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Chez Panisse--bad experiences?

  • t

I was wondering if anyone else has had a really bad experience here. We went last night, and, from the moment we said that we weren't going to order wine, each server was ruder and more dismissive than the last--I was so surprised! Are we the only ones?

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  1. Just going on record in the "No, I have never had a bad meal or service at Chez Panisse" column.

    I once had a server who was very superior and just a little snotty in pointing out that she was a vegetarian when I asked her to tell me about a beef dish, so I asked for a server who could accommodate me and everything was fine.
    I have never not ordered wine, but I have put a dollar limit on wine up front. It has never been a problem.

    1. Downstairs or upstairs?

      We've only been downstairs, but it is one of our favorite special occasion places. Neither one of us drinks so we've never ordered wine. However, we've always found the service has always been gracious and smooth.

      1. Sorry to hear you didn't enjoy your visit. We have eaten downstairs once a year for the past 10 years, and I've never had an experience like yours. We usually just order a Kir Royale at the beginning, and sometimes we've brought our own wine or champagne. The only wine we've ordered from their wine list was a half-bottle once, and we haven't ever been treated badly. In fact, the reason we keep going back is because the service has been so gracious.

        (I always used to say "Why go to Zuni with snotty service when you can go to Chez Panisse and be treated nicely?" I stopped going to Zuni years ago because of the holier than thou attitude. May be different now, but I've never bothered to try...)

        3 Replies
        1. re: Lives to Eat

          i definitly have to second that on the Zuni attitude - i usually go with a friend, and don't drink - so we pretty much get ignored and resented by our waiter the whole night. Never again!

          1. re: beatrice

            Most of the time, my friends and I never order alchohol at Zuni and we have NEVER felt slighted in the least. I've never had anything but good service there.

            1. re: Walker

              I LOVE Zuni and the only time I ever encountered any snotty attitude was when I actually applied for a job there eons ago.....

        2. No, I also really enjoy Chez Panisse and, although I'm a Berkeley student, save my money and go there every other month or so. The staff is always respectful and warm.

          In fact, the last time I was there with a girlfriend, we asked the waiter, "Which is better, the ginger cake or the rhubarb cobbler?" He recommended the rhubarb cobbler but brought us a big slice of the ginger cake, too, so we could compare. That's what I call kind service.

          1. No, I have never been treated badly there. The thing to do if you feel you have been so treated is to write them a letter. Specify the night and time you went, where you sat, and what transpired. Do not simply say "the waiter was rude" as that is vague. Specify what happened to the best of your recollection, giving specific examples of what you perceive as rudeness. Mail them the letter. They are professionals, and will respond in an appropriate manner, with either an apology, and maybe a gift certificate if you make a good case.

            1 Reply
            1. re: sensi63

              Agree completely.

            2. I'll chime in too. I've never had bad service at Chez Panisse upstairs or downstairs. A kitchen snafu once extended our meal downstairs by about an hour and they were falling over each other to accomodate and make sure that everyone was happy.

              We aren't huge wine drinkers, so I'd guess that I've not ordered wine about half the times I've been there.

              Sorry you had a bad experience! Other than the wine issue, how was the food?

              1 Reply
              1. re: caliston

                The food was indisputably divine!

              2. my mother-in-law ate there for her birthday about a month ago - she had a gift cerificate - and said that they were tremendously underwhelmed by the "rustic fish stew", tiny-portioned asparagus souflee and lemon tart. She went out to get more food afterwards, because the $300 dinner didn't fill her up at all.

                4 Replies
                1. re: thumbellina
                  r
                  Robert Lauriston

                  I'm a big eater and have never left hungry.

                  How $300? If it was only three courses that was Monday night, which is $64 including service charge and tax.

                  1. re: thumbellina

                    Of all the times I've dined at Chez Panisse, I have never had a bad experience with the service. It is not always perfect at the upstair cafe but the staff is always polite and gracious. As for your mom's disappointment with her meal at the downstair restaurant, I have dined there with out of towners on more than one occasions who had the same reaction. I think they expected fireworks or some opulence. It is not that type of restaurant.

                    1. re: PB

                      Exactly. My Grandmother had wanted to go for years and was then dissappointed when she went. I think she was looking for something more like the Ritz.

                    2. re: thumbellina

                      If you are eating downstairs, and at any point feel you are not getting enough to eat, you should definitely ask for more of whatever course you are on. From the first course through dessert, they are happy to accomodate you with seconds if they have it to give.

                    3. I had a terrible experience the one and only time I went there. We brought a bottle of wine to have with dinner after ordering champagne to start. Once the bottle was open, they never once offered to pour the wine. At one point, the waitress actually took one of our glasses away while we still had wine left and then proceeded just to put it back on the table and walk away. We asked with the hostess if this was normal because we brought our own wine (we knew it wasn't since I had been told that was fine by friends). She responded with "that's the way make our money". Wow! We didn't even know how to respond. Our waitress came over and gave a half apology as if we were putting her out by this. They then offered to take money off of our bill...like that really had ANYTHING to do with it. We just got up and left. Very disappointing. I had this experience downstairs in February 2006. The restaurant is past its prime.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: rb20

                        rb20, I don't really understand your story the way you've told it.