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It's A Menu Of Misery For This Doleful Diner

January 05, 1986|ROBERT EPSTEIN

Dining out is one of my great pleasures, but among my friends I'm regarded as the Joe Btsfplk of Restaurant Row. Dark clouds seem to follow me as I move from dispassionate reservation clerks to plush banquettes. Despair is my appetizer, frustration my entree, crow my dessert.

Parking attendants ignore my car, waving me off toward some dark, menacing place behind an office building. My car never graces the front of the restaurant.

Maitre d's break into wild laughter when I press a tip into their hands.

My chair always has crumbs left on it; a left-over water glass, half-filled, always is on my table. My tablecloth is a camouflage of coffee stains.

My request for water, no ice, has to be run through several disbelievers, rarely successfully.

My wine comes corked.

My ash trays runneth over.

The flowers on the table are always Early Wilt.

Busboys have a special feeling for me, anointing my lap with their beverages.

In high-tech restaurants, I suffer from snow blindness. My chair is always beneath the one air-conditioning register or loudspeaker that can't be turned down.

On those rare moments when I receive a much-desired window seat, it is usually facing a trash dumpster.

In bad times, my table is near a depository of lost dishes, in better ones near the cash register.

My admonishment to the waiter about the chef cooking without MSG is understood benignly and ignored blissfully.

My menu is garnished with kitchen stains. Prices have been erased and changed so often that the carte looks as if it came before a horse.

My chopsticks are splinters, my stainless isn't.

My rare steaks are rarely ever. When I ask for more fire, I'm treated like the neighborhood torch. There are never any prime ribs end cuts when I order.

My fresh fish was caught by a sea-going Jolly Green Giant. My nutcracker is tastier than my lobster.

My appetizers generally aren't.

Salads ordered with dressing on the side usually have the dressing on the side . . . of the dish, the tablecloth, the ladle.

My orders in French are greeted with yawns and indifference.

I follow the critic's advice and stay away from new restaurants until they're "broken-in." By the time I get to them, they are so broken-in that they've disappeared.

My desserts are microscopic.

I always get the check.

There is always a long, nervous wait before my credit card is returned. And the carbons are always missing.

When I ask the waiter to subdivide the check among my dinner companions, I discover he lacks the ability to compute.

I get the Hulk Hogan stare when the waiter reads the tip.

My keys are always missing from the parking attendant's case.

My car is the the last to arrive, the air conditioner turned high, the radio on KZLA-FM.

I always get heartburn. One day, I hope, a chef will name a dish after me, Bifstek Btsfplk . The kitchen, most certainly, will be out of it.

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