musings

“Aw fuck!” Our own private Soup Nazi…

Yesterday afternoon, we decided to stop in to our local Cajun and Creole restaurant. I wrote a somewhat PG rated version of that story on my travel blog. Here’s the more R rated version of the tale.

A few months ago, I discovered a wonderful Cajun/Creole restaurant near our new town. It was a Saturday afternoon and we were looking for lunch, but it was almost time for the traditional “pause”, during which restaurants close before dinner. I got on Google and found this place near our house that had cuisine I’d not yet found in Germany. Better yet, almost all of the reviews of the food were glowing and appeared to be mostly written by people from my homeland.

So we went and proceeded to have the most wonderful lunch. The proprietor is a black man I’ll call “Ron” who has a very colorful personality and swears a blue streak. He’s an American military veteran from New Orleans and not only does he have mad cooking skills, but he’s also got great taste in music. He always plays old school R&B and New Orleans jazz. He also hosts guest musicians sometimes, although we haven’t yet been to any of his events because we’re always busy when they’re going on. For example, next weekend he’s doing a Mother’s Day brunch and will have live music. We can’t go, because we’ll be on our way back from Stuttgart. If we weren’t going to be out of town, I would definitely consider booking a table just for the music. I’ve seen videos he’s shared on Facebook.

Since that day in February, Bill has been back a couple of times to get takeout. He says Ron always asks about me. The first time Bill picked up food, I didn’t go because Arran was sick. The second time, I didn’t go because the weather was yucky and I wanted to hibernate. Then, in April, Ron went to New Orleans for the whole month. We missed him and his food, so yesterday, we decided to have lunch at his place again.

Right after I discovered Ron’s restaurant, I read a few more reviews on Facebook, Google, and Yelp. Most of them were very positive. But then I saw a couple of comments from women who had visited and had “strange” experiences with the owner. In fact, I’ve seen several reviews in which people wrote of being “cussed out” by Ron for criticizing his cooking, not making a reservation for parties larger than four, bringing children, and moving tables and/or chairs when they hadn’t gotten permission to do so.

Yesterday, when we walked into the restaurant, there were already two parties there. We saw Ron stick his head out of the kitchen. He was scowling a bit. Nevertheless, we were invited to sit down, so we did. I decided to have the special of the day. Bill went with spare ribs, which I’ve had and enjoyed a couple of times. I have not found any other place in Germany where this kind of cuisine is available, although it probably exists somewhere. It’s probably not as good, though.

While we were sitting there listening to music and drinking hefeweizen, there came a sudden explosion of profanity. We heard a male voice from the kitchen boom, “Aw fuck! These pommes aren’t done yet! All of this shit is already plated!”

There was some more banging and random cussing, then another explosion of profanity, when we heard someone yell “Motherfucker!”

I winced and looked at Bill. Bill looked at me. We looked at the other patrons, who sat there quietly cringing as the swearing tirade continued. I kind of shrugged and smiled at the German lady sitting in the corner, who appeared to be rather non-plussed. The very sweet waitress standing behind the counter looked a little embarrassed, but said nothing. I got the feeling she might be a family member and had heard this many times before.

Another male voice said, “What’d I do! What I do?”

“If you want to leave, there’s the door! Get the fuck out!” the first voice boomed again.

A couple of minutes later, Ron came out of the kitchen with my lunch, which he tried to deliver to the wrong table. I said, “I think that’s for me.” He stalked over to me and set down the plate, then got Bill’s ribs. I guess it was his potatoes that had thrown a wrench in the works.

Then, he noticed the couple sitting in the corner. They were finishing up their lunches, having had the day’s special– po’ boys– and drinks. Ron asked them if they were just sitting there, not eating any food, like he was outraged. But they’d already eaten and were getting ready to leave. It was kind of a bizarre scene, although the couple was smiling as they left.

The food was, as usual, excellent. I couldn’t finish and asked for my leftovers to be packed up. Ron inquired about how I liked the food. It was great, and I told him so. In fact, his restaurant is the only place I’ve ever been to where I not only take home my leftovers, but I also order something to go for later. It really is delicious, although I am not an expert on Cajun cooking at all. I’ve had his gumbo and liked it, but I am not a gumbo aficionado. His wings and shrimp are always outstanding, though. So are his ribs.

I get the sense that maybe he might have a little PTSD going on… if not from being in the military, then maybe from being in the restaurant business. I used to work as a waitress and, for many years after I stopped, I had “waitmares”. Those are the nightmares one has about being “in the weeds”. Believe me, I’ve been there many times, and witnessed more than a couple of chef meltdowns. I’ve had a few meltdowns myself. This was probably the first time I ever heard a profane tirade of the kind Ron produced yesterday. He was visibly nervous when we walked in and was responding in a way that suggested he was under too much pressure. It was bizarre, because the restaurant wasn’t full and we weren’t in a hurry. Nobody else seemed to be, either.

Later, when a group of six showed up, the waitress was about to turn them away, explaining that parties larger than four must have a reservation. But Ron seemed to have calmed down at that point, so they were allowed to sit down. While Bill and I were waiting for our take out order, Ron had a discussion with one of the women in the party. It turned out she’d called him about making a reservation for ten people, but then never confirmed. He didn’t swear at her, but made it very plain that reservations are essential for larger groups. I was glad they got there after his outburst in the kitchen, since they had a small child with them who probably doesn’t need to hear such language.

I read another review in which a couple was cussed out and rudely invited to leave because they mentioned that their gumbo didn’t have okra in it. Another woman wrote that he’d called her an asshole for bringing a group of seven without reservations. And we’ve also read other posts like mine, in which the food was highly praised, but the cussing and berating of employees was not.

The Soup Nazi. Our local restauranteur is kind of like him.

I was never a Seinfeld fan, but Bill used to watch that show religiously. His favorite episode is the one about the Soup Nazi. I haven’t actually seen the episode myself, but I’ve heard it described many times. Ron didn’t cuss out any guests yesterday and, in fact, was nice to us, once we were enjoying the food. He even beamed when I told him we’d missed him and said he had a great time in New Orleans. However, I’ll admit to being rather uncomfortable listening to him verbally abuse his employees.

Actually, reading about other people’s experiences reminds me of a certain “Mexican” restaurant in Stuttgart, where people regularly complained about being yelled at or kicked out for infractions like bringing children, trying to split checks, or complaining that the food isn’t authentic. That restaurant is run by a South African guy who lived in California for awhile. I had heard so many horror stories about it that Bill and I decided to try it, just to see if the stories were true. Naturally, we had a perfectly fine dinner there and, in fact, that proprietor did a shot of tequila with us and invited us back. But as he was explaining the reviews, he said that he preferred catering to running a restaurant. He doesn’t like having to take “all comers” and admitted to having a short temper. It wasn’t long after that that he moved his restaurant again. We never did get a chance to go back there before we left the area.

At this point, I’m not sure what to think about our local “Soup Nazi”. We really do enjoy the food and music, and the wait staff is always pleasant. We even like Ron, when he’s not yelling and cussing. I think if he ever cussed me out, I would definitely not be back for more. I can’t tolerate verbal abuse toward me and I don’t like hearing it directed at other people, particularly people who are trying to help. In fact, as much as I like Ron’s food, I wonder if I should support his business. I don’t like to encourage verbal abuse. But then, there just aren’t any restaurants like his around here. Makes me think I need a trip to the States or something.

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