HOME > Chowhound > Manhattan >


Pearl Oyster Bar - Tired of the Attitude

Here is one instance where I love the food at an establishment but am beginning to doubt if it's worth putting up with the poor attitude.

There is a waiter that takes names and seats guests who can be very sarcastic.

When my date asked what vegetables were served with the grilled whole fish, the waitress replied "Fresh seasonal vegetables". What type, my date wanted to know. "FRESH SEASONAL VEGETABLES" was the nasty response, as though we were annoying the waitress with such a silly question.

On another night, my aunt, who is watching her carbs, asked for the roll served on the side when ordering her lobster roll. The waiter gave a nasty look and said "Rebecca doesn't like these special orders - and it's way too busy tonight".

Give me a break. was this going to turn the kitchen upside down? Then, when he brought the plate with the bread on the side, he said "It's your lucky night"!

A couple of weeks ago, I saw some regular customers showering the waitstaff with gifts and holiday hugs. I'm wondering if I'm alone in questioning the service/attutude here.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Hmmm ... that's too bad. We go maybe once every six weeks or so - almost always sit at the bar - and have always had v. pleasant service. We're usually there when they open though so it's not crazy busy (not that that is an excuse for rudeness). It's not necessarily warm service though, I'll certainly say that, though I think they've come to recognize our faces since we usually sit in the same seats.

    I've not done any showering of gifts or hugs BTW.

    1. The food's overrated and overpriced. A better attitude would hardly change that, but it could help.

      It's also irritating to hear waitstaff talk about the chef as if they're a diva or something. They're in the service industry: they should serve, not dictate. The problems with a celebrity culture bleeding into culinary culture are endlessly frustrating.

      1. I've never been to Pearl's, but if you're looking for excellent fish and seafood, including a great lobster roll, I highly recommend Tides, the teensy "shack" on the LES. You will definitely never get any service attitude there. Stephen, the owner, is one of the nicest guys around and goes out of his way to make certain that diners have an excellent experience.


        1. Somebody should send them a copy of Danny Meyer's book, "Setting The Table", regarding hospitality and customer service. On the other hand, I've just sat at the bar with no problems.

          1. i feel the same way about mary's fish camp. in fact, i've had attitude from 'ino and blue ribbon as well. what is it with the west village?

            i suppose that's the nature of small neighborhood joints - people will be nice to those who are familiar. i'm certainly not excusing it; in fact i applaud you for having the guts to criticize a place that so many hold dear. it always bothers me when someone has complaints about service, followed by diehard regulars who say "funny, they're always so nice to me."

            when judging service, it's important to pay attention to the tables around you. i once ate at a restaurant that treated me perfectly; meanwhile i saw the proprietor roll his eyes at a typical B&T couple from Jersey asking for a table. he was obviously judging by appearances and it was the worst putoff ever. i vowed never to go back.

            pearl is an insitution that i've never gotten around to trying. at this point, i'll sooner make my own lobster roll before paying a visit.

            1. Your story disheartens me and if that had been my experience, I wouldn't go back. Too many places to choose from and too many places. When I was at Pearl Oyster Bar last, sat at the bar. The bar/waiter was from Orange County and very nice to us, thrilled that this was our first culinary stop on our trip back East.

              1. I have been going to Pearl for at least a decade and have never encoutered either rudeness or favoritism. The staff are no-nonsense and not necessarily given to palaver (I like this efficiency, and admire how they manage in the still-tiny space they have) but they are also scrupulously fair, as far as I can tell. I have cooled my heels on more than one occasion alongside (though not in the company of) several genuine movie stars, for more than a few minutes. Sure, after having been a loyal customer for so long, I would love to see a little something from the chef or an extra pour, but that's just not how they do business (at least not with me). If that's the price I pay to be confident of fair and consistent service and even better food, I'm ready to sign on for another year. I tried Mary's once this past year and found the chatty customer cum Patsy Kline early 90s east village kitsch (underscored by loud thematic music) way too much. Made a first visit to Tides this past week and found it charming and plan to return, but it is no substitute for Pearl (two great places, but they answer rather different questions).

                2 Replies
                1. re: dbird

                  My wife and I were at Pearl a few months ago and had a similar rude experience. Basically, the staff was "sizing us up when we sat down." It was not until we placed a fairly large or should I say $$$ order that the waitress suddenly did an about face. It was so obvious that it was laughable. We have not been back since.

                  1. re: tbone

                    I had almost the same experience as Tbone. Sat at the bar, and the waitress seemed v. upset my date didn't order a drink and raised her brows at his water order. Then he proceeded to order several dishes to taste since we had both read great things about Pearl. The waitress abruptly and transparently changed her attitude towards us and was all warm and fuzzy. The food was great though, so I'd probably go back.

                2. Hang on, Hounds.

                  This is Pearl Oyster Bar, not Daniel, Bouley, or even Babbo. Rebecca Charles has a fine hand with grilled fish, but let's not get carried away, she ain't no Eric Ripert. Nor is this a temple of haute cuisine. It's an oyster bar, where the steamers are great, the grilled fish likewise, specially when washed down with a flinty sancerre, the lobster rolls less than special, and the attitude, erm, salty. It's been like that from the start.

                  When Mary moved away she brought a lot of the staff, and a lot of that bitchy attitude, with her. But she left plenty behind too (I was there one of the nights immediately before the split. It wasn't, um, a pretty sight!).

                  So, what you see is what you get. A lot of pot walloping, a lot of bitchy attitude, some reasonably good fishy chow, modelled on those salty lobster-roll shacks found in Maine, and a genuinly eccentric New York scene. With a whole dose of caveat emptor to boot!

                  - Sean