Online slapfights over the most absurd things and passionate, unhinged internet holy wars over stuff no one should have any reason to care about are probably my favorite thing about the internet. This story is no exception.
Before we get into this, it’s incumbent upon me to point something out before the entire conversation surrounding this post devolves into a tiresome, eminently-predictable shitshow: the idea that vegans are all inherently terrible, judgmental, not very smart people isn’t based in any kind of objective reality. “All vegans are awful SO LET’S SHIT ON THEM” is frequently a trope meat-eaters* like to bust out for a variety of reasons, virtually all of which are ultimately both self-serving and self-aggrandizing. In reality, though, veganism is like everything else: the majority of its adherents are as relatively normal as anyone else.
This post, however, is not about the majority of vegans. This post is about crazy, not particularly smart people and a restaurant owner whose singular joy in life appears to be to fuck with them as hard as possible. Come with me as we depart on this insane, masterfully trollish journey.
It all started when a vegan customer came into the White Moose Cafe, a Dublin, Ireland restaurant which describes itself as “an urban, bistro-style restaurant serving reasonably priced Irish cuisine with a contemporary twist.” This customer’s visit apparently did not go well. As a result, owner Paul Stenson posted the following to the restaurant’s Facebook page on August 13:
Now, at this point, this seems an eminently reasonable statement to me. Not every restaurant can cater to the needs of every customer, and eateries are well within their rights to say “I’m sorry, we don’t seem to have anything we can serve you that will be to your satisfaction.” Stenson even offered that if the customer had called ahead of time, they would’ve been happy to work around the issue—which is way more than the restaurant had to do, frankly. People who go into a vegan restaurant and demand a steak are assholes. People who go into a restaurant without vegan dishes and demand the restaurant accede to their whims are similarly dickish.
...unfortunately (and perhaps predictably), the customer herself did not agree. She also apparently has never seen the word “idiosyncratic” before, and, largely on the basis of that particular word, essentially declared a holy crusade against the heathen Stenson and his White Moose ilk:
I particularly like the part where she threatens Stenson’s business for daring to reasonably stand up for himself with the vague insinuation of “you have no idea what you’ve started here.” On that exhortation, Vegan Voltron apparently assembled, as a cavalcade of Tee Jay stans began leaving angry reviews on the restaurant’s Facebook page and other online review sites (it’s worth remembering we’ve seen a similar unhinged rage war in this country directed at a restaurant that decided to phase meat off its menu).
Ultimately, Stenson responded again:
Now, if you want to say going that far is a bit of a dick move, I’m not going to argue with you. It’s a little harsh, to say the least. Regardless of that, though, it’s pretty obviously not intended to be taken literally—Stenson isn’t legitimately threatening to shoot any vegan that walks through the door. I mean, obviously, right? Hahaha, no one could possibly believe this post was intended in seriousness!
Hahahaha, that would be...I mean...oh God, that’s exactly what they believed, isn’t it?
Stenson’s post only further fanned the flames of the hordes of enraged vegans with a wifi connection—more and more posted negative reviews and angry comments. As you can probably tell, that above image comes courtesy of a singularly unbalanced Facebook group called People Against the White Moose Cafe which spent over a month posting the same image of a middle finger to literally every Facebook post the restaurant made—regardless of whether it related to the Vegan Wars. Some of them even got a hold of Stenson’s cell phone number and commenced with the angry textin’:
Most restaurateurs would have been feeling some pressure to apologize at this point, and Stenson was no exception. What he actually posted, though...well...I have, at times, considered myself at least a reasonably effective counter-troll. I’m no David Thorne, but I get by. Stenson, however, pulled off something that puts any of my own work to shame:
Currently, this is also the banner image on the restaurant’s Facebook page.** Paul Stenson: Giver of Zero Fucks.
Here’s the fun part: the increased exposure appears to have drummed up significant business for the White Moose Cafe:
White Moose 1, Vegans 0, apparently. That last dig may be my favorite part of this whole story.
This story still appears to be ongoing, as Stenson’s most recent post exhorted Facebook followers to help come up with a slogan related to the whole affair to be placed on t-shirts sold by the restaurant. Stenson may not be coming out of this affair looking like an angel (some of his posts for the restaurant wander perilously close to douchebro territory, and that’s interpreting them in the most generous possible way), but I can’t help but give the guy props for his utter refusal to back down to insane customers. As well, I can’t help feeling like the American restaurant industry would be far better off if more restaurants would respond like this to batshit angry customers.
One can dream.
* Just for the record, I love meat in ways I feel difficult to enumerate. The way I feel about bacon in particular is probably illegal in Georgia.
** I will never, ever stop laughing at that potato on the far right.
Image via White Moose Cafe/Facebook.
Contact the author at WilyUbertrout@gmail.com.