Thursday, February 12, 2009

Amateur Night

*Disclaimer: I do not hate people from Long Island or New Jersey.  

In the restaurant industry, the busiest night is also the most frustrating one.  Saturday nights in the city go by the insider moniker "B and T," a reference to the non-city-dwellers who migrate in for their once-in-a-while dining experiences.  B and T, like Bridge and Tunnel, the way by which Long Islanders and New Jerseans reach our island.  It isn't that we're geographically biased, per se; it's more like years and years of uphill battles have made us cynical.  Saturday nights are not teeming with foodies looking to explore uncharted territory.  Saturday nights are rollicking and ridiculous and filled with people with riotously high expectations that can never adequately be met.  We call it amateur night. 

But if you think Saturday nights are bad, with their butterflied well-done filet mignons, you should check out the other most amateur dining night of the year, the dreaded Valentine's Day.  Every romantic relationship in the city goes public on the 14th, flaunting love with dollars/truffles/glasses of Bordeaux.  Like Saturday night eaters, the people who dine out on Valentine's Day are not run-of-the-mill New Yorkers accustomed to a night on the town.  No, these people prefer to go out on special occasions.  They don't experiment with foods that scare them.  They go out with the obvious intention of making a good impression on their dates, which means treating service staff like the indentured variety.  

I've always hated working on Valentine's Day.  It's not like I have somewhere better to be or anything.  I just happen to know that there isn't any money in it.  Tippers are parsimonious.  Googly-eyed lovers couldn't care less about the impact made on someone else's income.  Not that it's better to be a diner.  No.  New York becomes land of the prix fixe, a hundred bucks for dinner anywhere, a spit-in-the-eye insult to those of us who are voluntarily single. 

So imagine the possibilities if the two most un-dinerlike situations were to converge, say Valentine's Day on a Saturday night.  Mayhem, riots in the streets, the cast of the Sopranos whipping out AmEx black cards on white-tableclothed Italian joints on Mulberry.  Ok, maybe not, but it wouldn't be pretty, sort of the apex of what it means to be an unwitting eater in New York.  

And the moment is upon us.  

It's like anticipating the apocalypse.  How many people will complain about offal offered on their delicate V-Day menus?  How many 10 to 15 percent tips will servers drag home at the end of the night?  How many guests will ask to see a manager because their steak is undercooked?  How many entrees will head back to the pass, uneaten?  How many tables will refuse to turn, despite the wait, because of the long and loving stare they've locked into?  

I get goosebumps just thinking about it.  

So for all you singles out there wary about braving the foam-at-the-mouth masses on this upcoming holiday, fear not.  My advice is simple: Delivery.  When was the last time you had the opportunity to watch Saturday Night Live when it actually aired?  Don't you have a bunch of Netflix movies to catch up on?  Don't you want to hit the sack early and have a nice, long Sunday to yourself?

As for this blogger, I'm headed to Phoenix, where the masses surely will not follow.  For all the New York lovers out there, good night and good luck.  It's a battlefield out there.  

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