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Stone Park: I've had it with the attitude

  • famdoc Dec 30, 2006 12:04 PM
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Have enjoyed eating at Stone Park perhaps a dozen times since they opened, but have been party to the previously-described attitude of the co-owners there on more than one occasion. Last evening, had some visitors from out-of-town and decided to walk down Fifth Ave. without reservations. Peered into window of Stone Park, seeing several open tables. Asked hostess if we could be seated without reservations, co-owner, seated four feet away, didn't even give her a chance to reply, turned around and said "we're fully booked." I pointed out open tables, perhaps as a prelude to acknowledging we might need to give up table earlier than we might otherwise like. He did his non-verbal thing and she said we might like to come back after 9 PM.
This issue has been mentioned here by others on more than one occasion. I'll simply vote with my feet and take my business elsewhere in the future.

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  1. While I am no big fan of Stone Park Cafe, and the owners may very well have attitude, I can't say I understand your gripe. Why is it a news flash that restaurants take reservations and that perhaps those table might be awaiting their occupants? I've never understood when a fellow diner is told that a restaurant is booked and then they ask "what about THAT table?" as if the proprietor is somehow unaware that they have empty tables in their restaurant. Just make reservations next time.

    2 Replies
    1. re: ilikepeas

      I'm sorry, but just because a restaurant is full with reservations, does not mean that the owner should be rude. As I recall Famdoc was one of the biggest proponents of this restaurant when it first opened. I agree with him that the owner's attitude should be to be as friendly as possible, weather or not there is a free table. Also in response, some restaurants do hold an open table to increase flexibily, so sometimes the empty table is indeed,availible. But really its the attitude of the host and managers that manner most. When I'm told that the place is full in a friendly manner, im more than happy to accept it, but when someone says something to me with that kind of attitude, I find that rude and offensive. This is a neighboorhood restaurant, and they should treat their neighbors in a friendly manner, and I too have heard complaints about the owner's attitude from friends eating there who don't post to chowhound.Frankly I am so sick and tired of people making excuses for restaurants acting like its the customer's privelidge to eat at their establishment. It is the other way around, it is the restaurant's priveledge to serve their customers.(and hope they come back again), especially a local place that makes all their money on neighborhood business.
      There are so many friendly, good places to eat in this city, that I am frankly unwilling to give a place another chance when I have been treated in a shoddy manner, unless the place has demonstrated for years that one bad night is an exception.

      1. re: jason carey

        Bravo... I agree 150%

    2. I've had mixed experiences at Stone Park also (I LOVE their burger, so I occasionally put up with it, but only at brunch!)

      Having just finished Danny Meyer's new book, Setting the Table, I re-committed myself to only going to places that value my business. I understand how reservation booking systems work, but no matter what the facts are nothing excuses bad behavior.

      I agree with the "let your feet make your statement" philosophy. There are simply too many fine restaurants in PS to put up with rudeness.

      1. If the owners had opened this restaurant 15 years ago, when the only other high end dining option on 5th Ave. was Cucina, they might have gotten away with this. But with Al di la, Convivium, Tempo, and Applewood all walking distance, and a dozen other quality restaurants close as well, there is just no reason to put up with it. I had another good meal at the Farm last night, and although the food was a little late getting to the table, it only meant a 2nd bottle of wine for my group. Everytime I eat their, the host/hostess and waitstaff are so accomodating and friendly, that it makes for an experience akin to going to a 'neighborhood' joint. Maybe Stone Park has aspirations of joining Saul in 'Michelin-land', but the food is not that original or amazing to overcome the rudeness/high prices...

        1. I agree with most of you, especially Jason. These "trendy" places with their upscale owners are riding high on past earned reputations for the food and the location, but those of us who won't put up with rude, or condescending behavior, will simply look for establishments that appreciate our patronage.
          I never frequent restaurants whose owners/staff, act as though they are doing me a favor by serving me. As Jason mentioned above, if there are no tables available, there are many friendly ways to convey that information without being rude.
          We've all seen it over and over. Once enough people have
          experienced poor treatment, the establishment begins to suffer.
          In a year, either the place changes hands, or closes.
          One of the reasons unassuming family run places remain in business is because people feel welcome there. Just one more reason to visit Staten Island, where many restaurant owners still treat patrons like extended family

          2 Replies
          1. re: Tay

            A good example is Tom's.(on Washington) That place is constantly busy because of the friendly service. Now the food is certainly not that good there (in my opinion, I know others love the food), but it will always be packed because they truly care about making people happy, relaxed and feel appreciated.

