For five years running, I've been sending Santa a Christmas letter of restaurant demands. He hasn't been listening. If the old boy and elves don't deliver pretty soon, I'm going to be naughty, not nice.
Here's this year's wish list:
1. Please get rid of the television. I don't go to restaurants to see tractor pulls on ESPN, Masterpiece Theatre on PBS or music videos on MTV. Someone once said America went directly from barbarism to degeneracy without stopping at civilization. Television in restaurants is proof.
2. Turn off the piped-in music, or hand out earmuffs. What makes restaurant owners think I want to hear Garth Brooks with my chicken-fried steak, "Come Back to Sorrento" with my ravioli or pounding, thumpa-thumpa music anytime?
3. Turn up the lights. It's a restaurant, not the tunnel of love. Can you believe that several restaurants equip servers with flashlights so diners can read the menu? Management needs to learn that there's a difference between "romantic" and "dark."
4. Make sure the women's rest room has enough stalls. And see to it that the rest rooms sparkle and are well-stocked with all the necessary supplies.
5. Slow down the buspersons. Just because I've stopped chewing for a moment doesn't mean I'm finished. And don't clear plates until everybody at the table is finished.
6. Give me clean silverware at every course. What's next, making me eat the entree off the appetizer plate?
7. Eating out is not the same as visiting LensCrafters. I don't want to be in and out in an hour. Slow down the servers and don't rush me.
8. I've got my own veggie-hate-crime bill. Use iceberg lettuce, go to prison. There oughta be a law.
9. Tell chefs to stop putting berries on everything. It's bad enough that they're heaped on just about every dessert. Now they're showing up on appetizers and entrees. Give it a rest.
10. Don't tell me exactly how many calories, fat grams and milligrams of sodium are in every dish, unless I specifically ask. (Don't worry, I won't.) Food isn't medicine.
11. Urge some homesick north African native to open a restaurant with authentic couscous. And encourage that Indonesian restaurant I hear may be opening in Tempe to get its act together.
12. Give us this day our daily bread. And make it good. If a restaurant doesn't want to make its own bread, I can understand. But there are too many topnotch bakeries in town to excuse the plastic-wrapped dinner rolls that appear in far too many breadbaskets.
13. When I make a reservation, I show up on time. Make sure my table is ready.
14. Invest some time and effort teaching restaurant staffs how to brew a decent pot of coffee and make a decent espresso. (Hint: It starts with good beans.) There's a lot of wretched-tasting, overpriced java in this town.
P.S. Santa, please put a real corned beef sandwich in my stocking.