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How do you handle "The Cockroach Thing"?

Frequent diners in NYC will almost certainly at some point encounter a cockroach in an eating establishment.

Without naming restaurants, please tell how you handle any or all of the 3 degrees of roach sightings:
1. Roach somewhere in the restaurant.
2. Roach at your table.
3. Roach in your food.

I know this is an upsetting post but I had an experience last night and am not sure I reacted in a way befitting the situation.
i.e. roach at table during entrees. We were comp'd apps, declined dessert, paid check and left. It was all a friendly exchange.

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  1. I think I'm probably a bit mor forgiving than others. Perhaps because i lived in New orleans for a few years where roaches are everywhere and run across your feet while walking on sidewalks at night....

    at any rate:

    1. Doesnt botherr me perse, but ill be on the lookout.
    2. at or ON? neaar me, i figure its he same as somewhere in the restaurant.... ON the table, i have more trouble with....id probably alert the waitstaff and expect some sort of apology/comp.... if it was an otherwise clean restaurant, id probably eat....if it was onn the skeevy side, id leave
    3. throw a hissy fit.

    1. 1. Bugs happen. But I keep a close eye on my plate.
      2. I pay for food I've already eaten, tip & leave.
      3. I leave. A server who fails to notice a roach on a plate doesn't deserve a tip.

      Sounds like you did everything right.

      1. 1. tell the waiter...i wouldnt be offended depending on the type of restaurant...i would expect it in some ethnic places that may be less clean than other places. id expect some acknowledgement in the form of a comped drink or something but i wouldnt flip out if i didnt.

        2. definitely tell management and probably make a scene. i am not squeamish but i wouldnt be able to finish my meal if that happened.

        3. flip the f%ck out and let everyone know it.

        1. Roach in the food: call my lawyer.

          1. I will never forget while at an Ethiopian restaurant in NYC seeing a HUGE roach running across the room. Since the seats were very low to the ground, it totally freaked me out (I mean this thing was the biggest I had ever seen). I shouted to the waiter since the roach was heading his way. The waiter (very calmly) smooshed it and flung it to the side with his foot....and kept walking like nothing had happened. The entire restaurant was in shock..not so much because "roaches happen" but because of 1) the nonchalance of the waiter and 2) the sheer size of the beast he eradicated. Again, since it was NYC and roaches happen, we finished, a bit wary cause we were so low to the ground, but I still associate that place with the roaches on 'roids

            1. I once mentioned to a waiter my disgust at seeing a couple of roaches crawl up the wall. As he walked away, he muttered, "that's nothing, you should see the ones in the kitchen.

              1 Reply
              1. re: steakman55

                ROFL! ok, seriously, as disgusting as it is, i absolutely lost it when i read steakman's post. it's just so new york, and so easy to envision. that's a story for monday's NYT metropolitan diary.

                sat down to dinner at a chinese restaurant on the LES with my aunt & sis when i was a kid. sis ordered the flaming pu-pu platter because she had seen others order it in the past, liked the name, and wanted to see the pyrotechnics. waiter brought the platter, set it on the table, lit the flame...and 2 roaches scurried out of the food and raced across the table in opposite directions.

                needless to say, we didn't finish our meal...nor did we ever return to that particular restaurant.

                i've lived around roaches for years - in NYC, as well as in ATL, where, by the way, they're ginormous [and you can hear them coming because they make a truly creepy clicking sound as they scurry across the ground]. somehow all the experience hasn't made me any less squeamish about them. the mere thought of them turns my stomach, and i shudder every time i see one. i can't bring myself to eat in a restaurant where they're actually visible.

                to answer the OP's original 3:
                1. stay & finish my meal as long as i don't see the roach - once i see it, i'm done.
                2. pay for what i've eaten, & leave before whatever i have already consumed ends up back on the table.
                3. as jfood said, inform the restaurant that i'm not paying, and leave.

