John Curtas is …

Everything’s Not Okay at Dos Caminos

IS EVERYTHING OKAY? (listen at KNPR)
Well no, it’s not, but I’m going to keep my pie hole shut about it.

It’s the biggest lie told in restaurants, right down there with “homemade”-which never is; and “fresh” – which almost always isn’t.

No we’re talking about your response to the age-old question: “And how is everything sir” or “Is everything prepared to your liking” or “How is it?” usually asked anywhere from 5 to 10 seconds after the food shows up. The lie we all tell is anything from: “Fine, thank you” to “Everything’s great” even when it’s not.

I’m probably bolder than most in expressing my displeasure with a dish, but I fully admit that I swallow hard and force a meek smile through a: “Everything’s fine, thank you, “ unless there’s a toenail floating in my soup. Of course at certain restaurants, ones that have higher aspirations and might value my opinion, I have been known to critique a dish on the spot—but that’s another kettle of constructive criticism entirely.

And there’s a reason we let this little lie hang in the air between us and our waiter throughout the meal. Because to say otherwise creates a controversy that ruins both your nights.

Case in point, my second dinner at the football field-sized Dos Caminos in the newly opened Palazzo. Calling this place big is an understatement. At six hundred seats, it makes your average buffet look cozy and romantic. And calling it a Mexican restaurant is like calling the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan a boat. Dos Caminos is a corporate chain restaurant; a casino money machine; and a multi-million dollar concept carefully calculated to within an inch of its food. Quantity at the expense of quality—with the hopes that no one will notice.

Well I noticed. I noticed that the child’s bean and cheese burrito we had ordered for a young’un in our group was inedible, just as I had noticed that my chiliquiles had been and just as I had noticed that the fifteen dollar “organic, seasonal margarita” tasted like Hawaiian Punch. So when our nice waiter asked if my Especiale Camarones were okay, I said they were just barely, and about as Mexican as sweet and sour pork. This caused him great distress, and a few moments later there stood the young, eager to please manager (also highly professional and pleasant) who was full of questions and clearly perplexed that someone might actually find something wrong with the food. The ten-minute discussion that followed didn’t do anyone any good, and only made me wish I had kept my mouth shut-in more ways than one.

By the end of our awkward little meal, I decided that the question the waiter is really asking when they say: Do you like it? Or is everything okay? Is: are you willing to pay for what’s been placed in front of you? If you are, leave it at that and try to remember the words of the late great Quentin Crisp who always maintained: “Not only is honesty not the best policy, honesty is never the best policy.”

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