A Shrimp Disaster and Foodsquatch: Restaurant Horror Stories

Welcome back to Behind Closed Ovens, the series where we recount some of the craziest restaurant stories people have actually agreed to tell in public. As always, these are real stories from Kinja users, and we begin with one of my own:

Anyone who's ever worked with servers knows that we're incomparable vultures. If something gets made and for whatever reason doesn't get sent out, obviously we go at that like wolves on a wounded sheep. Extra food on a customer's plate that they didn't touch? Hey, if it's from a portion that was completely untouched, it's often fair game. Unless something falls into a puddle in the miasma that is the average kitchen floor, we'll probably eat it (and with some servers, even that's not necessarily a barrier).

Sometimes, that behavior goes horribly wrong.

A friend of mine was working in a seafood restaurant, and one of his tables ordered an add-on of grilled shrimp skewers. So he brings them out, and notices after about 20 minutes that while the guy has demolished the rest of his meal and is sitting there contentedly, he hasn't touched the shrimp. So he asks if the shrimp were OK (they were, the man happily replies), and if he wants my friend to take them away from the table (he does).

So he brings them to the back, and another server asks "hey, are those shrimp ok?" The server shrugs and says "yeah, seems like it; the guy was happy, he just didn't eat them." His co-worker asks him to give it there, and happily goes to town on it.

The rest of the time the customer's table is there, my friend can't get how weird it was out of his head. So near to the time the table is ready to leave, he finally asks the customer: "so, if you don't mind me asking, how come you ordered the shrimp if you weren't going to eat them?"

The guy happily replies, "No, I don't really like eating them, I just love sucking the juice out of them."

From Connie Sordoni:
"I worked at a restaurant frequented by mobsters on an island on the East Coast. In the swelter of August, the Mob guys would take the ferry. In trench coats. With dark shirts and pastel ties. Classic mob chic. Let's just say that the restaurant wasn't worried about health inspections.

So one day, the owner and cook, who was as gray and grizzled as a Brillo pad, asked two of the busgirls to wash a backlog of napkins. The washer had broken, the napkins piled up, and in the heat of the sun, they developed an infestation of maggots.

The busgirls had to wash and dry about two loads of napkins. Then they were given $25.00 to take them to the laundromat, washed and dried them, and there were still maggots on the napkins. So they asked for another $25.00 to wash them again.

The answer was no. They had to fold them and send them out on the tables."

From Minerva Ragnarrson:

"I worked at a restaurant in Chicago that was notorious for driving away General Managers. In the three years I was there, we went through ten of them, many of them leaving very suddenly. Some of them also seemed to undergo some species of nervous breakdown - all of them, however, would get what we started referring to as "GM Face". It was this odd, edgy, hunted look, and when we saw that face show up, we knew they would be gone within a month; it was in fact usually two weeks, but a couple held out longer.

One that held out longer is a guy I'll call Fred; he was a very smart man, and a reasonably good GM. He had been moved to our store after his closed down, and he made it through a few months pretty well. After a while, our company was sold to a vulture capital firm we'll call ConHugeCo, and we had to get all of our licensure re-done. Our licenses had been grandfathered under the old company, but the sale invalidated that. This meant a borderline remodel, and pretty much all the scrubbing, painting, and repairs were done by the managers and staff at that location. There was a lot of stress, and frankly not much guidance or help from on high...add this to whatever special combination of factors it was that already tended to drive our general managers away, and you got a recipe for Fred's Epic Last Night.

The inspection was just a couple days away, and Fred had come into the restaurant to meet with some employees that were going to help him load stuff destined for storage onto a truck that Corporate was going to be sending.

Corporate didn't send the truck.

The employees went home, and we thought Fred did, too. We were busy out front, and my friend George was managing that night. I was mostly waiting tables.

Our district manager called and asked to talk to Fred, and George said he had left, as far as we knew...at which point my other friend Amy, said "what? I'm pretty sure he's back in the private dining room."

George looked blank for a second, then asked me to go check, and if Fred was there to let him know the DM had called. I went back through the kitchen to the PDR, and there was Fred, with a couple friends, smoking like a chimney and drinking Jameson.

"Hey, Fred! We thought you had left! The DM called asking for you!"

Fred chuckled as grimly as if I had told him a man with a huge scar had arrived saying a debt had to be paid, then told me to take a shot with him. He seemed more than a bit on edge, and one shot wasn't going to impair my ability to work, so I went ahead and did a shot with him. He shook my hand and told me I was alright, then went back to smoking like a chimney and getting really drunk.

I went out front and reported the whole thing to George, who just sighed and looked tired. He went to the back, where Fred promptly tried to lock him out of the PDR...even though George had keys, and the kitchen door wasn't lockable from the inside anyway. George got in, told Fred to call the DM, and went back out front to help man the bar.

Fred came out not long after, wandered behind the bar, and started loudly informing George that he knew everyone hated him, and that George should "just fucking tell me to my face." Please note that this was at a bar full of people.

George managed to calm Fred down and got him to sit at the bar and talk to a friend. Fred was still drinking, as far as we knew, but we frankly weren't even sure where the liquor was coming from anymore; the Jameson was empty, and we weren't serving him.

We got the restaurant closed, and Amy and I decided to head down the street to a favorite after-work bar. We called out to George and the other people still finishing up that we were going there, basically just in an offhand way, so that they could join us when we were done. We deliberately did NOT ask anyone to join us, as Fred was still at the bar, even more wasted, and getting frankly bizarre. We were hoping he wouldn't catch the implicit invitation, but he ABSOLUTELY did. As we walked toward the door, he announced "I'll walk with you guys!" and followed us out.

As we walked down the street, Fred walked extremely close to my side, kinda leaning in, rambling incomprehensibly the entire time - he wasn't a creeper or anything, he just had lost all sense of where he was in relation to other people. Also I think he couldn't see me well unless he was weirdly close. He was also so incomprehensible that he sounded like Boomhauer with a Chicago accent; all I could do was nod and laugh when he did.

By the time George and the others arrived, Fred was feeding a mind-blowing amount of money into the jukebox and achieving levels of intoxication that should technically be impossible. He spotted George, and came over to talk. I missed most of the conversation, but it started getting heated-sounding, at least on Fred's end. Not threatening, just upset. George calmed him down a little, and got him to join him outside for a cigarette.

At this point, Fred began demanding that George punch him in the face. George refused repeatedly. Fred squinted at George, cigarette hanging from his mouth, and uttered the immortal words:

"I'm very disappointed in you."

Then he wandered off into the Chicago night like Foodsquatch, and that was the last we saw of him."

Have a particularly funny, gross, or bizarre story you'd like to see appear on Behind Closed Ovens? E-mail it to WilyUbertrout@gmail.com. Submissions are always welcome, and can be credited to a Kinja username or a pseudonym, your choice.

Image via Don Vito Corleone's Decapitationery and Waffle House, and also kinja user intheweeds.