Pardon Me, Waiter? My "Coffee" Is Actually Hot Soy Sauce

Here’s a bizarre story from Flickr user F1.4. After finishing his breakfast at a “classy” joint in the D.C. area, the server came by and topped off his coffee. When he took another sip…it was hot soy sauce. Bleeccch!

F1.4 says:

This morning I went to one of my favorite restaurants in northern VA for breakfast – it’s a very classy joint, and the food and service is always spectacular. I was sitting outside finishing up my steak and eggs and had just put away my first cup of coffee. As most of my friends know, I generally avoid caffeine so even a little bit is like liquid crack for me, and the first cup had cleared my head and made an already beautiful morning that much better.
The ever attentive waiter noticed my empty cup and promptly topped me off – by now I was rockin the caffeine, the birds were chirping, the sun was smiling, so I gulped down another mouthful and……and something is really wrong here – what the hell did I just drink – It looks like coffee, but I don’t think it is, as a matter of fact it tasted like hot Soy Sauce?! Suddenly I wasn’t sure if I just drank coffee, soy sauce, or maybe some cleaning chemical ended up in the coffee. I am almost instantly nauseous, probably not from what I drank, but my mind and body running in overdrive trying to figure out if I should hurl, because whatever I just drank sure as hell wasn’t coffee.

I call the maitre de over and explain they had a serious problem with their coffee. About two minutes later the manager stops by to tell me they had a mix-up, and that I had indeed just enjoyed a steaming mouthful of Soy Sauce. Apparently they keep heated Soy Sauce in a coffee carafe for fish dishes, and somehow the carafe of Soy Sauce was mixed in with the carafes of regular coffee. The manager was mortified, and comped my breakfast and acknowledged that I was probably not pleased at the moment and she hoped I would be enticed to come back with a fifty dollar gift card.

I felt the restaurant responded appropriately so I won’t post its name, and I am glad I didn’t boot my breakfast in a classy joint, but doesn’t Soy Sauce look a little too much like coffee to be putting it in a coffee carafe – nobody saw this coming?

We agree, the restaurant responded completely appropriately, but still, the story was too funny not to share. Hot soy sauce. Eeeeeeeewww! Time for someone at that restaurant to buy one of these.

(Photo: F1.4 )

UPDATE: The name of the mysterious soy-coffee restaurant has been revealed on DCist!


Edit Your Comment

  1. Youthier says:

    Appropriately? A swig of soy sauce rated a free breakfast and a $50 gift card! Sign me up!

  2. Smooooth says:

    Wow, comped breakfast and a $50 gift certificate? I think I’d drink a whole cup of soy sauce for $50.

  3. OmniZero says:

    At least it wasn’t a mix of coffee and soy sauce. I think that would be less appealing.

    I definitely agree the restaurant responded appropriately. Apology, comp the meal, and a bonus gift card on top of it. I think that shows they were genuinely apologetic over what happened.

  4. B1663R says:

    and the name of this wonderful, soon-to-get-my-business-if-i’m-ever-in-the-dc-area is….

  5. Diet-Orange-Soda says:

    Reminds of of the time I ordered a French dip and instead of au jus, I was served soy sauce.

  6. Nick1693 says:

    Wow. Shouldn’t there be something that says “This is SOY SAUCE, not Coffee.” That makes the server notice that it isn’t coffee? Like the smell of hot coffee vs. hot soy sauce.

  7. the same thing happened to my sister at a wedding

  8. PinkBox says:

    Sharing the name of the restaurant wouldn’t really be a bad thing in this case. They made a simple mistake, and did more than enough to correct it.

  9. skc15 says:

    That sounds like a kitchen prank gone awry. Pretty funny, except that the wrong coffee went to the customer.

  10. jryan says:

    In Minneapolis, I was served a bowl of CHILI, only it was actually Spaghetti Sauce – it did seem a little thin.
    In the Soy Sauce incident, the restaurant deserves credit, they actually acted appropriately rather than just “…taking this matter seriously!”

  11. timmus says:

    Someone needs to catch that coffee cup before it slides off the table.

  12. Based on the description, location and the picture of the cup, I’d put money on it being the Carlyle Grand.

  13. rekoil says:

    This goes to show, customer service is not how you handle everyday transactions, but the real test of mettle is how you handle the situation when things go wrong.

    Yesterday, my wife and I went to a new restaurant for lunch. Apparently the kitchen was short staffed leading to a long wait time for our food, and just from my tone of voice when the waitress came back to refill our drinks, she knew I was unhappy and needed to do something to ensure our repeat business. So she apologized and comped our lunches, without me having to ask for anything or even make an actual complaint.

    And ensure our repeat business she did. Bravo.

  14. andrewe says:

    The same thing happened to a friend. She ordered an iced tea and received an icy glass of malt vinegar. Yes, she took a big gulp. What a mess.

  15. tc4b says:

    You SHOULD mention the name of the place, as I think this makes them look really good. EVERY business will make mistakes, as EVERY business is run by humans. It’s what they do AFTER the mistake that shows what they’re really made of. I would go out of my way to eat at this place!

  16. ionerox says:

    @jryan: Dude, in the midwest spaghetti sauce *is* what they serve for chili. This is the land where black pepper is “too spicy”.

  17. JulesNoctambule says:

    Somewhere in my head, a joke about this not being what someone means when they want soy in their coffee is trying to form but I haven’t had enough coffee yet myself to make it happen.

  18. orielbean says:

    Why wouldn’t they keep this in a tin on the steam line? That is just asking for trouble. Or maybe in a soup warmer?

  19. Stonecutter says:

    @jryan: You may have just been in Cincinnati.

  20. mike says:

    I think I would still appreciate a store name, just to know who’s doing things right.

