Eating past the airline problems

I’m pretty sick of writing about airlines going bankrupt this week. It turns out that five carriers (ATA, Aloha, Champion, Skyway and Skybus) announced they were shutting down operations in the USA, one of which I’ve never heard of (Skyway) and at least three that did so without any official advance warning to their passengers or employees. It is relatively unprecedented, and the carnage may not be over yet. Alitalia is on the brink of collapse, and the other majors in the US are not all that safe. Delta is showing desperation with their efforts to give away elite (Medallion) status to anyone with a pulse at this point (free unsolicited status for no apparent reason for many SkyMiles members this year, self included, 2x MQMs for the next 3 months on all flights booked this month, 1K EQMs for some hotel stays, etc.). Amtrak has a double points promo in the hopper right now as well. And there are still no guarantees that any airline is going to be operating next year or even next month. I had a conversation today with a former ALPA union attorney today who swears that the deregulation of the airline industry was nothing but bad in the long term. I don’t know that I’m ready to agree with that (too many benefits from mistakes that otherwise wouldn’t have happened with regulation in place) but I see his point. The deregulation created an environment where a single party could show up and dictate price to the rest of the players in the market, and that isn’t particularly good for the carriers, though passengers theoretically benefited from the lower prices, at the expense now of the companies collapsing.

Anyways, like I said, I’m sick of writing about that stuff, so I thought I’d switch gears and write about a few meals from this week.

First on my list, a visit to a local place that we go to once every couple months, Maroon’s. The food is still fantastic – a great combination of Southern and Jamaican cuisines, but I’m not entirely sure we’re going to go back. The prices continue to go up, which I suppose is natural, but they’ve added an interesting line to the back of the menu that really bothers me, “A gratuity of 15% will be added to all bills.” I’ve seen similar notes at some restaurants in more touristy areas where the patrons might not be familiar with the tipping practices in the US. But even then it is usually a note that gratuity isn’t included or suggesting a tip. And it isn’t for large parties -that surcharge is 20% – it is for everyone. In this case the bill came with the gratuity noted on the bill and then the credit card slip had the “Included Gratuity” and a space for “Additional Gratuity.” Between that and the fact that the service barely deserved the forced 15%, I just don’t know that I’ll be heading back there, in spite of the good food.

The second meal was at Cafe S.F.A. on the 8th floor of Saks Fifth Avenue. I went to Saks to get a shave and a haircut at the John Allen’s salon on the 7th floor. I have to say that compared to my regular Russian guy the haircut was quite a bit better, and the overall experience probably justifies the additional cost. But I was disappointed to discover that they only do shaves on weekdays, so I missed out on that. Anyways, following the haircut I went up to lunch at S.F.A with a couple of friends who introduced me to the salon. I have to say that if there were ever a prototypical “ladies who lunch” vision from my imagination of what the rest of NYC lives like, this is it. The crowd was distinctively New York, with a few visitors interspersed. And the crew was definitely a shopping and lunching crowd. The food was OK, too. The Bloody Mary was a bit blah, my sandwich was colder than I thought it should be for a Cuban (then again, WTF was I doing ordering a Cuban there?!?!?) and the Asian beef salad had tortilla strips in it. But it wasn’t a bad option and the atmosphere was quite nice. If you can get a seat by the windows looking out on NYC (we didn’t) then it is definitely a great stop on a shopping tour of NYC.

The third meal was dinner at an old standby. I eat here every couple of weeks, and it is good to have a “regular” spot to be. Dinner was delicious as always, even if the regular bartender was still on vacation. Anyways, after a couple recent misses, the comfort food was nice to have again.

Hopefully I’ll have more good dining reviews in the coming weeks as I head out on the road a bit. Hopefully…

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.