It was the summer of 2019. During a business trip to NYC, a co-worker and I decided to explore Astoria in our free time. As the evening approached, our stomachs growled. Unfamiliar with the area and cashless, we kept our eyes peeled for restaurants that accepted credit cards.
The longer we walked down Steinway Street, the hungrier we became. An abundance of eateries had outdoor signs which read ‘CASH ONLY’ and ‘NO PLASTIC ALLOWED.’ It was a demoralizing sight, but hope was imminent. In the distance, a restaurant titled ‘Chubby Burgers & Chicken’ proudly advertised a poster on their front doors, the likes of which read: ‘WE ACCEPT CREDIT CARDS.’
Fate appeared to be guiding us to this fast-food utopia. The name alone was incredibly alluring. How could we resist?
Once inside, the high-cholesterol menu immediately grabbed our attention. In an act of bravery, my co-worker ordered a footlong sub, which contained three hamburger patties, melted cheese, and french fries, all crammed together into one heart attack of a sandwich. I played it safe and ordered chicken tenders.
While waiting to be served, we turned to Yelp to see what the good people of NYC had to say about Chubby Burgers & Chicken. It didn’t take long for us to notice some common themes peppered throughout these reviews.
“I feel like this place should only be reviewed when drunk because it should only be eaten when drunk,” one reviewer wrote. “…but seriously, don’t get food here if you’re sober.”
“They have a couple of places to sit, and it appears to be clean inside,” another reviewer claimed. “The food really isn’t the best quality, but so what? It’s open late, and you’re hungry…”
During our Yelp research session, a strange man stepped out from the shadowy depths of the kitchen. This man wasn’t wearing a uniform. Instead, he donned an oversized white t-shirt, a bright red pair of athletic shorts, and a pair of flip-flops. Most remarkable, however, was his choice of headgear: a blue biker helmet with a pitch-black visor that concealed his facial features.
We watched in awe as this enigma approached a nearby trash bin, which was overflowing with garbage. He proceeded to compress the trash downward with his bare hands. Once satisfied, the strange man with the biker helmet shuffled back into the kitchen and never reappeared.
My co-worker and I were beginning to have legitimate doubts about Chubby Burgers & Chicken. Right as we were contemplating an escape plan, the food arrived at our table. And you know what? It didn’t look half-bad! It was drunk food, just as the Yelpers had described, but it seemed harmless enough.
With redeemed confidence, I picked up a chicken tender and guided it towards my salivating mouth. Just as I was about to take my first bite, a monstrous cockroach scurried into the middle of the restaurant. My co-worker and I froze.
Across from where we were sitting, a distressed customer crushed the cockroach with his shoe, killing it instantly. With one snap of his fingers and no utterance of words, the customer alerted the cashier and pointed to the dead roach. The cashier locked eyes with the customer and simply nodded.
For the next fifteen minutes, nothing happened. Aggravated, the customer responsible for killing the cockroach voiced his frustration to the cashier.
“Why haven’t you cleaned this shit up? It’s been fifteen minutes!”
“Relax,” the cashier responded, unfazed. “We’ve got someone coming in to take care of it.”
This retort perplexed the customer, and rightfully so. The concept of a separate employee being on-call strictly for roach disposal was absurd.
“What do you mean you’ve got someone coming in to take care of it?” the customer snapped back. “You’re telling me no one here can clean this up right now?”
“Forget about the cockroach,” the cashier replied, cool as a cucumber. “It came from outside; there’s nothing to worry about.”
Shockingly, this botched attempt at reassurance did not alleviate the customer’s anger, who began to insult the cashier in Spanish. As their argument intensified, a woman pushing a baby stroller walked into the restaurant, saw what was happening, rolled her eyes, pivoted, and exited the building, all within ten seconds. It was the smoothest shit I ever saw.
Fed up, the cockroach-killing customer left the restaurant. Roughly twenty minutes later, an employee wielding a broom and dustpan finally arrived to take care of the dead roach. Unsurprisingly, this cleaning method proved useless against the blood and guts, which remained smeared across the tiled floor.
My co-worker and I would leave shortly after this development. A few blocks down the street, we discovered a series of esteemed restaurants, all of which accepted credit cards. No longer hungry, we settled for chewing gum and called it a night.
Torrey Kurtzner is an out-of-work writer and master of self-deprecation. Against the better judgment of his peers, he’s determined to pursue a career within the creative arts, even if it kills him. He’s on Twitter @YabbaDabbZoinks