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Harrassed at Sound Bites

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  • munchabunch Mar 17, 2002 04:11 PM
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A friend sent me this account of a disturbing visit to Sound Bites. It's legit. You can read the whole thing at Harvard's online Fletcher Ledger (www.fletcherledger.com). Excerpts below
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I picked up my friend, Nilu, at 12:30 to go to Sound Bites, a hole-in-the-wall diner that had been recommended to me and by most Boston dining guides. We arrived around 12:40, ordered, and were pleasantly surprised by the quick service. About three bites into the meal, a tall, bulky, early 40s waiter/manager came to our table, "Keep eating! You are talking, and there is a line at the door!" At that moment, there was a line of about four or five people at the door of the busy restaurant. We laughed, thinking that this was some sort of standard line for all the customers on a Saturday afternoon. However, I noticed that he didn’t tell any of the other tables of customers to hurry up. Each time he passed our table, he looked to see if we were eating instead of talking. At any rate, we were in a hurry, too. As I chatted, Nilu suggested, "Keep moving your fork. He’s looking." Feeling a little weird, I made sure to have food on my fork each time he passed. But it didn’t end there.

The line at the door alternated from being a few people long to non-existent while we ate. I had basically finished eating when he came back again. "Are you finished yet?" he asked, moving to take my plate. Nilu wasn’t finished eating, so I said, "No, a couple more minutes." He left the plate and returned momentarily to leave the check. We were definitely being rushed along, but it seemed like no big deal. A couple of minutes later, a bus boy came and, since we were both finished, took our plates. As we were finishing our coffee, the increasingly brusque waiter returned and yelled, "Hurry up! Hurry up! There’s a line at the door. You can’t just sit there and talk!" By now, the entire restaurant was quiet and looking at us. He went on, "What are you going to do, sue me?!" He gesticulated wildly. "I’ve already been told that I’ll be sued once today! Sue me! I’m in a crazy mood!" I thought, how coincidental; we’re law students. However, I replied, "No, we just won’t come here again." Enraged, he yelled, "You just can’t come here and sit for two hours!" This struck me as entirely wrong. "No, it’s been more like twenty minutes." He came closer to us and yelled, "Two hours! Two hours! Don’t tell me twenty minutes!" Then he came over and threw down his order pad on our table. He jabbed at the number on the top and shouted that based on the number, many people had already been served since we came.

I wasn’t sure what he was trying to do by coming closer, be menacing? He was a large man, but how far were those wild gesticulations going to go? Seeing that everyone was continuing to look and feeling judged by the court of public opinion, I replied, "I picked up my friend at 12:30 to come here." He ignored my reply and went to take another table’s order. "I’m in a crazy mood! A crazy mood!" he yelled again and asked for their order. They were a table of five young men, and they chuckled at the older man’s inexplicable behavior. I thought that he continued his insulting behavior because he regarded the reactions of the rest of the customers as amused and entertained. For my part, it seemed that our fellow diners exhibited more of a gawkish curiosity.

I noticed a couple who were talking over their coffee and had been there since before we had sat down. What was going on? Why such strange behavior from the waiter? We left only the amount on the bill. A tip didn’t seem quite appropriate, as we hadn’t come to the restaurant to be insulted.

Before we left the restaurant, we filled up our to-go cups at the help-yourself coffee bar. ...He passed us once again. This time he yelled, "Get out! Get out! Take your friend, too! I don’t need your money! Don’t ever come back! You hear me?" ...We finished mixing cream at the coffee bar a minute later and walked out. He was standing outside smoking a cigarette. He wouldn’t look at us as we passed. I looked at my watch. It was 1:30.

In a late conversation, we made an observation that seemed to be the only explanation: We were the only table in the restaurant of two women unaccompanied by a man. Would the waiter have made such a scene if there had been a man at our table? Were we such easy prey for his harassment? While the scene was almost comical and vaguely threatening, his behavior was humiliating. The reaction of the table of young guys was disturbing, too. ...

Link: http://www.fletcherledger.com/comment...

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  1. Jeez, the stories about this place are too much and this guy sounds like he needs some meds for his obnoxious behavior.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Joanie

      What he needs is for people to stop going there.

      1. re: BLT

        The "Breakfast Nazi" strikes again! It amazes me that this bozo has been getting away with this behavior for as long as he has. It seems that everyone I know (including myself) has been roughed-up by this guy. And yet, year after year, The Improper, Boston Mag., etc. votes this as best breakfast. I won't ever go back and maybe if enough people stay away, they'll get the hint. I doubt it, but maybe...

    2. I don't think this guy's behavior had to do with the fact that you are women, since I've seen him do this to men also. The last time we were there (which will be the last time) I saw him yelling the same way at a table of both men and women. He was actually yelling across the restaurant at them to get out and never come back since they were also "talking". It seems as though he is mentally ill. He's always been a little rude, but now he just seems out and out crazy. It's too bad, since the breakfast there is really good. But the atmosphere is so bad and he is so obnoxious that we will not return. I think people should boycott this place until they get someone who can run it in a decent manner. Unfortunately, I think he may be part owner of the place, so it's unlikely to change anytime soon. We are looking for some new breakfast options....

      1. Wow. Well, I can't say that you're the first person to relate a story like this about that guy. That's horrible that he embarassed your friend like that. Personally, I think the breakfast at Sound Bites is good, not great. There's a lot of hype and I don't think it lives up to it. I've had better and I've had worse breakfast than Sound Bites, at similar prices and atmosphere. But with the service beyond deplorable as described above, I will not be going back again.

        6 Replies
        1. re: chilibug

          chili, what other places do you like for breakfast? we are definately taking soundbites off the list.

          1. re: ellie

            I'm actually not a big breakfast person. I'm more of a scone and tea type of girl. But S&S Deli in Inman Sq. seems decent when you're looking for pancakes, bagels, omelets, hash browns, etc, though the wait can be an issue. I really like Garden of Eden in the South End too, for a bit more upscale (and calm) experience.

            1. re: ellie

              Until now, I favored Sound Bites because it's around the corner from me. Other nearby B-fast spots that I like are Renee's on Holland in Teele Square--nice pancakes. Havn't been there in a while but I notice they've more than doubled the size of their dining room. Johnny D's jazz brunch is quite generous--good omelets and great complementary oatmeal. Rosebud's B-fast is substandard, they're better for beer & fries at night. The Burren has a good & interesting Irish B-fast with eggs, sausages and baked beans (and Guinness if you want it) if you can stand stale smoke smell in the morning. The new Savannah Grill on Elm has brunch. I had dinner there recently and it was good, which bodes well for the brunch. Kelly's Diner in Ball Square is always packed, but I find for a diner it's pretty average.

              1. re: munchabunch

                Thanks, I'll try some of these! I agree about Kelly's...nothing special.

              2. re: ellie

                The Neighborhood Restaurant in Union Sq does a great breakfast. And even though they get crowds they are nice! It's best in summer when they open the outdoor patio.

                1. re: SEH

                  I agree on the breakfast. If you can get their before they close at 4 pm they do great dinner too. Portuguese and American home cooking, humongous portions, supercheap. The grilled lamb and the house Portuguese soup are particularly good for that price range. Many full meals are about 6-8 bucks w/ soup, salad, homemade bread (they bake on premises), dessert, and huge sides.