Worst Meal Ever?

What was the worst meal you have ever had? Spare no details, you can include the name of the restaurants or not. Dazzle us with your writing skills…

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This is difficult. Really difficult.

What criteria to use? Food? Service? Ambiance? Overall enjoyment (lack of)?

The internet means that total disasters area rarity these days. Even away from my home area, you can usually find an online menu and, if nothing else, you can also find Tripadvisor reviews (such as they usually are). Put those together and you have to be either a total idiot, or plain very unlucky, to cop for a duffer.

So, I have to go back a while for the vague memory of two places, both in America. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had lots of good food in my trips to the country since 1980. But the pre-internet trips meant there was no research to be done. You ate at the places near the hotel or you’d spotted as you drove into town. You never came across the great little place round the corner where all the locals go.

So, there was this pizza place in New York, just off Times Square. No idea of its name. It was our first time in the city and our first night there, having just got off a transatlantic flight. All we needed was to get some food and then sleep. This pizza was everything that a pizza should not be.

The other occasion is better documented because , since the late 1990s, I’ve kept a diary for our “big trips”. This one was in September 2007 and the main focus was driving the length of the Blue Ridge Highway and Skyline Drive. Yes, we’d researched places where we thought we might stop for the night but bad weather forced us off the Highway and we got lost. So, we decided to stop for the night in Hillsville, VA. There was one of those stopping places, just off an interstate where you get a couple of hotels and a couple of places to eat. So, there was a chain place - Shoneys. And what I think was an independent place - Countryside. So, being foodies, that was an easy decision. Dinner at the Countryside buffet. Awful. Deeply unpleasant. Very greasy fried chicken. Dried up beef patties in congealed gravy. Sides that were lukewarm at best and cooked for so long my mother would have enjoyed them. Just awful. We went to Shoney’s for breakfast, of course.

There’s been many other meals that were less than stellar, of course, but they are the two that stick in my mind for ticking all the “worst meal” boxes.


Two items come to mind…

My mother’s canned salmon and spaghetti ( with red sauce out of a can). As a kid, I was forced to eat this concoction. Don’t get me wrong, I like salmon and I like spaghetti – just not mixed together.

I do remember getting violently ill from a sub I ate when I lived in Baltimore, Md. Worst food poisoning I ever had, I think I was 19 at the time. A few weeks later that sub shop was in the news, the health department shut them down… they never re-opened.


Growing up in So Cal the only things that stand out were my parents’ overcooked & under-seasoned steaks and chops (which is a big reason I ignore them to date). Can’t remember ever having a “bad” meal in any So Cal restaurant.

When I moved to where I am now we had a few great and few good places, but most have closed, or changed hands and went way downhill. My last meal in town was a burrito at a newly (this Spring) opened “La Comida Grill” Mexican restaurant that was expensive and utterly tasteless (to the point where half of it went into the trash). They closed their doors in July (what were they thinking?).

Before that I had this Philly cheesesteak at the local “Burger Barn” (burger bad):

Needless to say I don’t eat out in town anymore.


In June 1999, I moved from the city (Milwaukee) to my current country locale. Friendly folks out here. So, I’m teaching away and at some HS football games, I met some parents and got to know more folks in my new digs. October rolls around (deer hunting season) and a father of one of my students invited me over for dinner. I brought corn casserole to pass. I get there, and the grill is smoking, so I wonder what’s on the menu. Nothing on the grill, nothing on the kitchen counter, can see potatoes boiling. K, I know what those are. I go back out by the grill and his son is pulling around with the pickup, forks on the truck and a big ass dead doe hanging off. So, we had the butcher the thing before throwing chunks on the grill. Kept the back straps clean, though. I just wasn’t quite ready for such a meal. I’ve dressed out and butchered dear before, but never on a supper date. Nice gesture on their part, but a bit of a head shaker on mine.


Man, that’s a sin.

I agree with @Harters that everyone will have their own criteria for defining worst. That being said, I’ll share one particularly bad restaurant experience from 2005… not naming names, as the place is still in business.

This was my very first business trip at my new company, several days in London with four colleagues. One of the senior folks decided that our last-night dinner would be at a fancy place with a fixed priced / set menu for about £100pp. Six courses - and the only thing I ate in the five courses before dessert was an artichoke heart. Yes, singular. Every other dish was compiled from a list of the stuff I don’t eat: mushrooms, salmon, foie gras, beets, shrimp… I pushed my food around and pretended to eat, but being new, and with senior colleagues, I didn’t feel I could speak up. So instead, I went hungry. :woman_shrugging:

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Oh, that’s really unlucky, Mara. And, yes, it can be an issue with fixed tasting menus. I can eat pretty much anything but Mrs H has things she won’t eat. And we often find that, even on a six courser, there will be one that she won’t eat (which, of course, means I get seconds).

