Restaurants and Coffee Shops, Vol. 4, Issue 34

Dear Etiquetteer: On a recent trip with some friends, we stopped for lunch near a large university. The street was lined with any number of the usual sandwich and pizza joints, and a couple of nice-looking restaurants. We chose one almost at random that looked a little nicer than pizza joints and wasn't too crowded. There was no menu posted at the door, but we thought nothing of it given the neighborhood. After we were seated and the bread and water had arrived, we opened our menus and were aghast to find lunch entrees in the $30-$40 range, far more than we had intended to spend. Properly speaking, what are our options in such a situation? Dear Starving and Startled: Your letter reminds Etiquetteer vividly of a trip many years ago to that most interesting and self-oriented of cities, Manhattan. The news that Sally Ann Howes was performing in the Oak Room of the famous Algonquin Hotel lured Etiquetteer there with two friends. The entrance was so dark that we could not find a sign with the cover charge or menu; like you, no inkling of any financial outlay was revealed until we opened the bar menu and learned that the cover charge was $35 (or some equally outrageous figure) and that the drinks were priced on an equally lavish scale. The restaurant was so dark we think the waiter did not realize we were gone until the show started. At least Etiquetteer continues to hope so.To leave a restaurant as soon as you’ve been seated will only call attention to your party. And properly speaking, it’s never a good idea to call attention to oneself in public. You may infer from this that Etiquetteer finds it Perfectly Proper to lunch on ice water, salad, and Chagrin seasoned with Good Humor.That said, Etiquetteer knows it is simply not possible, financially, for some people to take even that course. When departure is the only option, leave the restaurant quietly. If stopped by the waiter or maitre d’, simply say "I’m sorry we can’t stay for lunch, but we have been suddenly called away" and no more, no matter how tempted you are to keep talking. Trust Etiquetteer, they know why you can’t stay.This should also be a lesson always to look for the menu posted outside most restaurants in little glass cases so that you know what you're getting into before you get into it.

Dear Etiquetteer: Something happened today that really annoyed me and I have to ask your advice. At a coffee shop in the town where I vacation, I was patiently waiting for my coffee for a longer than usual time. Turns out my coffee had been taken by the mayor of the town where I live! Is this reason enough to vote for the other candidate? Dear Caffeinated Constituent: Heavens, people change their votes over much more trivial reasons, so Etiquetteer doesn’t see why not. On the other hand, was it abuse of power, absentmindedness, or ignorance of whose coffee he had that led him to take your coffee? Unless the mayor in question has a record of corruption, Etiquetteer would encourage you to give him the benefit of the doubt.

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