Ghost kitchens scare the shit out of me, as it comes to food allergies and cross-contamination issues.
Say a wing place pops up online and their menu features only chicken wings, fries, and cheese sticks… seems safe for me. But, as a person with severe food allergies… the place could have a full kitchen and share cooking surfaces and/or fryers with shellfish, to which I am highly allergic.
I like to see a restaurant’s full menu. I determine where I may go after looking at menus online. If they’re not showing the full picture, that is a lie to the consumer. It’s even better if they can provide a chart for allergen ingredients or better yet cross-contamination.
So, I’ve written about tipping at length before. I won’t get into all of it again, but I have heard the subject come up lately, and I just want to know where I fall. This is all about discussion. I want feedback. How do you tip? Some questions I’d like answered…
Do you tip 20% when out to eat, or are you still at the 80s 15% standard? (Please don’t say it’s 10%.)
Do you round to the nearest dollar or leave exact change?
If you only get a slice of pie and a cup of coffee (or less), do you throw percentage out the window and go for a minimum amount?
Is it cool to leave the tip on a receipt if paying with a credit card, or does the waiter/waitress think you stiffed them?
Do you tip if there’s an automatic 18% gratuity for a large party?
Do you tip better (or worse) based on service, or should it be automatic?
How much do you tip a pizza guy/girl?
Does the pizza tip change if you have more than pizza or a ridiculously large order?
Do you adjust tipping a delivery person in inclement weather, on or near a holiday, or on a day like thanksgiving or New Year’s Day when everyone else is ordering out?
Is your delivery tipping based on a percentage of the total, or on a flat per-trip fee?
Is it cool to leave the tip on a receipt if paying with a credit card, or does the delivery driver think you stiffed them?
Do you tip on take-out when you pick it up?
Do you tip at Starbucks or a mom n’ pop coffee place? Is there a difference?
If so, is it change, or paper?
Do you tip per beer/drink at the bar, or per round?
How much do you tip for a $15 or $18 men’s haircut? How much more for a beard trim or a shave?
Who else do you tip that may not be so obvious? The garbage man? The mailman?
I try to tip well as with my food allergy I have a small circle of places where we dine out or get delivery with a high level of comfort. I want to make sure I’m in the right place.
As a reminder, you can comment here without a WordPress account if you’re already logged into Facebook or Twitter, just go to town!
CHAINS. I wanted to tackle the prominent area pizza chains for part 3. (You read parts 1 & 2, right?) I’m really not supposed to eat pizza right now thanks to recently diagnosed GERD/Acid Reflux/Barret’s Esophagus, but I have eaten many pizzas from these many chains over the years. I’m going to be extra picky about my pizza from now on. I’ll probably stick with Slice on Broadway and Aiello’s. But the event may come up where I need to pick a chain place again, and here’s where they fall…
Fox’s(or Fox’s Pizza Den) is pretty good. The different locations aren’t always consistent, but when you find a good one… stick with it! I really dig the one in Bridgeville as of late, but the one closest to home is the one in Brookline. I grew up on Fox’s in Murrysville, as it was the only place who would deliver to my house out in the boonies. I don’t know if Fox’s recently revamped their UrbanSpoon profiles or what, but I know I’ve reviewed the one in Brookline, but it’s not there. Their pages all seem to have little to no reviews or votes. I remember going on & on about the wedgies. In fact, I found it at another source…
Gimme a Wedgie!
It’s not the sick twisted fantasies of a nerd that likes being dominated by bullies… It’s a call to order the best #%@$ing sandwich you’ve ever had. It’s served up on a pizza crust instead of a bun. How awesome is that? The steak one is my favorite, but I’ve never seen one that doesn’t look appetizing. Just make sure you’ve got plenty of napkins on hand.
Their pizza is pretty damn good too. There was a Fox’s near where I grew up in the suburbs, but they never had a menu this vast. I sometimes end up getting the fried zucchini or the potato wedges… but really can’t ever eat anything after finishing a whole wedgie. In fact, my wife & I even sometimes just split one to avoid over-stuffing. Ordering for delivery is usually the standard half hour to 45 min., and they’re usually there before they said they were going to be… so that’s a plus. You can’t go wrong with Fox’s.
