Several years ago, a freshly traumatized friend posted on Facebook to warn everyone that he’d found what looked like a toenail clipping in his omelette. He’d eaten at one of my go-to breakfast joints, a restaurant that I immediately put on the list of places I’ll never visit again, right between an airport Hard Rock Cafe and literally any other Hard Rock Cafe.
I’m still shook, and that was a second-hand story from at least five years ago. For Melissa Mermea, though, the horror is fresh. According to News 4 San Antonio, the Texas woman had just unwrapped one of the takeout tacos she’d gotten from Mama Margie’s restaurant, when she noticed some hair sticking out of one of the soft tortillas. And then she realized that the hair was wrapped around a pink press-on nail. Yes, it was all inside the taco.
Mermea took the taco—and the fingernail—back to Mama Margie’s, and she said that the manager was less apologetic than he was accusatory. "The manager told me that that press-on nail did not come from his establishment,” she told the station. “He was 100 percent sure. I was insulted. I was embarrassed. And I was upset.”
Being upset meant that she posted a photo of her taco—and of her own non-press-on manicure, for reference—on Facebook. “The Manager ‘idiot’ insinuated I planted [the nail] there,” she wrote. “First of all, I don’t wear press-on nails and [...] 2nd how would that benefit me? I get a free taco when we buy $25 worth of tacos all the time. They reimburse me a whopping $2 and some change.”
Mermea believes that a worker lost a nail at some point while they prepped her food, and all she really wants is an apology. "I don’t want nothing. I did not request anything,” she said. “I just wanted everyone to be aware of what happened to me and how disrespectful it was for the manager to blame me and point the finger that I would do something like this.” (Point… the… finger!)
In a statement to News 4, a Mama Margie’s partner said that the restaurant “[takes] food safety very seriously,” and that it has policies that prohibit employees from wearing fake nails. “We are continuing to investigate the matter." (MUNCHIES has reached out to Mama Margie’s for additional comment but has not received a response.)
If that policy is in place, it’s for one important reason: fake fingernails have a nasty habit of slipping off during food prep. Last May, an Arizona man said he “threw up three times” after he bit into a burger from Culver’s and felt a fake nail on his tongue. A Florida woman also “puked” after she found a “full-length French tip fingernail” at the bottom of her Taco Bell nachos. And a British teenager bit into an actual fingernail clipping in her chicken sandwich from Nando’s. (She didn’t boot, but she said a manager told her that it wasn’t the worst thing she could’ve bitten into; a restaurant spokesperson later said that the ‘fingernail’ was a shaving from a wooden cocktail stick).
For Mermea, it doesn’t matter if every employee’s hands are replaced with sanitary plastic replicas, she’s not going back to Mama Margie’s. “I don't want no nails in my tacos,” she said. “I want my food to be good."