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Dec 8, 1999 09:15 AM


  • d

Do not EVER go to Bouley Bakery. My wife and I made a reservation for 10 pm on a Friday night, the only available time. When we arrived, we were told they were running behind and we would have to wait 15 minutes. Which is annoying, since we HAD made a reservation, but no big deal. 15 minutes came and went. No table. There were still people in front of us. Finally, at 10:45, a couple who arrived AFTER us was seated. We complained to the maitre d, who said, "oh, well, you'll get the next table." Mind you, this is 45 minutes after our reservation. We were finally seated at 11 pm without an apology, and when we complained, the maitre d said, simply, "Yelling at me won't help." Our consolation for a 1 hour wait: a free glass of wine.

The food was very good, but there are a million places in NYC where the food AND service is wonderful. Please tell everyone you know: NEVER, EVER go to Bouley Bakery.

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  1. I can't wait to read the responses that you are going to get to this post...

    37 Replies
    1. re: Jim

      for the record, the "Jim" who left the message I'm replying to isn't me...

      (the other) JIM

      1. re: Jim

        You mean like "why is this posted in three different spots?"

        I've waited at many restaurants past the time when I'd reserved. You can't control exactly when diners are going to get up if they want to linger over their last glass of wine. (I certainly wouldn't want to be rushed out the door or be told that we could only have the table until exactly 9:45p.) I would, however, be a bit miffed if another party of the same size as mine was seated before we were. But I've noticed that a smile and a gentle reminder to the host work a lot better than becoming visibly upset. Sometimes I think that hosts have a tendency to make little mistakes like that when people are giving them a hard time.

        That being said, I wouldn't let one person's bad experience stop me from trying a restaurant that's had such good press. I have a reservation for dinner on 12/26 and, if I have to wait a bit, I'll wait happily. Then again, we could only get a 6pm spot, so waiting a while really wouldn't be such a bad thing...

        1. re: Dena

          My earlier post may have been in the wrong place. I would like to be sure everyone on the board sees it because I hate to see such a food lover's place be trashed.

          1. re: phyllis


            While I understand the need to defend a place you like (I would feel the same way about MY favorite restaurant, Jean-Georges), I'm hardly trashing it. I'm just relating my experience there. As I said, the food was great, and I imagine those of you who go at 6 will be seated right away. But the fact is, when going to a place of Bouley Bakery's supposed caliber, my wife and I always tend to go around 9:30 or 10, and the longest we've ever had to wait before was 10 minutes.

            I know there's no way to control who lingers over their meal. But AN HOUR??? That shouldn't be something you just brush off as typical New York dining.

            1. re: Dan

              Let me get this straight. You go 1)for the first time to 2) one of the hottest--and 3) smallest--major restaurants in New York 4) within a few weeks of its being awarded the Times's only fourth star of the year, 5) on a Saturday night (tourist night!) in the middle of the 6) holiday season? And you're upset because you have to wait a while to be seated, even though you are compensated with wine? Pardon me for a moment: I'm all verklempt, and I'm afraid the tears might leak out onto the keyboard. The humanity! The humanity!

              1. re: Al Pastor

                It seems to me that Dan was upset about the manner in which he was treated, not just the length of the wait. I think it's pretty pitiful that New Yorkers come to either expect or resign themselves to poor treatment, bad manners, and outright rudeness. It's sad, really. It seems to be more and more prevalent in restaurants, but seeps into all the other venues of life as well, and I, for one, do not think that just because a restaurant gets a fourth star - whoop-de-doo - patrons should consider themselves lucky to be there at all.

                1. re: Tara

                  Tara: Thank you, thank you, thank you. Well put, and in far fewer words than I used.

                  1. re: Dan
                    Steve from Rhinebeck

                    I "LOVE" this! Good, bitchy give and take. Please don't stop!
                    PS I'm with you Dan.

                    1. re: Steve from Rhinebeck

                      I don't even know where to get in on this monster thread but I have to throw in my 2 cents.

                      Ist, as someone clarified, it was the worst restaurant experience of your life, not the worst meal.

                      2nd, I totally empathize! I hate when restaurants cannot handle the reservations--Cucina in Park Slope used to ALWAYS do that! 45 minutes was typical, with nowhere comfortable to sit or anything. If there is, at leas,t a bar area and you can sit and have a drink or appetizers there while you wait (hopefully, on the house) it's not so bad. But it's not so good if it's already 10 p.m.

                      3rd, in terms of compensation a glass of wine is lame! A whole free meal is a bit much but you should've gotten a free bottle of wine and/ or free dessert or appetizers and maybe even some bread to take home or something.