Vocelli Pizzais another one that must have purged old UrbanSpoon reviews. There’s virtually nothing there. I used to love Vocelli’s, even if they’re just named after a made up Italian sounding word. The service at the local one went down hill, and this is what it used to say on UrbanSpoon:
I used to love this place, & would order quite frequently. But, the last time we got a Buffalo chicken pizza, there was hair on it. My wife called & told them, they said they’d send a coupon for a free one next time. We never got any coupons, and were hungry for their food again… so I got a stromboli and the wife got a buffalo chicken pizza… and the pizza had hair on it again. She found it (luckily) on the first bite. So, she called the call center. She of course, didn’t eat any more, so we could show them. The delivery boy showed up… was incredibly rude, didn’t look at the old pizza, and practically threw the new one at my wife.
I don’t know why he took it personally… I was gonna tip him for coming out the 2nd time because he didn’t put hair on the pizza… but with actions/service like that, they can shove it. I always tried to tip well too, as we (used to) get pizza form there all the time. This was enough to end it. There’s plenty of other pizza shops around, apparently they don’t need our business, anyway. Hair in a pizza once? I can see it happening. Twice within the span of a month or two? That’s just absolutely ridiculous.
So… in closing, I’d say what used to be a great place has now sunken to a.) being filthy, and b.) having terrible customer service.
…but in all fairness, after a while we did go back & they seemed to have weeded out the bad employees. I’ve also tried their artery-clogging Alfredo sauce on a pizza, and loved it. My triglycerides did not. I do like Vocelli’s normal sauce, and they generally make a consistent pie & decent subs. If you’re ordering for a crowd, I’d say Vocelli Pizza is an across-the-board crowd-pleaser.
''Vocelli?'' Sure, that sounds Italian enough!
Papa John’srules with their online ordering. The sauce isn’t quite as good as Vocelli’s, but they do always give you the tasty garlic dipping sauce and a Peperoncini. They do rock as far as consistency. You know what you’re getting every time. I wish they had subs, I always like to get subs… especially turkey, or sometimes you’re in the mood for a pizza-shop Italian sub. But then again, maybe they just want to focus on pizza & doing it well. Check out these amusing blog posts about Papa John’s:
Little Caesar’s, what the hell happened? When I was a young lad, we would pickup a pizza after we left Network Video (a place where you rented VHS tapes for the kids out there), we’d pop into Little Caesar’s for what I think was called a Bigfoot… two big-ass square pizzas side by side? I’d always want breadsticks, because I have an unnatural love for carbs. I was sad when Little Caesar’s all but disappeared and was relegated to Kmart stores for some strange reason. When there was a recent resurgence, and a subsequent person paid to stand on West Liberty Ave. and sling a Little Caesar’s sign… I was excited. We tried the new incredibly cheap pies one night… and they were terrible. The sauce is definitely much more bitter than I remember, and perhaps in my old age I forgot about all the grease that adorns (soaks) their crust. I still like the breadsticks, and $5 is pretty good for the amount that they give you, but $5 of crap is still crap. If I’m in the mood for punishment, need an immediate meal, and it’s a week where I need to pay for dinner with couch change, I may go back.
CiCi’s ought to change the name to CaCa’s. I’ve only ever been there once, but that’s all I need. Wow. It was like eating wax & tomato soup spread out over crackers. Who cares if it’s cheap and all-you-can-eat when it’s absolutely terrible nutrition? My high school cafeteria served better pizza, and even better pizza imitation food. I think there was a salad bar, and an unholy “mac n’ cheese” pizza. I don’t remember much other than the dried crusty partial pies getting tanned under the hot lights and maybe even someone shouting a welcome when we walked in. I just wanted to leave but had paid and tried to just stay & eat my few dollars worth. CiCi’s won that day. There’s no way I had eaten more of that crap than hat I paid for.
