Outstanding service in Calgary?
- John Manzo Mar 29, 2007 04:27 PM
Okay, as promised- here's a thread on places that go the extra mile service-wise in the city with the most acute labour shortage in all of North America.
I'm going to nominate a few, high- as well as low-end:
Capo: An amazing meal that was only improved by impeccable, spot-on, perfectly timed service, start to finish. Waiters were not burdened with more than, I think, three tables apiece.
The Coup: Smiles, smiles, smiles all around- don't like the soup? taken away and comped, no questions asked (and with a SMILE too).
River Cafe: I note a negative experience (which was only marginally negative) on here and I get an apology that I can only describe as... extravagant. Points in heaven for you, River Cafe.
Tubby Dog: Too damn cool, treat the hipsters and the families and old curmudgeons like me with equal aplomb. Fast service and you get precisely what you pay for. The sort of thing Calgary needs lots, lots, lots more of.
The Tribune: the food was kinda meh, but the service- I felt like Diamond Jim crossed with the prettiest gal in the room. Really fantastic, professional staff.
Bumpy's: A cafe that has become, if anything, too successful with its combination of the very best espresso and espresso-based, latte-art decorated drinks with really good, really good-value food, it still manages to staff fantastically, somehow finding barista after barista that would be at home in Seattle or Vancouver, and having tons- eight people behind the counter during a recent lunch rush- of other staff too. How John does this I don't know, but it's a delightful balm to step into a quality coffeehouse in Calgary that is so well staffed.
Globefish Sushi and Izakaya: They poached my favourite sushi guy from Midori! And from the looks of it many more- this place is packed to the rafters but in that open kitchen were six people not counting waitstaff last lunch I was there. Sushi is delivered fast as it should be, and staff are as friendly as anything.
My last time at Capo, the waiter asked us how muhc longer we were planning on being there. We had just been served our espresso and tea. Granted, no dessert, but this was appalling and his smile didn't do anything to dampen the rudeness of his implicit request for us to leave. Appalling service.
It's good to hear that there are still some places in Calgary where good service hasn't been lost. Still, it's few and far between, in my exprerience.
I agree with the Tribune comment - every time I have been there the service has been stellar. Same with River, although sometimes I have found the service to be too efficient, since I am a linger-er (to make up a word).
And I'll definitely give some of the other places on your list a try - esp. Bumpy's, since I'm looking for a good coffeehouse experience. I just wish that Globefish took resos - it's so busy these days!
I'm all for discussing the good places - John, I'll second Bumpy's and Tribune - I haven't been to the others yet....
Tribune was great both times that i've been there - they really do make you feel welcome. Professional, friendly and efficient service from every staff person we encountered and good food to go with it!
I would also like to add Divino to the list - the hosts haven't always been the greatest but the service has been professional and friendly every time - they even are pleasant when you ask for a $40 bottle and offer great suggestions. And of course the tempura beans and cheese...all the glorious cheese.....
At Capo you need to vacate tables on Fri & Sat nights. They let you know this in advance so that you are not offended. Utilizing space is why-with so few tables or else you wouldn't get in on busy nights. I was recently at Sugo (an old favorite of mine) and not only was our female server rude and unprofessional, she brought out out entrees while we were still having an appy. Just over an hour-in and out. Good thing we paid $200 for that-for the last time I may add.
Fair enough that you were warned at Capo. We weren't, it was a Tuesday and 7:10 pm when we were ousted.
The service at PiqNiq is always great. Personable and efficient without being irritating. Server noticed we weren't touching the bread because it tasted like freezer burn. She apologized and brought out some different bread (that hadn't just been pulled out of the freezer upon our arrival).
Mango Shiva, not during Lunch, but in the evenings we had the BEST waiter who was really very friendly but not ovely in your face. It was probably the best service I have had in this city in ages.
The Coup is great too and really accomodating, effectively it is as described above.
I liked The Tribune but when I was there I felt the "almost" crossed the line into annoying service. There is a distinct difference between waiters at places like "Jack Asstor's" and places like the Tribune. I shouldn't feel like I'm in one when I'm in the other.
My mother mentioned the other day that The Metropolitan Grill won't let people who are under 25 make reservations. This I think is ridiculous as I have made MANY reservations for myself and others. That is stupid service.
Thanks for starting the thread John.
