If you are not a picky person, a person who is not particular about small details, read no further. You won’t like this story. You will think it was a waste of your time.

However, if you are picky about things, read on. This story may be for you. You might get into this right away.

This issue affects millions of people worldwide, whether they know it or not. It has bedeviled me for decades and for the first time I’m sounding off publicly about it. As you read on, you might say, “It’s about time somebody raised this point!”

In addition to raising the point, I will also propose solutions. A criticism is easier to justify if the critic offers a solution, and I do want my blog posts to be helpful on some level. Even if it’s a low level.

The Issue

The issue is this: Restaurants, specifically their managers and owners, have a big blind spot when it comes to providing cloth napkins to diners. More specifically, I have had thousands of little white lint balls stick to my black or other dark-colored shirts. Back when I wore white dress shirts on a regular basis, it was not unusual to find myself picking at little black lint balls that deposited themselves on my shirts. This is very annoying to picky people like me.

The waffle photo that caught Ellen's eye.

The waffle photo that caught Ellen’s eye.

Just the other morning Ellen and I went for breakfast at the W Hotel in downtown Austin after she had seen a photo of their golden malted waffles on the cover of Austin Monthly magazine in the supermarket checkout lane. She bought the magazine because of a feature story about 40 restaurants in Austin that provide a “Top of the Morning” breakfast dining experience.

Trace Restaurant in the W Hotel, downtown Austin. (Photo credit)

Trace Restaurant in the W Hotel, downtown Austin. (Photo credit)

Turns out this article title was a common greeting Daddy used when he called out to someone with “Top o’ the mornin’” as I was growing up. This greeting emanates from Ireland, although I doubt that Daddy knew that.

We have many more of those forty breakfast places to try. We have already been to several of them but didn’t have the dish featured in the article. Darn it! Now we have to try those particular dishes, a very nice problem that will take months to resolve.

Before we got our flavorful and crispy golden malted waffles from our outstanding waiter, I noticed several white lint balls on my black shirt. I looked around at the other tables in the restaurant and all were set up with white napkins. While we did have a superb breakfast, my brushing away dozens of little white lint balls from my black shirt distracted me from enjoying the meal as much as I otherwise would have. Restaurant owners and managers ought to worry about such a thing.

Proposed International Solutions

            Again, the above issue affects millions of people worldwide, so restaurant managers and owners should now reach for a pen and piece of paper to write themselves some important notes. Here are my proposed, practical solutions:

  1. Provide napkins in a variety of colors so diners can choose one, much like many restaurants provide a number of choices of herbal teas. This can be managed by placing napkins in a receptacle with a little sign that reads, “Feel free to pick a napkin color that matches your shirt. Leave here with a clean shirt! Ask waiter for a workable color if all are taken at this table.
  2. Provide lint-free napkins, provided they are absorbent. Some of these napkins are so slick they only smear errant food. They are sometimes comparable to trying to wipe up a spill with wax paper. I  hope  restaurant owners and managers, in particular, won’t miss the importance of this point.
  3. Provide paper napkins or paper towels, depending on how casual you want your restaurant to be. I like barbecue joints that have a roll of paper towels on the table. Those restaurant owners and managers know one or two paper napkins just wouldn’t be enough. Paper napkins and paper towels are lint free.
  4. Readers, tuck a paper napkin in your pocket or purse before you go into a restaurant in which lint on your shirt could diminish your meal’s enjoyment. Personally, I’ve never done this, but as I write this piece it strikes me as a good idea. It would be like good dining experience insurance.
Napkin choices at County Line on the Lake, one of the busiest restaurants in Austin, Texas. Restaurant owners and managers, take special note here.

Napkin choices at County Line on the Lake, one of the busiest restaurants in Austin, Texas. Restaurant owners and managers, take special note here.

I hope this post has been helpful to diners, restaurant managers and owners, and to manufacturers and salespeople who supply napkins to restaurants. The scope of the problem is huge—though not a life-or-death issue–and the dining establishment needs to take note.

Ellen, ever observant, pointed out near the end of our breakfast that the tables outside, just a few feet away, were set up with black napkins. When I mentioned this issue to our fine waiter he said, “I could have given you a black napkin.” Darn!

Then I told our waiter that I was going to write a blog post about this napkin issue. He said he’d like to read it, so I gave him my card with the web link to my blog and the date and time it would be published. He said he would read it. I invited him to comment, and he said he would.

Now here’s the test of our waiter’s skills in following up on a conversation with a customer. If he writes a comment in the comments section of this post, I will gladly point out his name in my reply and urge readers in the Austin area to ask for this waiter when they go to the W Hotel for their mouth-watering golden malted waffles for breakfast.

Waiters never know when they will come upon a tough, demanding customer. But if he responds as he said he would, I will know he more than earned the tip we left him that morning. And, if you’re interested, just check back in later and look under “Comments” below.

Again, I highly recommend the W Hotel’s dazzling golden malted waffles, linty napkins or not.