unhappy hour

Fino is now Fin. As in, the end. No more. Never again.

I arrived at Fino ready to get my drink ON. I plugged in the laptop, whipped out the glasses, and got ready to write. Only, first, come on. Drinks. My bee sting, please. “Sorry, uh, that bartender no longer works here, so we don’t have that drink.” Or any other drink that doesn’t taste of rubbing alcohol.

Fino, you try hard to be a cocktail-savvy bar, but you’re not. I’m sorry, but it’s true. The “Brotherly Love” cocktail composed of bluecoat American gin, cocchi americano, st. germain elderflower, canton ginger and orange bitters smells like a freshly squeezed tangerine. Bright. Promising. New Year’s Day. But it tastes like bathtub gin that maybe got to rub up against a cutie orange as she made her way past you in line for the loo. “It’s a real favorite,” isn’t the line you should be pitching to patrons. But, hey, you were really good sports when I let you know, as hard as it was for me, that it really hadn’t grown on me, and that I would, indeed, try something else instead. Good sports.

I ordered up a lovely Muscadet 09 Luneau-Papin, Clos des Allees because I saw the word “Bourgogne” for $10. And it was just that, lovely. Perfect temperature. So ideal. I’m in a good mood now, the air singing of spring, pink in the night. I ask about happy hour specials. Happy hour begins at 5pm. It’s 4:45. I peck at my Bourgogne and wait it out. At 4:58 (I looked at my laptop), (let’s call her) Rachel, my waitress, asks if I’d like to order any appetizers.

I go ahead and order FROM THE HAPPY HOUR MENU, holding it up, asking about different offerings. I order the blistered peppers and pork skewers, both sans carbs, sans sugar. Good girl.

Then, the everloving check arrives, where my wine is the expected ten-spot. But the appetizers are not at all happy, itemized as full-price. Ugh. Must I really dispute the $2 per order? I was just gypped four beans. Does it matter? Principle, good friends, principle. I say so, sheepishly, to a waitress passing by. She’ll tell my waitress. And tell her she did, or so I must assume, when Rachel returns with a revised check and all but smacks my face with it.

“Here,” she says, simply leaving it on my table, doing “the walkaway.” Mind you the place is as dead as it’ll ever be. So, she’s in no rush. No sweet words, no, “Gosh, my mistake,” no nothing. My point isn’t to berate Rachel or the people who trained her, but to say this:


People appreciate it. We are human, too. We make more and don’t always fess up to them, so go ahead and be the person to say, “I don’t know what I was thinking. I’m so sorry about the slip up. I really hope you enjoyed everything, and please let me know if there’s anything else you need.” Kill me with kindness, and I’ll be back. Slap the check down, admit nothing, do “the walkaway” and that’s what you’ll get… potential business walking away.

I think we could change lives just by doing this simple thing. I’m going to go home right now and admit all my mistakes. Not to humble, not to hear how silly I am, but to come clean. Because good luck at being angry with anyone who comes to you without expectation, without ego, and just lays it out there. I’m not perfect. I mess up. I mess up a lot. And you still manage to love me. Thank you.

Know what else I’m thinking, just a little bit? You mess up too, motherfcuker, and I still manage to love you. So why don’t you take a page out of THIS BOOK and fess up and admit all the things you get terribly wrong with every right intention there is. I guarantee, you’ll get more from me than a 20% tip.



  1. A couple things:
    What’s a bee sting? Never heard of that one.
    Have you ever tried a negroni? It’s a bitter (usually Campari), gin, and sweet vermouth. There’s also a “sbagliato” (“mistaken”) version with prosecco instead of gin. Might go kind of nicely with this story.
    I’m so with you about waitresses admitting their mistake graciously. The last place I want to go back to is somewhere you feel like the help doesn’t like you, when you didn’t even do anything wrong like knock over a tray of drinks. It’s called the hospitality industry, afterall.
    Your last paragraph reminds me a line in that movie “The Breakup”: “I want you to WANT to wash the dishes.” I’m not sure if can ever actually work, no matter how right it would be.
    You should check out “No Strings Attached” if you get a chance. It’s one of the first romantic comedies I’ve seen in a looong time that’s actually funny, and emotionally honest, I think so at least.

    1. Author

      A bee sting is… the genius of Bill Norris (@wnorris3 on Twitter), whose recipe is below:

      2 oz “42 Below Honey Vodka”
      3/4 oz Meyer lemon juice
      1/4 oz cracked peppercorn syrup
      Shake and strain into chilled cocktail glass rinsed with 100% Blue Agave Blanco Tequila–preferable something peppery. Garnish with fresh ground pepper and a flamed lemon peel.