              2. Roach somewhere in the restaurant: generally watch it like a hawk and hope it doesn't come near me.
                Roach at the table: put my feet up and hope it crawls away
                Roach in food: tell the server and expect a big comp. This hasn't happened. The other 2 situations have.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Lucia

                  Well, almost had a #3 at brunch this weekend. My friend had a fly floating at the top of her iced coffee--we were sitting inside. She told the server, who brought her another coffee w/o question. She was charged for the coffee. In fact, we received no comp at all, despite the server's also (1) forgetting my drink and bringing it 15 mins after he was reminded about it; (2) bringing the wrong item (chicken quesadilla) to my vegetarian sister; (3) charging for 2 orders of guac (we ordered one). We actually still tipped almost the same (18 vs. 20%), but I did complain on the way out.

                2. 1 & 2 = ask the server for the check and pay for what has been consumed
                  3 = call the MOD over and tell him that you are leaving with no payment. Any lip, see 1 & 2 above.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: jfood

                    OMG - absolutely.... run do not walk to the nearest.....

                  2. pan fried is best. just a drop of oil, salt and pepper. shake constantly. serve when crisp.

                    seriously, if the place is otherwise clean i would ignore. if high-end i would be seriously surprised (not too happy with the nasty chemical bombs required to achieve perfection, however).

                    been to a lot of places in a lot of different climates. i'm not quick to take offense.

                    1. 1. Not too happy, but not the biggest deal in the world.
                      2. Not too happy, will notify staff and request to be moved. That, or I'd probably kill it.
                      3. Hasn't happened to me. While I would like to think I would act more graciously, I'd probably scream like a little baby.

                      I was dining in Bali (where there are tons of insects) last year when this huge insect (makes water bugs look small) just grabbed onto my leg and refused to let go. Its legs just dug into me and was a bit painful. I screamed and screamed like a "typical woman." DH tried to remove the insect with chopsticks (he was scared to touch it) but it wouldn't let go. Finally, a waiter had to pry it off with his hands. I settled down and was thoroughly embarrassed. But I then resumed my meal.

                      1. 1. Roach somewhere in resto: Never had it happen. Too focussed on the food I guess. But as long as everything looked ok, I'd probably continue eating and watch carefully.

                        2. Roach at Table: Same as # 1.

                        3. Roach in food. This actually did happen once to me, in a Chinese buffet. There, amongst my shrimp was a large cockroach, clearly cooked into the dish. I pointed it out to one of the staff, who grabbed my plate and took it away. No comps, no apologies, no further mention of anything. I ate a little more, but didn't get refills on the shrimp. We paid up, but I have never been back. Should I have raised a stink? Yup, probably. What can I say, when you are young, you don't always know what to do.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: moh

                          Now that I know cockroaches are used medicinally in traditional Chinese medicine, I understand better the very similar reaction I got to your #3, which happened to me at Empress of ... China. It wasn't the whole thing, "just" a leg, the better part of an inch long with the whole sawtooth effect. One of my dining companions happened to have an advanced degree in entomology & positively ID'd the critter fragment. I had them bring me a completely different dish. I was astonished when they expected me to pay. "How do you know that's what it was?!" the woman at the cash register challenged. (I produced the entomologist.) They comped the dish, but not my soft drink, which I felt was, shall we say, ungenerous. I advised the diners waiting to be seated that they should watch for the other legs <g> And I called the health dept when I got back to my office, who assured me they'd be out the same day.

                          Just a few months ago, at a restaurant where I was a regular, a small cockroach (and those are the kind to worry about, they indicate filth, the big ones just wander in from outside) ran across the bar where I was sitting eating my lunch. There was no employee in sight, so I killed it myself, figuring that was the only way I'd be able to finish eating. They comped it, came & talked to me about it, and I left a tip, figuring it wasn't his fault (although he certainly wasn't there when I needed him). But I have not been able to go back--that was it for me. I suspect the infestation is really due to the restaurant next door, but ...

                          This is not NYC, and roaches are quite an unusual occurrence in restaurants here.

                          1. re: foiegras

                            Just wanted to mention that the cockroaches that people tend to run into are not used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. The "roach" that's used as medicine is called tu bie chong. The Latin name is eupolyphaga seu opisthoplatia. They are darker and rounder than the typical cockroach people see in America.

