THE…AHEM…EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW GUIDE TO DINING OUT IN DENVER
By Chef Michael Long
Dining out is more popular than ever here in The Mile High City. With the hordes of refugees swarming in from Iowa, Orange County, Budapest and North Jersey, it is more vital than ever to get the best possible edge on other diners and maximize your dining dollar starting with the reservation and ending with the check. This guide will help you get it right whether you are at a white tablecloth restaurant or an elbow counter taco joint on Federal. All names have been omitted to protect the guilty. All restaurants are real, because hardly anyone likes me anyway.
The Phone Call:
Be sure to tell them you are a VERY IMPORTANT PERSON, and VERY GOOD friends with the owner. On Valentine’s Day call two hours before service. Speak in broken Cantonese. Ask for a table at 7 pm.
When you pull up in a Lexus, BMer, Benz or Hummer (who named that vehicle, anyways? Bill Clinton?), give the parking dude a crumpled ten spot, wink, and say, “Take good care of my baby.” Also, if you can’t get a cab in downtown Denver (imagine that), slip the guy a sawbuck to drive you to the show or your next destination in the car that was just got dropped off at the valet stand. (I have actually done this, at a defunct former hot spot Denver restaurant called…let’s say Bodega.)
The Hostess (Host):
If you are the hostess do not acknowledge the guests with any eye contact. Make sure they are aware of the tremendous annoyance imposed by their arrival, interrupting your sexy texting of the cooks, mostly by eye rolls and stalking away without saying, “follow me.”
As a guest you must loudly insist on the best table, while dropping the owner’s name. If it is Mother’s Day introduce your mother as Mother Teresa.
When arriving at your table, look around wildly at the other empty tables. Express dubious disbelief at the concept of other tables being reserved for later parties. If those parties don’t show up and the table you wanted to sit at sits empty, while you dine in the corridor leading to the employee restroom, whip out your flamethrower and torch the joint. Or at least make the face that implies you want to. Also insist on a window seat whenever dining in a basement level room. (At my former restaurant, Arpus, so many people insisted on window seats that I nearly bought windows at Home Depot and put them on casters to wheel to each table in the room.)
If you are the server, glance over at the table but don’t smile or come over right away. Let them know who is boss. Make a judgment on how much they will tip based on their clothing.
Guests, try establishing a rapport with your server. In LA you do this by asking about their screenplay. In Denver, you ask about their blog.
Remember, there is no drink list. There is a beverage program. You may not have a bartender; you may have a mixologist (spellcheck can’t even fix this word, it’s so goofy). Quick check: If your drink takes five minutes, it’s a bartender. If it takes twenty it’s a mix up the gist. Also, to make the bartender happy, request some weird brand of aquavit and when told they don’t stock it exclaim loudly, “I can’ t believe you don’t have Thor’s Hammer Loki’s Sweat Aquavit! What kinda dump is this?
The Wine List:
Look around for a person pouring Sonoma Cutrer that has the facial expression of an art critic at a Led Zeppelin concert. That is the sommelier. Get their attention by waving letters of credit in the air. Order, unpredictably, the second cheapest bottle on the list. Make sure your date asks for white zinfandel, on the rocks.
Very important tip, to get faster service hover the paper menu over any lit candles on the table to light it on fire. Several servers will come over right away. When ordering, first, ask for a dish that is out of season or on a rival restaurant menu. Try osso buco in July, or ask for Lobster Mac and Cheese at The Barbaresco Grill. Also important! After your date/wife/mistress (or person who you think is going to sleep with you but isn’t after the scene with the valet) has three martinis, have them announce their fat free diet, all allergies, gluten free lifestyle, dairy dislike and hatred of any and all sauce. Then you can be sure to get something not on the menu, thereby making your meal take about three lunar cycles to arrive. If you ask for something not on the menu and are told that it can’t be done, list the ingredients slowly, as if to a child, so the server can tell the chef how to make it for you.
Oh, and if you are the server and the table can’t decide what to order right away, come back to them right after the Rockies win the pennant.
Chefs, when you are writing the menu, list all of the farms you buy micro green garnishes from that you then place on the dishes that have the vegetables from off the produce truck.
Servers, make sure to pour all the wine just before the entrees arrive, so the guests, A. order another bottle. Or B…well there is no B. Cha-Ching.
If you are the person who ordered the wine, let everyone know the wine is corked (it came in a screw top). Help the servers clear by hovering your half full plates in mid-air, and then say, “Just trying to help”…save on gratuity. If you have a complaint, tell your Senegalese busboy in detail how you did not care for the nuances of black garlic in the compote.
At this point if you are the server don’t come back again until time for the dessert menu. If you are the bartender you start doing shots of Johnny Walker Blue. If you are the sommelier you go home. (Or at least to the Irish pub down the street.)
One hard and fast rule: If your date says “I’ll just have a bite of yours,” you should respond ”Over my dead body, you can have my dessert when you pry it from my cold dead hands.”
If you are the date, it’s time to visit the loo, just as the check arrives. This is also when the server smiles like Bobo the clown on ecstasy. Also, dear guest, please don’t pretend you cannot figure out what 15 percent is, when you spend all day figuring out commissions on the hedge fund you manage. If you dine late, do not leave until they break out the vacuum and you see Jimmy Fallon on the TV over the bar.
In conclusion, I hope this helps all of you erstwhile diners and restaurant goers. Glad to be of service. Remember it is tongue-in-cheek and meant in all good fun. Thank God for customers!