This year marks the 34th anniversary of one of the most bizarre injury stories you’ll ever hear: a woman was once injured at a Syracuse restaurant by an exploding snail. Escargot, to be exact.

Karen J. Prouty was out for a birthday meal with friends and family on February 26th, 1988, when her fancy hors d'oeuvre spontaneously exploded, burning her eye with piping hot garlic butter and temporarily blinding her. The incident occurred at Pascale’s Wine Bar & Restaurant, at the time located in the Hawley-Green district of Syracuse. It’s been theorized the freak accident happened as a result of excess steam buildup inside the slimy entrée. Prouty spoke in 1988 with the Syracuse Herald-Journal (now the Syracuse Post-Standard) and said:

“I just immediately broke down crying. I enjoy escargot, but I probably will be very hesitant to order it again."

 

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Pascale feared news of the event would hurt business, but it did quite the opposite. National news outlets picked up the story and helped thrust Pascale’s into the limelight. Soon escargot became the hottest item on the menu and the restaurant routinely sold out.

Pascale’s offered to pay the woman’s medical bills and dry cleaning and even offered her a free meal. After it became clear the woman was not seriously hurt, the establishment leaned into the infamy and routinely joked about it. Their chefs were said to have started piercing the snails several times to prevent future hot garlic blasts.

Pascale’s Wine Bar & Restaurant underwent a few different incarnations at various locations throughout the Syracuse area. Chuck and his brother Neal remained a part of the Syracuse restaurant scene up until recently when COVID-19 restrictions claimed his bistro as yet another small business casualty. 

So today, we raise a glass and toast one of the strangest restaurant injury stories of the last 50 years. Salud!

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