Apparently, Appearances Are Everything

, , , , , , | Working | February 13, 2019

(I only eat strictly kosher food; this means that the only establishments I can eat at are kosher-certified. There are only a handful in the city and none are near my work. I am out for dinner with my coworkers at a non-kosher restaurant. Typically when this happens I bring my own meal in a bag and eat with them. I’ve been doing this for six years at many different restaurants, from small Somali joints to huge steakhouse franchises, and have never had an issue until now. There are eight of us at a burger/wings joint and I’m halfway through a deli sandwich when a manager comes up to me.)

Manager: “I’m really sorry, but we don’t allow any outside food here. We are a restaurant.”

Me: “I’m sorry, but I can’t eat any of your food due to dietary restrictions.”

Manager: “We can try to accommodate your restrictions, but you are absolutely not allowed to have outside food. We usually have security stop people at the door.”

Me: “Are you a kosher-certified establishment?” *knowing they aren’t*

Manager: “I think we have some kosher food in the kitchen. I’ll go look.”

(I know this is impossible but he leaves before I can say anything. Throughout this my friends have been trying to argue with him asking why this is a big deal, as we’re here with a big group, and he has refused to move. I wait with my half-finished sandwich in my lap like a rebuked boy in school while my friends continue to eat. He comes back fifteen minutes later with another manager in tow.)

Manager #2: “Well, we don’t have kosher food in our kitchen, but you’re not allowed to eat outside food.”

(I’m ready to crawl under the table from embarrassment; I just wanted to sit with my friends and this has turned into a whole ordeal.)

Me: “What do you want me to do, exactly?”

Manager #2: “Well, we really don’t want anyone looking at you and thinking they can bring their own food. Can you eat your food off our plates?”

Me: “No, I’m sorry. The plates aren’t kosher.”

(They pause for thinking, while my friends continue to try to convince them to let it slide.)

Manager #2: “If we put a lining on top of the plate, could you eat it, then?”

Me: *not willing to argue any further* “Yes, I could.”

(I’d actually much rather prefer not to do this, as making it look like you’re eating non-kosher food is a no-no. But I just want this experience to end at this point. Another five minutes pass and they bring me a plate with a French fry liner on top of it. I put my sandwich and container of farfel — a Mediterranean dish — on it. Five minutes later the manager comes back AGAIN.)

Manager #2: “I’m sorry, but could you just empty your container out onto the plate? We really don’t want anyone thinking you’re eating outside food.”

(It was incredibly obvious to everyone at the table that this establishment served nothing like the food I was eating. Farfel is a bit messy, and all I had on me was a plastic fork since I’d assumed I’d be eating out of the container. I bit the bullet and dumped it out, and for the rest of the meal I held my container in my lap like it was contraband. The funny thing is that my company, which has 400 people, had come to this establishment in the past for a company event. We pretty much agreed that we would talk to the admin team to make sure that never happened again.)

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