Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Manhattan >
Oct 5, 2000 02:38 PM

Half King: half-wits and horrors

  • m

I had dinner last night at Half King with two friends, and while the food was quite good I think I can safely swear that I will never darken that particular doorway again. First, the service was staggeringly bad. It took our server three tries to get our wine order correct, and when she finally did appear with the proper bottle she almost immediately disappeared still holding it. Another very nice and helpful server tracked her, and the wine, down for us. This spacy waitress also tried to whisk away my friend's shepard's pie, which had about three bites out of it, when my friend for a nano-second put down her fork. And if it hadn't been for her colleague, we never would have gotten bread or water.

When the bill for $93.10 arrived, I handed over my credit card and shortly after received a charge slip for $21.65. I followed the waitress into the incredibly noisy bar (one had to practically shout to be heard) and pointed out that she had made an error in my favor of over $70. She and a man who another server informed me was one of the owners turned their backs to me and began poring over a computer screen. When, after 15 minutes they had not spoken to me (my friends were still stranded at the table), I approached them and said ,"Excuse me, but what is taking so long? All you have to do is void the charge and re-enter it." Did they apologize for keeping me cooling my heels with no explanation, or thank me for not simply walking out $70-plus to the good over the restaurant and/or server? NOOOOO..... instead, the man replied, "It's not so fucking simple." I began to shake I was so angry, and the good dinner I had eaten turned into a knot in my stomach. Had this boorish creep not been in possession of my American Express card, I would have walked out then and there.

Meanwhile, another waitress and a waiter were trying desperately to placate me, as if they knew full well what a sour jerk their boss was, apologizing, offering to buy us drinks, etc. At this point, some 30 minutes after I had brought the error to the hapless server's attention, all we wanted was OUT. The man in charge, after giving me his profanity-laced answer, sauntered to the bar, lit a cigarette and began chatting up some people sitting there. I approached him again, asking for my bill and card. I had to raise my voice to be heard over the din, but I was not shouting. And by this time I was pretty pissed off, so I am sure my tone of voice reflected that. He said the waitress had gone to another computer.

When the waitress reappeared with my card and bill, I added a $16.90 tip. My friends and I agreed that although the server had been mind-bogglingly incompetent she was not rude or malicious and in any case we hated to stiff anyone, especially if the tips might be pooled, since the other two servers had been so nice and tried to be helpful. I handed the bill to the owner and said, "I am not about to stiff the waitress because of you, but I think you owe me an apology." "What for?" "For mouthing off at me." "YOU, " he snarled, "were yelling at me." ( I suppose he thinks 'complaining' and 'yelling' are synonomous.) NEVER, EVER in my life have I been served up such shabby treatment, rudeness and attitude. What is this guy doing in the hospitality industry? Why would anyone want to go to this place?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. j
    Jason Perlow

    Holy cow. Thats un freakin beleiveable.

    Although, I would have paid the 21 dollars and walked out.


    3 Replies
    1. re: Jason Perlow

      I agree with Jason! Must say you are extremely nice to have left a tip - can't say I would have done the same. Good for you.

      1. re: sibbell
        Martha Gehan

        You're talking about a group that included two former waitresses. The server was so out to lunch we felt sorry for her--she was like the Manuel character in "Fawlty Towers."

      2. re: Jason Perlow

        that was exactly what I was thinking I would've done!

      3. g
        George Lynch

        That's quite a story!

        So, where is this place? I've never heard of it.

        1 Reply
        1. re: George Lynch
          Martha Gehan

          It's on 23rd & Ninth--we'd been at Chelsea Piers and couldn't get into Red Cat--and Eric Asimov had given Half King (where I'd had drinks a couple of times) a favorable writeup last week.

        2. I always say, "THE GOOD SHALL NOT INHERIT THE EARTH".
          After 5 minutes, I would have approached my friends, paid the requested bill and exited.

          1. Isn't this place owned by the guy who wrote "A Perfect Storm" ? I'm wondering if you interacted with him -- a very good looking dark-haired guy ?


            1 Reply
            1. re: bill

              No, this was not Sebastian Junger, who I think may be a backer of the place--this was an unattractive dark-haired guy with an Irish accent.

            2. I started going to the Half King last year, in December. I only ever went there for drinks, and at the time, there were a couple of "space cadet" types working. During the past few months, there has been a major staff re-shuffle, and the bartenders working there are professional, friendly, and very good at their job. One waitress in particular, an English woman named Hannah, is incredibly efficient and friendly as well.

              I know that a bad experience at a bar can turn you off forever, but I would go there again to see how it's improved. Yes, the Irish owner still works there, but the other staff make up for his attitude.

              It is really busy now, everyone's starting to find out about it, and yet everything runs smoothly, and I never wait for a drink or my meal.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Clarissa
                yvonne johnson

                "Yes, the Irish owner still works there, but the other staff make up for his attitude."

                i'm still not keen to go to a place that treats people the way the owner spoke to Martha when she pointed out she was *undercharged*. what on earth does this boorish owner have an attitude about? nearly every irish person i've ever met has been an intelligent delight.

                1. re: yvonne johnson
                  Martha Gehan

                  Right you are, Yvonne. I simply cannot bring myself to ever spend another nickel that might accrue to someone of whom my great-great uncle Ed Downes (100% Irish and a real charmer, according to my mom, who adored him when she was little) would have said in his heavy brogue "hell won't be filled 'til he's in it." New York is full of delightful bartenders and I'll give them my custom instead. FWIW, a friend who lives in that area and who did not know about my experience said the guy was completely snotty to her and her boyfriend and they have vowed never to return.

                  1. re: Martha Gehan
                    yvonne johnson

                    "hell won't be filled 'til he's in it."
                    great. that's duly jotted in my mental notebook.

                    btw, Martha, i still have a laugh about the man who made sangria from scratch on the subway (general topics? a while ago).