Open Letter to Michael Symon:
Last Friday was date night. I don’t know how old whoever will be responding on Michael Symon’s behalf will be, but when you’re in your mid-thirties with a young son, that’s a big deal. You’re still young enough to pretend you didn’t get all old and lame, but old enough to appreciate the sanctity of a few glorious hours without a single mention of poop, butts, or Skylanders. Nope, you don’t get many date nights. And when the metabolism of your twenties betrays you, you certainly don’t get many legitimate burgers either. I mean sure, my wife, Kerry, makes a solid turkey burger, but let’s not kid ourselves, the charlatan who convinced people that turkey and beef should be interchangeable in patty form should have his taste buds systematically cauterized with a soldering iron. But I digress. My point is that convincing my pretty little wife to stuff her face with actual cow meat on a rare childless evening is about as common as a solar eclipse. And since we’re being so honest, let’s go ahead and also admit that while I was indeed excited about the choice of venue, I acknowledge we were letting the overall success of the night ride on dinner–after a 7,000 calorie meal composed of primarily beef and grease, not too many people feel randy, so the dining experience had better be worth the opportunity cost.
Anyway, we dropped our spawn off at Halloween Ninja Night at his karate studio and made our way over to Eaton to gorge ourselves on your delicious burgers. We were informed we had a twenty minute wait and that I’d be texted when our table was ready. The table text really is the best advancement in the restaurant industry since free refills, but again, I digress. Kerry and I used the time to walk around Barnes and Noble and discuss classic literature. Okay, that was a lie–I looked at Harry Potter wands as she questioned her life decisions, but regardless, the night was going well up to that point, and continued on smoothly when I was texted right on schedule.
As we approached the hostess stand, I noticed two clear tables and no one else waiting to be seated ahead of us. The available accommodations were distinctly different. The first table was a two-person high top in the portion of the restaurant that sticks out into the mall-like shopping area of Eaton. Now this isn’t our first B Spot rodeo, so there are practical reasons we don’t like it out there: (1) the chairs are tall, and we’re short, so my Napoleon complex kicks in almost immediately (2) the chairs have rounded backs and the ground is dirty and far away, so there is no reasonable place for a classy lady to put her purse during the meal (I suggest putting in a hook under the table. . .you’re welcome) (3) the surface area of the tabletop hardly accommodates the ketchup selection, let alone the actual meal, and (4) every person larger than about 185 pounds knocks into you when they squeeze by the waitresses tending to nearby tables. You sell fatty burgers. . .this represents the majority of your male clientele, and if we’re being honest with ourselves, a not-insignificant percentage of the female patronage too. But the worst part is that it just doesn’t feel like date night out there in the overflow lot. It feels like where the old, lame 30+ people get seated because their ears are too sensitive to noise.
Now in contrast, the second table was the booth where we sat the first time we ever enjoyed your delicious burgers together. That was a magical date night long since past, filled with burgers and bacon milkshakes and laughter and loving companionship. I’m a big romantic sap, so that made it immediately desirable in its own right, not to mention that it’s everything the first table isn’t. You can hear the music, see the pickle bar, and feel like part of the action while sitting comfortably with your feet on the ground. It’s the antithesis of all things old and lame.
To my horror, before I comprehended quite what was happening, the hostess began leading us out towards the high top and its Alice in Wonderland freakishly high chairs. This would not stand. As the assertive gentleman I am, I stopped her and politely explained that we’d prefer the booth inside the restaurant because we’re clearly still young and hip. To my surprise she sympathetically denied my request, explaining that you’re so busy on Friday nights that you reserve the booths for parties of three or four. I was crestfallen, but it was a reasonable explanation, so I made my peace with it. To her credit, Kerry was a good sport about the whole thing, as is consistent with her personality, and even made some sweet comment about “just enjoying being with me”. I don’t understand it either. . .
Anyway, we ordered and did our best to ignore that we had been banished to a mall food court. But about the same time my elbow was bumped by a plus-sized patron, spilling my beer, I noticed that another couple had been seated at the booth I had initially requested. A couple. Two people. The same number of patrons in our party. They looked so cool and in love over there, laughing their date night away without a care in the world, totally oblivious to the fact that they should be the ones dealing with purse storage limitations and pickle bar routing issues. I bet they probably have date nights all the time and always get the good table. Is there no justice in this world? I felt so old and lame and inadequate.
We snapped out of it when our waitress came with two burgers, two orders of fries, and two salads, and we somehow managed to find the lone tessellation that allowed it all to fit on our 2×2 tabletop along with our beverages. My wife said something to the effect of, “oh wow everything at once, I’m overwhelmed.” Not sure how well that translates to the written word, but I promise that based on her inflection, she was being cute, like “I can’t wait to eat all of this”, and not snotty, like “why didn’t you bring my salad first, bitch?” The waitress replied, “umm yeah, we don’t do appetizers here” and walked away, clearly assuming Ker meant the latter. Now she had a ton of tables, so we gave her the benefit of the doubt on both her misinterpretation of inflection and for referring to salads as appetizers, which they’re clearly not, but it didn’t improve our experience or make us feel any less old and lame. And that’s pretty much the end of my story. No bug in my burger. No overtly bad service. No unforgivable issue–I’m sure the hostess realized she had only one table left when the next couple arrived and decided what she felt was a hard rule a few minutes earlier was really more of a suggested seating guideline when there were no other options. It was even a fine date night in the end. It just could have been so much more.
I feel compelled to take a quick moment to point out that the food was delicious and satisfyingly greasy. We were both in elastic pants within four minutes of putting our son to bed, so mission accomplished by the kitchen crew. Now I’ve already conceded that there was no significant problem that demands attention, so what is this horribly meandering note asking you for anyway? Good question, B Spot Webmaster. I’m asking you for a date night do-over. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not asking for a free app. . .oh wait, you don’t do those. . .I’m not asking for a free anything actually. I’m happy to pay for the right to stuff my gullet with your delicacies. I ask only that you break your rules and let me call ahead for the booth in the corner. The one where the hip, cool couples get seated. Give us a chance at feeling that B Spot magic we felt that first time again. I promise we’ll be early and that we’ll mock the poor shmucks sitting outside quietly enough that they won’t be able to hear us.
Not to threaten you into doing the right thing, but all seven of my loyal readers over at notoriousdad.com anxiously await your reply.