How important is "service"?
Recently, to celebrate my birthday, Jeremy and I went
to La Luncheonette. The meal was nice - nothing
spectacular. But what really brought it down a notch
was the service. There was only one other table being
served, yet the service was slow, disinterested, and
cold. By slow, I mean I had to indicate we were ready
to order. Disinterested - I had to ask for a water
refill. Cold - no eye contact or connection of any
sort. I walked away feeling that this was a place I
would not return to. Granted, I might feel differently
if the quality of the food had knocked my socks off. I
am no fan of the overly solicitous style of table
waiting, but the fine line between on and off service
is one that really affects my experience of a
Sounds like I'm in your camp. Most restaurant
reviewers judge a restaurant by the food,
"atmosphere," and service. I think for most
chowhounds, the food is paramount. And I agree.
I'm sure my restaurant experiences have been enhanced
by "atmosphere," but offhand I can't remember any time
when an experience has been ruined by "atmosphere."
But many meals have been saved by caring and skilled
service, and more that have been ruined by poor
We might infer that the wonderful food prepared by the
chef is made with "love," but that doesn't necessarily
mean affection for the customer. The waitstaff and
host are our connection to the soul of the
restaurant. There are many situations, especially
when eating in one's own neighborhood, when one isn't
reaching for the stars, but just wants comfort and
sustenance. I'd guess for some people, the look of a
room might be more important, but for me, the
congeniality of the restaurant staff is more crucial.
I'm with you. I don't want to be fawned over, but I do
want to feel that my business is appreciated.
I recently went to a place for dinner (up on Cape
Cod). It's a great spot for breakfast, very funky.
They try to do it up a bit more in the evenings, but
we had to tell them we wanted to order, and then my
main dish (delicious grilled halibut) was cold. I
wasn't able to get the server's attention at the
moment, and I was starving, so I shrugged and dug in.
But when I told her later that it had been cold, she
reprimanded me for not having told her sooner (OK, so
I should have tried harder, but still I didn't
appreciate being saddled with any blame at all), and
then the dessert we wanted turned out to be
unavailable, and the espresso machine was broken, so
espresso was out, too.
I left with a bad feeling about the place. In
retrospect, if they'd perhaps given us a different
dessert on the house, we would have left happy, our 3