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July 16, 2009

13 signs you don't want to eat there



Welcome to my life, Owl Meat. EL

Sometimes there are subtle signs that a restaurant might not be for you.

•    You have to construct your own burger, pasta, etc. from a menu of 50 ingredients. Be a chef already.

•    Bathrooms with ambiguous male/female silhouettes. Or labels like Knights/Damsels, Dudes/Dudettes, or Caballeros/Caballeras. Dios mio! My bladder is exploding.

•    They display a yellowed award that is over ten years old.

•    A place called Prometheus' Buffet where an eagle eats your liver – every day. Caveat emptor. Any restaurant named Caveat Emptor should also be avoided. (Don't worry the Latin/art history part is over). ...


Prometheus (1868) Gustave Moreau

buffet%20hand%20sf.jpg•    The valet is a dude with this cardboard sign, "Wil park car 4 leftovers."

•    Waitresses in black uniforms that resemble retro morgue attendants. Not that there is a restaurant in Baltimore that dresses their servers as grim Todeswitwen.

•    Menus with food stains. No scratch & sniff.

•    The chef is sitting at the bar doing shots of Jaegermeister with the dishwasher. Ditto for mumblety-peg.

•    Photos of the owner and family with washed up minor celebs.

•    The chef has a tattoo ... of Anthony Bourdain ... on his neck ... shooting up.  

•    Three words: Day old sushi.

•    The "sommelier" parked your car.

•    Your waitress is named Fajita and when you order the "Sizzling Fajita," she says, "Ooooh yeah" and blots her lipstick.  

(Photo credit: Getty Images)

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 11:23 AM | | Comments (59)


I thought that this article in today's Baltimore newspaper was funny -- and TRUE! Remember the menus that smelled like disinfectant in Sarasota? LOL

That Fajita one cracked me up. :-)

We could probably do a whole thread on bad restroom names. I'll add Buoys/Gulls.

Bathrooms with ambiguous male/female silhouettes. Or labels like Knights/Damsels, Dudes/Dudettes, or Caballeros/Caballeras. Dios mio! My bladder is exploding.

This is one of my biggest complaint about Zella's in Hollins Market.

In another chapter of Tales of Irony, this and another recent guest post features someone named Fajita. Ironic because it the one thing I think is distinctive about Tex-Mex food and I wrote these several weeks ago, well before the Tex-Mex issue came up. I think the Fajita one is funnier if you remember the visual of Fajita from June 26.

Even weirder if you pronounce like you're from, say, DunBurnie and the "ji" sounds like in "giant". Come on, you've heard people say it that way.

Nice, OMG.

my old neigbors said fa-jee-ta but they were straight out of landsdowne.

ebrybuddy frum Balmer sez things funny. c'mon, hon, you never sed "flares" or "See-ment"? You can't just pick on Glen Burnie, Essex, Dundalk or Landsdowne, it's epidemic. Speshilly downyocean (hon).

Great post, Owl, and I did remember the Fajita visual!

One of these days I'm going to start a Baltimore-English dictionary for owta towners!

Favorite restaurant mispronunciation of all time: Chianti pronounced as "shanty" in an Italian place in Lynchburg, Va. It took us a while to figure out what she meant.

One time my co-worker ordered a glass of mer-LOT. Emphasis on the T. Truly embarassing.

Many many restaurant works say beaujolais's first syllable as in BOO, a ghost, rather than, uh, beau. Sometimes they will even correct you.

And what's with young people calling eacj other "boo". What does it even mean? Is it a corruption of "beau"?

Inspired stuff, Owl. Funny as all get out (as in get out before you eat there.)
Can I take the liberty of suggesting a few more?
* Posted by the entrance is a rave review...from the Evening Sun.
* The place is half empty but the hostess makes you sit at the bar until "a table is available."
* You're still waiting to order a drink while three servers hover around a guy who looks alot like Peter Angelos.

thats was great, I needed a laugh

i was dining with someone at brewer's art who, after perusing their beer menu, asked which one was most similar to michelob ultra. if i were the waiter i'd have suggested ice water.

Good post Owl!

This is the word tightrope. Now imagine
a man, inching across it in the space
between our thoughts. He holds our breath.

There is no word net.

You want him to fall, don't you?
I guessed as much; he teeters but succeeds.
The word applause is written all over him.

Good ones MAG. D'oh, the Evening Sun would have been better than mine.

