Tuesday, September 14, 2010

TBG Eats: The NEW Smoky Cheddar Steakhouse XT from Burger King

Current Weight: 172.0 lbs.

I've known several men and women who worked within the food service industry. Theirs is a close-knit, insulated world of servers, hosts/hostesses and busboys with NO room for an entitled outsider like me who assistant managed an ice cream shoppe on the beach during my college years.

My server friends always seemed to have the best job-associated anecdotes. For instance, m'man Vig was fired from his gig at Black Angus for telling the guests at an especially obnoxious table to kiss his white ass.

Then, there was the former co-worker of mine who took a job waiting tables at a trendy Hollywood spot. We crossed paths a few weeks later, at which time he informed me of his budding relationship with not-yet-outed actor
Chad Allen – whom he met while working the overnight shift.

But, the most frequently-told story I've heard – always in a hushed, apologetic tone – is that African-Americans are the worst tippers on earth.

At one time, this sentiment irritated me to no end. And, then I saw a close relative leave a two-dollar tip on a $40 check. Later, I briefly dated a girl who – with a straight face – told me she always left just two dollars for the tip because "it's their job to serve me".

Two black women certainly aren't irrefutable evidence of an entire ethnicity's stinginess. Although, the fact that two dollars was the tipping standard in both instances has long had me wondering if it was just a coincidence or did black women establish this tipping ceiling while their men were otherwise occupied back in
October 1995? Disappointingly, that question was NOT answered here.

I like to think that I'm a very good tipper. I'll leave 20% for a reasonably-priced meal and solid service – maybe a little bit more if it's just a bar tab and maybe a little bit less for a pricey, pretentious everything-a-la-carte "experience". I only have five requirements to guarantee maximum gratuity.

(1) If my reservation is at 7:00 PM, I want a table at 7:00 PM. -- Obviously, this is out of the servers' control, but I don't think it's an unreasonable request. Besides, every half-glass of wine that Mrs. Bootleg consumes in the bar while waiting for our table shaves 15-30 minutes off of her ability to carry a lucid dinner conversation.

(2) Full disclosure! -- I'm totally fine when the server comes clean up front. Might the service be a little slow tonight because another server called in sick? Is the kitchen running behind because of the wedding rehearsal dinner over in the banquet room? Just say so.

(3) Write it down! -- Someone should commission a study to assess the accuracy rate for servers who don't write down your order. In my experience, it's around 50%. Can you humor me, here, servers?

(4) At least 10-12 minutes between appetizer and entrĂ©e. -- I want to enjoy my Southwestern Pizza Fingers or Million Dollar Birthday Fries before my hobo chicken chili is brought out. (New readers: It's a Simpsons reference. You…might wanna get used to it.)

(5) Don't sell me something I didn't order. -- If I order a steak cooked "medium", I'm not going to send it back if it comes out closer to "medium-well" or "medium-rare". If I order steak and you bring out braised rabbit, please don't give me the "I can put your steak order in…or you can just take the rabbit. Personally, I like it better than the steak!" bit.

Wow…took longer than usual to get here, huh?

Anyways, after Jalen completed Little League practice last week, we swung by Burger King for some high-fat father-son bonding. My son promptly walked up to the counter, noticed the seemingly personable brown-skinned man at the register and asked, "Do you speak English?"

Well played, J. It was good to know that anything we ordered would almost certainly receive the Road Trip Treatment.

I asked for the Smoky Cheddar XT burger – an extra-thick (XT!) hamburger patty topped with cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, bacon and a smoky cheddar cheese sauce. Even though, my son and I were the only ones in the restaurant, several minutes passed before our orders were…wait, is that the "Do you speak English" guy?

"We're all out of the cheddar sauce. I can give you barbecue sauce or mayonnaise, if you want."

They're just now realizing the surplus drum of liquid smoke n' melted Velveeta has run dry? Rule #2, Burger King…full disclosure! I grudgingly choose barbecue sauce.

Turns out the substitute burger was surprisingly tasty. Although, the "extra-thick" burger looks nothing like the meat-brick featured in BK's advertisements (even by the exaggerated marketing standards within the fast food industry) it's obviously denser than the standard Whopper.

The barbecue sauce, bacon and cheddar cheese slices carried the flavor load with a sharp blend of spices and swine. The onions and tomatoes pleasantly mixed up the textures and freshened up the otherwise uninteresting meat. Despite a clear violation of my restaurant criteria, Burger King snatches victory from the jaws of defeat.

Although, Jalen's kid's meal toy might've nudged the final grade upward a little.

Grade: 4 (out of 5) 770 calories, 46g fat


Lew B said...

