Welcome to the 2010 Weird Restaurant Stories finale. After eighteen weeks and two hundred and twenty two stories, it all comes down to the final 12. Sorting through all of these stories was much like a walk down memory lane. I had a chance to see the evolution of this column and remember some of the crazier characters we met along the way. Rather than trying to retell each story, I will give them to you as I did when they were first introduced. I know from time to time a story might make it into the weekly countdown that might not merit a read. This is a dud free list, only the best of 2010.
So without further ado, here are the weirdest restaurant stories of 2010:
November 27th: 11/27 As reported on Monday, restaurants will soon have to list the calorie counts of their offerings on the menu. Apparently they also need to post instructions on how to eat the food. A doctor is suing Houstons because he ate an entire artichoke. I try not to give advice to doctors, but he should also avoid eating lobsters, crab legs, and oysters. (Miami, FL)
September 25th: Let’s not forget that even restaurant managers can be dangerous. I have been in toe to toe shouting matches with managers before. The next day there is usually a handshake and an apology. I don’t think this McDonald’s manager is going to find it as easy to make up for beating the crap out of a High School aged employee. (Memphis, TN)
September 4th: Story: Vandals strike restaurant. Twist: Turns out it wasn’t vandals, but the owner having a nervous breakdown. He then lies to cover it up. People hold fundraisers to help out. Media covers it (actually decided not to include the story in this column two weeks ago) and community rallies. Now he admits to lying. (Bedford, NH)
October 2nd: Keeping your cooks busy practicing to defend their restaurant does provide something constructive for them to do. This prevents them from distractions like cell phones, watching the game, or running a meth lab in the back of your restaurant. (Stoddard, WI)
October 23rd: The REDACTED for the restaurant jerk goes to Las Vegas restaurant icon Michael Morton. He is responsible for clubs like RAIN at The Palms hotel. Looks like he has crossed over to Palm’s owner George Maloof’s bad side. Maloof in turn emptied his file on Morton alleging theft, fraud, embezzlement, and violation involving minors. This file held enough dirt (allegedly) to make J Edgar Hoover pop a tent in his sun dress (allegedly). Hell hath no fury like a Maloof brother scorned. (Las Vegas, NV)
November 13th: Good reviews are important to a restaurant. A few kind words from a local critic can launch a new restaurant. Reviews like “a gold mine” or “one-stop shop” would normally be favorable. In this case those were the reviews of a restaurant given to police by arrested drug dealers. Somehow I don’t think a Prosecutor saying, “but it’s nowhere near the open-air drug market it was a year ago.” will go on their next ad. 36 drug arrests at a restaurant will land the owner in jail. (Richmond, VA)
November 13th: A lady walks out on her tab at Joe’s Crab Shack and is arrested. That doesn’t make the list. She is easily arrested because she has been arrested in the same restaurant for the same offense on a previous occasion. Still probably not making the list. As she is being arrested she assaults the officer with what is described in the police report as “a rigid feminine pleasure device.” Congratulations, you just became my favorite story of the week. (Gurnee, IL)
December 11th: 12/11 This week’s Chef Justus Award for the restaurant hero goes to Megan O’Connor. Megan is a 16 year restaurant industry veteran who quit her job after reading a memo posted by her boss. A quick quote from the memo, “You are the LOSERS!!!” Kevin Fitzgerald, her boss, posted the memo after reading several bad reviews online. Nothing makes you want to work harder to improve service than being called a loser by the owner of your business. Megan did what I would do and walked the hell out the door. I’m sure that the service at Jacob Wirth’s did not improve any. Mr Fitzgerald seems pretty concerned about what is written about his restaurant online. So here is one for him to read. Jacob Wirth’s is run by the worst owner in the restaurant industry. There you are Mr Fitzgerald, your memo seems to already be making things much better. (Boston, MA)
September 11th: I read about 500 story blurbs a week to come up with the column. This week at least 100 of them were the same story. Every newspaper in America decided to cover the story this week of a North Carolina restaurant owner who decided to burn The Koran. Scratch that, she just decided to post a sign reminding parents that the other diners don’t want to hear their screaming kids. Welcome to America where this is instantly called “discrimination.” (Carolina Beach, NC)
October 30th: People are protesting the construction of a new Show Me’s. For those of you not familiar with the concept it is another Hooter’s knockoff here in Missouri (The Show Me State) and throughout the region. The two I have seen lasted an average of six months. Which didn’t stop one protestor from saying, “I don’t want to see this godforsaken place loaded with drunks, drug addicts and strippers.” That quote was from a 14 year old girl. Once again proving that it is a parents job to introduce children to overly righteous indignation about what occurs in a building they will not be allowed into. (Naperville, IL)
November 20th: This weeks soon to be renamed award for the restaurant jerk goes to the Police Departments of the Greater Charleston Area. I started out poking fun at “The Great Chinese Restaurant Robbery Spree of 2010”, but this has gone on too long. Nearly 20 restaurants have been robbed since August 1st. They are finally starting a task force to address this. These restaurant owners pay taxes and deserve the same level of protection as any other citizens. If we have learned anything about restaurant criminals from this column it is that they are not very smart. Congrats law enforcement officials in South Carolina, you have made them look brilliant. (Charleston, SC)
And my favorite story of 2010:
October 9th: To the south of Utah they have come up with a concept I think will catch on. A new restaurant is featuring breakfast, lunch, and hugs. I don’t have enough snarkiness in me to make fun of this story. A guy with Down Syndrome opens a restaurant and wants to give free hugs. I say, “right on.” Although I will say that if I give a guest a hug and they still can’t leave 20% then they are being real REDACTED . (Albuquerque, NM)
On to the final scoreboard of 2010:
The South Atlantic region wins the end of the year award on it’s way to be being the weirdest region of the country for 2010. The East North Central closed the gap in the end with a quality showing in the finale. The Mid Atlantic region edged out the West South Central region for third place overall with a strong showing in the final week. My home region finishes the year in last place. At least we beat Canada.
Each week we have also compared the top story from around the world to our domestic weirdness. For the finale, the world is represented by the story that inspired this feature.
August 28th, This week the world is represented by Germany. A restaurant named Flime will open next month in Berlin. It’s gimmick? Serving human flesh. It has proven difficult to obtain through Das Sysco so they have done the only logical thing. Ask for donations online. (Berlin, Germany)
A couple weeks later we learned this story was a hoax by animal rights activists. While it still qualifies as weird, it is not enough to top the dozen stories above. This brings the year in total to USA: 12 and The World: 7.
Thanks for joining this year end celebration. It has been great reading all of this year’s stories and I look forward to continuing in the New Year. In January I will reset the scoreboard, but continue bringing you the best stories from around the country. Thank you for joining us each week. If you still want more weird restaurant stories, they can be found clearly indexed here. I wish you all the best in the New Year and look forward to rejoining you in January with more weirdness.