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Dec 21, 2006 08:50 PM

Conley Ward, Wilmington--yuck! (long)

I had lunch today with two colleagues at this place--we thought of going to Harry's Seafood, which I like, but decided to give CW a try since I hadn't been there before. BIG mistake. I will not be back.

The first bad sign was the fact that we couldn't find a parking space in the tiny lot, which is shared with the Barclays office building. I had to park in a spot reserved for Barclays, and when I asked if that would be OK, the hostess told me that I'd get towed, so I should park in the fire lane instead (!!). The general inability to handle more than ten tables at a time continued once we were seated, pretty much throughout the entire meal. The place was full, and it was clear that essentially all the tables were reservations--a lot of office holiday lunches, as far as I could see. Nevertheless, the staff was evidently seriously overwhelmed, or at least, under-trained. Our waiter disappeared for long stretches, and although other staffers were constantly racing past our table, we had to literally grab their arms as they went by to ask for water; bread; a knife to replace one that had been taken away with a starter plate; more water; mustard to go with an entree; the check; the check again. Good grief.

Had the food been remotely tasty, I could forgive some of this, but it was not even close to satisfactory. The only halfway decent thing on the table was the crab-and-corn chowder, and even that had no discernible crab (plenty of fish, though...?) and was way over-thickened with flour. I ordered the steak salad, which came completely doused in thick dressing--at least a half-cup, poured right over the top of it--and featured meat slices so tough and tasteless that I could not believe this place called itself a steakhouse. The meat wasn't even cut properly against the grain; I had to saw at it with my butter knife. One of my dining companions had a filet mignon, which came on a miniscule plate with some very wan, overcooked and gray mixed vegetables. My other companion had the $10 lunch (and I think she paid too much) which consisted of an inoffensive green salad and then an Ahi tuna burger, which was fearsomely dried out, drowned in melted cheese (ick!), and served with overdone French fries.

We had coffee, but didn't bother with dessert, because it had taken so long just to get the coffee and the check that we ended up late for our next appointment. In any case, our experience with the entrees didn't exactly make our mouths water for anything else this kitchen was putting out. Really awful. For this meal, the bill came to $84, which I thought was a complete travesty.

What was most depressing about this whole experience was that the restaurant, which has been open for nearly two years, was PACKED (with a very Wilmington, white-bread crowd, of course). It is astonishing to me that a place this lame is drawing crowds. But hey, that's Wilmington. Thank God we do have some other options. I will go back to Harry's Seafood in that neighborhood, and hope for some new additions as more construction projects get finished there.

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  1. I have never heard much good about Conley Ward myself. I do appreciate your post, though, as it just confirms what I've already heard. Sounds like another reason to avoid heading downtown. But then again, Wilmington can get away with dishing out subpar food, and the people will come given there seems to be a subset of people in the area who are more concerned with appearances than good taste! We went to Moro ourselves last week, and while some things were good, others (a $45 ribeye that was probably *not* a ribeye, a switch in tables even though we reserved one weeks in advance, and desserts that were not the least bit sweet) will make us think twice before rushing back.

    1. I'm not wild about Moro myself--I find it astonishingly overpriced, particularly for the weak service that I've had in my few visits. The food I've had there has been fine, but not worth the monstrous prices that they charge.

      1. Thanks for the update. I had been considering trying Conley-Wards, but your observations are consistent with others I have talked to.

        So where do you go to get a good steak in the Wilmington area?

        1. Philadelphia is the answer to your question sorry to say...

          By the way, has anyone tried Costa's? It sounds good but given Wilmington's proclivity towards mediocrity I haven't ventured there yet.

          1. I went to lunch at Costa's a couple of months ago, as I now work a few blocks away. Another big "eh," although not as actively infuriating as Conley Ward's. I was under the impression that Costa's was a Greek place, but in reality the lunch menu didn't show much Greek influence--a gyro here, a Greek salad there, and that seemed like about it. It was a decent lunch, but not worth making a special trip for. Maybe the dinner menu is more interesting?

            Frankly, I miss Zanzibar Blue, which actually did have nice food and a good atmosphere even if the music half of the equation wasn't too thrilling.