                            1. re: Miss Needle

                              What was prescribed for me was translated for me as "white cockroach"--but I don't deny that something could have been lost in translation ;) I'm sure it's different yet part of the same general insect family ... I felt perhaps the thinking is that we should not complain, we might be getting some medicinal benefit for free ;)

                        2. I've never seen a cockroach (gotta love the Pacific NW), but I have had sugar ants on my table at a relatively upscale restaurant. I got the heck out of there, but not before I used the bathroom and saw the disposable chopsticks stored not 10 feet from the toilet. Eww.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Vetter

                            geez, I hope you called the health dep't

                          2. You have to throw into the equation that there are NO restaurants without roaches and rats - the best anyone can do is try to keep them outside. When there's a dumpster full of resto leavings, it's a clarion call to every living thing within blocks.

                            So, for what it's worth = never a roach in sight? Then worry about how much poison might be in your environment although you don't notice it.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: wayne keyser

                              that isn't true everywhere. here in msp, out of the 16-20 restaurants dh and i have collectively worked at, only 2 have had roaches (and lucky me, i got to be the sunday night closer who let the exterminators in each week for a month straight. . . fyi, inadvertantly breathing "the bug juice fumes" has exactly the effect that hunter s. thompson reported).

                              msp's climate is such that the place must really be squalid to see a roach anywhere, plus usually be in a very old building that's always had restaurants, or in a shopping mall or something. i'd imagine the pacific northwest and most of canada is the same. i have certainly never worked anywhere that had rats. mice yes, rats no.

                            2. Growing up in northern California, I think I only saw cockroaches twice in my life (yes, really... the humidity is just too low for them). Then I moved to Hawaii... and like the poster from New Orleans said, they are everywhere. Restaurants here have to constantly battle them, but can't win every battle. So long as they stay off my plate and out of my food, I'm probably not gonna make a fuss. One time a friend found one at the bottom of her soup bowl. Called the health department. That restaurant isn't there any more.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: janetofreno

                                There's two to try.

                                #1) 50 percent powdered boric acid, 25 percent sugar, 25 percent nondairy creamer

                                #2) Equal parts Borax, flour, cornmeal, and a couple of dashes powdered sugar

                                Mix either recipe together and sprinkle in the dark corners and crevices that the roaches enjoy. While much more environmentally friendly than other pesticides (the EPA considers boric acid as harmless as table salt), you still don't want your kids or pets to get into it.

                                1. re: KaimukiMan

                                  Sure there are! I had the displeasure of seeing one on the wall next to me while dining in a VERY nice restaurant in Walnut Creek. The reaction of the staff was MUCH worse than mine. Infestation sometimes happens when products are brought in, not just because a restaurant has bad habits.
                                  1. Let the staff know- discreetly.
                                  2. Roach at the table, skoot my chair away and try desparately not to make a scene ( I am scared of all bugs).
                                  3. Call the waiter over and point out that what is on the plate is not what I ordered. It's highly unlikely that there would ever be a check.

                                2. Roaches are not allowed in New England, where I grew up. I saw my first one in Philly, my freshman year, and was grossed out. Here in Florida they are anywhere, and it has nothing to do with cleanliness and hygiene. They eat fruits and vegetables that we don't refrigerate or keep in closed containers, so even an antiseptic kitchen is vulnerable. Years ago at my employer's weekend house in Acapulco, I would gratuitously bring a folded magazine into the kitchen when I went for a midnight snack of ceviche, and commenced my "roach patrol" and whack 10 or 20 after I flipped on the lights. In Texas, they are called "tree roaches" to minimize the grossness and to provide an easy excuse that one of them somehow breached your perimeter defenses and infiltrated your lovely home. They have perfected their techniques and survival skills for 65 million years or more, and are worthy foes. But one in my food? Gong. Now way, no pay. A-dee-oos.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: Veggo

                                    Not allowed in New England? Hardly! I use to own a small business that was upstairs from a pizzeria in Boston (which shall remain nameless as it was quite popular on the Boston board) and we had them creeping up through the walls from below.

