to me while talking to her and said, "Oh no, she ordered two. I remember bringing it." I replied that I hadn't and after a huff or two he conceded. When he came back he apologized for his error. My friend saw my stony face and asked why I had refused to acknowledge his apology.

The reason why, my dear reader, I did not accept his apology is because in the dance that dinner and waiter perform during the course of a meal a waiter should never step on the dinner's toes and this waiter did even as I had attempted to be a gracious dancer as I could be, to extend the metaphor a bit farther. It is impolite to disagree with a patron's order by talking about them to another patron. He made the mistake, but instead of asking me if I was sure that I had only ordered one drink, he told me what I had done, as if I was trying to stiff him. This was very annoying given that I had heeded his advice and changed my order when the appetizers were clearly not small and I had even left a decent tip.

Despite this experience, however, I would still recommend Mole. The food is delicious and reasonably priced and the space is intimate and warm. It is definitely worth checking out, but be firm with your order and tip according to the service you get.

Mole Mexican Bar & Grill
205 Allen Street
New York, NY 10002


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