Have some scruples

Server Kerri Robbins says she’d prefer patrons pay before they leave.

Server Kerri Robbins says she’d prefer patrons pay before they leave.

Photo by David Robert

I have always been fond of stories where the protagonist turns out to be a criminal, or a least a criminal accomplice, like in Macbeth, or Lolita, or Mein Kampf. Perhaps this is because deep down I am, or fear I am, a bad person. I’m not sure.

Four or five months ago, I went to Scruples Bar and Grill to have food and drinks with friends. It was already fairly late, after midnight, when we arrived. I asked if they were still serving food and then felt like a fool when I noticed a neon sign: “HUNGRY GRILL OPEN 24 HOURS.”

This was back in the hot nights of summer, so we sat out on the patio. There were six of us altogether—with six healthy appetites for food and six unhealthy cravings for alcohol. We ordered a round of Blue Moons and some burgers and fries. The fries were too salty, and the burgers were too greasy, but in the wee early hours, with tall glasses of beer, too salty and too greasy equals too good. The weather was warm, the service was friendly, and we were well within range of the stereo cranking out juke box rock (mostly good stuff: Byrds, Stones, Springsteen, Beatles). Then, after about two hours and four more rounds, a couple of us left, leaving more than enough cash to cover our meals and our portion of the tip. The others stayed there for two more hours, and God knows how many more drinks, and then they too left. Without paying the bill.

We’re talking about hundreds of dollars of food and alcohol here. Not to mention the moral integrity of everyone involved—or rather, the failings thereof. I found out about the whole thing second-hand, nearly a week later. Now here’s where I really lay myself open for a moral condemnation: I wasn’t mad, or appalled, or disgusted with my friends, I was simply disappointed because I wouldn’t be able to eat at Scruples ever again. I did not consider anonymously reimbursing them, or anything like that. I simply thought, Damn, that was some of the best late-night bar food I’ve ever had, and now I can never go there again. Because they probably have a police sketch of me on the wall next to the cash register.

I, for one, would like to apologize to everyone at Scruples and would like to here offer this humble warning to my gentle readers: Pay for your food.

Tonight, at long last, I went back—after I got a personal guarantee from a friend of the owner’s that no legal action was going to be taken against me (or my friends—and they are still my friends, the jerks), even if I included the check-ditching anecdote in a published piece of writing. I had the bleu cheese burger ($6.75). It was good and juicy, the bleu cheese strong enough to be distinctive but not so strong as to overwhelm the other flavors of the burger. The meat was voluptuous.

The food, for what it is, really is quite good. I’m not just promoting the place out of guilt or shame or fear or anything like that. I wouldn’t sink to that. I might shrug my shoulders when my friends commit larceny, but I wouldn’t praise a place I didn’t like. C’mon, I have, after all, you know, some scruples.