                      4th, being a hot restaurant can be handled gracefully, it's done all the time. I have been very graciously given a bill and told that there is a reservation after mine, which is fine when I've been somewhere for a long time already(2-3 hours). It's not rushing you, it's letting you know there are other people in the world besides you!

                      And another thing, I would not have left after making a rez. a month before! And where would you have gone down there? Odeon or something, I guess.

                      Anyway, the whole deal sucks but I hope one day all you remember is the good food (and the monster thread you spawned!). I did have a marvelous lunch there, albeit I had to wait 10 minutes for the res. and they were not particulary gracious about it. They definitly acted like it happens all the time. But the service from our waiter was very, very good.

                      P.S. Whoever said waiting 45 minutes at Pastis was part of the experience, or whatever, is sounding sadly like a foodie and not a chowhound!!!

                      1. re: Jessica S.

                        Jessica's last line is right on. I've said this a few times, but I guess it needs to be said again: an hour-long wait is NOT part of the New York dining experience. I HAVE been to 4-star restaurants before, on a Friday or Saturday night, and have NEVER in my life had to wait an hour. A true 4-star restaurant should be 4-star in every aspect, not just food.

                        1. re: Dan

                          Would you please stop whining already. We've all been screwed by restaurants; enough is enough!

                          1. re: matt

                            Aw, now c'mon, if you're going to spawn a monster thread (which isn't his fault, it obviously touched a nerve) then you can at least come back and respond to what people say!!

                            1. re: Jessica S.

                              Thank you, Jessica. Matt, I was just responding to someone's post, not whining. Jeez.

                2. re: Al Pastor

                  First of all, it was a Friday, not a Saturday.

                  Second of all, are you kidding me??? Let's go over this again: a 15-minute wait is no big deal. An hour is ridiculous. Maybe you're so gosh-darn excited to eat at a 4-star restaurant that you'd happily wait 3 hours and sit on the floor, but I have a slightly higher opinion of myself. Yes, call me crazy, but when I bother to make a reservation a month in advance for a restaurant and am paying a great deal, I think I'm right to expect to be seated at, say, a time that comes close to the reservation time. And if there's a massive delay, I expect to be told about it, and I expect an apology.

                  And you consider a glass of wine to be compensation for an hour wait??? Are you out of your mind???

                  Your post makes it sound as if this is typical. It's not. Again, I have NEVER had this bad of an experience at a restaurant. Even--ESPECIALLY--at a four-star one. And even on "tourist night."

                  You should expect more from your dining experience, methinks. If you're regularly treated this way and don't get upset, you've got no self-respect.

                  By the way, very clever sarcasm in your post. I'm not sure why you took my complaints so personally, but I guess that's just your way.

                  1. re: Al Pastor

                    Well, after being treated the way he was, I'd be pissed too. When you are given a reservation, that reservation should be honored. And if the folks at Bouley Bakery don't yet know how to estimate the amount of time people are going to spend on their meals, then they are just plain stupid. I don't think they're stupid, I think they're arrogant.

                    If we ACCEPT such behavior, we're going to get more of it. If we complain about it loudly and publicly enough, maybe it will stop.

                    I read in the Times the other day of the ideal solution. Call in for Pizza. LOUDLY.

                    1. re: Peter

                      I've been hearing about long meals and delays at the Bouley restaurants for years - it appears to be embedded there in the speed that the food comes out of the kitchen, etc more than arrogance per se. Can we get them to change? Probably not. Are some front of the house people in top restaurants less than cordial to hoi polloi? Probably so. Given the increasingly overheated NY restaurant scene, and rising levels of incivility generally, raising the volume some more and making things even worse seems like a bad idea.

                      1. re: jen kalb

                        You people claim to eat out alot...and many of you claim to know alot about the restaurant business. And what I'd like to ask you is...have any of you worked in the business? It is the most stressful business that I can imagine. If you haven't done it...don't knock it! Don't make your mad declarations about not wanting to wait. It's not an exact science! You are right about the "special people" who grab tables that perhaps should have been yours....but you know.....That's the nature of the business.....and aren't you thrilled when Oprah and Dianne Sawyer are seated next to you? Maybe not...

                        1. re: Jim

                          No, I've never worked in the restaurant businness.
                          So what? I eat out a lot. There are places that keep you waiting and there are places that don't. There are places that treat you decently, and there are places that don't. Everyone has bad nights, and sometimes things get crazy. But a glass of wine is NOT (IMHO) fair compensation for the treatment described in the original post. A free meal maybe.

