'Did you want fries with that?'

Peach fuzz. And bravado.
Ahhh, youth.
The youngster (OK, too young to actually work behind the bar, by the looks of him) proudly put down a coaster and the drink. Black T-shirt, jeans, spiky hair. He had all the confidence of his age.
Which wasn’t much.
And he was fishing for compliments.
“Enjoy,” he said, eyeing the drink with raised eyebrows, a tilt of the head.
The mojito was in a pint glass. No ice.
And it was bubbling.
“What is that?” she asked, a smile spread across her face.
“I’ve got no idea,” I said. “Taste it.”
“Oh, you’ve got to try it,” she said. “It’s awful.”
And we call the waitress over.

“Anything the matter?”
“Yeah, this. There’s no champagne in a mojito.”
And so the bartender comes over to argue.
A mojito is mint leaves, muddled with sugar and lime juice, ice, two dashes of bitters, rum and club soda. A very refreshing summertime drink (I had my first in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, many, many years ago).
“There’s no champagne in a mojito,” I told the bartender.
“Uh-huh, yes there is,” he said. “But if you don’t like it, I can mix you up something else. The pomegranate martini is really good. We’re selling a lot of those.”

Dining should be about adventure.
It should not be about really bad service.
And bartenders who argue with you what’s in a drink (especially when the customer is older - and has tended bar in his life).
And I don’t mind speaking up.
(But in a nice way; it’s a critique, not a criticism.)
“Honey, it looks like you need something,” an older waitress said (after ours disappeared, it seemed, for days).
“Yeah, the owner would be great.”

The owner pulled up a chair, asked if he could sit. He looked beat to shit.
“How long have you been open?”
“Seven days now.”
“Uhh, you’ve got real service issues.”
“You don’t know the half of it.”
He told us how the restaurant had beat out all of his family’s places for first-day sales. How they ran out of everything. How two managers quit the first day. How this was his first go-round with a full bar in one of his places. About the waitresses who put in orders and walked out the back door – and never came back.
We talked about the restaurant business and how we hoped he would succeed. How the place was a no-brainer for a nice, inexpensive Italian place – right across the parking lot from an 11-screen movie theater – and how people in this area usually give a place one chance and move on.
“Just give us a second chance,” he said.
And the bartender put a huge margarita at his elbow.
I looked at her, she looked at me. And we laughed.
“You didn’t order that,” the owner said. “Shit. Now, there’s a table without their drink.”
We couldn’t help but laugh some more.
“Well, you want to try it?” he asked.
We declined.
“Well, I’m going to drink it. Hell, I need it.”
We’ll be back, but maybe not for the mojitos.
And maybe not for a few weeks.

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