    No business is perfect. But it’s always great to hear the ones that realize they made a mistake and corrected it.

    OP, if it’s not too much trouble, could fill us in.

  21. coren says:

    Appropriately or overreacted? I vote the latter – 50 bucks on top of a free breakfast is a bit much IMO.

  22. Shutaro says:

    Some of us, on the other hand, can’t start the day without a nice hot cup of soy sauce…

  23. zingbot says:

    I’m totally doing this to my brother next time he visits me.

  24. loganmo says:

    How could you drink an entire cup of coy sauce and not realize it was not coffee. Soy sauce is very salty, coffee is not at all salty. My head hurts.

  25. Farquar says:


    Nice restaurants will go above and beyond when they screw up. I went to the Precinct (Ruby steakhouse in Cincinnati) and one of our water glasses was filthy.. (not just dirty, we’re talking layers of old gravy inside the glass) Upon merely pointing at the glass while the waiter was nearby, the glass was quickly replaced, and we were offered what amounted to $50 in drinks and dessert as an apology. Within a week we received a handwritten apology in the mail.

    Some restaurants really do “take it seriously.”

  26. Farquar says:

    @loganmo: I’m thinking you need to go back and read it again.

    He drank a cup of coffee.. he had a sip of soy sauce.

  27. Huge props to that restaurant. The $50 gift card may have even been a bit much because, in the end, it was an honest mistake. But this is an example of a dining establishment really “taking the matter seriously”.

  28. cabalist says:

    I understand the posters reluctance to ‘name names’ but in this instance it would seem to be GOOD for the restaurant.

    Like JFK said : “An error does not become a mistake until you refuse to correct it.”

    This was an error, expertly handled by the restaurant manager, that never became a mistake.

  29. dabub says:

    To all you guys that think a $50 gift card is a bit much, consider that at a “classy joint” that $50 might only buy you a cup of coffee?

  30. TPS Reporter says:

    I tried cutting back on my 3 cup a morning soy sauce habit, but I had soy sauce withdrawal headaches. It’s a drug you know.

  31. Asvetic says:

    @Youthier: @Smooooth: Yeah, this should be an Above and Beyond!

  32. Shutaro says:

    @Farquar: Nice restaurants serve gravy by the glass? I gots to get me some of that!

  33. WiglyWorm must cease and decist says:

    Well… maybe it’s not what you ordered, but I garantee a swig of soy sauce will wake you up in the morning!

  34. Shark1998 says:

    PFffft…..I did that to my sister as a little kid once….I put soy sauce in a glass full of ice to make it look like Coke (which I was drinking at the time)….it was freak’n hilarious….. To this day she still sniffs her cokes before she drinks it…

  35. Ubik2501 says:

    Something like that happened to me and a friend at a college town bar once: We each ordered a carbomb, and we each dropped in our shot and pounded the drink down without looking at the shots. We didn’t realize until the utterly revolting taste hit our tongues that we hadn’t gotten a shot of half-Bailey’s/half-Jameson as the recipe calls for, but instead shots of Jaegermeister. Believe me, Jaeger and Guinness is about as unpleasant as it sounds. Thankfully, once we pointed out the error they gave us our money back, along with rounds of proper carbombs on the house, and all was well.

  36. dorianh49 says:

    Sounds like a GTA3 mod gone horribly wrong.

  37. ageekymom says:

    After a delicious dinner at a fancy restaurant, our German dinner guest and I ordered fresh strawberries with fresh whipped cream. We each received a big bowl of berries topped with whipped, salted butter. I knew immediately what it was, but our guest had to be convinced that it was butter and to let them replace it with a fresh dessert. In Europe, whipped cream is usually served unsweetened.
    The memory still cracks me up.

  38. @Shark1998:

    To this day she still sniffs her cokes before she drinks it

    The mental image of someone having to sniff their soda prior to drinking it has sent me into involuntary fits of laughter. You, sir (as only older brothers could torture younger sisters in this manner), are my hero.

  39. InThrees says:

    I actually think the name of the restaurant should have been posted – they DID do the right thing by giving him his breakfast instead of charging him, and giving him a $50 giftcard as way of further apology. An accident happened, and they took responsibility and made enough effort to show the patron that his further business and his immediate happiness is important to them.

    Contrast that with the time I and my friends went to Perkins and the requested mayonnaise they delivered was in a little paper cup, with a yellow flaky SKIN on top, as if it had been stored in a walk in for a few days with no covering. The glasses and silverware were all dirty, we didn’t each much, and when I called the manager over and politely pointed all this out, he offered a $5 voucher good on our NEXT visit.

    Which never happened, because I now intensely dislike Perkins.

  40. dcist_sommer says:

    We spoke to John and he told us the name of the restaurant. Follow the link.

  41. xillip says:

    What I would like to know is why they had hot soy sauce set out during the breakfast shift. I seriously doubt there is much call for fish for breakfast. Nasty.

  42. Meathamper says:

    It’s not a “classy” joint if they serve steak and eggs, remember that.

  43. Ubik2501 says:

    @Ubik2501: I guess I should add that everybody, including employees and servers, can and will make honest mistakes. The best way to fix them is for all parties involved to be civil and reasonable, and come to an agreement on how to fix the problem.

  44. shepd says:

    That is too bad, although several soup broths in foreign countries are mainly soy sauce. In some countries, drinking this wouldn’t be considered much more than “boring soup”.

  45. enderx says:

    Classy joints don’t serve steak and eggs?

  46. Chundara says:

    @xillip: Perhaps they serve everything on their menu throughout the day. A lot of diner style restaurants go with that approach.

    It’s nice to see a story about a company being responsible and admitting to a mistake. They went above and beyond with how they reimbursed the person.