04 August 2009

"Everybody's lookin' somewhere for their fair share of wonder" --Steve Gillette & Charles John Quarto

Saturday night we try an Arlington restaurant that has a promising menu. You'll note I'm not mentioning the restaurant's name or opening with a rave because even though the food was okay to good it was overshadowed by a number of strange moments. Yeah, I'm overly critical. Check this out anyway and tell me if this is the kind of dining experience you look for...

Strange moment #1: The table or Do we not clean up well?

We arrive promptly for a 7:00 reservation and are shown to a table in the half-full restaurant. They show us to the table closest to the bathroom. And, before you ask, we were dressed appropriately and acting appropriately. We weren't even doing the potty dance. We asked if we might be seated somewhere that wasn't right next to the bathroom. The hostess said "Sure!" and pointed us to the next table over.

Strange moment #2: The order or I didn't mean to confuse you.

The waitress is taking our order. It goes something like this...

Me: I'd like the Grilled Mushrooms... and the Fisherman's Pasta, please.
Waitress: You want... what?
Me: *pointing at each item on the menu* The Grilled Mushrooms for my appetizer and the Fisherman's Pasta for the entree. Please.
Waitress: Grilled Mushrooms?
Me: *pointing to menu where it says Grilled Mushrooms* Yes, and the Fisherman's Pasta.
Waitress: That's so weird. It used to say Stuffed Mushrooms. They must have changed it.
Me: Stuffed? Often, stuffed mushrooms are fried. Are these fried or grilled?
Waitress: Well, even when the menu said stuffed, they weren't really stuffed. No, they weren't fried. They were grilled, I think.
Me: Okay, I'll have that.
Waitress: I didn't know they changed the menu.
Waitress: *writing* Okay, the Mushrooms and the Fisherman's Pasta.

Now, call me quirky, but I expect the waitstaff to know what's on the menu. And, if they don't, I don't think they should be dwelling on this fact.

Strange moment #3: The Bread or The waitress giveth and the waitress taketh away.

The waitress comes by to check on us as we are starting into the complimentary (yay!), warm (yay!) bread. It's kind of funky--a cheese bread. I'm not complaining but she sees my expression. She asks if I don't like the bread. I say it's okay. She says she can bring me something else. (Nice, right?) I say if it's no trouble that would be lovely, and she brings a basket with different bread in it. This time a multigrain.*

Picture it: we are two people sitting on the inside seats of a four top. This means that half of the table is empty. Space is not an issue--for us. In order to put the second basket down in front of us (why in front of us when there's half an empty table?), she pushes Hubby's water out of the way and nearly dumps it in his lap. As she puts the basket down she says "You probably want to combine those so you don't have two baskets." (Again, why?) While she is off at another table we meekly comply and she whisks away the empty basket when she swings by.

Once we have received and enjoyed our appetizers, she decides we've had enough bread, even though the basket is still half full. She picks up my bread plate and stacks it with the dirty appetizer plates. She starts to reach for my husband's bread plate...

Hubby: I think I'm going to have more bread.
Waitress: *pause* Oh.
She then turns to me and says: Would you like your plate back?
Me, looking at the stacked dirty dishes: No, that's okay.

Strange moment #4: The bill or You don't have to go home but you can't stay here.

In lieu of dessert we opt for after-dinner drinks. We are maybe a quarter of the way through them when she deposits the check in its billfold on our table. Um, huh? It's not like we are at the Waffle House and it's not like we have been dallying for hours and it's not like every table is taken and, most importantly, its not like we asked for the check!

* Bonus curiosity: If you managed a restaurant and had two types of bread, wouldn't you just put both types out for the table? Is there some reason you'd serve one type of bread at a time? What am I missing here? Help a blogger out.


Cyndy said...

I guess customer service is a lost art these days. The new philosopy is "The customer is always wrong." I had nearly the exact same experience yesterday in, believe it or not, a lighting store. So many parallels to your experience. Those people don't even realize how arrogant and illogical they sound - it's all about the power. As you are doing them a favor by purchasing their services. Whatever.

Cyndy said...

Oh, and that sign is hilarious!

Rose said...

I'm really curious what place this is.

Regarding the bread - not necessarily. I say this only because I was a waitress, and we had two different types of bread. We'd make about 10 loaves for a night and half were multigrain, half were regular. We were only supposed to cut one loaf at a time so we didn't waste. So.. I'm guessing that's what happened at this restaurant?

The restaurant where I worked was locally owned and only had 10 tables, so they were a little budget-conscious.

AbbotOfUnreason said...

So, were the mushrooms grilled or what?

I understand feeling pressured by the check, but I really hate having to beg the wait staff to give me the check so I can leave.

If it were up to me, there'd be a little computer embedded in the tabletop keeping my running tally. It'd have a swipe thing like a gas pump, so we could settle up whenever we wanted. Also, I guess it could have a little ipod click wheel or something so we could order on our own. It'd be the modern equivalent of the automat. Maybe there'd even be a little video screen attached to a camera that watched our food being prepared.

That's what it would be like in my world.

Lora said...

we used to have a few types of bread at the place I used to work too.

we were supposed to put out the oldest and the grossest first, to get rid of it by the time the late crowd (who tended to spend more) came in.

why make gross bread in the first place?
that's a mystery. Sometimes the cooks would experiment to try to come up with something new and they wouldn't want to throw it out because that would be wasteful.