            1. re: jason carey

              I'm sure I'll get beaten up by most Chow Hounds for saying this but I'm past the point of accepting unacceptable attitude
              just because, "The food is great" I mean, this is NYC!. It's not as though we live in Paducah and have limited choices.
              (Now I'll probably get hate mail from Paducah :-})
              Despite the Chow Hound mantra that it's 'all about the food,'
              it's really all about the total dining experience. I have had many meals rendered unenjoyable due to miserable service and poor management attitudes. I have never eaten at Tom's, but it's probably like many local, neighborhood places in all the
              "Outer boroughs." I think the problem with some of the places in PS and B'klyn Hts is that they believe their own press
              and think that their popularity will see them through any sort of poor behavior.
              I just wouldn't bet the ranch on that line of thinking for too long.

          2. After reading ilikepeas' reply, I thought "uh-oh, I'm gonna get flamed on this one,"
            but, on a personal level, I appreciate the support for my sentiments others have posted.
            On an economic level, I am glad others agree that there are just too many fine restaurants in PS to waste one's money on fine food/poor attitude. I should have added to my original post that after being turned away from Stone Park, we went diagonally across the street to Cocotte, where we had a perfectly fine meal and a warm welcome from the host and waitstaff.
            Cocotte hasn't been a particular all-star on Chowhound Outer Boroughs, but I got to tell you that I've never been disappointed there. In addition, the wine list is well-constructed and very fairly priced (I recommend, in particular, the Gigondas, which, at $38, is money extremely well spent. In fact, as I think about it, the only thing I'll really miss about Stone Park is the Priorat "Les Terrasses" on their wine list). Happy New Year and Bon Appetite to all CH'ers.

            3 Replies
            1. re: famdoc

              Isnt there always a balance of food vs. service, ambiance and other factors? If food is uniquely wonderful or interesting we likely can live with a less charming ambiance or host. If there are cultural or language differences expectations change too. But if a place aims squarely at my dining dollar (and not small $ either) I think I'm entitled to a cordial welcome and a pleasant dining experience along with the food. Iwas never willing to suck this up - though strangely, there are people in NY who are attracted to an exclusive, clubby atmosphere (the old Elaine's syndrome) For us its easy - if we dont feel welcomed, we dont go back.

              1. re: famdoc

                Just a quick note to say I agree about Cocotte. It's much better than Belleville and Moutarde for example (although the latter's not saying much), and I'm sort of surprised that it doesn't get mentioned here more often.

                1. re: parkslopemama

                  Belleville used to be quite good, I don't know what the heck happened there.. the food literally went down the toilet. I will check out Cocotte.

              2. Jen.
                You always have such a good way of putting things.
                You expressed my feelings on this matter far better than I could (or did!) I have always felt this way, dating back to my first and last, Peter Luger dining 'experience.'I don't expect or want someone to fawn over me, but I really refuse to accept anything less than what you wrote: "A cordial welcome and a pleasant dining experience." It's not too much to expect.
                Sometimes, for a variety of reasons, the food just doesn't hit the mark. I believe sometimes it's just one of those meals, but a snotty or poor attitude can always be helped.
                Thanks for putting it so well... :-}

                1. hmmm, well THAT'S a drag.
                  and frankly it takes a credible poster like famdoc to make the point.

                  We're big on eating at the bar at Stone Park, which gets you a different kind of attentive service. I'm there for the fried oysters with lemon rind and caperberries fried up in the mix. Ditto the pork tagiatelle.

                  I never had service problems at a table at brunch there, but I only have brunch about two or three times a year...

                  1. re: Belleville
                    as far as I can tell, there's nobody French in the kitchen. I may be wrong, but the previous owner, who owned and managed a few French restaurants in NYC, including Cassis in the Financial District, moved to Washington, DC about a year or so ago.

                    1. Well, the Josh's must have been reading this thread. Had dinner at SP this evening (with the 15% discount card they handed out at brunch over the holidays)and the greetings and the service couldn't have been more cordial.

                      The highlight was when our server discovered that another server had poured wine for another table out of our bar-side chilling bottle. Without hesitation she produced another bottle providing us with the equivalent of a full bottle to replace the 1/2 bottle we originally ordered.