Pizza Hut causes me great gastrointestinal distress. Every few years, I forget and enter a Pizza Hut thinking “ah, it wasn’t that bad”. Yes, yes it is. Perhaps I hit an age long ago where Pizza Hut was no longer compatible with my intestines. Perhaps I was really slow to learn the pattern. We didn’t do Pizza Hut too much when I was growing up. Maybe I never built up a tolerance/immunity. The pizza itself isn’t bad, I’ve had the personal pan, the normal pies, a few lunch buffets… they generally have a good crust & good flavor… albeit greasy. It’s just that their pie unleashes itself like an assault team on my digestive system. The one in Greentree is the last one that I visited. The service was slow, and I didn’t feel welcomed at all. Hopefully it steels my resolve to skip Pizza Hut in the future.
A letter within a maze, for my pals at Pizza Hut. (They never did write back!)
I know I missed Domino’s, but I was never impressed with their pies… and there’s never one around where I’m ordering. I did like the Noid commercials back in the day though. I haven’t tried their revamped pies. I don’t feel like I’m missing anything.
Did I miss your favorite chain pizza? Did I miss your most reviled?
Beto’s is another place nearby that is just excellent. They’re the place that you’ve probably heard of that doesn’t cook the cheese & other toppings. You’ll probably either love it or hate it. I dig it, the wife does not. The only thing I’d change is the consistency of the sauce… I’m not a fan of chunks of tomatoes in pizza sauce, but the flavor is excellent. They don’t get all fancy with toppings here either, just simple, straightforward pizza with cheese that’s melting as you eat it. I think my favorite way to eat it is just as plain cheese pizza. Why mess up such a beautiful combination?
Molly’s Pizza is close by too. They have some great pizza, and some really crazy specialty pies like the Ranchero Steak Pizza and the Pierogi Pizza. I personally like to get a pizza with zucchini on top. Excellent stuff! It’s hard to pick a favorite around here.
Foiri’s is a south hills institution. Sorry, I don’t get it. Is it good pizza? Most definitely. Is it overrated? In my humble opinion, yes. Maybe I’m biased because you can get deathfish as a topping there. At any rate, if you’re in the area and a pizza aficionado, it’s worth checking out before you decide that Slice is the best place around.
…the restaurant has become a vibrant gathering place for lovers of Neapolitan pizza, pasta and Italian wine. Nearly everything on the menu is hand-made. And if it’s not made in-house, it’s imported from the best artisans, cheese-makers and salumeria in the world. Mozzarella di Bufala comes direct from Naples every Thursday and the pizzas are baked at 1000˚ in a handcrafted, wood-fired brick oven for less than 90 seconds. This, along with perfectly leavened dough, San Marzano tomatoes and extra virgin olive oil, produces the most authentic Neapolitan pizza possible.
So obviously, this is no Pizza Hut. They make incredible gourmet pies. Unfortunately it’s entirely not what I’m craving when I “just want a pizza”. This is where you want to go when you’d like a nice evening out to enjoy some of the lightest most delicious pizza you’ve ever eaten.
Italian Village Pizza is all over the place. Both by location and quality. They used to have a killer A1 Steak Sub at the one on Rte. 51, but I don’t think they have that any more. The last one I frequented was the one in McMurray, but I only ever got the pizza once or twice. The steak & Italian subs are incredible, but the sauce was just too bitter for me. It tasted like straight tomato paste with some basil thrown in. Some people love it, but it just wasn’t my thing.
I’m still not sure what the exact dispute is… if there’s still a dispute, and if there are only two Vincent’s involved in this saga. Can anyone fill me in on this? I’ve heard several amalgamated stories over the years. Some credible news even. First, you’ve got to get your head around the locations…
I haven’t been to Vincent’s Pizza Park in Holiday Park in a long long time, but I remember it as the greasiest pizza I have ever had. It was good, but greasy. Some people like that. I’m not the biggest fan of grease, but I remember they had a nice thick crust & a flavorful sauce.
I don’t think I’ve ever been to the Vincent’s in Greentree, but the one in Southpointe has great steak subs, garlic buns, and pretty good pizza. Their “like it” percentage on Urbanspoon is pretty low though. No idea what’s up there.
Which Vincent’s is your favorite? Which Vincent’s location is the best & the original? (I think it’s Vincent’s in Forest Hills)
Please, chime in on any of these locations, any from my previous pizza post, or any that I may have missed. I may dive into pizza chains next. Pizza is always a subject of hot debate (and it goes well with beer).
