Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

Dining Out in New York City

The other night, I ate at JoJo, on 64th Street. It's a Jean-Georges Vongerichten restaurant, but one of those on the less fancy, more affordable side of his 14-restaurant empire. It's small and quiet, too, and so it was that much more noticeable when, about halfway through our meal, a man in a powder-blue fleece pullover walked into the dining room talking loudly into the earphone attachment thing of his cell-phone and—without ending his conversation—told the hostess who'd led him to his table, right next to ours, to bring him "the most expensive bottle of wine" she had. She looked embarrassed and opened the menu and showed him what that would be. "No, no, no," he said, "You know what you do? You tell Stephen"—Steven?—"to find something three times that much and order that, and I'll come buy it." The hostess giggled nervously. The guy said, "All right, bring me two bottles then. I hope you're thirsty. Because I'm not going to drink them all by myself. Bring two glasses, one of them's for you."

I exchanged glances with my wife with which we agreed that neither of us would be paying attention to anything the other said for the rest of the evening. We've been married for a long time. The scene unfolding a foot-and-a-half to my right was obviously going to be much more interesting.

The guy ended his phone conversation, loudly announcing, "All right, I love you," twice before hanging up. The two bottles of wine arrived, and two glasses. The hostess opened a bottle and poured only one glass but stayed standing at his table with an uncomfortable smile fixed on her face. The guy took a sip and looked up at her unctuously and asked, "So what's going on?"

Not much, she told him. Her shift has actually ended an hour ago. The restaurant was busy, though, and the staff needed more hands, so she'd stayed on to help.

"I haven't seen you in a while. What've you been up to?"

Not much, she told him again. Busy with work. Then, in what seemed like a defensive measure, "I've been hanging out with a new boy."

The guy was not happy to hear to hear this. His tone changed and his face reddened. Apparently, there had been a previous conversation, on the phone, during which, to hear the guy complain about it, the hostess had misrepresented herself. "So for that whole time, while we were talking for twenty minutes, you let me think you were the general manager." (Did he mean Trisha?)

It got very tense. The hostess's fixed smile looked even more uncomfortable. The guy had an ugly sneer. "And you said yes when I invited you down to Panama. When I was going to fly you down on the private jet."

It was confusing. (And a little difficult to hear. My wife and I would sporadically say something, in a half-hearted attempt to disguise our eavesdropping. But not really. One time when I said, "The decor is nice in here," my wife said, "Shhh!") But from what we could understand, the guy had thought the hostess, who'd he'd had a twenty minute conversation, was another person who worked at the restaurant, a general manager. Apparently, yes, there was also someone named Stephen; at least, the guy knew Stephen well, and threatened to have the hostess fired. "No, no, it's fine," he said, upon her apologizing for her part in the confusion. "When I talk to Stephen, when he asks me how my meal was, I'll just tell him you pretended to be someone you weren't. And you tricked me into thinking you'd accepted my invitation to come to Panama with me on my private jet." That was one thing that we could be very sure about: He had definitely invited this woman, who he didn't even know well enough to know who he was talking to, to fly down to Panama on his private jet. He repeated that part a lot.

Another woman came over to his table. This new woman, who was tall and red-headed, smiled at the guy the same way the first woman had—familiarly, it seemed that he was a regular customer, but also sort of forcedly. He was blatantly unpleasant, and no one in his presence for more than a couple minutes would be smiling without effort.

“You know ____?" the man asked this other woman, about the first woman, and she smiled and said yes. “I got nothing nice to say about her,” he said.

The second woman did her best to agree with him, replacing her frozen smile with an expression of concerned sympathy on her face, while also offering diplomatic defense of her colleague. She noted that everybody had been working hard.

She also stood with him for most of the next hour. As the man ordered his dinner and drank not very much of his wine and ate alone (finishing only half of each of two entrees), there was never not a member of the restaurant’s staff standing at his table. She would step aside when a waitperson brought food, and when the guy was finished with something, he’d beckon a busboy by saying, “Hey, boss, take this.” He was chummy and glib and trashed the first woman to each of the staff, telling the story of how she “lied” to him again and again. He also talked a lot about the big business his company was doing with the government of one of the Carolinas, and offered people investment tips. For example: if you’re thinking of buying real estate, find a place with a low tax base. You know it’s going to go up in the future and you’ll make lots of money or something.

At one point, he swirled the wine in his glass and looked up at this second woman and said, “So what’s going on? Tell me something.”

Not much, she said. She was tired, she’d been working hard, that kind of thing.

“No, no, no,” he said, wiping his mouth with his napkin. “See, that’s the wrong attitude. You got all this going for you—you’re tall, you got red hair. But that’s the wrong attitude. No one wants to hear that you’re tired!"

57 Comments / Post A Comment

saythatscool (#101)

In my defense Dave, nobody wanted to hear that she was tired. And btw? You need to diversify yo bonds, Boo.

brent_cox (#40)

I am very glad I hit refresh before posting what I was going to post. Also: yeah, but how was the food?

saythatscool (#101)

I was told there would be shrimp. I WAS LIED TO, BRENT.

Dave Bry (#422)

Really good! The decor was actually very nice, too. Get the lamb, if you go. But don't sit next to anyone.

deepomega (#1,720)

@Dave: When I go out to dinner, I usually request a rooftop dining experience so I don't have to sit next to anyone.

dntsqzthchrmn (#2,893)

"Good choice sir! That's lobster stuffed with tacos."

Edith Zimmerman (#5,210)

Blue fleece.

hockeymom (#143)

Powder-blue. Worse.

jolie (#16)

My first Patagonia (you never forget your first) was powder-blue and I think you're smelly so there.