                          If Grammercy Tavern can seat people on time, and hire or train staff to be pleasant, why can't Bouley?

                          And, while food is the most important thing about a restaurant, it is by no means the ONLY thing, especially when dealing with high-end places. For me, these are supposed to be special meals.

                          Finally, I could care less if Oprah or whoever sits at the next table. I don't care who sits next to me, unless they are loud or smelly.

                          1. re: Peter

                            If you choose to go to a restaurant at the moment of its greatest heat--presumably BECAUSE of its heat--then you have to gracefully accept the consequences of heat. (I waited for more than hour at Pastis last week, and considered it part of the game.) To blame a hot restaurant for being, well, hot, is sort of nutty.There are few reasons besides heat to rush to a restaurant seconds after it has been raved up in the Times, when the crush is likely to be insane, regulars are scared off by the crowds, and tables blossom with glasses filled with Coca Cola instead of Tokay Pinot Gris. Few if any restaurants are prepared to deal with the tumult. (If Gramercy is ever awarded a fourth star, weekends will be just as bad.) And the alternatives to weekend overbooking in hot restaurants is usually 1) like Patroon, to raise prices to utterly insane levels; or 2) like Moomba, to become essentially a private club.

                            1. re: Al Pastor

                              Al Pastor wrote
                              And the alternatives to weekend overbooking in hot restaurants is usually 1) like Patroon, to raise prices to utterly insane levels; or 2) like Moomba, to become essentially a private club.

                              My reply

                              I usually do avoid restaurants right after a write-up in the Times, but I don't always see the write-ups, and I don't read other papers, and, in any case, it is NOT my responsibility to make sure the restaurant can seat me. That's part of THEIR job.

                              There's a third alternative: Don't take more reservations than you can handle.

                              Also, the original complaint was about more than the delay. Sometimes big delays happen, and I realize that predicting the table availability isn't exact. But when a big delay happens, the management should make it clear that they are apologetic.

                              And the staff should NEVER be rude to anyone (well, maybe not NEVER, but only in very very unusual circumstances like a drunk who won't leave or something).

                              1. re: Al Pastor

                                Sorry, Al, but that doesn't really make any sense. If a restaurant gets a rave in the Times, it should become difficult to get a reservation, of course. But once you get one, the restaurant should be able to cope with the number of people expected for the night. If a place doesn't take reservations, I expect to have to wait for an hour. But the whole CONCEPT of reservations is to do away with a wait.

                                1. re: Al Pastor

                                  I've never been to BB, and had only good experiences at Bouley, but what you said about Gramercy Tavern is just flat wrong. Gramercy was even hotter than BB even before it opened, after the New York Magazine article that essentially called it the best/hottest restaurant in New York before the darn place had even opened. True, GT is bigger, and thus better equipped to handle the nonstop ringing phone, but has any restaurant been strained more by demand before its opening? There were dislocations, particularly in food quality during its opening months, but GT managed to maintain a high level of service AND a high level of cordiality.

                                  So, it CAN be done.

                                  1. re: Al Pastor

                                    What if we turn it around? Don't restaurants ask customers to make reservations, re-confirm, even leave a credit card? Don't they also sometimes tell us when they need to turn the table over? Aren't these people supposedly at the TOP of their industry, in which case they should be experienced enough to know how much time to allow each patron?
                                    The Big Question has to be:
                                    Why should we be left waiting - even though we have upheld our end of the commitment by arriving on time - when WE are paying THEM a lot of money?

                                    1. re: Liza

                                      "Why should we be left waiting - even though we have upheld our end of the commitment by arriving on time - when WE are paying THEM a lot of money?"

                                      The answer is encoded in your comment that restaurants "should be experienced enough to know how much time to allow each patron." There are equally indignant consumers at tables saying "Why should we end our meal when THEY want us to when WE are paying THEM a lot of money?"

                                      With indignant high-rollers at both sides of the equation, restaurateurs are caught in the middle. If there were an easy answer, this wouldn't be a problem.

                                      1. re: Jim Leff

                                        but don't you think the restaurants here in nyc are being greedy? they want to turn the tables as much as they can and hence the problem. lingering over your meal, taking time between courses, enjoying the wine - like all life's great pleasures, these are best relished slowly. theres not a country i can think of where fine dining is coupled with hustling as blatantly as in this one. surely theres ground for compromise: i don't mind paying a higher price to make up for the restaurants lost revenue; but leave me in peace, for gods sake.

