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What do you do when a favorite restaurant slaps you in the face?

A few weeks back, after a particularly grueling, early morning of work, I stopped by Pearl Oyster Bar at about 2:30 for a quick lunch. The restaurant was half empty, there were many spots at the bar and 6 or 7 tables open, including a a number of deuces. The man behind the counter greeted me with, "One? Any place at the counter is fine." Needing a little down time and privacy, I forlornly asked, "Would it be possible to have a table?" He curtly replied, "No, no tables," and literally turned and walked away. No, I'm sorry our policy since we're so small is to only sit parties of two or more at tables. No . . . explanation whatsoever. Now, I worked in the restaurant business for ten years at a number of high-caliber restaurants throughout the country and I know all about the customers who are never happy with where they're sat and the difficulty of dealing with customers in general. But, this just seemed so gratuitously nasty and uncalled for. Pearl has been one of my favorite places in the city for it's high quality food and casual atmosphere since it was opened. I'm a semi-regular customer. I probably go in at least a couple of times a month. I've recommended it to dozens of people. Of course I could write a letter to Rebecca Charles and complain and be all indignant but where does that get me? Then I'm just another whiny New Yorker. To be honest, I actually feel sad. Like I found out a good friend had been talking about me behind my back. Alas, I have no desire to go into one of my favorite places for quick, delicious food again.

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  1. I don't blame you. It just takes one experience like that to ruin a restaurant. I hate when the staff treat you like cattle and follow rules with indifference to the actual reasons there are rules in the first place which in this case is probably to better serve the customers.

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      1. Its happened to me also and I am actually sure that at one time or another it has happened to everybody. My solution is to not go unless I absolutely cant avoid it. That is usually when my will breaks and I give into the demons. But hey, I geuss thats how things go. Its like a break up, if you like the person enough eventually you get over the hurt and can be friends afterward. all kiding aside, there are plenty of fish in the sea and maybe this is the oppurtunity to go have some seafood. I completely sympathise

        6 Replies
        1. re: corvin

          My family used to frequent a nice little restaurant in Newport Beach, Calif., for years (saw it grow from a tiny counter-type place to elegant bistro), until one night where we arrived and had to wait...and wait....and wait. Kept checking back with the owner/matre'd. After two hours, we left, didn't tell him we were leaving, and have never gone back. This was at least 15 years ago.

          1. re: aurora50

            You waited 2 HOURS for a table? This has to be one very good restaurant; or, there just weren't any other eatery within an hour's drive.

            1. re: RCC

              We loved their food, it was fantastic. And the owner kept saying, "Any minute now". : (

              1. re: aurora50

                where was that?? so i can avoid it...

                no really, where was it?

            2. re: aurora50

              This is the type of thing that is common in Manhattan for a successful restaurant. Unless the owner/manager is there all the time (RARE) and gets to know you as a regular, you are subject to constant staff turnover, stress... so the regular customer's treatment is less than stellar. Sad, but true.

          2. If this restaurant is like an old family friend, then you have to say something to someone...you just can't let one bad apple spoil the whole deal!!! Otherwise all that hard earned money you spent there developing the relationship is for naught!!!

            1. IMO if you don't say something there's a good chance the manager doesn't know it is happening. Having worked in restaurants and tending bar during the day, I know that sometimes people do prefer tables over the bar... even if they're alone. Is it possible that the person you were talking to was the bartender, hoping to fill his/her counter? I know I was tempted to do that when I was working a slow shift.

              Just a thought.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Melissavina

                In a sense it is a shame to never go back because of one person. On a normal day you may have even ignored the attitude, but since you were feeling tired already, maybe it seemed worse than it was.

                I would have asked to talk to the manager and explained that you really wanted to sit at a table. If the management is awful, that's when I never go back - this is usually indicated by consistently crappy service, denial of a request for reseating or a temperature change or some issue with comping a meal gone bad (if there's something nonedible in my food the meal should be totally comped, period).