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"Unpretentious" must have some other local meaning that I'm unaware of; Or, what's with the service at Chez Nous?

Almost every print review of, and casual comment on, Chez Nous alludes to its unpretentious nature. Is this supposed to mean "no one cares if you wear flip flops," or "they don't make you pronounce anything in French"? I went by the restaurant for dinner one recent night, at which time our party was treated to so many rookie mistakes on the part of the incompetent, young serving team, pre-order, that we walked out. Management did not care—in a French accent. This counts as pretentious in my book.

I must say, I'm disinclined to hurry back just to try steak frites that may or may not be good; pâté that could be popular more for its relative rarity on local menus than for its quality; and a salad Lyonnaise that the kitchen has to be persuaded to top with lardons.

So, I ask you 'hounds who often dine there and regularly recommend this place (like sambamaster and tom in austin, among others): What's going on over there? Will the chow itself make up for this much attitude? Or has this never happened to you?

FYI: I'm going to treat as mere damage control any and all one-off posts by "new chowhounds” who assure me—and everyone reading—that they are always treated like royalty by the kind, attentive, professional staff.

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  1. Ouch! Several of my good friends work there. I'll be showing them this post in the next few days -- they actually do take comments like this quite seriously and I am sure they will be distressed to hear you had such a bad experience.

    1. Based on my limited visits to Chez Nous the service is actually the highlight of the restaurant.I like to go in the early afternoon with a friend,we're scarcely seated before warm bread and a small ramekin of cow's butter is placed before us...when the bread and butter are near depletion they are immediately replaced.The pate' is good,a bit rough in texture but tasty,we split a bottle of wine[that we have the server recommend]the steak is invariably perfectly cooked and the potatoes are nice,not too starchy and dusted with good salt.Two servers attend our needs and appear to be professionals,the ambience is nice...sun breaks through the windows and the room has a nice glow to it.I haven't ventured to other parts of the menu[I get the same thing everytime]but I enjoy a visit a couple times a year.It's nice to be attended to by the [seeming]pros that work the day shift.I'd give them another shot MPH,the food is good[not great]but the service has always been rock solid.

      2 Replies
      1. re: scrumptiouschef

        it is, however, the only place in Austin that actually reminds me of France (maybe second only to McDonald's). I realize that's a broad statement, and I don't want to get into any regional BS debates, but that's how it is.

        1. re: scrumptiouschef

          Scrumptious, your experiences with Chez Nous match mine.

          MPH, I'm extremely sorry that Chez Nous didn't work out for you; the worst service I've ever received there could be termed "indifferent". I've never had pretentious or rude service.

          However, when I refer to Chez Nous as unpretentious, I don't just mean the service. I mostly mean the food: affordable and simple takes on French cuisine. The other local French restaurants seem more like they're staffed by CI grads.

        2. I've not had the experience you describe, MPH. I've not had the converse experience either (extraordinary service), but it's that casual/professional service that I've really enjoyed, in addition to some very good food. When I first moved down here, I was living out of the Hilton across the street for 3 weeks, and Chez Nous was my saviour when I wanted some good, comforting food (in a nice setting), without all that other downtown kitsch. Eating there made me feel like I wasn't even downtown anymore.

          Give it another shot, with of course the understanding that the food isn't going to blow you away, but I'm confident you will enjoy it.

          1. My two cents - My one dinner there was fine food-wise - not great, and the service was so poor that they gave us a ten-dollar-off coupon for our next dinner there. A little snobby, but mostly it seemed understaffed. That was our first anniversary... coming up on our 5th...havenæt been back, no plans to do so, coupon has been in my wallet for years. Not studiously avoiding it, but nights out are so rare now...I am going to try the Backstage for my next big night out!

            1. Sorry to hear that. I was just there Thursday night, party of three. We were met instantly at the door, and seated quickly. And the restaurant was full. The service was perfect; that is, unnoticeable. Drinks arrived, food served, water glasses filled all on time and without a fuss. To cap it all, the waitress did NOT introduce herself.

              1 Reply
              1. re: thebodytx

                I am a huge fan of Chez Nous and have easily dined there over 100 times (no joke.)

                But that said, I can easily see how the service can at times seem just as the original poster described.

                I never take any of it amiss, but that does not mean it does not exist- and not too many months ago I hosted a wine luncheon there where a fellow regular diner got into it a bit with our waiter who is 99% of the time quite a nice fellow.

                Foodwise this may be my favorite restaurant of all time. Simple and delicious fare that matches perfectly with my own sensibilities and with the wines I bring when I come.

                And I know and love everyone who works there.

                But I will be the first to admit things can get contentious at times- and I have often not brought out of town guests there for that very reason. It is rare that there is an issue- but I certainly keep it in mind when considering whether to bring people there who are unfamiliar with the place.