I realize that some of the more experienced foodies on this site might upbraid me for patronizing a Russian restaurant on the Brighton Beach boardwalk (rather than one of the less touristy ones inland), and looking for the cheapest one at that. But my girlfriend and I were almost ripped off by a tremendously unprofessional waiter at Volna.
First, while seating us, the waiter was rude and wouldn't let my girlfriend pass to be seated. By itself, no big deal, perhaps. But then when we asked for water he made something up about "the filter" not working, so we had to order bottled water. This is absurd, or course; every restaurant I have ever worked in (and many others I have patronized) get their water straight from the tap. I recognized this lie from when I was a waiter. Less scupulous managers and waiters at corporate-owned restaurants and the like would suggest it to drive up check prices. I never did it because I thought it was stupid, not to mention unethical.
Then, when we ordered, my girlfriend ordered something called the "seafood combination." there were 3 seafood combinations on the menu, one of which was $25. Most waiters would ask which one, but this guy just wrote it down. Sensing a scam, I pointed out that she specifically wanted the $15 (which was true, she did).
Then this guy tried to get us to order a salad or appetizer. Upselling is no big deal, but when we declined he tried to tell us that "the entrees would take about 25 minutes, so we should order a salad." Now, keep in mind that, from a waiter's point of view we had a pretty healthy bill for a couple: 2 $15-range entrees and a beer for me. In fact I was in no hurry but I had no desire to deal with this guy any longer, and certainly would not have been able to enjoy my meal with the knowledge that the waiter was actively looking for ways to rip me off. So I said, "I'm not waiting 25 minutes for my meal. How much are the waters?"
The guy sputtered, "Real food takes that long! Some dishes take as long as 40 minutes!" Now, I spent a lot of time working in food service, from McDonalds to $200-a-plate benefits catered by Abigail Kirsch, and I know that any half-emptpy restaurant that takes that long to get the food out has a serious problem with their kitchen. I told him I wasn't eating there. He shook his head and loudly said, "stupid." I considered retorting or complaining to his manager, but often one can't tell if a bad waiter like this is a lone bad apple of if he's carrying out managerial policy, so I decided to walk away.
Finally, he stopped in mid-check and just said "two dollars." That's another thing I know from waiting tables: when the waiter doesn't write something down, he's probably pocketing the money. I hated to see this creep get those two bucks from me, even at the expense of his employer, but I wanted out of there ASAP.
We went to the nearby Winter Garden, which was excellent. Great food (we had escargot in garlic sauce, little pierogies, and a meslun salad with lox and goat cheese, all recommended) and great service...