Christian Johnson’s diner probably has the most misunderstood name on Eat Street — a misunderstanding fueled by the place’s service system.
At the Bad Waitress, customers seat themselves, browse the menu, fill out a card with their order and drop it off at the counter. The wait staff delivers meals, fills beverages and does all the other stuff servers traditionally do, but that absence of taking the order is often thought to be the reason for the restaurant’s name. It’s not.
“Being bad and our system is just a coincidence and something I should have thought of before,” Johnson said. “The girls hate it because it has nothing to do with them.”
Johnson said he used “bad” as a positive adjective, as in “awesome.” Whether customers get it or not seems trivial, though, since the Bad Waitress has no trouble filling its booths, especially during breakfast.
Stacks of huge pancakes topped with organic fruit, meat and vegan egg scrambles, heaping helpings of hashbrowns or fries and a long list of add-ons are a few of the reasons this restaurant is a morning favorite.
It follows the breakfast offerings with a big lunch menu full of sandwiches, burgers and salads and a slimmer evening menu comprised mostly of appetizers.
Johnson, who also owns Eat Street coffee shop Spyhouse, made sure the Bad Waitress had a long list of fair trade and organic coffee drinks as well. A smaller wine and beer selection, with some Midwest offerings, is also available.
Inspired by 1940s and 1950s pulp-fiction books, the Bad Waitress is decorated with bright red walls, old movie posters and book covers, retro lighting and pleather booths. Each table is designated with a vintage superhero card, so servers know where to deliver the orders they didn’t take.
“We try to be as accommodating as possible to every single table,” Johnson said. “The only thing we don’t do is take the orders.”
Cuisine: Classic American comfort food
Price range: $5–$9
Hours: 7 a.m.–11:30 p.m. Monday–Friday, 8 a.m.–11:30 p.m. Saturday, 8 a.m.–10:30 p.m. Sunday
Address: 2 E. 26th St.
Fat, fluffy pancakes as big as the dinner plate they’re served on are among the most popular items at the Bad Waitress.
Pancakes can be ordered individually for $3.25 or as a short stack, which doubles the order, for $5.25. One should be enough for the average diner; a big appetite or friends might be needed to eat more.
And though a plain pancake is plenty, leaving a ’cake naked at Bad Waitress just seems wrong given the topping options. Blueberries, strawberries, bananas and massive blackberries — all organic — punch up the flavor. Also on hand are chocolate chips and walnuts. Each topping is an additional $1.25.
Pumpkin pancakes are another regular offering and special seasonal ’cakes make the menu from time to time.
What does Eat Street mean to you?
“It brings a lot of cohesiveness to all the restaurants,” Christian Johnson said.
Cohesive as they may be, almost every restaurant along Eat Street fills its own niche, he said.
“I don’t think Eat Street should ever get saturated with too many restaurants of one genre,” Johnson said.