My own belief is that you should treat restaurant staff like they are an extension of your table (e.g. friends). If you truly do that...there is NO excuse for bad service and in a fine dining establishment there is NO excuse for an "off-night". Consistency is the core of excellent dining experiences. This is what we pay for and when something does go wrong (bad oysters, suit pants ripped on a table edge, server spills on you, etc.) that is a restaurant's opportunity to shine. Having said that....here are my picks in fine dining...
River Cafe service has always been excellent. Kristi Peters is the manager and really sets the right tone for the staff and is great with customers. Someone else mentioned that the RC service is sometimes almost TOO efficient...and I would agree...but will never complain about that issue. Now their food/value equation...that's another issue but I don't want to start a raging debate on this thread.
The Tribune is my favorite restaurant so I am biased but I believe their service is the best in Calgary. Whether you are a regular or a first timer Garth Brown (GM) wants your experience to be as close to perfect as possible. I believe their pricing, wine, and levels of service offer you the best value for fine dining in Calgary. I used to bitch about their wine temperature...they now have a controlled monitoring system in their cellar...now I am not suggesting they listened to me (others complained too) but they did recognize the problem and they fixed it. In addition, if any of you have not caught on to their Wine Wednesdays...you are missing out!!!! The only issue with Tribune is a lack of consistency in their food seasoning...again I don't want to begin a new debate.
Divino....is a chameleon. Undoubtedly the best wine service in Calgary and there isn't even a close second. The hostesses are sometimes snobby, sometimes not. The servers are generally excellent...but on the odd outing I have sat on their patio for 20 mins waiting for a drink, menu, etc. When Divino is on their game they compete with the best Calgary has to offer. Brad Royale has no equal in the local wine scene which is why I give them a good rating overall. However on my birthday a friend had her coat stolen and there wasn't so much as an apology from their manager so...
Bonterra...no one ever writes about this place and it is fantastic value with excellent service. There is never a problem with late food, bad wine service, or lack of attentiveness. John Robarts is a very underrated manager in the city. I know there are more hyped Italian spots in Calgary but I have never had a bad experience here.
The whole incident that got this thread started occurred at the Living Room but I have never had anything but top shelf attention there. The wine is always woefully warm but it always arrives quickly. I am now curious to go back and see if things have indeed changed in some negative way because I have always had consistently good service there...but cold food (mentioned by other reviewer) is a symptom of bad service so maybe something gives??
My favorite...all-time...best server...Patrick when he was at the Belvedere. Patrick is now at Teatro and will undoubtedly light that place up but I don't frequent Teatro as much so he'll be missed. He's hosted more business/personal dinners for me than anyone and was always gracious, calm, and possesses just the right amount of "high brow" attitude so as to suit his surroundings yet not come across as snobby. A fine line to be sure but he has it mastered.
Second to Patrick are Aki san (Chicago Chophouse) and Hiro san (Zen 8). These are 2 of the nicest guys in the Calgary restaurant scene. They work for Vickers so no one acknowledges them and it's a shame. Absolutely tireless in ensuring positive customer experiences. It's worth the trip just to visit these characters and watch them work.
I'll stop here! Cheers.
I forgot about Bonterra - I've always enjoyed the service and the meals there too - their patio is lovely too. One night in the summer, they couldn't promise us a patio seat with our reservation but would try. We were seated inside and just as we got our cocktails a table outside became available - they graciously moved us and our new server was just as pleasant as our first one, if not even more so - they even brought out a taste of a desert wine they were sampling in the restaurant - it's the little things like that that can make the evening even more enjoyable.
The best used to be at the Owl's Nest though I haven't been there for about 2 years. I have a fondness for the place because we have celebrated every important family event there since the 70s. The last time we went they had changed it completely but some of the old servers were still there. The food had changed but the service was still good.
My happiest memory was when my son was 10 years old. It's truly great service when they can accomodate well behaved children without resorting to crayons.
re: John Manzo
No! Say it ain't so, John! I've never quite understood how a restaurant that has built its commercial reputation on steak can turn out such... meat.
I'll throw in a "ditto" for eatmore's praise of the service at Bistro Piq Niq. When I went with a friend for Downtown Dining Week, I was afraid of being intimidated by a swanky downtown attitude. (As a cash-strapped student, I usually stick to establishments with lower price points.) But the server was friendly, knowledgeable, conscientious, efficient, and gracious. He made us feel comfortable and not at all out of place.