Tuesday, August 16th, 2011
40

The M. Wells Scandal

Anyone who has eaten at M. Wells, the infamous diner in Queens, knows that it is both an extremely special and troubled place. (The food is magical, I have agreed; and also, on my most recent visit, there were literally pregnant women and their extremely grumpy hipster spouses on the verge of crying and screaming while they waited endlessly for food. Obviously the solution to eating at M Wells is to bring some carrot sticks in your purse and sit back and take what comes. They are not so much in the food "service" industry as they are in the food magicking industry, and sometimes everything goes kablooey.) And when M. Wells announced recently it would be closing its location at the end of August, due to difficult lease renewals, I sensed an obvious negotiation tactic of shaming the landlord—and also something amiss. (An abandoned diner on an empty street in Long Island City is charging usurious rents? Reaaallly???) Something smelled crazy behind everything else that smelled delicious. And so here it is, the other shoe dropping very loudly: in which GQ restaurant critic Alan Richman is accused by the co-owner of M Wells of… well, I don't want to spoil it for you. But wow. Even if you don't care about restaurants or food or popular diners, it's worth reading as a look inside the troubles of dealing with humans.

40 Comments / Post A Comment

camelface (#4,600)

And on the very same day BonApp named it one of the best new restaurants in the United States no less. FOODIES BE TALKIN'!

nzle (#6,611)

SCANDAL!

Even worse, when I went on Sunday they were out of gravlax pie. Which didn't stop us from ordering everything else on the menu (and our service, incidentally, was excellent) but still!

@nzle OMG THEY WERE OUT OF THE GRAVLAX PIE? I would spit on the floor and walk out. :(

nzle (#6,611)

@Choire Sicha Instead of spitting I gasped inappropriately loudly, shouted "NO!" and grabbed my dining partner's leg in shock. What if it's not on the menu when they reopen?? :(

dntsqzthchrmn (#2,893)

He probably gets this all the time, but the article works best if you imagine it being read to you by Alan Rickman.

Come to think of it, pretty much all text works best that way.

barnhouse (#1,326)

@dntsqzthchrmn SO TRUE. One thing you can get him to read to you is The Return of the Native, on audiobook.

Br. Seamus (#217)

@dntsqzthchrmn So now he's killed Dumbledore and M. Wells. Great.

boyofdestiny (#1,243)

@Br. Seamus Spoiler alert.

sigerson (#179)

@dntsqzthchrmn Is that because he was the voice of the food critic in Ratatouille?

gumplr (#66)

@dntsqzthchrmn this was my immediate reaction as well. "you want miracles, theo? i give you G… Q's… food writer."

C_Webb (#855)

I've never been to M. Wells, so I can't judge, but … "shiny as a magpie's trinket"???? TRINKET?

barnhouse (#1,326)

Such a sad business. Oof. How come they haven't got a sane person doing the talking for them, so they can just do their magicking in peace?

brent_cox (#40)

This is the Fort Sumter of the Gastrohipster Counter-insurrection. Or the Archduke Ferdinand.

Lockheed Ventura (#5,536)

@brent_cox The Reichstag Diner

Art Yucko (#1,321)

or in this case, maybe the Falkland Islands.

Lockheed Ventura (#5,536)

The Night of the Long Unwashed Serrated Knives

GailPink (#9,712)

Great article! Hurray for Richman calling this place out on its bullshit service and attitude.

City_Dater (#2,500)

In this economy, they can't find anyone who isn't an entitled little twat to wait tables? Hilarious.

Niko Bellic (#1,312)

@City_Dater You think they are the only ones with that issue? How do you think the economy got to be like this?

@Niko Bellic <3

Niko Bellic (#1,312)

Eating out is not just about food and service. Knowing that a given place will be full of people who think that going to a place celebrated for it's "casual" or "homely" atmosphere is the most high-brow thing to do now is a definite appetite killer for me. I mean, if the place is so Queens, what's GQ doing there anyway? If you want to know a good place to eat in Queens, ask a guy with an Eastern European accent at a pick-up soccer game in the park, not the fucking GQ.

jolie (#16)

The great chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, who long ago invited me to eat with his parents in Alsace, no longer speaks to me because of a story I wrote.

