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August 10, 2009

The service horror story to end all service horror stories

a glass of orange juiceFrom time to time, I'll get grumpy and blog about how terrible service can be in this city.

But this story, I think, takes the cake.

I'm not naming names. And I think enough time has passed since it happened. So without further adieu, here it is -- the service horror story to end all service horror stories.

It was New Year's Day 2007, and we wanted to get some brunch. Amie, me and our two friends from out of town decided to head to a restaurant (which shall remain nameless).

When we got there, the place was slammed, and a bunch of people were waiting for tables. We decided to stick it out.

One of our friends from out of town has type 1 diabetes. While we stood there waiting for a table, his hands began to shake. It looked like he was going into diabetic shock, which can be prevented by a quick infusion of sugar, from, say, a glass of orange juice (pictured) ...

So one of us (I believe it was Amie), frantically asked one of the servers behind the bar for a glass of orange juice. Our friend is diabetic, she told him, and needs some orange juice ASAP.

The server looked at our friend's shaking hands, looked at her, and said:

"Nice act."

Take a second and think about that response.

Here was a customer, visibly shaking, in the middle of a medical emergency, who needed a glass of orange juice. Instead of trying to help him, the server actively denied him. Looking back, I still find this absolutely unbelievable. The server actually thought that someone would fake a diabetic attack to get a glass of orange juice.

What happened next? Well, our friend went into shock. He shook uncontrollably and collapsed on the floor. We called an ambulance. The paramedics came, took him outside and helped him get his blood sugar level back to normal.

The best decision would have been to leave this particular restaurant and go somewhere else. But our whole ordeal had scared away all the customers in line, and there was at least one empty table inside. So we decided to stay. We wanted breakfast, by God, and we had not come this far to go home hungry.

I ordered steak and eggs. When the plate arrived, I noticed that a big chunk of the steak was stained dark blue. I'd never seen anything like it. Was it mold?

I flagged down our server (thankfully not the same server who denied us the orange juice), and asked the server why my steak was blue. 

"Oh, that's the Angus stamp," she said.

The Angus stamp?

Yes, the server said, that's how you know it's certified Angus meat -- it has a blue dye. 

I had never heard of the Angus stamp. In fact, to this day, I've never heard anything about a blue Angus stamp -- and believe me, I've asked around. Even if there is such a thing, I don't care if it's certified USDA Prime filet mignon -- I don't eat blue steak, period. I sent it back. And I believe they comped me my plate. 

After all this, you'd think we would never, ever go back to this place. But we still go there pretty regularly. And the service has been frequently terrible since then, but never as bad as that time. The location and the food and drink menu is pretty darn good, though, and we love the atmosphere.

Occasionally, we run into the server who denied us that glass of orange juice. But we've never brought it up in conversation. I wonder if the server remembers the incident. I know I'll never forget it.

(Baltimore Sun photo by Algerina Perna)

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:08 PM | | Comments (53)
Categories: Bars & Clubs


1. I can't believe you ate there.
2. I would have gotten that person FIRED, and I am not one to [gripe] at service issues.

Isn't the dye/ink for USDA stamps made from grape skins? And isn't there a tenth of a calorie in the glue on the back of a postage stamp?

I've seen USDA inspectors at work (on TV) and I have seen them stamp a cow as approved.

I don't think it's a sign of Angus beef, I think it's a sign that your chef doesn't know the first thing about trimming meat. Adding indelible blue dye is not a mark of quality meat or cooking or presentation.

I got a big piece of plastic in a pork dish once, apparently from the package it came in. I also got sick that night. Details, details, details.

Wow Sam, you ARE a nice guy

i am submitting my guess for metropolitan.

Is this a name that bar piece? My guess is Porter's on Cross.

Little Havana. After what happened to us at that place, somthing like this sounds abuot right.

I second the Metro guess

did the original server even look concerned once your friend took a turn for the worse? it's bad enough they refused your initial request, it's inconceivable that they wouldn't realize their mistake and express remorse.

I'm sure it's Metropolitan. Worst customer service in the history of customer service.

You guys can guess all you want. I'm not naming names.

Babs, thank you. Maybe underneath my thick outer layer of snarky know-nothing-ness is a heart of gold? Bronze, at least.

Rich, it all happened so quickly, I don't really remember.

i'm going to think it is metropolitan and spread the word on the streets until i am told otherwise. i have some horror stories about that place myself.

I don't think it's Metropolitan. Not only have I had good experiences the 3 times I've gone, but in the middle of Winter where are all those people going to wait in line? There's not much room around the bar.

Same here...only good experiences at Metropolitan. A ton of places could fit the description of "the location and the food and drink menu is pretty darn good, though, and we love the atmosphere." So come on folks...

