Restaurant Rage

We will call her Jane, even though that wasn’t her real name. From many years in news media circles she was known as the “Queen of the Freebies.”

She worked for a small, totally insignificant newspaper that hardly anyone ever saw, but she was able to parlay that into getting free things around town. She and an elderly man who accompanied her could be seen just about anywhere, sitting in the front row of a theater or dining at a fine restaurant, without ever reaching for her wallet.

One night several years ago we took a friend who was moving to California to dinner at Katie’s, a café in Mid-City (now under different management and doing quite well), which at the time was owned by a friend, Kathy, and her family. Katie’s (named after Kathy’s grandmother) was still in its early struggling days, so I tried to support it when I could.

This night I noticed that Jane and her beau were dining at a corner table. I nodded to her, but she was never someone with whom I wanted to get into an extended conversation. We nodded again when they left. They had a show (no doubt free) to catch.

When it came time for me to pay the bill I needed change, so I went to the bar. Kathy was standing behind the counter in tears. Jane, who had arranged for dinner – allegedly to do a review – and friend had eaten well. They had ordered the most expensive items on the menu and the priciest wines. At the end of the meal they left without even offering to pay tax or leave a tip. Kathy, who was trying hard to keep her restaurant afloat, was upset; so was I. I tried to console her, but I knew she had been taken.

That was on a Saturday night. That Monday I got a call at the office from Kathy. She seemed embarrassed to tell me that I had left Saturday night without paying my check. I was stunned. The events raced through my mind and I realized that when I went to get change and Kathy told me about Jane I was so enraged that I forgot about leaving money. Two people had stiffed her that night – and I was one of them.

On my way home I stopped and paid Kathy with both money and mea culpas. She understood.

We honor Best New Restaurants in this issue. We have great respect for restaurateurs, young and old, and for all that they go through. I am not sure if Jane ever bothered to even write a review, but for gumption, determination and a damn good “bronzed trout,” Kathy deserved five stars.


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Reader Comments:
Jul 6, 2012 02:10 pm
 Posted by  Metairie Maiden

There's another single woman out there who is at multiple functions in one night and doesn't have a budget to support everything she attends. Guess who? If I added one more "signature" word as a salutation, you'd have her nailed.

Jul 6, 2012 02:30 pm
 Posted by  mary

It seems to me that a legitimate restaurant critic's publication would pay the cost of the meal, wines, etc. Then there is no obligation to the restaurant, and the review can be totally objective. This is an example of something a legitimate journalist never should do: accept gifts of any kind...even food and wine...from someone he/she is writing about.

Jul 6, 2012 04:41 pm
 Posted by  NeatBigJ

I sincerely hope Jane, the venues from which she has stolen and all those in her sites read this column.

I too have been in the position where some wannabe expects freebies and I can hardly describe how angry I become. It is a lot like being robbed but instead of using a gun, the perpertrater
uses the implied threat of a bad review.

Jane should know that all of us feel nothing but disdain for her. How sad that the only way she can feel important is by bulldozing innocent, hard-working bystanders.

I say we all unite and put an end to these mafia-like payoffs. Mary is right, any legitemite magazine and/or critic is willing to pay the price of admission to participate in the fare.

Fed up in Lakeview

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