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Aug 4, 2004 09:57 PM

Disappointing experience at Stephanie's

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Sun. night my husband and I decided to try Stephanie's on Newbury St (being childless for 2 weeks of summer camp). We got a little sticker shock from some of the prices, but that's Newbury St. Anyway, we enjoyed the salad that we shared (field greens, pears, etc), but his Stephie burger, which he ordered medium, arrived well done. My lobster roll was fine. When the waitress came by to see how it was, he showed it to her, and she offered to bring it back and do another one. He hesitated because he didn't want to wait a long time, but she assured him it would only be 5-10 minutes. Fifteen minutes later, the replacement arrived, cooked exactly as the first was. The waitress came over again, and seemed very frustrated when he showed it to her (though she didn't seem frustrated with him). She sent the manager over, who agreed it was well done, and immediately offered to take it off the bill. However, for the remainder of the meal, the waitress seemed tense and uncomfortable around us, even though my husband had been reasonable and calm about the whole thing. We even ordered dessert. However, when the bill came, we discovered, to our surprise, that they add an 18% gratuity to all checks for outdoor diners (this was stamped on the bill). I know this is often done for parties of 6 or more, but it's usually very obvious on the menu- in this case, I never noticed it. I suspect she was distressed because she knew her tip would be based on the lesser amount, and as my husband said, it turned out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Had she behaved differently, we would have considered adding additional gratuity to the bill, which they did have a place for. We did enjoy the food for the most part, and the outdoor cafe experience was fun, but I can't say I'd recommend it.

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  1. I hope someone else will chime in here, but I've eaten on the patio a few times at Stephanie's, and don't ever remember them adding gratuity for outdoor diners. Their menu does require you to spend a minimum amount per person when you eat on the patio.

    I had the steak salad there for lunch a couple of months ago, and it wasn't as good as it had been in the past. It just didn't seem very "fresh" to me.

    3 Replies
    1. re: thecleave
      margaux kidder

      Interestingly enough, a colleague and I headed there for outdoor drinks and apps last Friday evening. We hadn't been in a year or so, and were somewhat stunned to find that our party of 2 was hit with the automatic 18% gratuity. The service was fine, the apps very decent, but somehow, the experience ended on something of a down note over that (IMHO) rediculous rule.

      1. re: margaux kidder

        They have been adding 18% on the patio for some time now, however it has never equated to good service.

        I really dislike thier dinner service at Stephanie's. Lunch and Brunch are pretty good foodwise, but the service has always been lacking. They don't need to worry as much about local repeat business due to the Newbury tourist traffic.

        1. re: Gabatta

          They have not had the automatic gratuity in over two years.

    2. I really dislike Stephanie's: I can't abide oversized portions of mediocre, overpriced food. But if I waited tables at such a place, I would jump for joy over a mandatory tip surcharge: tourists ignorant of American customs and suburbanites shocked at Newbury St prices tend to be really lousy tippers. That said, if they don't disclose it plainly up front, you should be angry. One more reason not to go back, and tell 20 people that there are far better options for patio dining in the Back Bay.

      2 Replies
      1. re: MC Slim JB

        Thank you thank you MC Slim I could not agree with you more. I scratch my head in amazement every time I see a good recommendation for that place flow across my screen. Stephanie's above all, and a few others on Newbury, are the sorts of places my younger associates like to visit for a "big" night out because they are obvious targets, but the food's not so great, the service is just ok, and the prices are high. I just don't see the point and never go there unless someone's already settled in and I'm joining.

        1. re: MC Slim JB

          I agree; Stephanie's is not a good place to eat. The food is at the very least bland and uninspired. The beer and wine selections are some of the worst I have seen. However, I agree that the gratuity is fair since many tourists and commuters have a hard time with the prices. When do not want to pay m hourly rate of $350 I tell them to find another person, servers do not have that option. I think this place is best left alone.

        2. Had Brunch at Stephanie's yesterday, and I must say, that it was excellent. It was busy, expensive, and the service was wonderful. The manager came over 3-times to see if everything was OK! Don't complain about prices on Newbury Street, where they rent space by the inch, not by the foot, so if you can afford to shop on Newbury, don't complain about the price. This was truly a wonderful experience for the 6 of us at Stephanie's..........

          1 Reply
          1. re: Irwin

            i don't complain about stephanie's because i refuse to eat there. i tried it when they first opened and hated it. everything about it. 10 years ago. plenty of other places to spend my money.

          2. I hate Stephanie's with a passion. It's the Cheesecake Factory with higher prices. I've always found the service to be wretched, the waits intolerable, and the food mediocre at best. I have never gotten a burger cooked to the correct temperature, EVER.

            1. I join the head-scratching when it comes to Stephanie's popularity. I've had several lunches there (thankfully all corporate, so I didn't have to pay for it) and none of them were particularly good. It always astounds me to see the lines of people waiting to dine there.