                                    1. re: BobB

                                      Yeah, I was going to say - if only the "not allowed in New England" thing were true. And not just in the cities, either, trust me. I've heard some delightful stories (which I won't repeat) from suburban strip malls and smallish towns in RI.

                                      I grew up in Miami and was frequently exposed to roaches. I never got used to the things - in fact I'm still absolutely terrified of them. Earlier this year I was down there visiting and went to the local mall, which I can't stand - but the food court has a generally respectable chain that does not exist in New England, so I was compelled by my craving for their specialty. Anyhow, I get in line to order and notice that there are several of the little bastids running around the cashier area and in and out under the door to the kitchen. I felt like someone slugged me in the gut - I discreetly turned and walked in a very determined manner to the exit. It's definitely a major weakness of mine.

                                      So put me in the "discreet 'check please'" group if I see one at my table - though I'm certainly enough of a realist to accept they are in many kitchens.

                                  2. At an upscale restaurant in Marina Del Rey, CA - daughter and I were enjoying our salads when a family of roaches climbed up the wall aside our table. One roach dropped onto the table near the candle and I deftly killed it with the bottom of the candle. Tried to get the servers attention but not wanting to make a scene waited until the busboy came by to pick up plates, informed him that there was a roach DOA on the table and live ones playing tag on the wall. Didn't seem to concern either server or manager and no apologies or comps. I haven't been back to the restaurant to see if they fixed the infestation but notice it still receives an "A" rating for health standards on door.

                                    1. 1) Quietly let the manager know that the pest control people aren't doing their job well.
                                      2) If he's well-mannered, possibly buy him a drink and ask how the wife and kids are doing. But usually, they aren't. I'd be similar to 1 but with a bit more urgency in the voice. If roachie is on the floor near the table, he's going to meet the business end of my shoe.
                                      3) Scream.

                                      1. I lived in Moscow for a year - for half of that time I shared two rooms and a bathroom with four other girls and a multitude of cockroaches. They were everywhere, especially at night. If you went to the loo in the wee small hours you would hear them scatter when you put the light on. They ceased to bother us after a while, but when we moved out we found dead cockroaches in the kettle (goodness only knows how long we'd been boiling them up) and in the toaster.

                                        My friend found a cockroach once in her ice cream at one of Moscow's better restaurants (this was the early nineties, and there wasn't a lot of food around). She called the waitress over and pointed out the situation. "It's a peanut", said the waitress. Without skipping a beat, my friend said, "No it's not. It's got legs!" The ice cream was replaced, but I don't think we got anything for free. That's not how it worked in only-just-post-Communist Russia.

                                        I've also seen cockroaches crawling up the wall in a central London restaurant. We did get freebies on that occasion.

                                        1. when I did a food managers course in florida about 2 years ago, the trainer told us there wasn't a restaurant in Florida without roaches and rodents. I am less grossed out by them than I used to be but they are still pretty disgusting insects. It's those legs and antennae!

                                          1. I've had everything but #2 happened to me.
                                            #1: we told the waiter discreetly
                                            #3 we told the waiter, who took away the food and offered a replacement, but we declined and got comped for that dish instead. Then the waiter comes back with the dish in question, made a scene of eating it with his colleagues, and laughed and said, "See, not so bad!"

                                            I think what skeeves me out even more is when I bite down on something crunchy, and there is absolutely nothing in the dish that calls for a crunchy ingredient. Ick. Generally, I just keep on chewing and try not to think what it might be.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: gloriousfood

                                              Just like that old joke..

                                              What's worse than finding a roach in your food?

                                              Finding HALF of a roach.