I love ya bro. But as a former bartender, banquet worker, banquet tender, room service waiter, dining room waiter, prep cook, deli counter worker, etc, i have seen the previously-spoken of stingyness first hand.

But if it makes you feel any better, a table of all women (any ehtnicity) is usually just as bad.

The best tipper is the guy who is gruff, doesn't want to talk, has a couple of scotch on the rocks and a big-ass steak. That dude will leave a twenty on the table.

Other Joe said...

Can't agree enough on your rules for servers, Cam. As impressed as I am when the server can remember a 10-top's orders without writing them down, I will be equally disappointed if you forget that I wanted broccoli instead of french fries. And heaven help you if you forget Mrs. Other Joe's request for sauce on the side.

I haven't watched wrestling for a few years, so is the Undertaker still around? Last I was watching they turned him into some Kid Rock blasting biker guy, instead of the supernatural phenom he was when he started.

Of course that's still better than his original debut in WCW as "Mean Mark" and his finishing move was "The Heart Punch." He'd grab onto the guy's arm, walk on the top rope, and jump off, punching the guy in the chest as he did. The way JR used to hype it, you would have thought he went "Kano from Mortal Kombat" on his opponents.

that mexican guy said...

Go back and get it with the cheddar cheese sauce. Absolutely a 4.5 star burger (can't go higher out of respect for the Angry Whopper and Whiplash Whopper).

Also, why does Jalen hate Mexicans?

Aaron C. said...

@Other Joe - The part of the "not writing it down" thing that really bugs me is when the server gets the order wrong, then asks me, "Are you sure you ordered the creamed spinach?" Gee, I don't know...what'd you write down on your order slip...?

(And, 'Taker is still around. These days, though, he clinically IS a "dead man".)

@Mex - Come on, now. J has so much respect for your culture than he assumes ANY foreign language is Spanish. And, who said the guy behind the counter was Hispanic. I just said "brown-skinned". He could've been Tongan. "Burger King Haku", if you will.

Other Joe said...

@Cam - maybe one of "The Headshrinkers" shrunk your burger down from the humongous XT size they show on the commercial?

Mark Smo said...

"An alligator wearing sunglasses? Now I've seen everything."

Smitty said...

Tip 20%- I call shenanigans on that one. Don't make us rehash the Tony Roma's incident

Aaron C. said...

In my defense, that happened around the time when my entire personal wealth was measured in 1990 Donruss baseball cards and Beckett Baseball Card Monthly.


thai said...

i think i mentioned this in past conversation but i think the notion that blacks and latinos do not tip is entirely full of crap. a good percentage of the time, people approach a table of black folks with the mindset that they will NOT be getting a tip from the table so let's just get it over with . . . and that comes through, be it reaction, facial expression or body language.

in my opinion, it rests less along the ethnic than a ghetto-ness line. with sufficient ghetto-nicity, you are NOT getting a tip no matter what (and you WILL be running your ass back and forth to the table all meal long and, really, c'mon, "hook it up" *wink* *wink* *nod* *nod*) regardless of if they're black, white, brown, green or polka dot.

i probably have had the worst luck with asians as far as tips go, particularly the college-age ones.

your rules, however, are legit. and, honestly, mr. calaway is certainly worth an extra 0.5 point.

SHough610 said...

I worked for one terrible summer at Golden Corral and in my experience the worst tippers were whiskey tango white people, with black people it was 50-50.

I know that I try to fight the "cheap Jew" stereotype, but I think I get that from my grandfather. Nothing would make him angrier than someone who was Jewish being cheap.

Lew B said...

I can speak for all jews when I say - Yes, we are cheap bastards.

I pride myself on being the notable exception to that rule. But having spent 20 years in hotels and restaurants is probably the reason

that mexican guy said...

I'm 200% with Thai on this.

In the extremely unlikely event that EVERY serving/tipping experience with brown or black people has been hell for you, my server, don't assume I'm going to stiff you as well.

At some point it really does become a self-fulfilling prophecy, I think. If the couple seated after me gets their order taken first or my water glass goes empty for a long while or the service just out and out sucks...sorry, but you'll take your shitty tip and like it.

Don't blame it on ethnicity.

Aaron C. said...

That Serious Mexican Guy! Hey, what do you think of the Arizona immigration thing?!

Seriously, though, I'm with you, Mex (and Thai). Not sure if my post kind of garbled my own position, because I certainly don't agree with the notion.

CrazyCanuck said...

Since we're talking stereotypes, it's nice to see Jalen happy with a Wild Turkey-drinkin', West Virginia redneck who's only a wife-beater away from a total Jeff Foxworthy skit...

Wait, is that Taker these days?

acctg.sean said...

Restaurant reservations.


Braised rabbit.

"And, how would His Majesty like His chitterlings prepared?"