Here we are on the eve of the James Beard Awards, which celebrates the city's, and the country's, best chefs, restaurateurs, sommeliers and food professionals. So this seems like a good time to call attention to a remarkably bad meal that I had recently. Of course I love great restaurants, but I get a particular kick out of places that are terrible. Not just because of an overcooked steak, or a rude server, or an hour-long wait—I'm talking about lights-out bad. (I trace this obsession back to an Anthony Lane review in the New Yorker several years ago. He said the opening scenes of Indecent Proposal, which feature Woody Harrelson in a wig playing a high school student, were so wrong that he trembled with excitement that this could be "the great bad film of our time.")
It's getting harder and harder to have those kinds of dining experiences, at least in New York City—the quality of restaurants has improved so much in the past few years. Imagine my excitement, then, to find a place that was epically bad. There was the bartender who spilled the biggest drink ever on my friend's friend. There were the hostesses who saw it happen, laughed and then ignored us. There was the very very long wait for our table. Then there was our table for four that turned out to be roughly the size of a toilet. There were the managers who stood at the end of the bar drinking while we waited and waited for our waiter. Then there was our waiter who briefly considered balancing our extra appetizer on top of our wine glasses because there was no room on the table. There was the food which was, on balance, bad and prepared by a chef who obviously had little to no interest in farmer's markets or seasonal produce in general.
I'm going to cop out here and not name names: just keep your eyes open for a place with sadistic hostesses and managers; well-meaning bartenders and waiters who sadly aren't at the top of their game; and lame food and you'll know you're there.