Do these things at your restaurant (or get out of my face)

Here are the things I’d better see at your restaurant unless you want us to be enemies.
(Illustration by Mike Butler)

I hate so many things, and none of them is a secret. So to shock all of you, I've chosen to write about something I actually like — something I actively look forward to and love and plan to embark on this evening, in fact: eating in restaurants.

I hate cooking, and I never intend to properly learn. I've wasted time and money buying ingredients for things that turn out terribly, and I have spent hours worrying that I've somehow managed to undercook toast and will inevitably give myself food poisoning as a result. So instead, I've come to embrace the restaurant. And as a love letter to a cornerstone of my livelihood, here are the things I'd better see at your restaurant unless you want us to be enemies.

Soft butter

Imagine serving coffee with frozen milk or serving eggs benedict with mayonnaise. Imagine cutting into a chicken finger and discovering it's still very much bordering on being alive (a thing that happened to my friend once and I nearly passed out while screaming maniacally). And now you've just been handed a slice of bread, and the butter is so hard you almost consider wrapping the bread around it and eating it like a warped eclair.

I don't have to imagine it because I have lived this horror.

Your butter should be soft. Spreadable. Easily manipulated across various surfaces. It shouldn't hurt if it falls on your lap or gets thrown across a table. It shouldn't make a mangled corpse out of vessel of wheat. It should be room temperature, and preferably with a little bit of salt sprinkled atop it. It should be a treat, not a travesty. A topping, not a weapon.

Complimentary sparkling water

I am not paying extra for bubbles in liquid unless they come in a bottle provided by a company whose sole speciality is sparkling water. And if that is the case, I will probably pay for it because I don't drink alcohol and I need some semblance of joy over dinner.

Cloth napkins

Here's how I eat dinner at home: sitting on the couch or standing over the sink, sometimes at my kitchen table while trying to finish some work and always while trying not to get plum sauce or ketchup all over myself. My napkin is a paper towel or a kleenex, and one time I decided that I hated a pair of PJ pants so much that I used them to wipe my hands before throwing them out.

So: your establishment better have cloth napkins. It better have the type of napkin I can place on my lap in a way I figure Princess Margaret might because for the next two hours I too am royalty (or so I tell myself). If I get into an argument over dinner, I want to be able to throw my napkin onto the table without it flying away and falling next to my purse. If I'm having a nice time over dinner, I want to be able to use my napkin to signal my surrender and to please bring the bill before I pass out and/or away. I want to feel fancy. Let me feel fancy. Please stop pretending those weird cloth-paper napkins are the same. Princess Margaret would know the difference.

Clean, chic bathrooms (for the love of all that is good)

What is wrong with you, every restaurant with terrible bathrooms?? Why are the stalls so small? Why isn't there any soap? Why does only boiling water come from the taps before freezing water follows shortly after? Why are the floors wet? What's happened in there? Why does it smell like a hospital hallway that hasn't been properly cleaned? Why are there no paper towels? Why do I have to dry my hands using a dryer on the wall from 1984? Why are the seats loose? What do you think this small potpourri dish is doing? What purpose does it serve? Why are the lights unflattering to the point that I believe I am now terminally ill? Why is there no garbage can? Why did you think that one candle was going to offset all of the aforementioned factors?

I am now assuming my meal has been cooked in the back of a van.

Pretend I am the funniest and greatest patron you have ever known

If I promise not to call you by your name (when I worked at The Keg, nothing made me feel more infringed upon than when a stranger referred to me by the name on my nametag) or act remotely familiar, please promise to pretend that I am a terrific patron; a beautiful gift. Laugh at my joke about the way I like my steak, engage in a two-minute conversation about why I hate humid weather, pretend that it isn't weird that I'm asking for wing sauce on the side so I can dip my fries into it like a small child. Let us promise not to ask each other anything invasive and not to inquire about any aspect of our personal lives, unless these things are enthusiastically volunteered. Let us agree that we're going to be best friends until our time has come to an end.

Provide mints and/or candy and/or chocolate at the end

By bringing me my bill, you are reminding me that we are not friends and that the food has not been supplied out of the kindness of your heart. The least you can do is toss in a few After Eights.

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About the Author

Anne T. Donahue is a writer and person from Cambridge, Ontario. You can buy her first book, Nobody Cares, right now and wherever you typically buy them. She just asks that you read this piece first.