I wanted to write to let you know that my wife & I had an excellent experience with store manager Matt Walker at DFW in Pittsburgh earlier this evening. We left a Value City nearby wholly disgusted with their salesperson, and our experience at DFW was such a great relief.
…but we want to encourage feedback and interaction from the community on Facebook.
Example : The recent story from Eric in Pittsburgh about his shopping experience at Value City Furniture vs. DFW Furniture in Pittsburgh.
We realize that advertising is always SUSPECT…But customer testimonials are PRICELESS… and credible.
How awesome is that?! I’m famous! Ha ha.
In all fairness, Value City did indeed reach out in the comments of the original blog, and as requested… I did follow-up:
From: Eric Carroll To: email@example.com Sent: Mon, April 25, 2011 Subject: Blog about couch buyin experience…
Hello Mr. Snipes,
I’m responding to your comment on my blog. I’m not sure what else you would need detail-wise, or any way of resolving anything. Did you first read about my blog through your submission form? I don’t really have any other details then what I expressed in my blog. What else would you be looking for, exactly?
.seitilibasid gninrael fo nuf ekam ot ynnuf ton yllaer s’tI
And, this was the response:
From: “Jeremy.Sipes@americansignature.com” To: Eric Carroll Sent: Tue, April 26, 2011 Subject: Re: Blog about couch buying experience…
I just wanted to make sure to reach out to you regarding your experience in the store. I apologize for your experience with one of our sales people. I will be in contact with store management in order to address your concerns. I am glad that you found furniture that you are happy with, it is just unfortunate that you were not able to so with our store.
If you need anything going forward, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Thanks for your time
American Signature Inc.
Customer Service Coordinator
Again, there’s not too much to do at this point, is there? Although, they did have some cool pop-bottle looking bar-stools there…
So, the wife & I been saving to buy a new couch & loveseat for quite a while. We’ve been very casually looking at furniture stores since last October. Retail sales people in general really bother me. I tense up when they approach. It’s impossible to walk into any furniture store & browse without a sales person being on you like white on rice. I have an issue with the titles too. They never call themselves sales people. It’s always “associate” or “specialist” or “floor manager” or “Archduke of Ass-cushions”. You’re there to sell furniture and make commission, not to help me with the interior design in my house or really even to sell me what fits my needs. You want to up-sell as much as possible. I know that, you know that… why can’t you admit that you know I know it? Pardon me, I’m getting ahead of myself.
At Levin’s they weren’t interested in showing us anything other than the most expensive couches. Once they got an idea of our budget, they weren’t interested. Roomful Express was a veritable pressure cooker with a “buy it now because we’re going out of business” style sales pitch. So, no warranty then? Ikea is great, and we love the place for other reasons, but none of the couches that we saw on our last few trips fit our style and budget. Big Lots had some affordable furniture, but the couch we had considered there only came in one awful orange-tinted brown… and it just brought poop to mind.
That brings us to the events of tonight. We had passed by the DFW on Rte. 51 a week or so ago, but we decided to check it out. We had looked at a few of their pieces online and were happy with the price & selection. We decided to stop at Value City first since it was on the way & we were out looking. The plan was to look around at Value City, check DFW in person, and if we needed to hit Value City on the way home, we could do that. We could not have had two more divergent experiences. I will mention sales persons’ names below, as it’s my intent to contact both Value City & DFW with the details of our experiences. They both need to know what’s going on in their stores, good & bad.
