Where Local and Global Appetites Collide

Tucson Dining: You’re Lying!



Borscht with bread.
Borscht with bread. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


I invited my mild-mannered friend Judy Olsen to use my Groupon (expiring 10/18/13) for Russian Tea for Two at Kalina on Tanque Verde.


  We didn’t have a reservation but got there around 2 pm as I like to avoid the lunch crowd if I can. I had already been to Kalina for lunch and noticed the restaurant expanded (or actually moved a few doors to the north).


 When we walked in only 2 or 3 tables were filled. Our server asked if we had a reservation, we did not. He tried to seat us at a table for two in the front of the middle of the room. We said no.  Then he tried to seat us at another table for two against the rear wall. That might have worked except the table was still dirty with lunch dishes although he offered to clean it up. Every table for four was already clean.


 Judy asked, “Are you expecting a lot of people?” He said no, and she pointed to a table for four on the side and in exasperation he said we could sit anywhere.  What’s the problem? There’s only one server and the restaurant is nearly empty. Let us be comfortable.


  So we sat down and I presented the Groupon and he pointed to the Russian Tea Menu and left.


  We talked about the menu both of us having Eastern European heritage. Having been there before, I raved about the cold beet borscht like my bubbie used to make and the delicate Monte Cristo sandwich and the eggplant salad.  It took awhile for our server to come back to the table and finally I had to wave my menu in the air. I surrender.


 We ordered our food and looked around the room loving the bright red walls decorated with pashima scarves.


  Do you find you get better service when the restaurant is busy or almost empty?


  The food arrived and once again the cold borscht was as good as I remembered. Judy raved about the mushroom barley soup. It appears both of our grandmothers made delicious mushroom barley soup. We each liked the gooeyness of our mini Monte Cristo sandwiches. Then we ate the salad which the kitchen had thoughtfully put on two plates.



 Near the end of her salad, Judy asked, “What’s this?” She picked it up and put it in her empty soup bowl which she had moved to the side. I asked her to hand it to me and it was pastel blue and had the consistency of something chewed or chewy maybe like gum. It also smelled minty or antiseptic to me. She said she couldn’t smell anything and thought it might be some kind of egg. Either way, it didn’t belong in the Kalina salad.


  Another person appeared, a woman, and I motioned her to our table and explained about this unknown blue thing in the salad. She politely said that nobody in her restaurant chews gum and we said we were just letting her know that it was in the salad and probably didn’t belong there. She was apologetic but also defensive.


  What would you do if something odd is in your food? Do you ignore? Do you mention it to the server or the manager?


  Unfortunately, neither Judy nor I have telephones that have cameras. We both have cheap prepaid phones. Sometimes I have my camera with me but not this time.


  We ate mini desserts and drank our Russian Caravan tea and commented on the pretty cups and teapot.


  When the server brought the check, he explained what the bill would be if we didn’t have a Groupon ($41) but was only $8.63 because we ordered a salad. If we didn’t order the salad, it would’ve been free except for the tax and tip.


  He also brought the Groupon paper back to the table and asked me to sign my name on it. I have been using Groupon since their inception and have never been asked to sign my name. Each Groupon printout has a number which is for the restaurant’s record keeping. I told him no. He said it was their policy and I told him no signature was my policy.


  He was kind of hovering around us and I told him to move away that I wanted to look at the bill. I’ve never been one to just throw down my credit or cash down without looking at the bill. He still hovered at the table behind us.


 I wrote on the check “the service is problematic on many levels.”


  Because I thought the service was so bad (but little did I know how much worse their customer service was going to get), we only left 10% of the $41 because when you use a Groupon, you’re supposed to tip on what the amount would’ve been instead of what the amount actually was. Had we loved the service or even felt it was average, we would’ve left $7 or $8; instead I left $4.


  Up to this point in time, I never would’ve blogged about our dismal service because the food was good and we had a chance to sit and chat quietly which is why I like going later than the normal lunch hour so I can keep the seat warmer without worrying that someone else wants it. When dining out more often than not, service is fair to average, and most of the time it just rolls off the back of frequent diners.


 However, it is what happened next that shocked both of us.


 We got in my car and another person from the restaurant with brown hair and glasses comes out waving a piece of paper. He said, “You’re not happy with service?”  And I said, no.


  Judy said, “But we liked the food.”


  Then he said there was no gum in the salad. I tried to say that there was something in the salad that didn’t belong there but he cut me off and screamed loudly, “YOU’RE LYING!”


  A)   We weren’t lying. There was something weird in the salad.


  B)   We were too shocked to say anything.


 Then our server came out (the only server) and said something to the effect, “What are you doing? They left me a tip.”


  Then the guy with the glasses and brown hair says, “Tucson Weekly said we had very good service.” I tried to respond by saying that I was with Rita Connelly, restaurant reviewer for the Tucson Weekly when she reviewed the restaurant during lunch and yes, at that time, we did have good service.


  However, big mouth cut me off and screamed, “YOU ARE NEVER ALLOWED TO COME BACK TO MY RESTAURANT!”


  No problem.


  Has this every happened to you?




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