In recent months, we've watched with interest as a well-regarded ABQ restaurant remodeled a building not far from our home for its new location. Sometime in the last few weeks, a banner went up announcing this joint was now open for breakfast and, on a whim, we stopped in this morning.
The place is as brightly painted inside as it is outside. Black and white tiling and overstuffed booths. Retro faux-relics dot the brightly painted walls (a look quite familiar to any ABQer able to explain what a "breakfast disaster"
or "full belly special"
We stood inside the doorway for only a moment before a young man emerged from the clutch of people near the counter (employees? customers? owners? workmen? all of the above?) and waved at us to sit wherever we wanted.
My dining companion chose a far booth.
The young man who waved us in presented our menus. Single sheet of cardstock. Three kinds of omelet, breakfast burrito, huevos, and pancakes as our options on the front. A la carte egg and meat possibilities on the back.
I took my leave to visit the facilities. A bit filthy (in a gas station kind of way) for a new place, I thought. Must be all the workmen tromping through.
Shortly after I returned to my seat facing a framed print of a toga-ed George Reeves, a tall, slender, youngish man wearing a clever mustache and grimy apron approached our booth.
He yanked a chair from an adjacent table, placed it at one end our booth, and sat down. His leg stretched forward casually. The only confirmation that he was indeed our server came from the fact that he held a pen and order pad in his hand. Once comfortably situated in his chair, he regarded us expectantly.
"Breakfast burrito?" I wondered.
"You have a choice of meat," my dining companion prompted.
I read the breakfast burrito description on the menu. Not a whole lot of options. Egg, cheese, choice of meat, red or green. Hash browns. No beans.
"Yes," I continued, "Breakfast burrito. Ham. Green. Is the chile on the inside or out?"
"Both," our server said.
"Green chile inside but not on top."
"Oh, like handheld?"
"I guess. But on a plate."
My dining companion then presented his order -- breakfast burrito, bacon, no chile at all.
Our server then stood, smiled, and gave a slight bow as he replaced the chair to its rightful position. Then he was off. I could hear fragments of our order as he hollered over the ruckus behind me.
"Is that noise from customers or employees?"
My dining companion shrugged. "I'm not sure there are any customers. It seems like everyone works here. There are like four people in the kitchen area."
A few minutes later our server returned with an oblong styrofoam carton that he placed at my elbow.
"Is this mine?"
"Can I have a plate?"
"You want it on a plate?"
And he was gone, styrofoam in hand. No mention of my dining companion's order.
A few more minutes passed. Then, my burrito arrived on its requested plate, escorted by a small pile of a lettuce and a twirled orange slice. The promised hash browns must be inside, I think.
My dining companion still has no food. But this time our server talks to him about that fact.
"You want yours on a plate, too, right? With, like, melted cheese on top?"
My dining companion nods slowly.
I look to my naked burrito. No melted cheese on top for me, it seems. I slice it open. A glop of cheesy eggs ooze onto the little plate. I see the green of my requested chile. But what are those dark brown spots embedded in the eggy goop?
"Didn't you order ham?," my dining companion asks.
"This is bacon, I think."
"Send it back." My dining companion -- who's much more forceful a restaurant patron than I -- eyes me expectantly.
A few more minutes pass, in which time, I probe the innards of my sad, naked burrito. Maybe a little bacon just got mixed in...maybe the ham's hiding...maybe that's not bacon at all but really really burnt ham. I notice there are no hash browns inside the burrito. Didn't the menu say hash browns came with the breakfast burrito? I only saw the one price. Does "handheld" also mean "no hash browns?" Where are my hash browns?
My dining companion's plate arrives. The plate's twice the size of mine. To make room for the hash browns as well as the lettuce/tomato garnish. And that whole wedge of cantaloupe.
I blurt out: "Now that's what I thought I ordered."
Our server: "Yeah?"
I add: "And mine's got bacon, not--"
He cuts me off: "Oh yeah. I gave you the wrong burrito. I gave some other guy yours but he was gone before I... That was my mistake, man." Awkward pause. "Sorry." A longer awkward pause. "So you want them to make you another one with...um...ham?"
My dining companion: "Yes!"
Our server: "Okayyyyyy."
He sighs as he lifts my little plate from the table. Then, as he starts away, he says (in full voice, mind you): "Well, I guess this burrito'll be MY breakfast then. Looks good, too. MmmmYUM."
And then he's gone.
And I'm peeved.
But not so peeved as my dining companion. "I can't believe he said...! You want to leave? Let's just leave. Now."
And that's what we did. We left. A moment or three later, our server followed. Just before we drove off, he caught my dining companion's eye and gave a "WTF!" shrug.
I've never done anything like this before. It didn't feel right. But it didn't feel wrong either.
Left to my own devices, I probably would have sucked it up and paid for the meal. And, knowing me, I probably would have left a tip too. ("Take that 10%-Not-20+%, you clevermustache man!!") But, at the point when our server took what had become HIS breakfast away and got all snarky as he did it, I had no desire to eat anything he brought me. Let alone pay for any of it.
On its website, this restaurant promises to take you "back to when service and taste were what you got without asking." What we got without asking was a whole different kind of breakfast disaster than we're accustomed to. And our server's the one who ended up with the full belly special.
Oh well. There's plenty of breakfast burritos in this town. Where the hash browns are included. Without asking.