Sam Woo’s BBQ will always remind me of the grouchy waitress who shushed me when I asked for vegetables.
And the Old Sardine Factory in Monterey, California, will live on in my memory box as the place where I said, “I’ll give you a little tippy.”
It’s a shame really. The restaurant, an institution on the infamous Cannery Row, deserves better than that. While I’m not really a cream in my soup kind of gal (I prefer my cream in frozen form), I did enjoy the complimentary bowl of chunky clam chowder I received from my waitress in the lounge. She was kind to me – a solo diner in a sea of empty chairs and mini couches that were only temporarily occupied by older parties waiting for their tables. I was a bit of a sad sack with my sun burned face and blood shot eyes (from exhaustion, not booze), but she pretended not to notice.
My entrée, the sand dabs with chive risotto, sautéed seasonal vegetables (spinach, carrots, haricot verts), with a lemon butter sauce ($21.95), was also satisfying enough to merit more than just a flippant mention in a post centered around an unfortunate slip of my tongue. Unfortunately, it’s just not going to happen. The buttery pan-fried dabs and pedestrian risotto filled my stomach with a comforting blanket of fat, but still cannot receive the designation as the most memorable part of my evening.
Maybe if my experience at the Old Sardine Factory had ended when I signed the check, the food might have reigned supreme in my consciousness. But it didn’t end there. It ended when I went to retrieve my car from the young valet outside.
“How much?” I asked, already digging into my bag for my wallet.
“It’s free.” He responded with a coy smile. “We do it right here.”
And then it happened.
I don’t know if it was the glass of wine, my temporary stay at a restaurant better suited for my parents than a 25-year-old, or just pure exhaustion, but the words came out of my mouth before I had time to pass them through my mostly useless filter.
“Well, then!” I announced with a little demonstrative wave of my hand. “I’ll give you a little tippy!”
Regret and horror immediately capsized the pleasure from my full stomach. I shyly handed the valet a few dollars and then, once inside my rental car, I proceeded to bang my head against the steering wheel. The deed was done, and the restaurant’s fate was sealed.
The Old Sardine Factory: The place where I gave a valet a “tippy.”
The Sardine Factory
701 Wave Street
Monterey, CA 93940