Sometimes they would just be jerks and give gross stuff to the people who came in early because they were usually college students or people who were just out for a special dinner and they had to come early because they had families or whatever and had to get home. So it was a way of making fun of people, who thought that whatever they were served in a high class (ha!) restaurant was "good" and they would eat it right up.

also, no salt and pepper on the tables before 8pm. just another way for the chefs to be jerky to people who weren't accustomed to fine dining.
chefs are weird, mean little people. not to be trusted.

but this doesn't sound relavant to your experience at all. that girl was just dumb

Liebchen said...

That's absurd. We had similar lack-of-service at a nice restaurant in DC and I was shocked.

Maybe the waitress was having a bad day...?

Little Ms Blogger said...

I hate bad service. I understand when a place gets crowded and service is less than stellar, but PRETEND to care. If you do, you might actually get a better tip.

Kate said...

Um. The whole thing would have made me horribly uncomfortable. So much so, that I might have gone and hid in said bathroom.

Matt said...

You should have just left when they tried to sit you guys next to the bathrooms.

The Bug said...

I'm with the Abbot - I like getting my check earlier than later. Except when I'm contemplating dessert & they just bring the check without asking. Thank goodness they're saving me all those unnecessary calories!

But not knowing the menu, & then making a big deal about it? In our area you have to be a pretty good server to get a job at a nice restaurant - but I guess it's hard to find good servers anymore...

fiona said...

It was McDondalds wasn't it?!
Your just changing the names of the "edibles" to protect the innocent! sneaky...lol

Mike said...

You started off on the wrong foot. Go back and when you go in say, 'can we sit next to the bathroom?'

LiLu said...

She sounds oh-so-young.

She will (hopefully) learn that you NEVER take someone's bread plate, as an extra small plate can come in handy for a thousand different things during the course of a meal, and that you NEVER rush your drinkers out the door. Nothing bumps a check up like booze and they're always the best tippers/easiest to turn into repeat customers. Silly girl.

Narm said...

Don't you go badmouthing the Waffle House. That's fancy eating.

Barbara said...

Weird all the way around. It sort of unnerves me when I feel I am providing "a learning experience" for the wait staff. I think it would make me ask for a discount! (Sort of like getting a half-price student massage at the massage school.)

Bowie Mike said...

Sometimes bad services is indicative of the whole restaurant, and sometimes just the particular server. I wonder which applies in this case (but then again, your hostess parked you near pee-town).

My pet peeve is when they don't write down your order. I realize it is supposed to make me think how wonderful they are to remember my order, but it makes me anxious. I always give them this look like, "you better write this down, because you're not borrowing my notes later!"

LBluca77 said...

Wow that waitress sounds like a real genius. She should go work at a fast food place where this kind of service is expected.

spleeness said...

wow, bizarro experience. That she was handling hubby's water to put down new bread is odd -- waitstaff are supposed to be as unintrusive as possible! And the whole mushroom thing? LMAO!

f.B said...

did the mushrooms show up grilled or fried?

but i don't blame you for not wanting the bread plate she had already removed from the table. i wouldn't want it either.

Alex said...

She sounds a little odd, maybe somewhat inexperienced, possibly youngish, and possibly having a not-so-good day. None of those things would've really bothered me, and I actually like getting the check early (although a "take your time" with it is nice).

The sitting by the bathroom thing is the one thing I'd find annoying. I don't think it's a personal statement -- I've noticed certain restaurants seem to do this routinely. My theory is that if they're expecting to fill up, they try to get someone in there who they think won't complain (which in itself is kind of annoying, but resolved by asserting oneself.)

Felisa said...

Rarr bad customer service... I have to deal with customers at work and can write a book about my complaints but I'm HUGE on being good about serving people because that is part of your job.

Now I'm wondering about the mushrooms... were they stuffed, grilled and/or fried?

Dmbosstone said...

As an Arlingtonian I want to know which place wronged you.

lacochran said...

Cyndy: At least with restaurants there are lots of choices about where you invest your money/time. Not so sure with lighting stores.

Rose: That makes sense. Thanks for cluing me in!

AbbotofUnreason: Grilled. And your world sounds really cool! I'll bet you could sell some of those ideas.

Lora: How bizarre.

Liebchen: She didn't seem too concerned about it.

Little Ms Blogger: AbsoLUTEly!

Kate: Then maybe you prefer a conveniently located loo?

Matt: You're right. Early indicator, for sure.

The Bug: I don't like having to wait around for it but why not get it when you want it?

fiona: I can't get anything past you.

Mike: :)

LiLu: Could you please coach the waitstaff around here? Pretty please?

Narm: It ain't fancy but it sure is good!

Barbara: She seemed at times like she was trying to please but just didn't know what she was doing.

Bowie Mike: Makes me anxious, too!

LBluca77: I'd just as soon she stayed where she was so I know how to avoid her.

spleeness: Believe it or not, she was not the most intrusive waitstaff we've experienced but you're 100% right.

f.B: Grilled. Now if she'd offered me a clean plate...

Alex: You're pretty easy going, aren't you? Stop it.

Felisa: Grilled. And thanks for making the effort for the customer!

Dmbosstone: You're wearing brown flip flops right now, aren't you? I'll tell you next time I see you.