CAD: Thank you, I think. Comedy isn't pretty.

I hate reading my stuff once it's posted, because I realize how much better it could have been. Grrr

Along the fa-JEE-ta line, I dated a girl who would pronounce all the letters in the word "salmon". SALL-mon.

You can induce seizures in some people by getting them to say "Worchestershire sauce". Ditto with Mille-feuille and Pouilly-Fuissé.

You can hurt yourself trying to pronounce mille-feuille.

Milli Vanilli?

Are you making fun of the black uniform dresses we have to wear at Sabatino's? Keep it up, they are gross.

Mille-feuille is easy if you know French pronunciation rules. Any non-English phrase is hard, if you don't know the pronunciation rules.

The old Hick's Fishermens Inn on Millers Island had bathrooms posted as Pointers and Sitters
and as Ted Baxter said
"avoid the tuna fish at the train station on Mondays"

The worst bathroom ambiguity for me was Mars/Venus. I had to go back to the table and ask my wife which one to use. I didn't read that silly book! Guess it's because I'm from Mars.

True Lissa, but sadly, very few Americans know a foreign language. And mille feuille is brutal. Dipthongs are hard enough for American ears, let alone tripthongs. The "ll" functions like a "y" which is a semi-vowel, right? And the ending "e" is like a dispapearing vowel. So it's like six vowels in a row. What's that a sexthong? Pouilly fuisse is usually missing the accent, so it's hard to remember for the casual language tourist.

The best pronunciation of mille feuille = Napoleon.

We have dipthongs. I think the difficulty is in the ll. We tend to see it wrong.

Then again, my French teacher got that into my head deep enough that I have to fight calling "llamas" "yamas."

Amanda C

Sexthong? Please watch your language;)

Maybe that should be sexpthong. I think I'm combining Latin and Greek there, not sure. At least I check my spelling. It was originally tripthing and sexthing. And now I hear Chaka Khan in my head.

There's a small airline in South America called Lloyd's. It hard to get used to hearing it called Yo-EED

Bathrooms with ambiguous male/female silhouettes. Or labels like Knights/Damsels, Dudes/Dudettes, or Caballeros/Caballeras.

We still talk about dinner at the Mt. Washington Tavern in 1997 because our [grown] nephew had to return to ask if he was a drake or a hen.

And from How to Succeed...: "Their haddock sandwich is delicious....early in the week."

My ability with foriegn languages never recoverd from Ms. Popo, our 7th grade French teacher at Joan of Arc Junior High School in Manhattan. Well into her late middle years, she had beet-red hair with gray roots and wore enough make-up to qualify for Marcel Marceu's troupe. She introduced us to the beauty of the French language with the immortal sentence, "Le chat de ma tante est sur le fenetre." Repeated over and over. In the first throes of puberty, I figured there were more important things to know than what the cat of my aunt was doing on the window sill and struggled to a D-. Many years later, when I did business in Paris, I had to hire a translator. I never forgave Ms. Popo. But it wasn't a total loss. The translator took me to wonderful Paris restaurants no visitor would ever have found on their own including one that served the best Dover Sole I've ever enjoyed. I can still taste it.

The sign says "House of B--f S--------f".

YumPo, I could give you the name of someone who deals with people with post-traumatic stress disorder.

There is a house in New Orleans they call B__f S______f, they say it's been the ruin of many a poor girl, by God I think you're one.

OM, "I've seen horrors...It's impossible for words to describe what is necessary to those who do not know what horror means. Horror. Horror has a face... and you must make a friend of horror. Horror and moral terror are your friends. If they are not then they are enemies to be feared. They are truly enemies."

"Oh mothers, tell your children, not to do as I have done. Spend your lives in fear and misery
in the House of B__f S______f".

Owl Meat GuestPoster,

Lots of good ideas; let's hope some restaurants will heed your wise advice.

In Wales, a land where "y" and "w" are both vowels, LL is pronounced like a ch-th-cl. I can't even begin to tell you how you say Lllanddwy Brefi or Pwll. (actually, i can say both)

Oh, Welsh is great mystery to me.

I've been in some crab houses where the restrooms are labeled Jimmy and Sook. I grew up in Maryland and I just found out that a jimmy is a male crab and a sook a female. Fortunately, this lack of knowledge never led to mishaps.