                                        1. re: howler

                                          hmmm...your comments lead to an interesting point. The question of over-booking is a complex one...restaurateurs--even the high end ones--insist that their profit margins won't allow them to absorb the cost loss of no-shows...and thus must overbook. Not sure whether that's true or if they're just greedy. But your message seems to imply that super-luxury restaurants should slightly UNDERBOOK to assure timely seating in spite of potential table-hogging laggards.

                                          If nothing else, this would be a most interesting marketing tool should some hot, expensive restaurant give it a try (and get resulting media attention, cuz it's so unprecedented).

                                          1. re: Jim Leff

                                            Super-luxury restaurants DO in fact slightly underbook, which is why places like Le Cote Basque and Lespinasse rarely see the sort of holding patterns that so many posters are complaining about--except, maybe, on weekends. But it's strictly supply and demand: super-luxury restaurants are incredibly expensive, even by NY standards. And if (he says, ducking) Bouley Bakery suddenly moved to midtown, tripled in size and charged $85 prix fixe for dinner, you would see the overcrowding stop in an instant.

                                            1. re: Al Pastor

                                              SOME restaurants do manage not to keep people waiting.

                                              I've been to Grammercy Tavern maybe 6 times, always seated right on time. In fact, I've been to Danny Meyer restaurants maybe 15 times, and always seated within a couple minutes of when party was complete.
                                              And the restaurants were usually full. And we ate at reasonable hours (usually reservation between 7:30 and 8:30).

                                              So, is Danny Meyer simply better at math than everyone else? Do people at Grammercy Tavern bolt their food?

                                              Nope. Some folks run their restaurants with the customer's comfort and pleasure in mind. If we keep going back to them, and avoiding places that run with other priorities, then things will change everywhere.

                                              *I* for one, will not return to a place that treats me badly. No matter how good the food.

                                            2. re: Jim Leff

                                              but why not? its only here that you get hustled - nowhere else in the world do they try and shuffle you off you so quickly at fine restaurants. lets face it: most diners at the super-luxury level are price insensitive. so lets say le shuffler turns tables just twice a night as opposed to three but charges 1.5 times for the food. they won't make as much money because they'll sell less of their highest margin product: the wine. but people are there to eat, for gods sake, and not there for you to make money by charging ridiculous prices for wine. thats why i think the restaurants are greedy.

                                    2. re: Peter

                                      ...or talk on their cell phone or smoke a cigar. People who are making excuses for the restaurant industry should be ashamed of themselves. If there is a high priority placed on civility and respect for your clientele then things such as what happened at BB miraculously don't happen. Why are there so many restaurants in town? Because restaurants have the capability of generating huge PROFITS for their owners. If a restaurant can't treat their customers with respect, they deserve to be put out of business for lack of patrons.

                                    3. re: Jim

                                      "...mad declarations about not wanting to wait." Did you really mean "mad" as in nuts?

                                      There are thousands of restaurants in NYC, so why would I go to one that CHOOSES NOT to treat ALL of its customers with basic courtesy ?

                                      1. re: Jim

                                        Uh . . . Jim? Working in restaurants "is the most stressful business that I can imagine"???? Think about the range of careers out there for a sec. EMS worker . . . open heart surgeon . . . yeah, you're right, working in a restaurant is more stressful.

                                        There are millions of stressful jobs out there. Stress is no excuse for incompetence. If you can't handle a stressful job, you shouldn't have one.

                                        1. re: Dan

                                          "if you can't handle a stressful job, you shouldn't have one".

                                          easily said Dan. but what would we then do with all of the unemployed (and unemployable) actors and actresses?

                                        2. re: Jim

                                          I have worked in the restaurant business. In fact, I was "Head Server" at a restaurant which was in the process of going under, and I gave away enough free drinks, bottles of wine, and desserts to feed a small army. My primary concern was keeping people happy. Yes, happy. This means different concessions for different parties, and, generally, lots of them. The restaurant business is a service industry, and service ought always to be at the heart of it all.

                              2. re: Dena

                                What I meant was that.....I couldn't wait to hear how people were going to defend Bouley Bakery....

                                1. re: Dena

                                  Actually, you should be glad to get the early spot because you most likely won't have to wait. Sometimes, the dinner does drag on so the diners coming after you would be subjected to waits. Hope you enjoy.

                                  1. re: Gary Cheong
                                    Dave Feldman

                                    Yep, that's my doctor strategy, too. If I go to a doctor who is invariably late, I try to schedule the first appointment after lunch (morning people can try the first appointment of the day) or the last of the day (somehow, physicians have a miraculous way of making up time at the end of the day).

