A few weeks ago Chris and I had dinner with my boss and his wife. They took us to their favorite restaurant on the coast. It was beautiful, relaxed, and had really, really great food. But the most impressive part of the dinner was that my boss and his wife knew the entire staff by name and they all know them. The owner of the restaurant even came out, hand selected our bottle of wine, and spent a few minutes chatting about their daughter’s upcoming wedding.
I think its our Southern roots, but that was just the nicest thing to see. It has been years – at least the 3 years that we have lived in Connecticut – since we’ve walked into a place, been greeted by name, chatted with, and served a delicious dinner. We just felt like we were home. So on our way back home that night, Chris said he wanted us to find a place where we were “locals.” We are buying a house here now. We’re definitely staying around. Its time to become a local.
First step: Find a local restaurant and make the owner our friend.
The restaurant came easily to us: Sushi Palace. If you live in the greater New Haven area (if there is such thing as a “greater New Haven area?”) and you’re breathing, then you’ve heard of and/or experienced the Sushi Palace. It is the sushi restaurant that changed our entire sushi eating life. Amazing. A-maz-ing.
(NOTE: This is NOT John. John barely smiles, let alone flash the “thumbs up!”)
The Sushi Palace is run by only about 5 people. They are all Japanese, all running 90 miles an our, and all rude as the dickens! And the rudest of them all are the two owners. We’ll call them John and Sue. John is the sushi roller. He sits behind a glass wall, playing with raw fish and avocado, so who can blame him for being a little pissy. But nonetheless, a little smile every now and then would be nice. The only time John comes to life is when you are walking by to leave. Once you’ve paid the check, he throws a 2 second party for you as you walk out the door. And then he dies again inside.
Sue, on the other hand, is mean. Just plain mean. She is pushy, and looks annoyed the minute you walk in the door. Its like you’ve inconvenienced her by asking for a table for two. And she doesn’t speak. You walk in the door, and she “greets” you by raising her eyebrows. This is Sue asking you how many in your party. Then she either nods towards a table if one is available, or points to the chairs along the wall if you need to wait. When your table is available, she nods once in your direction (God help you if you miss The Nod) and once in the direction of your table. This is Sue telling you to have a seat and she’ll be right with you. Once seated, she throws a menu in your general direction and you’re off.
When Chris and I walked in on the night we decided to become friends with our favorite restaurant’s owners, I chickened out at the first nod from Sue. I turned to Chris and suggested we try somewhere a little more…social. But nope. We wanted these people to be our friends.
It was sad. All night long we tried to talk to Sue and John. John gave us a little bit of a response. He would occasionally smile. But Sue was like a wall. Whenever she would come within 15 feet of our table (which was often considering the place holds a total of 10 tables), poor, sweet Chris would try to say something nice or funny to her. No response. When she brought our drinks and knocked over the soy sauce, we laughed overly enthusiastically and made stupid jokes about small tables and big sushi rolls… ha ha ha. No response. When she brought us our check, we smiled like we were old friends and said how much we enjoyed it – “Yet again!” I added, sweetly. No response. Nothing.
We left that night feeling disappointed, self-doubting, and lonely. John and Sue were not going to be easy friends to make. Our next tactic was to increase the number of times we eat there. If they don’t respond to smiles and jokes, then maybe they respond to us throwing money at them once a week. We’re seen slight improvement since then, but nothing good. John now smiles when we walk in and Sue occasionally grunts when she sees us now, but thats about it.
We’re going back again tonight. They will be our friends, dammit! Because we’re nice people! And they own our favorite restaurant! We should be, like, exchanging Christmas cards. Maybe tonight’s the night. Maybe they’ll look up when we come in and say, “Hi Katie and Chris! Welcome back! We saved your favorite table and chilled your favorite wine! Enjoy the Rainbow Roll – its fantastic tonight!”