Every Monday we ask everyone who hangs out around here to answer a tough question. This week:
What’s the Worst Thing You’ve Ever Eaten in a Restaurant?
Rules are simple: What’s the worst of the worst? Everyone had that phase as a kid where you filled a glass with all the grossest stuff in the kitchen and dared your friend to drink it for a dollar, but then they didn’t want to so you drank it yourself? Nope? Just me? Anyway, what is that one special absolute worst dish you’ve ever been served by a supposed professional?
I can eat just about anything, but I can’t eat mayo. It’s everything: the texture, the smell, the taste, everything. It’s almost “food-hack” at this point to hate mayo, but I stand my ground that this is something I cannot abide. Every time I order anything that might even conceivably have mayo on it as an option I essentially plead for them to not put any on it. Asking for no mayo seems to activate some secret bonus round of mayo in which you win the mayo lotto and get six times the mayo it would be reasonable to get. At a Hardee’s in Peoria once I got a burger that was more mayo than not mayo. It was mayonnaise that maybe, if you held it right, could hold beef and bread.
I think the worst thing I have eaten in a restaurant is something called Gaebul (개불in Korean) which is a pretty common seafood dish. It is served raw with salt and sesame oil and it looks a lot like a dog’s penis. The full creature is disturbing enough, but the sliced bits are considerably worse to prepare your mouth for as they still move and are a two-tone wonder of brown and blood-red. The texture is somewhat crunchy (imagine constantly biting through the skin of an apple) and tough, and it is supposedly good for a man’s sexual stamina. I have had this on multiple occasions (not gonna turn down free stamina) and probably will have it again in the future, having just moved to a coastal city. But man, it just isn’t something I would like to see on a plate, ever. Pics are included of before and prepared. [Editor’s note: GROSS WARNING.]
I visited my sister in Vancouver, BC, Canada last July while she was working there in her third of three years. We had a great time exploring the city, taking pictures of ourselves with the city’s faux terracotta Chinese statues. But one day, two of my sister’s Chinese friends (a married couple) took us to lunch in the Chinese mall. We were the only white people in the restaurant for sure, probably the entire mall. They asked us what we liked and then proceeded to order, quickly, in Chinese. Pots of deliciously hot white rice arrived, followed by plates of curried chicken, garlic noodles with black bean curd, and shredded lamb. I was quickly overwhelmed by the intense and glorious flavors raving inside me. But halfway through the meal, a plate of thick, bone-white slivers arrived in a light sauce without explanation. The couple looked expectantly at me and my sister. “Beef lung,” the wife said. “You’ll like.” Horrified, I saw my hand clutching the chopsticks, picking one of the biggest, whitest, most unnatural pieces from the pile, and stuffing it in my mouth. It felt like my tongue was wrestling a stingray. I was sure I would vomit right there onto the table. But I didn’t. After my sister ate a piece as well, the couple, satisfied, returned to their meal.
This is not a story about something that tastes bad. This is a story about poor choices and dire consequences. It’s not so much what the food tasted like as what it did to me. I was in Switzerland last summer, and Switzerland is the home of fondue. I ate like three buckets of fondue during the few days I stayed there. I do not know this for sure, but I’m close to certain that the Swiss don’t pasteurize some of their cheese. The cheese tasted pretty good, and the only drawback at the time was feeling like you’d eaten about 10 pizzas after the meal. The aftermath was horrendous. Something was living in and feeding on that cheese as I ate it. Something colonized my insides so thoroughly and with such reckless abandon that it fundamentally severed any link between my intestines and proper function. Right before a 13-hour plane ride home. On which the only movie available was The Hobbit. I spent half a day in a tube of misery and despair, I hate The Hobbit more than I already would have, and I couldn’t eat solid food for about a week.
Red Robin is a wonderful establishment. Let’s preface my experience with that. I used to eat there once every two weeks when I was working out in the suburbs. Until one day. And I haven’t been back since. In high school and college, I always resisted peer pressure. I didn’t drink or anything until I was ready to. But, for some reason, I gave into it when it came to The Wiseguy. The Wiseguy was a “special” burger that month (and I use the word “special” very loosely here) that was only offered for a limited time. It was a cheeseburger that had cheddar and mozzarella cheese, marinara sauce, pepperoni slices, and three fried mozzarella sticks sandwiched together. I was convinced by co-workers that this was going to be the best burger I’d ever eaten. It resulted in a weekend of being violently sick and a lifelong distrust for one of America’s more popular restaurant chains.
If anyone here has tried Balut, they win.
As for me, I fucking love sushi. Whenever I’m home I make sure to go to my family’s favorite sushi spot with my dad and devour more rolls than is permitted by the FDA. One time we put in an order for so many rolls that the waitress asked if more people would be joining us. We’ve tried almost every piece of sushi on the menu but there’s only one I’ll never have again: eel roe with a raw egg yolk on top. I don’t know what possessed my dad and me to believe we were some kind of Japanese Rocky but it was a nightmarish mistake. As soon as the roll was brought to us we knew it was going to be terrible but we had made our bed and now we had to lay in it. We decided to eat it first because if we looked at it any longer we weren’t going to make it. Eggs, slime, salt, seaweed, and rice just don’t mesh well. I gagged a little as I forced it down and my dad was stone-faced as always. The only thing he said about it was “We won’t be ordering that again.”