But It’s Hash Day

Wine
I’ll have the one with the screw cap.

My blog buddy Dan lives on the west coast, but recently wrote about menu malfunctions in Poland, China and Mexico. He kinda-sorta implied that such things wouldn’t happen here in the good old USofA. He might be right. I don’t remember ever ordering something off the menu and being served something different. On the other hand, Dan’s post caused me to remember some restaurant / menu challenges I have had.

The very first time I ordered a bottle of wine in a restaurant was about the first time I was legally able to order alcohol. I was maybe a month beyond my 21st birthday and my then girlfriend wanted wine. We knew very little about wine. I selected our wine based on price, not the cheapest, but nowhere near the highest priced. I tried to look like I knew what I was doing.

This was a fancy-schmancy place in Albany, NY and the waiter looked less than happy to have children at one of his tables. He brought the wine, opened it and handed me the cork. I wasn’t quite sure what I was supposed to do. Do I sniff this thing? I tried to look mature and simply nodded. Then he poured a little wine into my glass. I had seen other people do this, so I swirled. I looked. I sniffed. I paused. I thought this was going to be a one-two-six deal, but the wine smelled funny. I tasted. I had never seen anyone spit wine out onto the floor, but I gave it serious thought. The wine was bad.

Again, trying to conjure up maturity beyond my years, I shook my head and told the waiter the wine was bad. He scoffed. What could I possibly know? He took my girlfriend’s glass and poured a sample for himself. The look on his face was priceless. Yes! Booyah! Booyah wasn’t a thing in 1975, but booyah! New bottle. On – The – House!

While attending West Virginia University in Morgantown, WV, my roommate Tony and I, along with two other guys decided to go out to dinner to a little dive that featured an all-you-can-eat chicken dinner for parties of four or more. Tony weighed slightly over 300 pounds, and I’m pretty sure he got that way by eating. The others, myself included, were much thinner, but we had those enviable metabolisms that allow young men to consume their weight in chicken and beer and still stop at McDonald’s on the way home.

We each received a chicken dinner on a plate. Three pieces of chicken, mashed potatoes and corn.

We finished that in a few minutes and asked for more.

The waitress brought a bowl of mashed potatoes, a bowl of corn and a plate with four pieces of chicken.

We ate that and asked for more.

When the waitress arrived with another four pieces, Tony stopped her:

Ma’am? This might go easier if you understand that we’re going to eat a lot of chicken. When we’re done here, this table is going to look like the lost chicken graveyard. I’d hate to see you running back and forth all night.”

She brought us a tray of chicken.

Years later, when I was working as a consultant for Peat, Marwick, Mitchell and Co., I was returning to our office after spending the morning at a client. I stopped at a McDonald’s drive-thru and picked up a Quarter Pounder with Cheese and some fries for the ride to Hartford. When I got to the office, my best friend John came right over.

You want to get some lunch?

I already ate.”

Come with me to the Pillar, it’s hash day.”

I already ate. I don’t like hash and I don’t really like the Marble Pillar.”

The Marble Pillar was a Hartford staple before it closed after 133 years in business. Small, popular German-ish restaurant with a mostly-male wait staff, known for their gruff treatment of customers.

Just come with me. You don’t have to get hash, you can get dessert.”

OK.”

After a few minutes, we found a table. The waiter brought our water and some pumpernickel bread for the table. John immediately said: “I’ll have the hash.”

I was looking at the dessert section. The waiter was growing impatient. John as growing impatient, as thoughts of hash danced in his head. I sensed that I needed to wrap things up.

I’ll have a hot fudge sundae and a cup of coffee.”

If you think anyone here is going to make you a hot fudge sundae in the middle of our busiest time, you’re crazy.”

Coffee, I’ll just have coffee.”

Despite that encounter and several other unremarkable lunches at the Pillar, I was sad to learn that it was closing in 1993. In the six years that I worked downtown, I often ended up at the Pillar’s bar with friends after work, and that was always fun. I guess I was part of the problem, having left the city for a job in the suburbs.

53 thoughts on “But It’s Hash Day

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  1. Dan, you are incredibly lucky to have that kind of metabolism. I’d give anything to have that. What a marvellous world that must be. :-) By the way when wine is really “shyte” even a 21 year-old will with no wine tasting experience will know that. :-)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. LOL! Loved the story about your All you can eat chicken experience with Tony. Hilarious!

