If you live in New York and care a whit about food, you’ve already heard plenty about M Wells, the deliciously quirky Queens diner that has the city abuzz. But GQ’s restaurant critic had an experience there that he’ll never forget—for all the wrong reasons—and we’ve never read a story about restaurant quite like this. The passage below cuts straight to the heart of the dispute, but the whole piece is a tour de force of critical writing, journalistic self-scrutiny and, finally, ethical outrage. Click here for the full piece.
Nothing else of significance happened during that dinner. What stands out is the heat and the long waits. During our meal, Obraitis came by to say that she and her husband had to leave to attend an event and were looking forward to seeing me in a few days. I felt the same, although I didn’t enjoy the food as much as I had at the first two dinners, and the service was dreadful. In order to get a check, I had to wave to our elusive waitress.
Late the next afternoon, an e-mail arrived from Obraitis. This is what it said:
"I am a bit distressed by the feedback I received after your visit last night. Either you had despicable service or you guys were in an awful mood. It seems we couldn’t make you happy, several servers heard you complain and ask for more attention. One of those servers, a female, received a hardy pat on the ass from you. Totally unacceptable in our world. I don’t know what to think or how to proceed. But I must relay my worry."
I sat numb, experiencing the kind of paralysis a person feels when he picks up the phone and learns of a ghastly accident or a horrific illness. I was being accused of sexually harassing a member of a restaurant staff. After a few minutes, I wrote back, and this is what I said:
"Absolutely, 100 percent untrue. I just went bone-cold when I read that. In all my years going to restaurants, I have never done that and never been accused of doing that. I would not do that. Who in the world told you that? I will be happy to come to your restaurant tonight and confront that person, face-to-face. It’s a lie.
I will comment quickly on the other stuff. First, I thought one of the men in my group was totally out of line with his mouth and his comments. I just couldn’t get him to shut up. Second, we had two servers. A young kid, practically a boy, who brought the bar snacks and then forgot about us for 45 minutes, and a taller woman (blonde, wearing yellow?) who took over. Yes, I said something to her about nobody taking our order for 45 minutes, but that was the extent of my comments about service.
But it simply isn’t important compared to that accusation. I assure you it never happened, not by me.”
That indictment from Obraitis was wickedly reckless—unless, of course, she had witnessed me doing such a thing, which she had not. She did not ask for my account of what occurred after she and her husband left the restaurant. Under other circumstances, I might have dwelled on the illogicality of the first part of her message. Here was a restaurant proprietor blaming guests for being in a bad mood because they were treated hideously. But at the moment, it didn’t get my attention. The accusation was way too momentous.