Monday, June 18, 2007

Melodrama in the Hamptons: Restaurant trashes Crank’s girlfriend. Manager "apologizes" with a farewell sneer.

I’ve already taken several swipes at annoying restaurant service, most recently here:

Usually, I don’t name names. I figure it’s not my business to start warning people about specific restaurants. Given enough time, most bad restaurants put themselves out of business anyway.

But a seafood dive called Before the Bridge in the Long Island town of Hampton Bays deserves special attention – and an Oscar for bad performance orchestrated by its person in charge.

Note: This is a unique review. There are plenty of favorable things getting said on the Internet about this house of horrors. For example, here:


See that picture above? That’s the top that the Crank’s girlfriend wore when we went to dinner at Before The Bridge. Except those wine stains weren’t there when we walked into the joint.

We were seated at a window, its venetian blinds drawn to keep out the sun. Keep this little detail about the blinds in mind as I tell the rest of the story.

Our waiter, a young, nice-seeming fellow, I would guess in his early 20s, asked us what we’d like to drink. I ordered a glass of Chardonnay. The Crank’s girlfriend ordered a glass of Merlot.


We waited. After a while, the waiter reappeared with two long-stemmed wine glasses balanced on a tiny tray. He set down the Chardonnay in front of me. Then he lost his concentration for a moment. His tray tilted. The red wine came crashing and splashing down to the table from a height of about three feet.

We were treated to a red wine shower. As you can see, the Crank's girlfriend was soaked with red wine. So were my pants. And so was her $500 cloth Prada handbag. (And don’t even think for a second it’s a knockoff. The Crank’s girlfriend doesn’t do knockoffs.)

To add insult to injury, the now-empty glass of red wine took a final bounce into my glass of white wine and knocked that one over too, spilling its untasted contents into my lap.

Soaking, we both jumped to our feet. The waiter seemed flustered. “I’m sorry,” he said, “I’m sorry. I’m, sorry. I apologize. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m really very sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”

Okay okay. We’re standing in a river of wine, and all the guy could do was sorry-sorry us to shreds. An alert diner at the next table knew what had to be done next. He handed us his own napkin to help us dry off a bit. It helped, but there’s only so much one napkin can absorb.

The waiter ran off. He returned with an entourage of wait-persons who began swabbing the table. And our chairs. And the floor. We were left to fend for ourselves.

“Send me the bill for dry cleaning your pants,” said the waiter, evidently not noticing the artful contribution he had made to the Crank’s girlfriend’s ensemble. “I’m sorry about this. I’m really sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”


Clearly, the guy had not been trained by his manager. Not on how to carry drinks to the table. Not on how to focus on the customer, rather than the puddles on on the table. Not on how to stop apologizing after the umpteenth time and get on with the situation at hand.

Through all of this the head guy – I’m not sure if he’s the owner or just a hired buffoon – stayed out of sight. That’s unusual, since I’ve eaten at Before The Bridge before and he’s usually all over the dining room. I couldn’t have missed him. His uh, remarkable girth has the same impact as the proverbial gorilla in the room. Come to think of it, make that an elephant.

In time, we got fed our dinner. “I can’t believe he’s just ignoring this,” the Crank said to his wine-soaked girlfriend.

“Don’t worry, he’s going to offer to comp the dinner,” she replied.

That wasn’t what I wanted, although a single line of apology from management and perhaps an offer of a complimentary dessert or after-dinner drink would have gone a long way to mollify our feelings.

Instead, we got about a half dozen more apologies from the flustered waiter combined with “How is everything?” queries, until I finally had to tell him, “Look, kid, stop apologizing and asking how everything is. Just stop it, okay?”


Eventually, the head guy did come over to our table – but only to pull up the venetian blinds that covered our window. While he was at it, he let the pull cord from the blinds drop in my plate and linger there.

“Hey, please don’t stick that dirty cord in my fish,” I complained.

He muttered something unintelligible and walked away.

That did it! By now smoke was coming out of my cranky ears. We finished dinner. This bill, before tip, came to $100.31. Yes, I tipped the waiter – not generously, but enough to let him know it wasn’t him I was feeling particularly cranky about. Then we walked to the bar, where the person-in-chief was now acting as bartender.

I told him what had happened.

“Your waiter apologized, but not a word of apology from you,” I said. “Not an offer of dessert, not even a cup of coffee. Nothing. Instead, you dropped the filthy pull cord from your blinds into my plate. And when I called your attention to that…”

“I thought you were only kidding,” he said.

Okay, folks. A restaurateur who simply assumes he’s blown a couple of customers so there’s no point offering a gesture of apology is one thing. Maybe it’s one thing even when he’s staring directly at their ruined clothing. But a slob who drops venetian blind pull cords into your food and either doesn’t notice it or thinks it’s a big joke is another thing entirely. Plus, the pull cord and the wine add up to two things.

If he believes that a frequently-used rope draped across your main dish is no big deal, and if he thinks disgruntled customers with ruined clothing are no big deal, I tremble to think about sanitation in his kitchen.


I crankily told him I was angered past all redemption and that I intended to blog about this experience.

“Have a nice summer,” he sneered as we walked out his door.

Fine. Never try to mollify a justifiably irked customer when you can sneer at him. If I had any doubts about posting this piece, his sneer nuked them into oblivion.

On the drive home to a different Hampton where the Crank's girlfriend's has a weekend retreat, we commiserated about the evening.

“Serves me right,” she said, in her wine-stained ensemble.

“For what?” I asked.

“For ordering red wine with fish,” she said.

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