Eating the Bull

There is an old Greek expression that roughly translates into something like this: “I ate the bull, why be afraid of the tail?”

In other words, once you’ve taken care of the big stuff, make sure you also handle the details.

It’s a nice piece of advice for folks in the restaurant industry.

Not long ago my wife and I were sitting at the counter chairs overlooking the kitchen at a newly-opened eatery (outside the Merrimack Valley) that had garnered rave reviews, a chef/owner with Food Channel cred, and so many other things going right for it.

We both ordered a glass of wine — a simple enough request — and that’s where the trouble started.

Our server brought over a bottle of the white my wife requested. A quick glance told me there was not enough left in it for a full glass. I was right, it was a piddly serving by any measure. Did our server offer to come back with a fresh bottle?


And that created a new problem. How could she give me a full serving of the red I ordered after she was so stingy with my wife’s wine? So she didn’t.

And it took only a casual glance at the diners around us to confirm that, well, either our server panicked when she poured our wines and made a bad decision or … she didn’t especially care and thought that perhaps we didn’t or wouldn’t know any better.

How was the rest of our meal, you ask? It doesn’t matter. My wife was so insulted by the wine episode that she made up her mind never to return even before we left.

Just like that bull’s tail in the old Greek expression, they forgot about the little things, and it hurt them.

To the best of my knowledge, there is only one place that one of my reviews actually shut down. I was working for a local daily at the time and the place was the Nashua satellite operation of the then mighty Hilltop Steakhouse chain.

I casually noted in the review that I knew what the party seated at the table before us had ordered because most of it was still on the wall above the table while we dined.

A longtime friend who worked there as a waitress later told me my criticism did them in, though I now look back on that review as a form of culinary euthanasia. The place was already on life support, I only put it out of its misery.

But again, it was all about the detail … or in this case … the lack of them.


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