My my. That is a seriously masterful name drop. [politeapplause.wav]

Art Yucko (#1,321)

JESUS CHRIST COTE-DE-BOEUF ON TOP OF SOFTSHELL CRAB YOU HAVE GOT TO BE FUCKING KIDDING ME

hockeymom (#143)

@jolie If that isn't a textbook example of a humblebrag, I don't know what is.

That said…bad service blows. Accusing someone of sexual harassment is just beyond.

rickbonus (#24,073)

Anyone who has eaten at M. Wells, the infamous diner in Queens, knows that it is both an extremely special and troubled place.

Art Yucko (#1,321)

Things I will never, ever do in my lifetime: Pay $42 for a fucking burger served on a chipped commercial dinnerware plate.

iantenna (#5,160)

Things I will never, ever do in my lifetime: Pay $42 for a fucking burger, full stop.

Art Yucko (#1,321)

okay, I will pull this one off the burner slightly. I mean. If it feeds four. SO HOW DO WE GO ABOUT SPLITTING THE CHECK.

Charles Vestal (#3,953)

@Art Yucko to be fair, it's 24 ounces: http://aht.seriouseats.com/archives/2011/03/m-wells-diner-dinner-24-ounce-burger-review-long-island-city-queens-nyc.html

Add a 1.5lb slab of foie gras for a mere 100 bucks more.

I've been once. I haven't been back. Shrug.

Art Yucko (#1,321)

Way to kill my liver. With liver.

Matt (#26)

Aww. You have to pay when you go to M. Wells? Cute!

deepomega (#1,720)

So the lesson here is that grabbing a waitress's ass led to the closure of this restaurant, right?

iantenna (#5,160)

i guess i don't see how this is the "other shoe" to that. sounds like crazy people being crazy in unrelated events.

@iantenna I'm just really into shoes.

Benny Goldman (#8,638)

Who only signs a 1-year lease on a restaurant anyway? Prevailing theory around here is that they wanted to get a lot of hype, have everyone falling over themselves to pay $200 a head for these ridiculous theme dinners, and take a nice vacation before they moved into a new, bigger spot.

That said… the egg sandwich, seafood cobbler, even the chocolate chip cookies. Holy shit.

HiredGoons (#603)

'hipster restaurant mentality' – for fuck's sake…

max bread (#5,970)

M. Wells is a weird place and this was the weird article it deserved, I guess. Richman is such a blowhard, though, and he glosses over so much stuff in the piece (his asshole friend! The fact that the $42 burger he pokes fun at is for four!) that it makes me think there's… more going on here.

Also, I mean, there are like one million more plausible sequences of events than Obraitis just wholesale making up the ass-slapping accusation (in order to… silence Alan Richman?)–the restaurant is, like, really crowded, and inadvertent ass-touching is possible, as are miscommunications between Obraitis and the waitress. Or maybe Richman's asshole friend slapped the waitress's ass?

Or maybe I am just trying to exonerate M. Wells because it's really good, while Alan Richman is just an irritating jerk.

ep (#8,509)

That review is definitely worth a read for a lot of reasons, but the best is that Sarah Obraitis's email is a masterpiece of dishonesty. It's extraordinary how much work it does on such little energy — it muddies the waters over Richman's character in general and his account of his visit to M. Wells in particular, preemptively discredits anything he'll write, preemptively terminates the interview and shifts the blame for that to Richman as well, and it forces him to spread the lie by making him do the footwork to disprove it – repeating her ass-grabbing story to his friends, his editors, peers, readers of GQ and anybody else with the internet and an interest. It's a gutsy, spectacular and utterly transparent lie. Is it vicious enough for Obraitis' employees and customers to ask themselves how much they care?

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