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Don’t Eat at Marge’s Kitchen

I don’t normally write restaurant reviews, but then, this isn’t really a normal review. That is to say, I have nothing to say about the food at Marge’s Kitchen, because I haven’t actually had any.

Here is the story: Marge’s Kitchen is a small breakfast restaurant in Northampton, MA. It’s a short walk from where we live now, and, as we often like going out for brunch, we decided to try it today. The menu is not very extensive, but has most of the breakfast staples, and has very reasonable prices. There are a few unusual items as well, such as the choice of sweet potato home fries in addition to regular potato ones. The place also seems to have a slogan: “The customer is never right.” I found this amusing at first, but apparently it isn’t a joke. More on that later.
There were 3 of us, and among other things we ordered french toast and the sweet potato fries. We each just had water to drink (that detail will be important later). We waited 20 minutes or more for the food, which was not so unreasonable, given that the place was busy. Our server (who actually seemed to be be serving every table in the place – about 20 people total), seemed to get our order confused with another table a couple of times (she told us they were out of hash, and later said the bagel was coming – we hadn’t ordered either item), but again, that wasn’t so unusual given that they were busy.

Things got annoying when we were told, after about 25 minutes of waiting for food, that they were out of french toast. I must admit, I’m not sure exactly what it means to “run out of french toast.” The most likely definition would be running out of the batter, but in my experience, even the most complicated french toast batter is pretty simple to make. It shouldn’t take very long to whip up more, and I don’t imagine it would be a waste to make more batter at 12:30pm when your restaurant is open until 3:00.

At most restaurants, that probably would have been the most annoying part of the experience. The person who ordered the french toast was not interested in trying anything else on the menu, so we all thought it might be best to leave and eat at home. Plus, we were peeved about waiting that long, and getting hungry, before being told that that order couldn’t be filled. So, we got up to leave, and I went to the counter and said to the server and to the owner (who was doing the cooking) that we were going and that they should cancel the rest of our order. The owner’s response was to say that we weren’t leaving without paying – that we had ordered food and she had started cooking it, so we were responsible for paying for it. We pointed out that we were unhappy with how long they made us wait before informing us of the lack of french toast, and turned to leave.

At this point, the owner left the grill and grabbed the phone. It took me a second to realize that what she was doing was calling the police. The others were already outside, and the owner followed them. I came out after that, hesitating because I wondered if we ought to stick around if the police were coming. As the others continued leaving (and told me to quit standing there), and the owner started providing our descriptions over the phone, I left as well, still kind of stunned by the overreaction.

On the way home, a patrol car pulled up next to us and the officer got out to talk to us. He asked what had happened back there, and we explained the situation. He asked us whether we had received any food yet, and we pointed out that we hadn’t – that we only had water, and left before any food was served to us. That was all he needed to know – he said we clearly hadn’t skipped out on the bill, and then got in his car and headed off, presumably to the restaurant.

I must admit, I think this is the first time I’ve ever had the cops called on me. The crazy thing is that, while we hadn’t been so happy with today’s visit, and were going to leave without eating, there was still the possibility that we (or at least I) might have come back to try the food another time. Once the owner decided to make it a police matter, that certainly destroyed any possibility of our return. So the owner lost potential future business trying to recoup whatever she might lose in the few eggs and pieces of toast that were being cooked for us. Heck, much of what we ordered may have been able to serve other customers – there was a side of bacon in our order, and I heard another table order bacon later – so there probably wasn’t much wasted food at all.

In summary, I think the owner’s reaction was stupid and petty, and she may have preferred to merely intimidate us into paying with the threat of police intervention, but that’s still pretty short-sighted, and is no way to treat first-time visitors. I should point out that I’m only angry at the owner – the server seemed to be doing the best job she could and relayed information to us when she became aware of it. I would certainly recommend that readers living around here not eat at this restaurant. I do welcome comments from people about this, and would certainly be interested in hearing from anyone who has eaten there before, though I don’t think you’d persuade me to go back. I now know that the owner is quite serious about her slogan “The customer is never right.”

PS: The title of this post is patterned after an essay by Doug Shaw on The Olive Garden. His reasons for not eating there, however, are completely different from my experience today.

Posted by seaking on 11-26-2006 at 10:11 pm
Posted in Food, News, Surreal

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