You should have gotten Wilfred Brimley to give them an ole fashioned ass whoopin'.


i feel like you told the story about the meat stamp before? haha meat stamp. that sounds awesome. like something you do to girls you pick up at mother's. i can't believe you waited this long to give the prologue.

Ok I must have missed something...why is everyone anti-mothers?


i just may have told you the story of the meat stamp. i can't remember. this story has been a favorite at cocktail parties and such, but i've been leery of blogging about it, just because of how terrible it was.

I'M not anti Mothers.
I LOVE Mothers.

To my knowledge the USDA stamp is placed on the outside of the carcass (as in "side of beef") or primal cut on the fat layers so you can see the stamp. A steak, as served, should not show any indication of the grading stamp, unless it was very fatty on the edges.

bill's "meat stamp"-Mother's joke and Amanda C's "diabeetus" Wilfred Brimley laugh of the day! Well played, MS commenters, well played.


no one said anything anti-mothers, just that it's stampin' territory. not much prime to be found, mostly standard and select. some choice may show up from time to time. a good amount of h1n1 carriers though. need to be careful.

Baltimore Liquid would have exposed the place for the hacky low-grade dump that it is. Apathy about the problem is worse than the problem itself.

wow I never knew mothers had that rep.

Man alive, that is awful. Who would go through such an "act" for orange juice? I mean, if I were a bartender working the brunch shift and someone was like, "My friend needs a Bloody Mary, STAT!" I'd be skeptical. But OJ? Who would go to such elaborate lengths for a glass of juice?

I hope you at least said something to the management about the weird beef and the dangerously rude bartender. They can't really correct anything if you don't complain.

Ok, help me out. Why *wouldn't* you name the place? Seems like this kind of info might be beneficial to people. Wouldn't that be a nice little informational service you're doing? If the concern is libel, I don't understand that, either, unless there's an issue with the veracity of the story. Cost-benefit analysis dictates you'd state the name, unless you're trying to 'protect' the place for some unnamed reason.

Now, why you stayed and, beyond that, have returned to the same place, is something that's truly a mystery.

I bet it is metropolitan as well. Went there once and waited 15 minutes for someone to acknowledge us and finally left and never went back.

Yes, after all, why would a reporter actually name names. That would be unprofessional.


This reporter is not naming names because this incident happened more than two years ago. That's an eternity in the restaurant world. I'm not even sure if the server still works there.

Why won't he name names? Stockholm Syndrome.

Owl Meat,


If you don't want to tell us the name of the place, then what is the point of telling us anything? Two years after the fact? And you still go back there? Sorry Sam. But I think you made the entire incident up.

The name of the restaurant is much less important than the name of the server. It's not like the place has a training manual that warns servers about the vast number of malingering diabetics who are scamming free OJ.

Breathe in, breathe out. It's an anecdote and a good one.

Sam ... come on baby, why you gotta be like dat? You know you're my boo.

I think it is horrible what happened to your friend. Of course they should have given him a glass of orange juice.

I just have to say one thing, though. I used to work as a hostess in a very busy, popular (and somewhat trashy) restaurant. The wait time could be 1-2 hours. And people would try to jump in line because of diabetes about once a week. I don't know how many of them really had diabetes. And I don't know how many of them really did need to sit down and eat right away. But none of them ever asked for a glass of orange juice, they just wanted to butt in line.

It used to make me so mad, because it was obviously a scam. If you have serious diabetes, and the wait is 2 hours, leave for a few minutes and go get something to hold you over!


I am sorry that something like this happened to you and your friends, and it is inexcusable they didn't serve them (and the rest of your party) drinks in the bar, but I would like to address the whole issue of restaurants having a wait, and how childish and immature people get while waiting.

Here's the deal people: if you don't have a reservation and somebody got there before you, you have to wait your turn. it's your own fault you A) didn't call ahead to make a reservation (411 has the number if you dont)
B) didn't get there sooner
C) Didn't go somewhere else instead of waiting.

Along these same lines, large groups who walk in (as in no reservation) to restaurants need to understand that more than likely have to wait a little bit to be accommodated. Obviously different restaurants have different layouts, so a large party at one place may not be large somewhere else, but use some common sense. If you weren't all able to fit in 1 car to get there, you probably are a large party. Either way, you're better off calling ahead.

Again, you were dealing with a medical emergency, which should have been dealt with accordingly by the staff, but I think that you (or EL) should do a post about waiting and making reservations.

"...It used to make me so mad, because it was obviously a scam. If you have serious diabetes, and the wait is 2 hours, leave for a few minutes and go get something to hold you over!"
i can't possibly see how 1 glass of O.J. is going to cause any server any heartburn. this person obviously did not belong in a customer service line of work. if you are standing in line to wait for a table (something i will NOT do over 15 minutes) and a representative from that establishment can't look after you to some small degree, then i am with those above that ask "what the heck are you even doing waiting there"?
i think it's a good thing your friend wasn't a lawyer! (at least the restaurant's owners should be glad!)

