Saturday, June 23, 2018
Dining

Weird 'special requests' get taken seriously at Tampa Bay restaurants

You probably wouldn't ask a pizza place to draw Yoda playing table tennis on your pizza box over the phone. But the anonymous nature of the Internet has changed everything.

Many restaurants allow people to order takeout through their websites, without speaking to a person. And when you place an order, there is usually a section to type your "special requests" or "additional instructions" — presumably to ask for extra napkins or dressing on the side.

Related: How do food delivery services like UberEATS, GrubHub, FoodNow and Doorstep Delivery stack up?

The beautiful thing about the Internet, though, is its infinite weirdness. There are entire blogs and numerous Reddit threads dedicated to takeout food "special requests," from asking restaurants to draw dinosaurs on the bag to requesting pickup lines on the plastic foam box.

We wondered how weird we could make our own special requests and how often they would get fulfilled. Surprisingly, the answer was "pretty weird" and "almost always." Restaurant employees seemed to love the chance to get creative. Of the six restaurants from which we ordered takeout or delivery, here are the four that indulged us.

Sadly, our request for pingpong Yoda went ignored.

Jimmy John's, 750 Fourth St. N, St. Petersburg

Method: Delivery, ordered through jimmyjohns.com

Special request: Please write a haiku tribute to Harambe on the bag.

Result: Jimmy John's went above and beyond. They not only wrote a haiku to the gorilla-turned-meme, but they drew a portrait of him in what appears to be crayon. The first words out of the delivery man's mouth when I opened the door were, "See what we did! A couple of the guys really got into it."

Panera, 1908 Fourth St. N, St. Petersburg

Method: Panera Rapid Pick-Up through delivery.panerabread.com

Special request: Please sign the box and bag like you're signing my 10th-grade yearbook.

Result: They did it, but they're not getting any points for creativity. Someone wrote "have a great summer, Chris" on my Thai chicken salad box, and the bag came with "another day in Paneradise" scrawled in marker, with a couple of signatures under it.

Tijuana Flats, 944 Fourth St. N, St. Petersburg

Method: Pickup, ordered through tijuanaflats.orders24-7.com

Special request: Please list the five greatest rappers of all time, dead or alive, on the box.

Result: We got a solid (if predictable) four written on the box — Dr. Dre, Tupac, Biggie and Eminem — but No. 5 is debatable. We think "Nighttime" may have written this list herself.

Westshore Pizza, 3187 Fourth St. N, St. Petersburg

Method: Pickup, ordered through westshorepizza.com

Special request: Please draw a picture involving a cat and money on the box.

Result: When I arrived, and they realized it was the guy who made the weird request, it seemed like the whole staff came out of the kitchen. "Show him the good one first!" someone yelled. They had prepared two options, a cat with a thought bubble showing a cat on a $100 bill (in cat we trust), and a pole dancer cat wearing tassels with money stuffed in its underwear.

Contact Christopher Spata at [email protected] Follow @SpataTimes.

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