L'Affaire Wells

There are a bunch of weird things going on in GQ Food Commentator Alan Richman's recounting of a recent meal at M. Wells Restaurant in Long Island City, up to and including a sexual harassment allegation, but I think the main point seems to be the service:

Well-run restaurants recognize that thoughtful service enhances an evening out, and that a bit of formality might be required in order to reach that goal. Customers these days tend to confuse discipline and manners with arrogance. Perhaps they are remembering the excess stuffiness of decades past. That hardly exists any longer. Arrogance today is exhibited by inconsiderate servers who do almost nothing for customers other than slap plates down in front of them and expect a generous tip. Arrogance is a restaurant believing it can prosper without looking after its customers.

Well, yes . . . and? You act as if this is the first time you've ever had shitty unprofessional service at a hipster restaurant. Dude, where have you been? Shitty unprofessional hipster service is endemic in any environment where there is 1) a glut of overeducated, underemployed twentysomethings and, more importantly, 2) a venue that values the artistry of cooking above mere "hospitality." The latter is something Richman surely should have encountered in, I don't know, at least the last ten years, if not longer; restaurateurs go for organs and butter before service, you know? The former has probably been around even longer, especially in New York City, where there exists a particularly big glut of overeducated, underemployed twenty- and thirty- and probably even fortysomethings.

I'm sure the service sucked at M. Wells that night — hipster service just does. Service at restaurants like that is either non-obtrusive or really fucking annoying — a zero or negative one. You can deal with waiting longer than 30 minutes between being seated and getting your entree, but waiting 20 minutes for a check — argh, I feel ya, bro. But seriously, you're just realizing that? Why bring this up now? Why pick on some hipster Queens place? Couldn't you have tried bringing down some dopey Williamsburg place? Those folks' property values don't need it. Queens, on the other hand . . .

I don't care about the sexual harassment part — basically a bizarre detour that reads as if Anthony Bourdain tried rewriting Oleanna — beyond which to say that hipsters and Alan Richman probably deserve each other. And I say this as someone who fully internalizes probably 98 percent or more of which the Hipster Puppy dude writes; I think I might buy a pair of Red Wing work boots soon, too; oh, and believe me, I've listened to Slate's Gabfest more than once and asked myself whether I really sound as ridiculous as Stephen Metcalf comes across (as Brother Michael likes to say, "Take it to heart . . ."). Which is to say, Alan Richman (or one of your asshole friends), please slap me on the tush; I've been very, very naughty.

. . .

There's a very suspect "dot-dot-dot" on the first page of the piece — it's that big-fonted red-blue-red dot-dot-dot. You know what that means — I just did it, in fact — it's that overwrought indicator that the piece is taking a chapterial/episodic turn and you can take a breath while you think about what direction the writer is going. It's like when Ira Glass says "Act Two" except you're not wanting to take a crap on the floor because you can't stand how precious the bed music is (is that something I heard on CBC3 or is it just Yo La Tengo again?). Anyway . . . point being, what's with Richman's bizarre apology for taking free shit? It's like he's protesting too much, and besides, it's kind of out of left field because did he even say he took a free meal? I will let this hang there like a Sarah Vowell clause now.

. . .

So I've come to a turning point here — I know because the dot-dot-dot above demands it — god, I wish I never started to type "dot-dot-dot" because I have no idea where to go from here. I suppose I could apologize for something — that feels about right, but this isn't going to be the kind of I'm-sincerely-sorry-for-not-caring-about-current-day-genocide apology where I admit how many times have I lurked on Chowhound when I should have been paying attention to Nick Kristoff's more boring pieces (not to mention those pieces from the students he takes with him to Africa). Maybe instead I should say that every time Stephen Metcalf speaks on a podcast he is dying slowly — for all of our sins . . . but it's not that either. What if I just say something condescendingly contrarian — what about, "And that's why we should all cook at home"? No, not that either. Maybe Darius said it best:

Let her cry, if the tears fall down like rain
Let her sing, if it eases all her pain
Let her go: let her walk right out on me
And if the sun comes up tomorrow . . .
Let her be, let her be

Posted: August 18th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Feed, FW: Link | Tags: , , , , ,