      To make the syrup:
      2 cups water
      1 cup sugar
      3/4 cups whole black peppercorns, lightly crushed (you can put them in a ziplock bag and whack it a few times with your hand on the counter.)
      In a sauce pan, bring sugar and water to boil, stirring until all sugar is dissolved. Lower heat, add pepper and simmer, covered, for fifteen minutes. Remove from heat and allow to stand for another fifteen minutes. Strain out solids using a fine mesh strainer and allow to cool before using. For more pepper flavor let it stand a further ten minutes before straining.
      If Meyer Lemons are unavailable, combine the juice of one orange with the juice of ten lemons.

  2. I think that I would have left Rachel a tip, on the cocktail napkin: “Don’t eat yellow snow.”

  3. Don’t go back sounds very rude. Is her name really Rachel? Wonder if the boss will see this or they know you are a blogger too..

    Drinks are so fattening how does WW work those in? I know it has to be part of their system and you have to keep track and not have as many. It’s the one thing that sucks about dieting.

    (ps it’s spelled ‘gypped’ :)

  4. I can’t believe how timely this post is! I just gor awful highlights, so bad they were green, and my scalp was bleeding. But what I was furious about was the fact that the owner took zero accountability, no “we are going to make this right”, and that makes me really want to Yelp.

  5. Bill Norris is most likely the bartender/mixologist that Rachel was talking about. He left Fino’s in August and is now the bar manager at Haddington’s. I don’t know if he has the same cocktail you were looking for, but he has developed a great cocktail menu.

  6. There’s only one time in my life that I’ve ever been angry enough to not tip a service person. It was on a night when I met up with some friends at a bar when I’d had a long day. I got to the point where I had to leave before I passed out. So, when I got the bartender’s attention and asked for my tab, she said, “Just a second.”. I told her that I was really tired and wanted to go home. She just nodded and walked away.

    Then, I saw her ask several other people for their drink orders and bring them to them while I wondered when she would finally bring me my tab. You would think someone who wanted to go home that badly would be higher priority, but I guess I wasn’t because I wasn’t spending any more money.

    Then, when she finally brought it, she set my credit card, barcode-side down, in a puddle of water on the bar. I’m lucky it still works. I started to automatically leave a tip, then thought better of it and just left.

    1. I feel like there should be some unwritten rule where if it takes your waitress a million years to bring you your check, you don’t have to pay. Kind of like the Domino’s 30 minute delivery rule.
      No, it’s just me? Ok.

      1. My husband and I walked out on a bar tab (1 drink apiece, no biggie) because the waiter not did not come back to our table once during the time we drank the drinks (30 minutes) nor would any of the other servers pop in when we tried to flag them down. At one point, my husband was walking around with the check looking for the waiter, went up to the bar, only to be ignored by the bar tender. We were getting on an hour. At that point, we just left.

        That was at the Carousel Bar in New Orleans. Normally, a fantastic place to go.

  7. I agree, Miss Stephanie, it does work wonders. The simple gesture of it – acknowledging – builds a wonderful bridge. I admit my mistakes too rarely I think, but your lines inspire me to do the same.

  8. Good god, you are loathsome.
    Publically bashing a waitress and a restaurant because they made one little mistake. Ever consider how her day was going? Perhaps you should admit you are a bitch once in a while?
    Hey – Finos: you are in luck – the bitchy red head will not be back.

    1. It wasn’t that a mistake was made. It was the waitress acted put out for having to correct said mistake. There’s nothing worse than being made to feel that you, as a paying patron, are inconveniencing the waitress to do her job correctly.

      Sure, she may have been having a bad day. A terrible day. But is it too much to say “I’m sorry about that?” She doesn’t even have to smile.

    2. (I’m not the Rachel in question, FYI.)

      Anon, I get your outrage, but I’d like to point out that this — serving others in a timely, accurate way — is the person’s job. How her day is going is irrelevant. Is it nice to care? Yes. It is necessary, in the context of being a patron, paying her salary? No.

      I am kind of over waiters who feel like they are a protected class of people entitled to 20%+ tips for doing little to nothing. (Note: I always tip at least that for good service, and often quite a bit more.) But we are not eating at your restaurant for any reason other than we would like to eat a meal out. We owe you payment for the meal and gratuity if you do your job competently, no more, no less.

      I have a full-time job and treat people with respect and civility every hour of every day, even when I would rather be anywhere else. It’s called being professional. If you don’t like being a server, suck it up or get a new job. Not that hard.

  9. Bill (amazing bartender) resides over at Haddington’s on West 6th street now. My husband and I went in for dinner and drinks last Saturday and everything was fantastic. The drinks were fantastic and the food was great too. Did I mention they make the tonic used in the cocktails? So good! Check it out.

  10. It doesn’t seem to me that should be expecting perfect service at a place where you’re tapping away at your laptop.

  11. My girlfriend, years ago, introduced me to the concept of the “negative tip” when service is so poor they owe YOU money. Had that happen the other nite in San Francisco… the waitress removed plates I was still nibbling from without asking if I was through. “Minus $1” but of course, that only makes you look cheap. I think I’m going to start writing it in on the credit slip.