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My worst meals:
A wedding banquet of frozen lasagna and frozen vegetables at a banquet hall behind a go cart track in Potsdam, NY. Made worse by the fact we couldn’t find the hall, had driven past it twice, so by the time we got there, people were eating and it was hard to find a seat. We had also driven 12 h over 2 days to get there.

Another horrible wedding banquet meal in St Agatha, ON. The guests all came from 60 -100 miles away, and the meal turned out to be chips and salsa, pretzels. I had bought a new outfit LOL and had my hair done for that one.

Worst restaurant experiences:
A place called Royal Canadian Pancake House in NYC 25 years ago, waiter probably did something to my order after I clarified I had ordered chicken crêpes rather than sugar crêpes, and he insisted I was wrong. I became very ill a few days later.

Long hair, that wasn’t mine, in my food at Bouchon in Beverly Hills. I usually just remove the hair and maybe eat what wasn’t touched. I couldn’t bring myself to say anything at Bouchon. Then they hurried up our meal because Rod Stewart wanted our table.

I’ve been pretty lucky lately.

OMG!! Why do people do that?? I remember one wedding I went to in my youth. The mother of the bride made tuna, potato salad, etc. Just about everything had mayonnaise in it and she didn’t have any of it on ice baths. Moreover, the mother wouldn’t let anyone eat anything until the bride and groom got done taking pictures all over town (about 2 hours).
I told my girlfriend (at the time) not to eat anything with mayo, as we’ll get sick. We had a 6 hour drive home and I did not want us sick as dogs – trying to get home.


Even in a cold climate, grosses me out to see mayo based stuff getting warmer and warmer. Uff.


Worst restaurant experience:

My wife and I went to an upscale French restaurant in La Jolla, California, and decided on their 6-course tasting menu, with paired wines. The first course (can’t remember what it was) was great. The second was far too salty, as were the third and fourth. We identified this to the waitstaff. The maitre d’ came over. I told him this was unacceptable, and that we wanted to end there. He said that he would charge us for the wine only. We exited hungry and about $120 poorer.

On my return home I wrote to the chef. He responded, apologizing, said that they do know what good food is, and included a $50 gift certificate from the restaurant. I returned it, thanks but no thanks, and that a tip alone there was over $50.

I posted this on Chowhound, and got flamed by another member who declared how wonderful the restaurant was, and that I was shilling for Miles Fleurs in Rancho Santa Fe, since I said it was much better. A guy who had never eaten at the restaurant in question piped in, saying it was unfair of me to criticize a restaurant based upon an incomplete meal. I pointed out the obvious to him. A mod on CH took exception to my responses.

I remember at one point the waiter told us we could pick courses off the vegetarian menu as well as the standard one, but that didn’t help - I didn’t want either escargot or mushrooms, for example…

Par for the course back there in old days.


I thought we had this thread earlier…oh well maybe I was dreaming it.
The latest one that comes to mind is the mouse turd in a scoop of rice. It was NOT a grain of black rice, as they had argued.

A very long time ago we planned a New Years Eve dinner with a group of friends (10-12 total) at a hilltop restaurant in the north San Fernando Valley of LA. We all got there on time and were seated in what obviously was an event room with zero ambience. STRIKE ONE

Maybe an hour later someone finally took our orders. STRIKE TWO

An hour after that still no food. STRIKE THREE

We paid for our drinks, left a tip for the hapless server and left. Wound up having bacon and eggs at the home of one of the couples at maybe 3 in the morning. :roll_eyes:


Would you describe that as a real Odyssey or maybe you felt like a Castaway?

(I lived in the San Fernando Valley for more than 25 years and think I may know where you might have been so poorly treated.)

I believe our odyssey was at Odyssey, but it was a loooong time ago.

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I apologize if there was one already - I searched prior to my post, but there were no hits - maybe it was under a different title…:man_shrugging:

I think the worst meal I’ve had food wise is my recent foray in search of a good beef roll and soup dumplings. I ended up at a place called “Hidden Dumpling”. That was a hint. We shouldn’t have bothered looking. Absolutely awful.

details here:

The worst experience I’ve had at a restaurant that comes to mind is in Maui this past December. We went to “The Feast at Lele”, a luau-style show and tasting menu ‘tour’ of Pacific Island cuisine. The food itself was ‘meh, whatever’, but the show was absolutely cringe inducing and made both myself and my partner feel like colonizing assholes for participating in the whole affair. But I suspect that says a lot more about us than it does about the show/meal itself.

Beyond those two, I think the worst combination of the two was at a local chain called ‘Mimosa House’ (a bad sign already) and we were just generally ignored by staff in favor of a party of loud, cackling retirees on their 3rd pitcher of whatevers, while we were served cold eggs, lukewarm tea and just generally had such an awful time that we left ANGRY, kind of like when you realize you just sat through Transformers 2 when you could have been doing something fun, like getting a colonoscopy. Bad food, unfriendly staff, awful patrons. A perfect storm of suck.