By Maryam Shargh
"Oh NO!" cries a restaurant owner on the Upper East Side of Manhattan when Iranian customers walk in. As they look around, stroll through and finally settle in with noses held high, the waiters bicker and argue over who will serve them. The owner keeps a select Pakistani staff on hand precisely for times like this.
The restaurant is an acclaimed Iranian restaurant on a block well known for its variety of food establishments, ranging from Thai to Vietnamese, to Pakistani, Italian and French - and a 'Puddgies' lodged in the middle. Surprisingly, the owner of this Iranian restaurant targets foreign clientele. He says they're easier to deal with, far more proper, imminently more appreciative and certainly better tamed.
Today, the table from hell is occupied by us. We're a group of Iranian kids (27 to 37) who have decided to arrange a "Doreh" on Sundays at 6:00 for chelo kabab.
Needless to say, the girls order salads, Greek and Caesar's, which they select out of a menu laden with Persian delicacies. To boot, we insist on smoking, although New York statute stipulates there can be no smoking in restaurants - and we must have our tahdeeg or, in the words of one snotty member of the Doreh, "we'll go somewhere else".
Yeah right. We have no other place to go within a fifty block span. If we do, the food won't be half as good, there will be no cloth napkins,no wine on the tables and certainly not an understanding owner who implores his staff to stay patient with a group of spoiled brats who couldn't be bothered to ever make their own chelo kabab at home. Our saving grace is that the boys order Soltani.
I myself am a shop owner on the Upper East Side. I own a small boutique carrying fine Italian leather handbags. I know no greater unpleasantry than dealing with my few Iranian customers who drive up in their Mercedes, as though they are the only people on earth who own them, and demand better quality, a hamshahri discount and refuse to recognize sales tax. Then they order something and after its been made and shipped, they cancel.
Where did our ancestors go wrong?