Napkin Shrinkage

Yesterday JV, the Bus-Riding Conservative and I walked down to the North Market, passed the Veterans’ Day parade, and headed to Hot Chicken Takeover. For those of you not familiar with HCT–which I reviewed on this blog in 2015–it offers happy diners the opportunity to enjoy highly spiced, incredibly juicy fried chicken.

In such a place, where eagerly anticipate that they will be mopping up fiery chicken juices from hands and face and attempting to shield their clothing from drips and stains, adequate napkin supplies are essential. And yet, Hot Chicken Takeover–like most other restaurants that fall below the cloth napkin line these days–provides only skimpy single-ply napkins like the ones shown above. The napkins are woefully insufficient to provide meaningful lap protection. Even if you carefully try to construct a multiple-napkin lap shield, the napkins will flutter to the ground with the slightest movement or the mere whiff of air caused by a passing patron. And the cheap napkins will quickly become soaked and ripped to shreds if you try to use them for any absorption activity other than a dainty dab at the corner of the mouth. By the end of the meal we had assembled an impressive pile of damp, mangled napkins that we had to clean up and throw away along with our food container.

In short, yesterday we witnessed a total mismatch between napkin and food. And, as noted above, this seems to be an increasingly common, and disturbing, phenomenon in the restaurant business. Gone are the days when restaurants supplied sturdy napkins that could be unfolded to provide useful lap protection, or even tucked into the collar, and then used to clean off hands and mouth. I know those kinds of napkins still exist, because we have them at home. Evidently they are just too expensive, and the zeal for cost-cutting has led restauranteurs to offer clearly inadequate napkins instead. It’s an irritating trend and makes me wonder just how small and flimsy restaurant napkins might get.

Stop napkin shrinkage. Bring back adequate napkins!