Met a former co-worker for a drink and light bite at Graydon Carter’s notorious Waverly Inn last night. I didn’t think you could get in without a famous name, Black Card or bobble head full of blond extensions but apparently he lets the little people have a drink (A drink—just the one!) at the bar early on Tuesdays. Our dapper neighbor on the bar stool next to us wore a sharp 3-piece suit and spent an hour sipping amber cocktails and furiously scratching something into the inside cover of a book with a fountain pen (a love letter written in a handsome hand, surely). It was a winter wonderland outside and the subterranean, nearly empty bar felt especially warm and cozy. We caught up, had big glasses of wine (our delightful bartender Doug’s “MOST favorite/expensive wine on the list”) and warmed our hands and toes by the roaring fire. We couldn’t have been happier with our choice.
And then sometime around 7:30 things started to SUCK ASS. We decided to eat at the bar. That was our first mistake. I attempted to order a bowl of the New England Clam Chowder. (I’d had a 5:00 snack attack at the office and inhaled 5 Chips Ahoy cookies so wasn’t famished, and the weather was making me crave something rich and creamy. I was actually really looking forward to the soup. When was the last time I had clam chowder? Puuuurfect.) “And for your entrée?” “I think I’ll just start with the soup and see how I feel, I’m really not that hungry, thanks.” “You can’t place a second order, I have to put it all in at the same time,” he huffs. Fed up with us already, he walks away without letting Ann (or me, turned out) order. He cools off and returns, pad in hand and eyebrow cocked. I’m normally not intimidated by waiters with attitudes– I actually quite relish the challenge –but I somehow was made to think that I truly was not allowed to only order the clam chowder. I was breaking a serious New York social code/law. Uncomfortable internal turmoil ensues. “I’ll think I’ll have the chicken pot pie.” “And to start?” Now he’s really starting to piss me off. “That’s it.” “Fine. I’m done trying to sell you the crabcakes or the tartare. Clearly not going to do any good here.” He snatches our menus away, ripping mine out from underneath my elbow and sending my nose into my wine. Doug’s strange spell over me abruptly broken, I realize that the noise level has jumped 10 decibels and I turn around to discover our cozy little hideaway packed with women in leopard print coats and slick older men. Some cheesy-looking dude drenched in juniper cologne is yelling in my ear and giving me a sinus headache. A woman with big eyes and bad skin reaches through Ann and I to give “Douggy” an air kiss. “Kendall Darling” commands his full attention from then on. We order more wine and I find I can’t hear Ann above someone yelling to Doug, “Dude, what’s that?” “An absinthe fountain.” “Sweeeeet. Give me 4 of those.” We take a pass on Doug’s “first and second favorite desserts on the menu” and pay the bill, leaving way too generous of a tip, afraid of having to come back for a client dinner or engagement party and finding ourselves blacklisted. I feel ashamed of myself for not stiffing him completely; it feels like the pot pie in my stomach is shaking its meaty little fist at me. We don’t even get a thank you. We never hear another word from darling Douggy, actually. And here’s the weird thing (not that this should matter, but in a place like this it always does…): we were a couple of attractive, well-dressed blonds in our late 20s with time and disposable income to spend. We drank well and Ann even had an entrée! (his “SECOND favorite/most expensive entrée,” the pork chops). Who knows what we did to deserve such foul treatment. I almost could have gotten over the nightmare crowd but Doug’s special kind of service was inexcusable. 2 thumbs way down, and that pot pie was friggin’ good.