    I had a metabolism like yours for a short while. From birth til about age 13yrs. Then some switch somewhere switched off! I’ve been counting calories for so long now I think I’ve got a handle it. Wine. I love it! Unfortunately, it’s not calorie free. Food or wine…Choosing both usually puts over my calorie limit. I have to hike up more mountains to work it off. :(

    Liked by 1 person

  3. One of my dearest friends worked for a winery. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I wish I didn’t know about wine. Back when my metabolism was faster, I was also completely unburdened by wine knowledge. It was truly a precious time.
    I enjoyed this post :D

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Booyah! and double booyah!!!! Hahaha! I laughed out loud at that one about the waiter, Dan. Perfect! I guess I liked it so much because in my little area, I’ve seen way too many snooty waiters — and way, way too much poor service from them. My office is surrounded by restaurants — but most of them would involve a 2 hour lunch because the service is so slow. I use the few who can provide good food quickly enough… Have a satisfying Saturday. Hugs!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Good story ! Thanks for the mention . I love hash — never would have imagined a ‘hash day’ , though . I had a (rich) uncle who ALWAYS sent the wine back . That was embarrassing . I’m sure he didn’t know any more about wine than you did .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Dan. Tuesday was hash day at the Pillar. I worked for a man that would send damn near everything back. He’d send soup back adding “tell the chef, 45 seconds in the microwave at medium high” I always wanted to crawl under the table.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Your wine story reminded me of an experience my husband and I had years ago. When he tasted the wine he ordered for us, then told the waiter that it was bad, the waiter picked up my husband’s glass, took a sip, said rather rudely that it was just fine, and put the glass back down in front of my husband. We don’t normally complain or send food/drinks back, but we did tell the manager. Needless to say, our meal was comped.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. “….but we had those enviable metabolisms that allow young men to consume their weight in chicken and beer and still stop at McDonald’s on the way home.” Boy, don’t you hate that ( I’m talking to myself here) and loved this one too “When we’re done here, this table is going to look like the lost chicken graveyard.” Very good post about all the restaurant adventures. :)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Deborah. Tony was so fun to be around. He was large and imposing but his face and hair looked just like John Denver. He had a deep voice and he could be charming. I miss him a lot. I’m glad you liked the story and I appreciate your comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. You are truly a story teller, Dan. LOVED the wine story, the chicken story, and IF I had been in your shoes with that snotty waiter when you ordered the hot fudge sundae, I would have walked. Seriously. AND I would have gone to management to put in a complaint. Yep for sure. LOVED this post, my friend. Thank you for the laughs. <3

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Amy. Telling stories is what I enjoy most, so I really appreciate your comment. The Pillar was that kind of place, the waiters were just short of rude but they had a lot of good items on their menu and they had a fantastic bar.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Quite a way to treat a customer. Is this customary on their part to treat the client like that? I ask because here in Montreal we have the famous Schwartz’s http://www.schwartzsdeli.com/ ( if you ever come to Montreal, it is a MUST try). Schwartz’s is a Montreal institution! It’s been around forever. The waiting staff there, mostly all males, can have a pretty trying attitude with customers at times. They are known for that, but their smoked meat sandwiches are soooooo good that we all put up with it and kind of ignore them. I think they’ve gotten better over the years but it’s part of the fabric of the place.
    I truly enjoyed your story, kudos on detecting the corked wine and saying so at 21! My husband and I truly enjoy wine and he always has me smell and taste first. On multiple occasions I have detected cork when others have not, even him. I must say, I am always afraid I am going to miss one day. This should only be my biggest problem. :-)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The rough treatment was their habit. they actually started to get a little softer as they got closer to going out of business but it was too late. Too many companies had moved staff out of the city and too many of us regulars had gotten married and started families. We were taking leftovers for lunch and going straight home.

      I am still happy to let someone else have the honor of testing the wine. I enjoy beer, at least before dinner and my wife doesn’t drink much, so we usually get wine by the glass. I’m impressed that you have such a long & strong history.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I remember Dan’s post from Tuesday, it brought back a great memory. But this story here about the Marble Pillar did as well. One thing my mom loved to do was eat out – so these stories bring back a lot of good/bad places to mind – Thanks!!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. We used to go to a place named Nicky D’s. The waiter’s name was Hammer. I was buying lunch for an out of towner, He asked what if there was a special. Hammer said,”Look around you at the shit on the walls. you think we have anything special here.” Nice post, Dan.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh my John, Nicky D’s? Hammer? No wonder you come up with such amazing characters, you’ve lived with them. I once took a rather snooty coworker from our Boston office to a dive restaurant in Waterbury, CT. The menu was written in chalk on a chalkboard that ran around the dining room just below the ceiling. The waitress came over and asked if we knew what we wanted. My coworker said “a menu would be nice” and the waitress snapped “the menu is on the wall buddy.” Those are priceless moments. Thanks for the comment.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Another time a guy from New York (this was Indiana) wanted his soup in a doggie bag. Hammer took a regular paper sack and dumped the soup in and handed it to him. (yes, it ran everywhere.) Nicky (the owner) used to fire Hammer at least once a day. He got fired for this trick. (lasted for a whole cigarette)

