Thursday, October 25, 2012

Portlandia is real

Five of us schlepped up from Canby to have dinner in Portland - specifically, to Tanuki, a restaurant on Stark Street that had gotten a glowing review in Portland Monthly for its Korean and Japanese cuisine. We were excited to get out of rural Oregon and have supper in the "big city." 

The outside of Tanuki is a lot of "NO" signs - "No Sushi" and "No Children" and "No Minors." As someone who is not at all fond of children in restaurants, you would think I would have been happy at at least 2 of those 3 signs. But all those signs made Tanuki look like HOUSE OF NO.

We stepped inside, to a quite dark, stark, unattractive interior, with about 1/3 of the chairs empty. A woman slowly walked up to us, looked us over and up and down, and sniffed,

"Ohhhhhhhhhhhh, there's five of youuuuuuu..."

She turned to glance behind her and then back to us, saying in that oh-so-Portland nasal style of disenchantment,

"Yeahhhhhhhhh, I don't have seating for five."

Long pause.

A member of our party said, "Well, what about this big empty area here. Couldn't we eat here?"

The server slowly glanced over at the completely empty area at the front of the restaurant - a couch and chair surrounding a small table.

"Yeahhhhhhhhh, we don't really allow eating in the waiting area."

The waiting area? Isn't this place where we're STANDING, and WAITING, the waiting area?

Another member of our party said, "Um... what about moving that table there with that table there?"

The server turned a bit in the direction of the tables, then back to us.

"Yeahhhhhhhhh, I don't think so. We're really not supposed to move those particular tables."

Long pause.

Another member of our party tried.

"Well, that table there seats four. We could just pull another chair up to it."

The server turned a bit as though to see where she was pointing, but never really did, and then pivoted back to us.

"Yeahhhhhhhhh, the chef wouldn't allow that."

Long pause.

The server spoke at last.

"Yeahhhhhhhhh, see those people there, they juuuuuuust came in and sat down, like, 5 minutes ago? If they hadn't, maybe I could have pushed that table with that table? But since they are in that place, I can't. So, like, the wait for yoooooou is going to be about an hour."

We all continued just to stand there. Were we really getting refused service at a restaurant because they didn't have room for us? The place had empty chairs everywhere!

Then I checked out the other diners - all young, mostly in black, except for a few guys in the requisite bowling shirt and hipster hat. Was this actually a we-don't-serve-middle-aged-suburbanites thing?

I spoke at last. "Um, we drove all the way up from Canby. It's a really long drive. We came to Portland specifically for this restaurant."

The server sighed.

"Yeahhhhhhhhh, I'll talk to the chef."

She disappeared and, after several minutes, another woman emerged. Same disenchanted look and tone.

"Yeah, we just really can't seat five people. All of our literature clearly states that we do not seat large parties."

And I had had enough.

"Hey, I think it's time to go. Let's go to a restaurant that would actually like us to be there. This clearly isn't it."

We walked back out to the rainy Portland night (is there any other kind?), and started to laugh. It was the quintessential Portland experience. It's so representative of what it's like EVERY time I go into that city. How could we not laugh? We'd just been in an episode of Portlandia.

Later, at the delightful Ya Hala, a friendly, well-lit Lebanese restaurant just a few doors down that serves AWESOME food - and has enough lighting for you to actually see the food, a member of our party pulled out a flyer for Tanuki, and started reading over its long list of rules. No where on the "literature" did it say they didn't serve large parties, but at the bottom of one side, it did say a hefty gratuity is automatically "added to parties of five or more." That just made us laugh that much harder.

So we're now calling Tanuki "Snooty's on Stark." The name so fits.

No comments:

Post a Comment