@jolie: Omg, navy blue. And I'm wearing it right now. [bows head in shame] It's circa 1990 vintage.

jolie (#16)

@CaptainF: *wild applause*

jolie (#16)

Oh dear. What an egregious affront to powder-blue fleece pullovers.

dntsqzthchrmn (#2,893)

A powder-blue fleece pullover saved my life, and yet I have never once thought of wearing it out to dinner. Clearly I will never own a private jet.

jolie (#16)

Sisterhood of the Private Jet Travelling Powder-blue Fleece!

bmichael (#213)

This is the best thing I've ever read on the Awl minus a few things that were more serious.

hockeymom (#143)

This is kind of like slut-shaming, only for diners. I like it!
We need a name for this.

brent_cox (#40)

What's the opposite of noblesse oblige?

deepomega (#1,720)

Noblesse jackasserie?

NominaStultorum (#1,638)

Panama Jack-asserie?

barnhouse (#1,326)

Dickhead oblige

Vera Knoop (#2,167)


Matt (#26)

And this is why I'm never leaving Washington, DC.

dntsqzthchrmn (#2,893)

C'mon, you've seen worse at the Metro 29.

Matt (#26)

I stick to the 29 Diner in scenic Fairfax, VA because I like a side of bible thumping with my corned beef hash.

Brad Nelson (#2,115)

I keep my corned beef hash in a pool of blood so that none of its lies can affect me.

Matt (#26)

This entire thread has been putting jokes on a Golden Tee for you and Miles, Bard.

6h057 (#1,914)

@Matt We should totally pitch Choire on a conversation about how I made you walk all over Prospect Heights to get to Tom's Restaurant only to leave because the line was halfway down Sterling Place and we just got Bergen Bagels instead which is kind of like more Brooklyn-ee and those white people in line and their whine about not going to Bergen Bagels anymore.

Because being in New York means going somewhere else.

Matt (#26)

"Dis 'ere."


"Dis iz why we never come here anymore. Jesus fuckin' Christ."

hman (#53)

Oh, like this never happens at Central, Matt.

Matt (#26)

If I'm honest with myself, it probably happens at the Red Room.

Matt (#26)

Edit: Happens at the Red Room while "Fox in the Snow" plays for the 800th time that afternoon.

jolie (#16)

Oh look at who can't close his ital tags now!

Matt (#26)

That was intentional to show that I was emphasizing the whole of the added portion.

(This is also intentional.)

(This isn't.)

Interesting that you immediately assumed the "ph" version of "Stephen."

KarenUhOh (#19)

I think I got behind this guy at the drive-up at Jack in the Box.

garge (#736)

I only wish this was interwoven with your first date sweatpants story! Maybe for the movie version, we can just editorialize with the chronology of true events?

I remember this guy; Before he made his fortune in Carolina Real Estate Bonds, he would come into HoJos on 46th street and order the most expensive clams on the menu.

LondonLee (#922)

You can never be too rich or too much of a dick. Apparently.

So many lost branding opportunities. Come on, bro – step up your game.

kneetoe (#1,881)

I still think she's going to fly down to Panama on the private jet.

City_Dater (#2,500)

Thank you.

Crap like this happens all the time when you work in small "reputation" restaurants. Which is why one of my former bosses hired me on the spot for the job that ended my food service career: "you were a waitress THERE?! You can do anything. When do you want to start?"

I have to say, this piece perfectly describes how my wife and I eavesdrop on people. I like it that you don't even pretend you're doing anything else.

Leon (#6,596)

Exhausted, S, C, and I walked into the McDonalds. As I opened my trap to say some pointless bullshit, the fry-a-lator began to screech that some more grub was 'cooked'. Beep-Eep-Beep-Eep.

S: "Dammit Leon, you set off the doofus alarm."

nyssa23 (#4,503)

This is why I love the Awl. God bless us, every one!

katiechasm (#163)

Not that this is a bad story but when did the Awl turn into Dave Bry's Personal Stories with musical accompaniment by Dave Bry's Itunes Library?

lbf (#2,343)

True, though I might care more if there was anything interesting going on on the rest of the internet.

IBentMyWookie (#133)

To steal a line from The Simpsons, "I require closure on this anecdote!"

WindowSeat (#180)

"Imagine my surprise the next morning to see that the man in the blue fleece, Mark Madoff had hanged himself." Done and done.

dntsqzthchrmn (#2,893)

Unrelated holiday miracle: comment archives are back…

mrBramby (#1,370)

"You got all this going for you—you’re tall, you got red hair."

I think I really like this guy's worldview.

NinetyNine (#98)

Bakes is getting really uppity since that promotion.

katiebakes (#32)

Reading this made me really nervous. I have two different fleeces that could be reasonably described as "powder blue" (one is a little more hyacinth, but if it isn't held next to anything I think "powder blue" would be a reasonable descriptor) and also I haven't shaved my legs in awhile, so.

caw_caw (#5,641)

Only a man in a powder blue fleece pullover would try to impress a girl by taking her PANAMA.
No offense to Panamanian travel marketers but – wait – is that even a real job?

Jasmine (#8)

Can we get 4Chan on this dude? Now i'm just insanely curious, if for no other reason than avoid him like the plague.

alda (#8,846)

dining in such places in NYC is like a dream for me, i don't know when can i get there and have such luxrious move.

bitchney (#9,186)

Oh, shit. I work there. Something tells me powder blue is going to have a copy of this folded up discretely with his next check.

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