The server placed a water glass in front of me before I acknowledged that I should have left Phoenician Kabob  just after I had entered. The signs were clear from the beginning: A lone woman sat at the counter and another couple were the only diners in the dark Middle Eastern eatery on Colfax Avenue. But I had a glass of water, and it was too late to walk to the register and order takeout. Had I recognized earlier, say, after looking at the menu, that my hummus shawarma would be best eaten at a City Park picnic table, I would have changed my order and left. I'm not, after all, opposed to leaving a restaurant I've entered or even been seated at if the reasons are right.
Several times while on vacation, I've followed a guidebook to an unknown restaurant and found myself looking at a menu that only offers burritos when I want a taco, or whose cocktails are $5 more than the $7 I'd hoped to pay. In those cases, in an unknown land, water glass or not, I close my menu and walk out. In my home city, though, I don't feel quite as liberated. I'll only leave a Denver restaurant if it's run out of the dish I've come to eat, or if it's unkempt and off-putting. Local dining maven Gabby Gourmet  generally agrees with this approach, acknowledging that while it's rare for a diner to leave, if a restaurant is very expensive or if the waitstaff is obviously mistreating a diner, he's entitled to get up and go. Chefs, though, see things a bit differently. "Sometimes people just get up and go. It happens in every restaurant," says Mary Nguyen, owner and chef of Parallel 17 . "Whenever it happens, we assume that we did something wrong." Nguyen encourages diners to communicate. If they simply want a different experience--for example, pizza, instead of the Vietnamese fare Parallel 17 serves--she suggests telling the restaurant that you're looking for something else but will be back in the future. Troy Guard, chef and owner of the soon-to-open TAG  on Larimer Square, also appreciates this open communication. If a diner lets Guard know why he's leaving, the chef can try to compensate for a bad experience. "I want you to leave happy. I'll buy you a drink if I need to," Guard says. So while it's hard to deny a diner's right to leave, the question still remains: Should he leave? Even if there's a water glass?