Friday, April 17, 2009

How Not to Run a Restaurant or, Where is Gordon Ramsay when you need him?


While we have plenty of Subways and Quiznos here, there are many, really excellent sandwich shops in Lancaster County PA.


THIS is one of the best delicatessens in Lancaster County, and like Auntie Anne's Pretzels, it started off as one shop and now there are 20 in Central PA, alone. Auntie Anne went from one pretzel stand to 500 before selling her franchise. Now, there are nearly 1000 stores all over the world. But I bore you all, I see. The point is this: German meats, breads, condiments, and variants of German food are all quintessentially American and almost universally loved. If it weren't for German immigrants, no one would know about the fantastic fare that is German. So, here it is.

The Sandwich Nazi story: "No Sandwich for YOU!"

Recently, a man from Germany opened an 'authentic' German restaurant. I was eager to go there and eat any and everything on the menu. The cafe that had been there before was called LUNCH, and that is all they served. But what a lunch! The most spectacular sandwiches and home made soups. The joint was always crowded and the desserts were home made and exquisite. I so wanted to work there. But one day, it up and closed. Death in the family had ended the business, and for about a year it stood empty.

Then, one day, a sign goes up for his restaurant, an "Authentic" German restaurant and bakery. YAY! All the sudden, visions of Wiener Schnitzel and sausages and sauerkraut and cheeses and home made German breads and...well..nom, nom, nom were going through my head. So a couple of days ago, I decided to get my husband something for lunch there, and expecting a lot of people, I went in, and there was nobody. Not a hostess, a waitress, and as far as I could see, no chefs or line cooks. I looked at the white board for something to order, and a list of baked goods was all that was displayed. Yet, no baked goods could be seen, but for a lonely cherry-laden pastry on a plate in a glass shelf. There was nothing. No smell. Nothing.

I called back to see if anyone was there, and a rather flustered young man appeared and asked what I would like. I asked to see a menu and he handed me a single sheet of paper with the items listed on front and back. Under the Lunch category the only item was 3 potato pancakes with applesauce. Yep. 3 potato pancakes with applesauce. For 5 bucks.

I asked him if he had anything else,and he had some lentil soup or cabbage stew. On the reverse side of his menu was the dinner listing. Sauerbraten or Wienerschnitzel, and if you want the Sauerbraten, you have to order it for at least 4 people....10 days in advance. When I asked him if he sold sandwiches, he becamen irritated and said.

"NO. No sandwiches. Germans don't eat sandwiches." Really?" I asked, surprised, "You mean, you don't eat sausages in buns? NEIN, das is nicht a sandwich!"

"Or a Reuben on rye?"

"NEIN. Germans don't eat sandwiches, he said...and he was almost angry by this time.

I had to take his word for it, since he is German, after all. But if you are going to open a restaurant, I'd think that the main idea is to get people in the door, and then back again, after they tell all their friends about having eaten at your place.

I settled on the cabbage stew with bits of meat in it for a whopping 8 bucks. It was served in an 8 oz. container. I asked if the stew came with some bread, and he put in a home made roll that smelled good....but the proof is in the eating.
The cabbage was mush, the meat, inconsequential, even if you could tell what it was. There were no baked goods in the display cabinets...he was just starting his baking at 11 am, apparently. The Wienerschnitzel needed 2 days advance notice, and the sauerbraten needed 10!
What the HELL?

Needless to say, his restaurant is empty, he is bitter, and the food was horrid. The roll was so hard that I worried about breaking my teeth on it. I'm thinking, maybe, just maybe, there is such a thing as East German cuisine, and this restaurateur is a member of the crack Stasi culinary squad. I had to seriously squash the desire to ask him:

13 comments:

  1. Anonymous9:25 PM

    Jewel,
    Loved the post! It made me think of the Seinfeld episode when Jerry told Baboo the Pakistani to serve Pakistani food in his restaurant...and the buisiness went belly up.

    When I saw the picture of the YouTube clip I knew instantly what movie and scene it was from. Well done!

    Have you seen the movie "The Big Night" yet? Good movie about a resaurant ready to go belly up ONLY because most people don't know what really good Italian food is.

    Been out of the loop lately. Visiting my parents in Detroit and Inlaws in Phoenix. Then I spent couple days taking care of hubby after his eye surgery. I think things are back to normal...but I am ready to get serious in my own home cooking again! I can't even remember my user name and password.

    -Lynn-dee-poo

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  2. I wanted so much to see that particular movie, Lynndeepoo! This was the most surreal experience I have ever had in a restaurant. The poor shlub doesn't have any staff, and no hostess or dishwasher, for that matter. I can't imagine what he must be thinking.

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  3. Hey Fellow Infidel! I don't know how long you've lived in Lancaster, have you ever tried The Shady Maple Smorgasboard?

    Bunch of us from work meet there every month or so and eat for a week.

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  4. Jewel4:54 AM

    MR! Yes I have, especially when the kinfolk are in town. Just this week my husband and his brother went there on Wednesday, and I asked him if he'd enjoyed himself since I'd only made Red Baron pizzas for the kids. (I won't waste too much time cooking up a storm for my dirty little ingrates, until they move out on their own, starve awhile, come home, eat something spectacular, then weep with bitter tears of homesickness)
    Anyway, the hubster says, "You know, the roast was delicious...but yours is better. The salmon was good, but yours is better. The fried chicken was good...but yours is better." That made my week!

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  5. Always love the spread they put out, especially on Pork or Seafood day. And daughter # 3 always wants to head down to the gift shop to check out the new Webkinz.