                      Food was as we expected. Is there another spare rib "sandwich" as good as this anywhere on earth?

                      I'm glad to see SP paying attention.

                      1. I'm pleased to read of your excellent experience, but I'll hold off premature kudos for SP until I read some additional good press. It's a good start though and very encouraging to read. Thanks for sharing your experience. The Server who replaced your wine with a whole new bottle has the right idea.
                        It's so much about the service in combination with the food.
                        Some people/places 'get it' and others just don't. You can often recognize the latter by the "For Lease" signs in their windows 12-18 mos after they open.

                        1. We ate there last week, and people coming in without reservations were treated cordially. I sat up front and saw quite a bit of traffic.
                          there were tables available - this was midweek, 7ish
                          it's post-holiday winter dining slump time, no?

                          anyway, the best thing we had was the polenta app. It was gorgeously delicious -- sage-flavored creamy polenta with tasso and rock shrimp and greens. Triple Yum, perfect execution with quality ingredients. Which is exactly what I want.
                          The bluefish cakes were the same deliciousness as usual, now on a bed of shredded beet salad. Panko fried oysters were great. The pork tagliatelle was not as good as previous times I had it, but I think someone messed up the batch...

                          1. I have a few thoughts on this. First, the poster wasn't complaining so much that the empty tables were being held. Instead, they were upset at the dismissive attitude with the manager, which we experienced, as well. As a result, we still have not set foot inside. We went to Tempo the night in question and had a really good meal and service.

                            Second, it is very common for restaurants to reserve a handful of tables for walk-in business, especially in a area with as much foot traffic as Park Slope. They obviously have the right to book every last table. But, there are better ways they could go about conveying that and enforcing the policy. In my opinion, when you have a number of open tables, it is poor business to dismiss customers so quickly, with no guarantee that the tables will actually be filled by those who reserved them.

                            1. I agree with Matt. It is just stupid for a business owner to be rude to any customers.

                              1. I also like Cocotte, parkslopemama and fandoc. The duck comes on a lighter than air cous cous and root veggies. Makes my tummy go "Quack"! I also had a great riesling there...so minerally and delicious with the skate dish. Louis Sipp, I think? It was tasty, THAT I remember!

                                1. I'm being won over on a now consistent basis.

                                  My wife and I returned once again to SP lat night for dinner - reservations were for 7:45 PM we called to tell them we would be 20 minutes late - no problem - got warm greetings and very good table. Really wonderful service throughout the meal.

                                  Food was spectacular - better than I expected on a slow bitterly cold Thursday evening.

                                  My wife started with the cipollini onion soup, in the middle of which was a batter dipped and quick-deep-fried lump of peekytoe crab. This dish was so sweet and so delicious and so hardy - perfect for the weather.

                                  I started with my absolute favorite short rib "slider" - once again transcendent!

                                  For the main I had the best pork chop I can recall in recent memory. Perfectly grilled and charred on top and just the right amount of pink on the inside and truly juicy - just great.

                                  My wife had the cod which was paired with a chowder, clams and salt cod - a fab mixture and wonderfully seasoned.

                                  Too full for deserts, we left happy as pigs in blanket ;-)

                                  I'm convinced the Josh's have been reading their press and I'm so glad to once again report on the excellence of this restaurant.

                                  1. I am also a fan of Cocotte. They are always friendly and acommodating and the food is always good and reliable if not spectacular. Maybe not worth travelling in from Manhattan for, but the definition of a good neighborhood standby. We went there for the first time in about 6 months last weekend, and noticed that our old regular waiter, Damien, and the old manager, Emmanuel, are both gone. (The owner seemed to be overseeing operations) While we were saddened to see the lack of familiar faces, it was a very pleasurable dining experience.

                                    Regarding Stone Park, I like that place also, and the burger is very good. But, for some intangible reason, after my last visit a few weeks ago, my fiancee and I both felt like we really couldn't care less if we never went back. There was nothing wrong with the experience, but, I don't know, I just am not drawn to the place.

                                    1. i've only been there once, but had no problem with the service- the food was really average though. It seems like there is a consensus that if you go there often and get the burger or the rib sandwich, you will be happy. I went for a special occasion dinner, and was pretty underwhelmed. sauces for both of our dishes were overpowered by spiciness, couldn't really taste the ingredients. bummer, they seemed like good ingredients.