As we were walking up to the door at Value City, we could see a young sales guy looking out the front window directly at us as if we couldn’t also see him. He ran out of our view to his left, not unlike a puppy running to get some treats. I said to Bethany “Wow, this guy’s going to be all over us before we’re even in the door.” I was wrong. Another sales guy was on us as soon as we were in the door. He appeared like Batman disappears in the movies & cartoons. I really have no idea where this guy came from. He was just there. I say “sales guy”, but he called himself a “floor designer”, commented on Bethany’s Penguins hoodie, and introduced himself as Bill. Bill asked what we were looking for, we said couches, and he gave is a well-rehearsed (read: tired) spiel about how we were “here for two things; eye appeal and butt appeal”. Things like “it’s got to be comfortable”, “sit on it, jump on it, relax”, “microfiber is just a fancy way of saying 100% polyester” were said. Also, there were mentions of how their parent company owns Big Lots and DHL and a few other companies… which have absolutely no bearing on me buying furniture. I’m not impressed with image. Cheesy, but at that, he let us off to browse on our own. We made our way up the first aisle, down the second, and were on the way up the third when Bill caught us again. Along the way, we saw two couch/loveseat sets that we really considered purchasing. We had our mind set on one because it was comfortable and within our budget and we were frankly just in the mood to finally purchase a couch this evening. When Bill caught up to us the second time, we may have confused him, as we talked in passing to another family who had just walked in the front door. Bill proceeded to introduce himself to us and give the same “eye appeal and rear appeal” into the “microfiber=polyester” speech that we had just heard less than ten minutes earlier. As we were just into the third aisle, we were beginning to realize that most of this furniture was above our budget… so the plan was to walk through quickly. Bill caught us by a rather ugly yet comfy reclining sofa that was ridiculously priced and begged us to sit in it. We obliged. Then Bill proceeded to tell is that we may recognize him from TV as he’s the “furniture doctor” (or something to that effect) on KDKA. He also said that he sold this same couch to Tyler Kennedy & Max Talbot, then named some Steelers for good measure. This is where my mind was made up that we wouldn’t be buying anything from Value City. I don’t care who else has the same couch as me, and these local sports heroes will never be sitting on my couch… so it really is irrelevant. Also… I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but just looking at us, he should have known that the couch in question was way out of our price range. I would like to make it clear that the only reason that we didn’t buy a couch from Value City this evening is Bill Crewson. I found him to be pretentious, pompous, and obnoxious. We escaped Bill’s sales pitch of doom, and had a discussion around the first corner. My wife agreed with my assessment and decided that worst-case scenario, we would come back & deal with a different sales associate because Bill was not getting a dime of commission from us. We promptly headed to the door. Bill again appeared out of nowhere and handed us a business card as we were on the way out the door, title being “Home Furnishing Consultant”. Get your title/position straight, Bill. Consistency is a good thing. As soon as we got home, I fired up Firefox and Googled the bejesus out of Bill’s name on KDKA’s website. I can find no mention of Bill by name or by “furniture doctor” or “couch doctor” or whatever he called himself (or anywhere else on the web). If someone knows Tyler Kennedy or Max Talbot, tell them to call me to talk about their couches.
Next, we went to DFW. The experience there was as refreshing as Value City was exasperating. We weren’t immediately pounced upon when we walked in the door. After we had made our was across the front of the store, we were casually approached by a Mr. Matt Walker. He asked us what we wanted, and what our needs were. He explained what they had, how the discounts worked if you bought outright vs. a payment plan, and set us free to roam around the store. Still reeling from Value City, I thanked Matt for being the first sales person in a furniture store that wasn’t so far up my rear-end that they were looking out my mouth. He laughed like he hears that a lot. Bethany & I were able to take our time, look at the prices, sit on the couches… and we again found two sets that we liked and that fit our budget. The one didn’t come in any different colors, so we happily picked the other, and we had to seek out Matt to let him know that we were ready to make a purchase. To not be hovered over, or approached a second time with some sort of practiced sales pitch, or to not be only shown the most expensive pieces on the floor was a huge deal. Happily, the set we wanted was well under budget at the advertised price. Not only that, but we got a discount for paying for it all at once. There was also another deeper discount because the floor model was the only one left. We looked it over, were satisfied with the condition and quality and went with it. We did purchase a reasonably priced protection plan for the cushions and there was a standard delivery fee… and we were still under the advertised price for the set. I urge anyone in the Pittsburgh area looking for cheap quality furniture to seek out Matt Walker (Store Manager) at DFW on Rte. 51. DFW should send all of their managers and sales persons to Matt to be trained. They would be wise to pick up his tactics and demeanor. The delivery is set for tomorrow, I’ll have to pop up a photo and let you know how that goes!