Did the server/bartender have an accent, say French? And was it a female?

New Year's Day 2007 fell on a Tuesday so this has to be a busy restaurant that serves breakfast and lunch, perhaps coffee even.

Sam, you live in Federal Hill/ Locust Point/ Riverside area.

Put all this stuff together and the answer is.....

I'm confounded by the fact that you would not only remain to stay and eat that day that you had to have an ambulance come to the aid of your friend because the restaurant couldn't care less about you, him or his condition, but I'm even more confounded that you would continue to patronize such a place without nary a complaint or so-called "outing" of a place.

You stated that you still go there "regularly" and that the service has been "frequently terrible" and yet you "love the atmosphere."

As a reporter with the ability to hold an establishment accountable for their actions and liabilities, you chose then and now to cover for the restaurant in question.

Our dining scene in Baltimore can never change unless people are willing to hold establishments accountable.


that frog works at metropolitan, and she is the worst in all of sobo.


I LOVE Mothers too!

Dave Holter

Ok, in my book this disqualifies you from being the nightlife/entertainment writer of any newspaper. What's the point of reviewing places if you'll put up with treatment like that?

Sorry, but should have made a huge scene and even called the cops on the waitress and restaurant, or went to seek the manager yourself, immediately.

It is so funny that a lot of people who commented on this post immediately identified Metropolitan and that awful, awful frog waitress. I mean, I hate to say it, but that would be my guess too. Ever get the feeling you are on candid camera or punk'd when at Metro?

Sam, maybe your next Midnight Sun soiree should be upstairs at Metropolitan so the unfamiliar could see the incredibly rude service first hand?

On the other hand, there are a number of very good servers/bartenders who work there, who if perhaps a bit unpolished, certainly do not sink to the level of mademoiselle garce.

...What ever happened to carrying a piece or two of candy with you for situations like this? If the dude has diabetes, he needs to be prepared. It's that simple.

This is not to say that the server's behaviour is defensible in any case, and I'm not trying to 'blame the victim' here or something ridiculous (he wasn't responsible for the server's behaviour; I think we all agree on that). But a little personal responsibility can go a long way in diffusing potentially dramatic situations. This whole thing probably wouldn't have happened if your friend had thought ahead.

Oh, and one other thing, Sam, I agree with Giovanna. How can you cover this beat and not name names when something this horrific happens. It would be like Peter Herman being mugged and not mentioning it in his crime blog? Grow a pair and do your job.

i generally hesitate to comment on sam's blog now since ive been attacked for doing so before, but perhaps since there is apparently a new "no hateful comments" rule, this will go better.

i just wanted to say- in my own opinion, and i realize everyone has a right to their own- that he was not working that day. we were going out to breakfast with friends. i think its ok not to be a reporter 24 hours a day, 7 days a week... sometimes you are just a person out with friends. it was years ago, and to me, its unfair to complain to the restaurant about it now, and therefore also too late to name names and give them bad press.

based on these comments, i am wondering if management at metropolitan will can-can her.

this many different people cannot be wrong.

How can you cover this beat and not name names when something this horrific happens.

Horrific? Hyperbole anyone? Horrific would have been the server stabbing him and setting him of fire with a baby covered in napalm.

A reporter writes the news, as in new. A historian writes history. Naming names now would not be beneficial to the readers or the business. It would just be mean. Also, Amie is right, the details of a reporter's personal life is not news and does not need to be reported.

That being said, how dare you call yourself a reporter and not have a time machine to go back and report the news of two years ago. Doesn't the Sun give you one of those DeLoreans?

This is the kind of rabid meatheadedness that gives some of this group a bad reputation.

Get your schadenfreude elsewhere. Maybe Michael Vick could front you some dough for a dog fighting ring.

Roads? Where we're going, we don't need roads ...


it's a private brunch with friends until the Sun's nightlife reporter blogs about it, even if it was 2 years after the fact. If you don't think that people are going to curious about this given the circumstances, I think you are being disingenuous. If Sam wants to play the "I'm not a reporter 24/7" card, fine, don't bring up the subject in the first place.


re: "will management can-can her" Good one!


Voodoo pork-

Sam called it a "horror story" in the title. If "horrific" was hyperbole, fine. How about "terrible", happy?


After all the "no hateful comments" rule, what is it with the rabid meatheadedness and the mike vick comparison. I thought we were supposed to play nice.

Action Jackson (great name, by the way), voodoo is kidding. it was a joke. note the reference to 'back to the future.'

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.

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