While we are on bathrooms, what about those broom closet restrooms that have the urinal about six inches from the toilet. These restrooms usually have a lock on the door, so they're really not intended for more than one person, so why do I need both facilties? Is it just to give me an option?

Joyce W, if you're interested, "Basic Baltimorese" was written in 1979 by Gordon Beard and illustrated by Armand Beard, presumably both Baltimoreans (Baltimorons?). There are editions II and III, but I can't find mine at the moment. I've seen the II and III at Hometown Girl in Hampden. I bought them to send to my Georgia-born daughter-in-law when she and my stepson became engaged. She didn't "get it," bless her heart.

Does anyone else remember Mr. Peep's Diary from the Evening Sun? The column often included examples of Bawlmorese; in fact, the newspaper published a 4-page "dictionary" of Bawlmorese based on the column. I don't know if it was Beard, but the writer described himself, I think, as a native Texan. He described the Baltimore dialect as a combination of Pennsylvania Dutch sing-song, Southern cracker and laziness.

bra1nchild, you're speaking of the late John Goodspeed, who wrote A Fairly Compleat Lexicon of Baltimorese, compiled from his Mr. Peep's Diary columns on the language. I had a copy many years, but I don't know where it is now. Perhaps it fell in the zinc, or got dropped on the payment.

I Tripped on a meteor strip once and hit my head on the payment. They had to send for an amblamps.

Pigtown, one of my favorite words from Welsh is "cwm". It's a mind-blower in Scrabble. Rhymes with tomb. It's the only word that properly describes Sarajevo and the horrible scenario that geography helped to create there during the war. And I do love that it's described as a mountain valley.

I thought foreign language words weren't allowed in Scrabble.

You're right, foreign words are not allowed, but cwm is part of English now. If we got rid of all the words borrowed from other languages we would be reduced to: Me eat cow. Plus it's in the Scrabble dictionary. When I was in first grade we learned that the vowels were a,e,i,o,u and sometimes y and very rarely w. The w was never explained. Cwm is the only example that I know of, but I'm sure Prof. McIntyre could learn us some.

I thought English consisted mostly of foreign language words?

Of course it is. People always say that there are so many Latin words in English but that's just not true. If you scan something you will see French being the best source for borrowed words. Estimates vary but here is one estimate from the all-knowing Wikipedia

A survey by Joseph M. Williams in Origins of the English Language of 10,000 words taken from several thousand business letters gave this set of statistics:[66]
French (langue d'oïl): 41%
"Native" English: 33%
Latin: 15%
Old Norse: 2%
Dutch: 1%
Other: 10%

True, English is a language that has been built from other languages.
I just never heard of "cwm" before. I must use that at the next family scrabble game. My sis likes to play it with my parents.

Besides English, the only other language I'm fluent in is vulgar.

Mt. Everest junkies know cwm from the Western Cwm, one of the main features of the mountain.

People are very familiar with Bryn Mawr, which means big pit, although the girls there might not like it. There are a sprinkling of Welsh words that we use.

Cwm is very common in Wales because of the numerous mountain valleys where the miners worked. It is a vulgarity for "lady bits".

I've always been afraid to pronounce it, but my best understanding is that it rhymes with doom.

Let's all get together and watch my favorite childhood movie "How Green Was My Valley". Angharad! Angharad!

There are a lot of those minor celeb galleries in South Philly places. Hey look, is that Tony Danza? And one of the guys from the Sopranos maybe. Look a very old Frank Sinatra ... Jr. I don't remember seeing that in Baltimore.

Nat Geo did a History of The English Language series that is totally worth seeing. Although as a timeline rather confusing and challanging to absorb. What with all the invasions of England at any given time the language could have easily evolved into French. If I remember correctly, I believe French actually was the national language of England in one period of conquerers.

Showing my age here, but does anyone remember the Phantom Diner from WJZ?

tennisgal, yes I do remember that! That was a segment on "Evening Magazine" I believe. Another segment was "Daring Denise", featuring an up and coming Denise Koch. She would accept viewers challenges to do various things.

The corridor heading into the Owl Bar in the Belvedere has a classic gallery of "celebrities."

Blueberry Hill in University City, MO has got to have the best collections of celebs who dined there. I swear it covered all wall space

But that is dwarfed by their collections of nicknacks and action figures of all shades.

Even that is dwarfed by the fact Chuck Berry plays there monthly.

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About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

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