                                            2. I am terrified- TERRIFIED of the c-word. I know it's irrational. I am not a wimp, either- snakes and lizards are my friends. But when it comes to bugs, especially big ugly dirty ones, I freak. So I can't promise I won't scream in any of the above-listed scenarios. I am pretty sure, though, that I would be nauseous and would have to leave, under any of these circumstances. I'd be polite under #s 1 and 2, and pay whatever necessary to get out of there (this has happened to me). I'd be a raving shrieking lunatic under #3 (this has never happened, luckily).
                                              I once called my boyfriend at night (who lived in Washington Heights at that time) and cried and begged him to come down to the Village and help me with a "water bug" problem. Knowing me, he didn't even try to refuse. After that, I poured gallons of Clorox down all of the drains in my bathroom and kitchen weekly for months.
                                              I know, I should move to Nebraska.

                                              1. Roaches?? I was once on a business trip to a SouthEast Asian country and our dinner (at a local restaurant) was punctuated by a foot-long rat scurrying along the base of the wall about 6 feet from our table. That kindof thing can happen and doesn't always mean your health is in danger. Not a good sign, but not conclusive.

                                                1. First, as a born and mostly bred NYer, I have to say, it's hardly unique to NYC. In the 'burbs and rural areas, my favorite is the rats that come out for "feeding time" when the garbage goes out. Or just drop by to see if there's an odd snack lying around... Second, I've always wondered why people freak about roaches so bad - but then we humans IS funny animals, isn't we? (chuckle) But to the list:

                                                  1. People even notice that? Presumably these are people who "freak" at the thought the as I type, we all have thousands of dust mites living in our lungs???

                                                  2. "On" my table gets the offending roach flicked to the floor if it's slow or if it's quick, it gets to survive since it moved fast enough. (lol) I might or might not mention it to the server, mostly in a "you might want to tell the manager to hire a new exterminator" sort of way....

                                                  3. That's gross, and even though I know the next plate out of the kitchen is probably no "safer" (or they'll just replate the food depending on the place), I will insist they do something - whether it be replace it or remove it and take it off the check. depending on my mood, state of hunger and the timing.

                                                  Honestly, I'd refuse a comp. If my problem is that I don't trust their hygiene, I don't want their food whether it's free or not. If I'm not "really" worried about hygiene, I think it's a non-issue. If you want to be "insect free," don't be where food is, or has been. Welcome to life on Planet Earth. :) I mean everyone knows there is no chance that any food you've eaten on any given day didn't have "life" of some sort running rampant on it, right??? If were were quite that fragile, we'd have died off the second we fell out of the trees....

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: MikeG

                                                    " I mean everyone knows there is no chance that any food you've eaten on any given day didn't have "life" of some sort running rampant on it, right???"

                                                    MkeG, I recall reading a statistic which estimated the average American eats 1 pound of bug bits per year, or something in this order of magnitude. It is impossible to make products like flour completely bug free. Does it make any difference if it is ground up in our staples or if it is cooked whole into our meal? Hard to say. Point is, we all eat way more bug than we know. Sure, it is gross to see it in your shrimp dish (see my post above). But at least there I had a chance to pick it out, or not eat the dish!

                                                    I always wonder, are humans seen in the same way by other animals? Are we the real cockroaches of the world?

                                                    1. re: moh

                                                      I'm sure I've seen similar statistics but offhand, that seems not unreasonable and that's surely in developed countries, where insects are not part of the normal diet/cuisine, to boot. That's a lot of freaking bug when you consider how light they are, but where's there's life, there's bugs... or rampant self-delusion. (lol)

                                                      "I always wonder, are humans seen in the same way by other animals?"

                                                      Unfortunately for them, I think not - they don't seem to pay much attention until we actually try to eat or for various other, often random reasons otherwise kill them off; and by then it's often too late. ;)

                                                      I've only had the misfortune to have a roach in my food once (that I know of) and while I'm ambivalent about admitting it, I ate the food. But hey, at least it was a baby and alive enough to run from the takeout container! (lol) I did make quite sure it didn't have company and it was food I'd trekked back from a distance, that I couldn't get nearby. I'm not sure I'd do it again, but I'm not sorry I did that time at least. (g)

                                                  2. Another advantage to living in the icy far north. It's too damn cold for cockroaches! Do you know that cockroaches are the only animal besides man to land on the moon? They were noshing on the Eagle's wiring.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                      You summon up the mixed memories of when airlines actually did serve food, particularly the pasta on Pam Am.

