The Christiane Chronicles: Servers, at least apologize for bad food

Plus: Head for Buford Highway or Pleasant Hill Road to get the best of Mexico’s beaches on a plate
Christiane illustration

Illustration by Zohar Lazar

Deal With It!
Few things make me crazier than giving an honest answer to a waiter’s routine question only to be met by a blank facial expression. “How is everything?” shouldn’t be a pro forma question followed by a quick exit. Imagine the following dialogue: “How was the shrimp burger?” “Horrible.” It was perhaps the toughest, most overcooked thing I had eaten in recent memory. “Uhhhh. Sorry you didn’t like it!” Then my server ran off to the other end of the bar. Sending something back to the kitchen isn’t always easy. Maybe I’m eating with someone who has already gobbled up the lion’s share of our dinner. Maybe I don’t want to create a scene. But if I tell my server that I had a negative experience, I want him or her to apologize or—if there’s still time—offer a replacement. (That’s another thing: Servers shouldn’t check in too early or too late in the meal.) An appropriate response would have been, “I am so sorry. Let me get a manager.” Instead, I was left boiling mad in my seat and then handed a full check for a half-eaten plate of food. How often does this scenario play out? All the time! Restaurant staff who aren’t ready to handle real feedback will get what they deserve from me: a scowl and a small tip.

Mariscos El Malecon’s seafood cocktail
Mariscos El Malecon’s seafood cocktail

Photograph by Caroline C. Kilgore

Fresca Catch
Head for Buford Highway or Pleasant Hill Road on any Sunday and you will see tables packed with men chugging spicy micheladas, slurping raw oysters, and attacking platters of snow crab legs. Fresh tortillas and viciously spicy salsas fill any empty table space. Families are there, too, and couples romance over goblets filled with shrimp and squid swimming in bright-red tomato juice with onion and cilantro.

These restaurants are called marisquerias because they specialize in coastal Mexican-style seafood dishes, or mariscos. Some of Atlanta’s best: Mariscos El Malecon, Marisqueria Veneno, Costas Nayaritas, and the slightly ritzier Mazatlan. Their menus are more or less the same: grilled or fried red snapper and tilapia; caldos (soups) brimming with shrimp, scallops, and octopus; mixed ceviches; and dramatic presentations like shrimp with creamy mushroom sauce served in a hollowed-out pineapple.

Local marisquerias are often open during the week, but most are at their atmospheric best on the weekend, when the Latino community celebrates the end of the work week and splurges on bounty from the sea. Why would I go to Red Lobster when I can have the best of Mexico’s beaches on a plate?