Bun-less Burgers

After returning from an arduous morning of picking fresh, ripe strawberries and uprooting dusty purple beets from Larriland Farms out in Maryland, a group of friends and I decided it was high time for lunch. More specifically, it was time for a burger. To Open City we strolled. Now, for a little unnecessary, but amusing, scene-setting context:

It was Pride weekend in DC.

Accordingly, our waitresses were bedecked in flaming purple, yellow and orange Pride beads, and many wore some fantastically flamboyant hair accessories. Think feathers.

To our right sat a table of glum-looking Pro-Life supporters. Outfitted in aquamarine t-shirts emblazoned with messages like, “A person is a person no matter how small,” and “Your mom chose life,” they were looking more than a little uncomfortable.

Now back to the burger. A friend and I ordered the exact same thing – a cheeseburger with fries. Following the menu’s written request to “please inform us of any food allergies before ordering,” I ordered first, requesting that they note the corn and peanut allergies on the meal ticket. My (non-allergic) friend went next: “I’ll have exactly what she’s having.”

About 15 minutes later, our plates were set before us. Two identical plates. Two completely bun-less burgers. We looked at each other, smirking and issuing “ummmm” noises.

We hailed our waitress, who immediately understood the mistake. “We’ve been going through some allergy training,” she said, “and our when our chefs see the word ‘allergy’ on a ticket, they immediately take all the bread away in fear of wheat allergies.” She apologized profusely, and we all laughed at the well-meaning, but misguided chefs. A minute later, we were presented with two perfectly grilled buns, which we immediately slathered with ketchup and slapped on our naked burgers. Delicious.

Props to Open City for the acknowledgement of food allergies in their menu, and in their training practices for staff. They might just want to be a bit more discerning when reading the allergy notification on the ticket…

Open City                                                                                                                           2331 Calvert Street NW  Washington, DC 20008

Have you had any comedic mishaps at restaurants? How did the management handle it?

For your viewing pleasure, please enjoy this classic “Good Burger” sketch from All That.


A Real Gem–er, Pearl

I dislike oysters. I might even say that I strongly dislike oysters. Accordingly, one might wonder why I was visiting a place named Pearl Dive Oyster Palace. However, my initial misgivings had nothing to do with oysters themselves—I was nervous about peanuts. Peanut oil, specifically. Unfortunately for me, many Southern-inspired restaurants fry with peanut oil or sprinkle crushed peanuts on dishes. Preparing for the worst, I made a point of calling ahead to discuss my allergy.

A manager answered my call, and immediately transferred me to the chef, who was more than willing to answer all of my questions. “I would love to talk to you about your dietary restrictions!” she exclaimed. During this call, the chef was able to assuage all my concerns about peanuts and corn. The restaurant didn’t use peanut oil, and she was adamant that any substitutions would be perfectly fine, and that the waiters would take great care of me. But here’s the real kicker:

Chef: So when are you thinking of coming in?

Me: I was actually planning on coming in tonight with a friend of mine.

Chef: Fantastic! What’s your name, and what time will you arrive? We can have all your information ready, and we’ll be prepared for you when you get here.

Pearl Dive doesn’t take reservations. It’s a first-come-first-served restaurant, but in order to guarantee an exceptional customer experience, the management bypassed their rules in order to make me feel welcome and comfortable in their restaurant. And my goodness that meal was extraordinary!

Fried Grilled Shrimp Platter

The decadent crab cakes I ordered were originally accompanied by a corn sauce, but the waiter easily substituted a carrot sauce that was featured with their special item of the day. From the Pearl Cup (Pimms, Plymouth Gin, Cucumber, Lime, Mint, House Ginger Beer) to the Rustic Apple Black Iron Pie For Two (Apple & Cognac Filling, Cinnamon Gelato), the meal was a rousing success, made all the better by Pearl Dive’s truly exemplary attitude about my dietary needs.

Three weeks later, I celebrated my brother’s birthday at Pearl Dive. Again, I was met with over-the-top service and understanding from the wait-staff. The server suggested grilled shrimp instead of the cornmeal-crusted fried shrimp, and even made a point of giving me my own personal breadbasket that hadn’t been contaminated by the cornbread. Another amazing meal.


Strangely enough, I’m really starting to like oysters…

Pearl Dive Oyster Palace                  1612 14th Street NW                 Washington, DC 20009

Do you ever call ahead to restaurants to discuss your food allergies? Is it necessary to talk to the actual chef?