                                                    2. There are many kinds of roaches and the german, small one is associated with dirt. The large ones are associated with water and are different in many respects. I talk about German ones here.
                                                      1) depending where it was - once saw them (multitudes) over the grill at a mickie D's, told the manager who gave me lip - told me to call the health department which I am part of. The inspection the next day was not pretty and the manager gave the inspectors lip. The chief inspector wrote a letter to chicago head quarters and the manager lost his job.
                                                      Other wise i have told a manager and they have taken care of the issue without a problem and even thanked me, because I said something discretely. Restaurants often have apartments above them and these things happen.
                                                      2) I would not be discrete and have not been quiet and I would expect that I would get something out of it.
                                                      3) Do everthing in my power to close the place down.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: PaulaT

                                                        #3 actually happened to my Father a few years back in a Chinese restaurant in NYC. His dish was wrapped in two lettuce leaves that contained, you guessed it, two lively roaches with an eye toward getting off that plate.

                                                        We paid for our soups and ran like the wind.

                                                        Ironically, before ordering, my Mom and I went downstairs to the bathroom. A door was open and we saw a wiry Chinese man who looked to be 100 ankle deep in dirty water chasing ducks. This place was famous for its duck but we refused to get the duck after seeing that spectacle. We thought our order would be safe.

                                                      2. I think you handled it well. I personally wouldn't want to alert other diners unnecessarily, but I would bring it to managements attention.

                                                        I once heard a story about a dinner at Gracie Mansion when Koch was mayor and a roach was seen on the table. One of the guests said something about it. Koch's response "They're New Yorkers too."

                                                        1. 1) I step on it (discreetly).
                                                          2) I take my shoe off and whack it (discreetly, of course).
                                                          3) I say in a shrill voice, "Um, waiter! Get over here!" I point to the cockroach and say "I'm sorry but I can't eat this," and leave.

                                                          Discreetly, of course...

                                                          Heck, I'll take a cockroach over a heroin overdose in the women's loo (true story) any day.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: chaddict

                                                            this entire thread is making me itch- I have a HUGE bug issue (the worst being crickets) but roaches come in a very close second

                                                            we have HUGE ASS FLYING F'rs here in NOLA and I'm learning that they just kinda hang out and visit

                                                            those nasty little german things- they are the ones that truly freak me out- I just quit a part time gig because I pulled some foil off a top shelf and one scurried accross the wall behind it

                                                            as for my answer to all 3 it would be leave, leave, leave

                                                            I work in the biz and I know it happens but it is totally avoidable and preventable and not taking care of the issue is inexcusable

                                                          2. I don't like it, but it happens...

                                                            1) Point it out to whomever I'm with and watch to be sure it doesn't get too close.
                                                            2) Gasp and squash it with whatever's handy - salt shakers, candlesticks - unless he gets away too quick. Then I let the waiter know, quickly and quietly.
                                                            3) A girly squeek. A major attempt to not toss my cookies. A rapid departure.

                                                            I have been back to the restaurants I've seen cockroaches in.

                                                            Once in the Bahamas a little crab came out of the bushes and scurried under our table. I let out a girly squeek, pulled my feet up off the sand and up onto my chair. The rest of our party didn't see the crab and thought I was a major dipstick. About 10 minutes later he came out the other side... I felt totally vindicated. ;-)

                                                            1. I once managed a restaurant that had a roach problem. We had regular visits from the exterminator and passed all health inspections. Problem was that the businesses on either side of us were not willing to exterminate at the same time. So every two weeks we'd bomb the place, the critters would go next door, then they'd return a week later. Our exterminator told us the only way to eradicate them would be to tent the block and hit all the businesses at once. No way our neighbors would agree.

                                                              The little ones are way worse than the big ones. They get inside appliances and hide where you least expect them. The big "palmetto bugs" are much easier to catch and/or kill.