This evening, May 31, 2012, my wife, youngest grandson and I went to the Busy Bean BBQ in Phillipsburg.

My professional background is two-fold, a professional publicist (including the food industry) and journalist for some 45 years during which time I spent several years working in food public relations. My ethnic background is Portuguese. I’ve eaten Portuguese foods since I was old enough to chew solid food. For me, Linguica and Courico are “soul food” which I often cook at home.

Our experience at the Phillipsburg establishment was abysmal.

The teenage waiter/counterman was unable to answer the simplest questions, such as: What are the Portuguese/Brazilian sausages on the menu? After consulting with the cook, he came back and said they were “smoked sausage.” I asked what kind. He responded:“Turkey, I think.” While he was polite and doing his best, it was obvious he had received no job training from management.

Next, the cook came out and I again posed my questions, but asked if either was Linguica or Chourico. I told him I was of Portuguese descent. He told me the Portuguese sausage was Chourico and the Brazilian sausage was Linguica-but not smoked. To me, having eaten both products for more than 60 years, it indicated even the cook had little idea of what he was cooking.

After about 30 minutes, the cook asked if we wanted our salads first or with the meal – one of the strangest requests I’ve ever had and I’ve dined in restaurants in six European countries and most major cities in the United States.

My suspicions about the kitchen proved to be borne out as, after more than an hour wait, with only one other table of two guests, our food finally arrived. The salads were acceptable. The salad dressings were deplorable, of the lowest quality I’ve ever eaten.

Then came the barbecued half-rack my wife had ordered. The ribs obviously had NOT been slow-cooked as ribs should be. They were dry. We had both ordered rice as a side dish, had no flavor and was about as dry as sand from the Gobi Desert.

In addition to the rice, I received, as I had requested, both the Linguica and Chourico. Rather than having been cooked over a flame or pan fried then sliced, they appeared as burnt offerings.

Being among my favorite foods, I tried to eat both sausages and the rice – until I could swallow no more. After less than a dozen bites, the food had all lodged in a dried ball halfway to my stomach and I was in physical pain. Copious amounts of water failed to dislodge the food.

For only the second or third time in thousands of restaurant meals, I sent the food back as it was one of the worst things I even ate.

The manager approached me with the meal. Rather than apologizing, he insisted the heavily burned sausages were “very moist” and poked at them with a fork. I obviously was expected to apologize and resume eating. I told him the food was unacceptable and I wasn’t going to pay for it and desired nothing else on the menu. He agreed.

When the bill arrived it had three printouts of notations, but no prices.

According to the menu, my wife’s meal should have cost $7.95

My food should have cost $14.95 and the only thing my grandson had wanted was an ice pop. Presumably that should have been less than $2 as it was even self-service from a cooler at the front of the restaurant. Thus the total bill should have been $24.90 plus 7% sales tax according to the menu, for a grand preliminary total of $26.64 – BEFORE deducting the $14.95 for the food I sent back.

When I present the “check” at the register, I was told the tab was $17 and change. I gave him a $20 bill and he handed me two singles and a handful of nickels and pennies.

A $2 ice pop and a $7.95 half rack of pork ribs ACTUALLY add up to $9.95 before taxes and some $10.64 with the taxes. Thus, we were OVERCHARGED approximately $7 for some of the worst imaginable food.

Larry Moniz
Multiple Award Winning Journalist, Author and Publicist