(Amy Davis/Sun Photographer)
So you think being a restaurant critic is a lark of a job? Well, you're right. But some parts of it are better than others. This week's Fab Five Friday is my five worst moments as a restaurant critic, not counting food. I'll try not to bore you, like telling you (job hazard alert!) how often I get mild food poisoning.
Feel free to share any of your worst moments by posting below.
OK, here goes. ...
The Low Points
By the way, this time these are in order.
1) The Rat. I was reviewing Mee Jun Low, a wildly popular Chinese restaurant on Mulberry street that has since closed -- a real dump but with good food -- and I felt something furry brush across my ankle. I knew immediately what it was, and without thought I stood up and screamed.
The rat ran out from under the table and straight into the kitchen. The owner, who was standing at the kitchen door, continued to stand there smiling and nodding his head. Because of my scream, everyone in the place saw it. En masse we stood up and poured out of the restaurant.
My editor at the time wouldn't let me write about it for fear of a lawsuit.
2) The auto accident. While we waited restlessly for our meal on a lovely summer evening on the patio of Peerce's Plantation, now closed, a car skidded on a curve, shot across the road in front of us, bounced once in the air, did a 180-degree turn and landed with a thud, headlights pointing at the patio.
After a moment, everyone started eating again. Our waiter happened to make one of his rare appearances at that point, so I asked if someone should go help.
He looked over, as if noticing the car for the first time. "No," he said. "It happened once today already. I'll go call the police."
Eventually a man got out of the car, staggered across the road toward us, and disappeared into the front entrance. A woman got out on the other side a few minutes later and did the same thing. The police never came. End of story.
The evening went downhill from there, from the mold on the bread to the forgotten dessert. In my review I didn't mention the feral cats that prowled the patio because I didn't want some agency to come, collect them, and have them killed.
3) The duel. I once took my tween daughter on a review of a pizza place along with two friends, a man and a woman, who hadn't met before. They hated each other on sight, and argued and sniped at each other the whole meal. My kid watched with wide open eyes; she hadn't seen adults act that way before.
At the end of the meal the waitress asked if she could bring us anything else.
"Yes," the man said. "Dueling pistols."
4) The missed connection. I had to go back a second time to the Bahama Breeze in Towson for my review because it was so chaotic when it first opened I never hooked up with my guests.
When we arrived, we took the table we were offered instead of waiting by the hostess station because there were 8,000 people in line behind us. The hostesses promised to seat our friends when they got there. They did -- in another room. Strangely enough, even though I and my guests kept checking back with the station, it never occurred to anyone that we might be part of the same party.
5) The impersonation. OK, I didn't happen to be there for this one, but still. A dreadful couple eating at the Ruby Lounge, now closed, in Mount Vernon complained continuously throughout the meal, and at the end the man called the owner, Donna Crivello, over. His wife, a brassy blonde with a too-low-cut blouse, too-tight-pants and too-high heels, had left the table for the ladies room. After telling Donna all the things that had been wrong, he leaned over confidingly and said, "And we ought to know because she (pointing to his returning wife) is Elizabeth Large."
Luckily Donna had worked at the Sun for several years before she left to open her restaurants, so she knew it wasn't me. (That's why I don't review her places.) She just nodded and smiled, but I hate the idea someone that awful was impersonating me.
If you insist I had to be there for it to count as one of the Fab Five, then I would have to say the fifth one would be the time a friend of mine slipped a menu in her purse to make it easier for me to write the review, and the waiter came over to her and said, "We're going to have to have that back."
I slunk down in my chair about as low as I could go as she handed it back to him.