  12. Do you realize that in a lot of restaurants, it automatically charges you for time-related specials such as happy hour, etc, based on the time that the waitstaff inputs your order? So if someone takes your order at 4:58 and inputs it at 4:59, the computer will automatically charge the correct amount. If the computer clock happens to be 5 minutes off your clock, that will happen.

    Also, if I were serving someone who were intent on their laptop, I would take the hint and not try to chat with them. She was doing you a favor by changing the bill, albeit a reasonable change because it seems to have been an automated technicality. She doesn’t owe you an apology. You owe them one for shitting all over them on a popular blog because your server had the gall to fix a semi-error without groveling to you about it.

    1. The waitress wasn’t doing Stephanie a favor, she was correcting the bill to reflect the actual price, which wouldn’t have been necessary if she had given the correct bill in the first place.

      And what’s wrong with relaying the story here? Yelp, CitySearch, Zagat and tons of other businesses make good money for passing on stories just like this one. If you don’t like straight talk, Rachel, get your nose back in a Danielle Steele book.

  13. Just a note from a long ago waitress. Most restaurant computers automatically switch over for happy hour pricing. If happy hour is at 5 and she put your order in before five, the computer will not let her ring it up as happy hour pricing. It’s all automated to prevent servers from giving half priced stuff whenever they please. However, she could have sat on your order for a few minutes and then put it in when the computer switched over, but it’s likely she had no idea what time it is. When I was a server I never looked at the clock because it seemed to make time pass by faster. =)

  14. Have you seen the episode of 3rd Rock From the Sun where John Lithgow takes Jane Curtin to a fancy restaurant? He puts a stack of dollar bills on the table and explains to their server that each time something is not up to his standards, he will remove one of the bills. At the end of the evening, what’s left is the tip. My hubby and I have been tempted to do this, but haven’t had the nerve…who can tell when they’ll decide to do something nasty to your food ??

    1. Again speaking as a former waitress, you don’t want to piss off the people handing the food (and your credit card). I’ve seen things.

      Re: the stack of bills, I would find such an act incredibly patronizing, and it wouldn’t really matter to me how much you were “planning” on tipping me, treating me in that manner would certainly make me more inclined to give you worse service, because your $5 or whatever amount isn’t worth the abuse. A better solution, if you are so inclined, would be this: give the server a tip at the beginning of the meal. Tell him/her it is to ensure that he/she takes care of you and that there will be more where that came from. This actually happened to me at a bar I worked out, a man gave me $20 upfront and asked me to take good care of him. I gave him the best service of my life, and there was another $20 in it for me at the end. Because he began the interaction this way, I knew: 1. he was already going to be a good tipper, 2. I already took his money, so I had better give him my best (and if I didn’t you could be sure my manager would hear about it). And, he put me in a good mood right away. Maybe not for everyone and every situation, but it sure works! (Side note: nearly every time a customer says “I’ll take care of you.” or “I’m a good tipper.” They don’t and they aren’t. It’s practically code for “I’m cheap.” I have no idea why it works this way.)

      It should be noted, and this is common knowledge by now, but waitress do only get paid $2.13 an hour, but they have to pay tax on 15% of their sales (meaning if you don’t tip at least 15% they are being taxed as if you did anyways. They could actually lose money waiting on you if you stiff them). Tips should reflect the service, but be considerate. Everyone has bad days. If your boss deducted from your pay check every time you messed up or had a bad day, I imagine you wouldn’t appreciate that very much.

  15. My favorite waiter/waitress is the one who assumes all the cash in the cheque folder is for them to keep. More than once, we’ve had to flag down our server and ask for our change. It’s presumptuous & rude. It’s more appropriate for a server to say,”I’ll be right back with your change.” and to bring adequate change, ie small bills, so WE can decide the appropriate tip.

  16. i, too, almost broke up with fino. but had a great waiter who turned it around totally. if you sit outside on the, um, patio furniture? not the tables with chairs and napkin-rolled silverware, you cannot order anything that is not “finger food.” and you cannot have a fork. i like forks. even for some “finger foods.” and i wanted the damn tortilla something delicious that could not be served in the sitting on patio furniture area. i even mockingly asked our waiter if i could order the tortilla thingy and place it on the table with the silverware and extend my go go gadget arm to retreive it. he laughed. good thing he was old enough to know inspector gadget. and he returned with the tortilla cut up into finger food pieces. LOVE. i mean i almost proposed to him at that moment. i still love their happy hour. a lot. i’m still in, for now…
    p.s. other happy hour/server pet peeve… can you please give me a 10 minute warning on ending of happy hour? consequently, coming to ask if we want another drink at 7:02 pm is not cool.

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