I do not complain that the representative celebrated restaurants fail to achieve an absolutely first-class cuisine. No large restaurant, either in the United States or out of it, can hope to achieve an absolutely first-class cuisine. The peerless restaurant is and must be a little one. Nor would I specially complain of the noise and thronging of the great restaurants, the deafening stridency of their music, the artistic violence of their decorations; these features of fashionable restaurants are now universal throughout the world, and the philosopher adapts himself to them. (Indeed, in favor of New York I must say that in one of the largest of its restaurants I heard a Chopin ballade well played on a good piano—and it was listened to in appreciative silence; event quite unique in my experience. Also, the large restaurant whose cuisine nearest approaches the absolutely first-class is in New York, and not in Europe.) Nor would I complain that the waiter in the great restaurant neither understands English nor speaks a tongue which resembles English, for this characteristic, too, is very marked across the Atlantic. (One night, in a Boston hotel, after lingual difficulties with a head-waiter, I asked him in French if he was not French. He cuttingly replied in waiter’s American: “I was French, but now I am an American.” In another few years that man will be referring to Great Britain as “the old country.”) ...
No; what disconcerts the European in the great American restaurant is the excessive, the occasionally maddening slowness of the service, and the lack of interest in the service. Touching the latter defect, the waiter is not impolite; he is not neglectful. But he is, too often, passively hostile, or, at best, neutral. He, or his chief, has apparently not grasped the fact that buying a meal is not like buying a ton of coal. If the purchaser is to get value for his money, he must enjoy his meal; and if he is to enjoy the meal, it must not merely be efficiently served, but it must be efficiently served in a sympathetic atmosphere. The supreme business of a good waiter is to create this atmosphere.... True, that even in the country which has carried cookery and restaurants to loftier heights than any other—I mean, of course, Belgium, the little country of little restaurants—the subtle ether which the truly civilized diner demands is rare enough. But in the great restaurants of the great cities of America it is, I fancy, rarer than anywhere else.
SPORT AND THE THEATER
I remember thinking, long before I came to the United States, at the time when the anti-gambling bill was a leading topic of American correspondence in European newspapers, that a State whose public opinion would allow even the discussion of a regulation so drastic could not possibly regard “sport” as sport is regarded in Europe. It might be very fond of gambling, but it could not be afflicted with the