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Looking at these pictures invokes my wander lust. The farthest I have been north along the eastern seaboard is NYC. I should have tried hard to be a journalist when I was younger. Maybe I could have traveled the world on company time and money.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If you ever pas through Hartford, let me know. I can arrange a quick tour. I hate to admit it but Boston would be a better destination. As I write some of these stories, I think about the fact that, if these events were happening today, I’d have 100 pictures. I don’t actually have a single shot of the Marble Pillar. Plenty of memories, no photos. Thanks for the comment Glynis.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Great anecdotes, Dan. I think we all have such memories, unless we’ve managed to repress them. When a teenager, I once responded “yes” when the waitress asked if I wanted soup or salad because I thought she was offering a super salad. The friends who were with me still have a grand time recalling my red face when I finally realized what the mumble-mouth was saying.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. But a super-salad sounds pretty cool. Thanks for the comment. I try to repress ordering Shad Roe, another speciality at the Marble Pillar. I didn’t think it through and realize it was fish eggs.

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  14. I would not order hash at a German restaurant but I like their Reuben sandwiches for lunch with a side of German potato salad, Dan. I once worked in Bowling Green (nearby campus of BGSU) and wore shorts with the bib over an off the shoulder white ruffled blouse. Needless to say, I received good tips and grew to live my Grandmother (Paula Haller) Mattson’s native German food.
    If I were having dinner, I liked the red cabbage slaw, mashed potatoes and weiner schnitzel. :)
    Servers are only as good as their background, this is a true statement. Lazy people don’t become good servers, snobby people make lousy servers but kind and generous people make the best and nicest ones to wait tables. My Grandmother worked at the Waldorf Astoria in NYC and she said the best customers had “old money” while the worst snobs were “nouveau riche.” They would act all important but rudely order servers around. Over 20 years in my life I have filled my coffers with tips from simple and wonderful people. A bus load of ladies who crafted and a convoy of Army personnel were awesome! I am so glad the wine turned out “bad” and the server may have had his outlook on young people “re-adjusted,” too. :)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They did have some good sandwiches and they did have good German potato salad. The waiters were part of the ambiance, if you could call it that. You “endured” the Pillar more than you enjoyed it. I have always agreed with Dave Barry (even before he said it) that people who are mean to the waitstaff aren’t worth associating with. I ty to be nice to waiters, waitresses and bartenders, regardless of the quality of the food, as long as the service was good. I think it takes a great spirit and a lot of work to be a good waitress/waiter.

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  15. Your wine experience reminds me of the first time I tasted a beer. I was perhaps 8 or 9 years old. I used to see my dad drinking it and I would wonder. It was brown, dark brown, and it foamed and perspired mysteriously when he poured it into the glass. I thought it tasted like soda. In my mind, it could not be anything else but sweet, sugary. And I really wanted some. One day (it was Sunday, really) he left a bottle on the table when stepped out. I grabbed it, and with great haste filled my mouth with the liquid.
    Man . . . I imagine you’d say my expression was priceless (like the wine guy)!
    My grandmother used to cure diseases (the old ones, though; nothing like cancer, AIDS, or diabetes) with herbs and roots. She knew all sorts of plants and the things that they cured. But those herbs and roots were truly inedible. They tasted like things that were supposed to make you lose your mind. She would boil them or crush them, then serve the juice in a cup. Foamy and thick, a green devil. It cured the disease but wasted your mouth like hell. And when you are a kid, such things are extremely dreadful.
    That beer my father had been drinking . . . it tasted like the juice from those herbs and roots. Imagine my terror, my shock. I spat it all out, threw it up on the table and floor. He came back and gave me berated me, but that was the last time I ever tasted beer.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh my Peter. I can imagine, as it took a long time to acquire a taste for beer. My father didn’t drink but I had a similar experience with trying cigarettes. In that case, I’m glad it turned me away for good. My grandmother used to make cough syrup. I would do my best to suppress coughs, lest i get a spoonful of that. Thanks for the comment.

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