                                    Early reservations for restaurants often work well. Service staff seems more relaxed, no specials are unavailable, and you are unlikely to be rushed.

                              3. hey dan, i think you missed a few boards (namely "outer boroughs" and "kosher").

                                and not to defend bouley bakery (have not yet been there) but it seems that service (and even simple courtesy) is sorely missing from many establishments lately. perhap this is due to the tight labor market?
                                i dunno.

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: fred t.

                                  "hey dan, i think you missed a few boards (namely "outer boroughs" and "kosher")"

                                  folks, what Fred's referring to is that the poster "spammed" his message on multiple boards (which is prohibited, so we deleted all but this one posting).

                                  1. re: fred t.

                                    Yes, I realize I posted everywhere, but hey, I'm pissed.

                                    1. re: Dan

                                      I hear what you are saying regarding what you expect from a 4 star restaurant. You're pissed, but why take it out on us by spamming most of the boards?

                                      1. re: gary cheong

                                        I didn't post to anything too far off the mark, actually. But I do apologize.

                                  2. I had the misfortune to attempt to dine here at lunch one Saturday a few months back. It was raining that day and my table was near to the door. Everytime the door opened rain would pour in on the backs of hapless diners who wanted to eat. They would fling the water off their umbrellas onto my table, dilluting the sauces.
                                    My friend was elbowed in the ear by a waiter, a mistake, I'm sure, but no apology.
                                    The din in the dining room was headache inducing.
                                    The food was so so. The bread, not worth 8 dollars a loaf.
                                    I'll go elsewhere, and do. The check was 100 dollars for lunch for 3 persons, before the 10% tip.
                                    Almost as bad as that 10 Dollar bowl of Matzo ball soup at Blue Ribbon Bakery!!

                                    1. I am so sorry to see this post because my husband and I just enjoyed one of the best meals of our lives at Bouley Bakery. Also, some of the best service. We ate at 6:30 (also the only one we could get 30 days in advance) so perhaps they are less frazzled then. They don't rush you so maybe by the end of the night they have people (like us) to stay and savor every bite.

                                      The bread was incredible, the chef's amuse was a crab cake with cucumber reduction that was sublime, my husband had the best rack of lamb he ever tasted and my wild striped bass was memorable. The chef also sent out a dessert on the house (cold soup with 3 home made sorbets). The generosity and care were incredible.

                                      Sorry you had such a bad one but I hope you will reconsider and try again. Honestly, our service was simply wonderful.

                                      1. Contrary to the subject of your post, this was not the worst meal of your life. By your own admission,"the food was very good". This may have been the worst restaurant experience of your life though and clearly colored everything about your evening. Maybe after the dust settles you'll want to give them another chance.
                                        Similar complaints have been posted about Babbo, but for a splashy evening it is one of my favorites.
                                        Go figure, huh? pat

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: pat hammond

                                          hmm, bad service at bouley sounds like the exception, not the rule...doesn't excuse it, but i urge you and others to NOT let this deter you from eating there (unless we hear more complaints start cropping up...)

                                          over the years i've gone to bouley and bouley bakery dozens of times, and never experienced a problem like yours.

                                          bouley has provided the most consistently outstanding dining experience for me, in food, service, every detail i can think of, for so long, that it is hands down my favorite restaurant. i've been to most of the top-rated restaurants in this city, and haven't found one to compare.

                                          one man's opinion...


                                          1. re: keith k

                                            I had been to the original Bouley and had a wonderful experience. But NOT Bouley Bakery. And an experience like this one SHOULD deter you from going again, even if it's a fluke. When you're paying an obscene amount of money, you should be treated with respect. Period.

                                            1. re: keith k

                                              Wow, I sure am laughing hard after reading your post. You have NEVER heard of a similar bad service tale from BOuley? I don't know what to all candor, I think your experience is the exception rather than the rule. ALthough I, too, have not had bad service experiences there, I am quite certain that this is only because I am closely related to someone who is very involved in the food world. Do I think the food Chef Bouley serves can sometimes be truly wonderful? You bet. But, a meal is, as said, more than the food itself; it is the entire experience and I think even the most astonishing cuisine can be ruined by an experience fraught with problems such as bad service -- especially when the problems start at the get go of a meal.

                                            2. re: pat hammond

                                              Sorry, but a meal is more than just the food. It is the service, the decor, etc. So, yes, it was the worst meal of my life.

                                              I've been to Babbo, meanwhile, and had a wonderful experience all around.