Second Helpings

Message to Santa: Peace on Earth? Goodwill toward men? A Christmas bonus? The Big Guy at the North Pole never seems to deliver on my personal, end-of-year wishes. Maybe this year he'll at least consider my professional requests. Plenty of restaurants in this town need to get their acts in order, with or without Santa's help. If they don't, I'm prepared to be naughty, not nice. Here are my demands for 2000:

1. Get those rest rooms fully stocked and sparkling clean.

2. $3.50 for a cup of espresso? The price alone is enough to keep me up at night.

3. Turn off the television and background music. I don't want to see ESPN tractor pulls or listen to Celine Dion.

4. Attention, chefs: Aren't fishermen catching anything besides salmon and ahi tuna anymore?

5. Replace used cutlery after every course.

6. Don't serve those awful winter tomatoes.

7. Slow down the busers. If I'm anxious to get home in time to catch Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, I'll let you know.

8. Enforce a one-year moratorium on wasabi mashed potatoes.

9. Is this a restaurant or a German expressionist film? Please turn up the lights.

10. Under no circumstances do I want to know how many milligrams of cholesterol are in the steak, how many fat grams are in the fettuccine Alfredo or how many calories are in the tiramisu.

11. Vegetables aren't supposed to be cooked al dente. Too often, I feel like I'm gnawing on a redwood.

12. Why do I have to guess the price of specials? Do you have something to hide?

13. Two dollars for a two-cent tea bag? And I don't even get another bag for a refill? Please brew loose tea, and make it good.

14. Ban cell phones from the dining room.

15. If you can't make your own bread, find a high-quality supplier who can. There's no excuse for bad bread anymore.

16. And while you're at it, make your own desserts. Why should I come to your restaurant to eat stuff made elsewhere?

17. Put more decent wines-by-the-glass on your list.

18. I make it a point to arrive promptly at my reservation time. You need to make it a point to have my table ready.

19. Never, never serve zucchini.

20. I'll make a deal with the servers: They won't tell me their names, and I won't tell them mine.

21. If you're going to offer cappuccino, someone on the staff ought to learn how to make it.

22. Stop trying to foist $4 bottled water on me. Chateau Rimsza quenches my thirst just fine.

23. Please total my bill up correctly. Isn't it odd that I never seem to be undercharged?

24. Can you get some homesick natives to open Indonesian and North African restaurants? A vegetarian restaurant offering something other than twigs, berries and tofu would also be welcome.

Suggestions? Write me at howard.seftel@newtimes.com, or New Times, P.O. Box 2510, Phoenix, AZ 85002.

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