November 14, 2012 | 12:10 pm
Posted by Elliot Steingart
While on a date night with my girlfriend waiting for a drink at a hip Los Feliz restaurant I made the comment “I don't think I like restaurants.”
“What?” she asked.
It was one of those moments where I wasn't sure what I just said. It's not like I concocted this brilliant idea “Before we go to the Clipper game I'm going to take her to Umami Burger, one of our favorite restaurants and gradually tell her, hey, I don't like restaurants!”
Did I really dislike restaurants or was I just upset that we walked from Los Feliz Blvd all the way down the hill to Hollywood Blvd before I realized I forgot my glasses and would not be able to see Blake and CP3 from the 300 Level at Staples?
“It's fine. I'll still be able to hear the cheering.” I said.
The bartender was singing along to Jack and Diane and I reacted. I still loved restaurants, right? It's fun eating food from all over the world and having someone else clean up after me. It's the same reason I love visiting my parents.
I looked again at the bartender/waiter wearing a faded vintage tee shirt searching for something other than basketball on Direct TV and it clicked. It's not that I don't like restaurants. It's that I don't like waiters my own age. This bartender, who seemed nice enough, had the disposition of someone I would have smoked with in high school. Now he is winking at my girlfriend and recommending that I eat a “Smash Burger.”
I have worked as a waiter so I know it's not an easy job. In 2008 I was one of many recession era waiters who served his peers with dignity and humility. We made small talk here and there, but we served with integrity. When I take my girlfriend out to dinner it's my time to shine. I don't want to compete with waiters who look and act just as goofy as me.
When I took my girlfriend to a French restaurant in Echo Park we were greeted by another waiter our age. He greeted us by saying “Voila.” Even if he was not fluent in French, “Voila” is not even close to how you say hello in French. When he brought us our Charcuterie he once again said, “Voila.” We had already said hello. How much longer would this continue?
“Is there anything you would recommend?” I asked.
“We are known for our pommes frites.” He responded.
They are known for their french fries. Are they? I wondered. Or was it that he knew how the French word for French Fries? I gave him a big tip because he was funny and I would have also definitely smoked with him in high school or now.
At a nicer Italian restaurant in the neighborhood a waiter our age with slicked black hair and black framed glasses asked us, “How are we doing this evening? Is everyone good?”
“We're fine, thanks.” I responded hoping to order a drink.
“What were we up to earlier?” He inquired. “Anything out of the ordinary?”
When he left to bring us wine my girlfriend asked, “Why aren't you being friendly?”
“Because I feel like he is waiting to do Improv.” I explained.
His improv skills were put to the test when he fudged through the specials. Linguini Scallopini...like that's a thing.
The larger problem is that these are the same waiters who serve me food that hurts my stomach. At a restaurant I want to order something I normally would not have. I end up paying $50 for a stomach ache.
Because of my relentless IBS, my new doctor has put me on a low fat diet. It's balanced by lots of chicken, turkey and green vegetables. My girlfriend and I have been cooking over at my new favorite restaurant, a local diner called “Steingart's.” There is no set menu but we have already made a big pot of wedding soup. "You just made the meatballs of your life," I told my girlfriend.
It's a work in progress at Steingarts. We don't always have ingredients, but there's always Tapatio.
Cooking together is a nice way for us to eat healthier meals and save money without having to make small talk with waiters in their late 20's. I feel at ease, and my girlfriend seems okay that every time I serve her a dish I look at her and say, "Voila."
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