Today we went to soccer practice for Big Sister. Afterward we decided to go out for dinner, primarily because I didn't feel like cooking. So after the votes were tallied- we decided that ramen was going to be our meal of choice this evening. It's perfect because it's comfort food- warm, filling, soothing, healthy... what more could you ask for. I've made it myself but I'd rather buy it from a real ramen shop when I'm tired. We go and fortunately for us we arrived after the post dinner rush (7:30ish). It was awesome because this place has few seats and it's a very popular place. It's also cash only which is cool...
We go to this place once a month as a family, with their father and with our cousin Nikkicole. This time was different... this time we didn't get ramen and we left embarrassed.
We sit down and the kids excitedly discuss what they want; how hungry they are; other things about the day. Our waitress brings our waters and I begin to order. Here's my order:
Sapporo Style Miso Ramen $10
Roast Pork (4 pc) $3.50
That's $20.25....and I asked for 3 small bowls. Normally we'll order an appetizer or fried rice $6.50 and drinks as well. I end up spending between $25-30 when I go and I also tip well (20-25% because the struggle is real).
The waitress takes our order in the back and quickly returns to informed us that the chef would not make our soup. Apparently a family of 4 is not allowed to eat from one bowl... however I do this all the time with my 3 girls who are all under 6. I understand the restaurant struggle but I have three small children who aren't going to eat a large bowl of soup each... Ren's has no kids menu or smaller portions. I'm known to buy more food when necessary. The fact is, I order food this way out of necessity... it's not out of being impoverished or poor that I buy our food this way but because I don't want to waste food or take food home. (I do this at every restaurant, not just Ren's.) I was told that the chef would not make our soup and that we could take food home to go but could not eat there. I asked to speak to him directly and was told that he only speaks Japanese and was not available.
How could I feel at that moment? I was very confused. In fact I was dumbfounded at how cool the waitress was as she said these things to me. The two tables of white families lining the walls were trying their best not to stare. What were they thinking? I was so embarrassed. My kids began asking if we would eat here and when the food was coming... My heart was beating rather quickly; I felt like I was taking a test that I was ultimately doomed to fail. I called their father and decided to explain, rather loudly, what happened. I did this because I wanted those families attempting not to stare to know that we weren't being asked to leave because of some inadequacy on our end. However, I didn't want to make a scene. I get up and go to the register and hand a $5 tip for the waitress and left. I was confused. I was embarrassed. My kids were crying. Why can't we eat here? "Because we can't" is all I could think to say as we walked out the door. Instead of getting into the car, I decided to film their reactions outside Ren's Ramen and post them on Facebook.
I do not want to believe this is because of what I look like or because of assumptions about a mom with three small children dressed in hipster, "urban" attire. Generally I'm very optimistic about what America is capable of... But I know I'm a black women. I go out with my three kids and a single black woman with kids has its stigmas attached to it... In this situation, I want to believe that I'm mistaken or that I've misconstrued something because deep down inside, I'd feel like I have control over that. That I can change that. Any other scenario ascribes itself to assumptions and controls outside my realm of acceptability. It's 2015 for godsake. So for me, thinking and hoping that something like this was motivated by something other than racial or perceived class bias would satiate my confusion.
Next steps? I've submitted my Yelp review (below). Apparently I'm not the only one who experienced some disappointment with this establishment and their service. Next? I'm going to talk to the owner. I hope that the owner will be open to at least listening. Next? I've gotten great advice and the contact information of civil servants from my friends on Facebook. So I'll be looking into those contacts and resources to see what else I can do.
Here is my Yelp review of Ren's Ramen
I'm a former teacher and former college athlete, currently working in edtech. My mission is to get parents to partner with their child's teacher.