    Both the older daughters now look forward to coming home for Mom's cooking (beats their own or the school's ANYDAY) so just wait, that time is coming.

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  6. MR, If'n I didn't know no better, I would think you were my husband writing under a pseudonym, because the youngest daughter would head downstairs to look for the webkinz, and the two older daughters in college both look forward to coming home for mom's cooking! Parallel county reality, mayhap...and my husband is 47 years old, too. Hmmmmm.

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  7. Now THAT'S too funny! The oldest of them daughters didn't happen to get engaged 2 weeks ago did she? (oh man, I'm too young to be a father-in-law :) because then, y'know, cue Twilight Zone theme.

    Especially if your immortal beloved gets to cussin' the way I do at IBA (even makes me poor wife, who knows how I am, blush after all these years).

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  8. Nope, you ain't my Mr. Wunnerful. He hates cussing of any sort...and Irksome Middle child flings the hash with the hardiest of sailors. And none of the girls are getting married...although college daughter number two is a maneater. She breaks hearts right and left and seems oblivious of it. I could kill her sometimes. I am always the shoulder her bereft lovers cry upon.

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  9. Daughter # 3 is 3 weeks shrt of 11. She has boys at school that want to go to dances with her, want to kow if she can go to a ballgame with them & their family.

    But even funnier -- 4 in the neighborhood. 1 across the street 2 yrs younger, brother of her best friend, has had a crush on her since he moved in. And 3 brothers 2 houses down ages 11, 9 & 6 (I think) ALWAYS knocking on the door can she come out & play.

    So last week the oldest of the brothers comes knockin', asks my wife "Can V come out & play?"

    "No, she's doing homework."

    "Can I help?"

    "No, she has to do it on her own."

    Thinks a moment. . .

    "Well, can I come in and watch?"

    Thought my wife would bite her tongue off holding back the laughter.

    The daughter, of course, is only starting to show interest in boys (oh man, here we go again) and gets exaspperated with this at times.

    Then her sisters come home and the teasing starts. "How many boyfriends do you have now?" 'Which one do you like best?" "We never had that many boyfriends." "Dad would have never let us have boyfriends at that age."

    The house is never boring.

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  10. Jewel1:29 AM

    So we both have all girls. The twins are identical, but only one has ever dated, while the other just looked on, feeling left out. The vexatious blonde prodigal hasn't yet made me a grand parent, but she has grayed all my hairs, and those of her dad's. Number four daughter, the good one, the one we were blessed with late in life is a calming salve on the wounds of trial and error.

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  11. Tell your husband God has reserved a special place in heaven for a father with all daughters.

    I only have 3, guess I better talk to the wife about catching up :)

    With ours, in high school the oldest one was always the one looking on, # 2 getting along with boys better. But now #1 is the one engaged after a 4 year tumultous relationship (he's a good guy but it was always I'm not sure what I want) with this boy that left me many late nights cleaning my guns :) (dad's don't like to see their little girl crying) But now he seems to have his act together & in fact came to me 2 weeks before asking her and 1) apologized to me for the way he had behaved and 2) asked my permission.

    # 2 has had the same boyfriend for 3 yrs but it gets tricky over the summer when it goes long distance and he has a few friends influencing him when she's not around.

    Our youngest was born 11 years after her nearest sibling. 3 years and a weekend after my dad died, she never knew either of her grandfathers (my wife's father was much older, 50 when my wife was born 82 when he died in 89). Since she never knew either of her grandfathers she was named for both of them. She keeps the house happy and busy when the older ones are off living their lives. Keeps me & the wife from chasing each other around nekkid and spitting at each other.

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  12. Jewel2:53 PM

    Sounds like Rachel and her sisters. Here is a funny(peculiar) thing they share between them: My twins were born 02/20/87 and Rachel was born 03/30/97. How's that for odd! In addition to the funny sequence of numbers, Rachel was born on Easter Sunday, and on that day, we had a comet in the sky. And that evening we had a total lunar eclipse! So odd things appeared on the same stage with our youngest. And let me tell you, I did not want another baby. I was clinically depressed for the whole nine months. There were times I really wanted to just die and quit being a burden on everyone. Yep, one of the hardest times in our lives, but when she was born, and when we came home from the hospital with her, it all dissipated like fog. She was such a good, quiet baby, and began sleeping through the night after nearly two months! Her personality was like a constant song. Those times she did cry, she had big sisters there to rock her when I was tired, and change her diapers, and bathe her. For my children, it wasn't a question of jealousy, except who could be with her first. I am a lucky, lucky mom. Her dad bought a back pack type carrier and he would put her in it and walk everywhere with her. She just loved being up there looking above our heads at everything.
    9 months of hell were definitely worth it.

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  13. Jewel you sound EXACTLY like my wife when our youngest was born. The depression, not wanting another baby then the turnaround and the happiest little kid on earth.

    I think the depression was from having been set in our ways so long -- 11 years, then the shock of starting anew was terrifying and offputting to her.

    But then yeah, baby arrives, comes home & we have 2 instant mini-moms and (for a few years) built in babysitters. And she learned so much from them, both good and bad (a few times I heard the whispered "Now, if you think mom will say no, always ask daddy first. He almost never says no") but she is always happy & friendly.

    When she was a year or 2 old I used to joke with my oldest girls that when she was old enough and wanted to go to the mall THEY were going to take her since I lugged their butts all those years.

    And dang if it hasn't worked out just like that :)

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