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Bouley Bakery Upstairs: Manager/Maitre from Hell

Rude from the start; incredibly rude at the finish, when I presented my tax-exempt form because it was a government business meal, and he claimed he'd never seen such a thing (I've presented it literally hundreds of times in NY). The attitude on that man was something I'd expect out of a hassled Times Square dive.

I also did not like their self-promoting commercial shown on a large screen above the food prep area.

The food was fine, but I will never cross that doorstep again!

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  1. The woman I worked with in the catering department was a nightmare, as well. Looks like things haven't changed much.

    1. in my opinion, upstairs doesnt really work unless yr prepared for 'getting what you pay for.' its by far the most cramped restaurant ive ever been to in nyc and while i didnt have yr service experience, it certainly wasnt friendly.

      i may go again but i prefer bouley across the street...or the bakery downstairs which is quite delicious.

      1 Reply
      1. re: sam1

        I think you have to understand what the restaurant is and is not before judging it so harshly. I live in Tribeca and it is one of my favorite (and imho best in NY) neighborhood restaurants. I would not travel to go there and I would not take clients or big groups. However, when I went I great food with one or two others I don't hesitate to go to Upstairs.

        For whatever it's worth I went to a party there where the hosted rented the entire restaurant and it was done very very well. Can't comment on the planning, but the execution was excellent.

      2. I've never had a bad experience with service at Upstairs.

        5 Replies
        1. re: Lucia

          I didn't say the service was bad-- the waitstaff was fine. It was the maitre who was downright annoying and rude, and that's never forgiveable. He's either a Brit or Australian, bald...

          1. re: simetrias

            I don't know who you're talking about, but when I mentioned service I meant from anyone, including the maitre d', who I always have to deal w/since there's always a wait when I go. I've always walked away w/a positive experience.

            1. re: simetrias

              You are talking about George, who I believe is actually Irish and happens to be one of the nicest guys around. I think he does get a little short at times, but it is because he is trying to keep the ship going in the right direction.

              There was a Friday night I had a reservation at Chinatown Brasserie for 10pm that they were just too rude to us (I will spare you the details) before we even sat down so we left and needed to find somewhere to eat. Five Points had over an hour wait and a number of other places we called were booked. We hopped in a cab and went to Upstairs (it was only a few blocks from home). We told George what happened to us and he felt terrible. Unfortunately all their tables were full and it was going to be 30 minutes so we said we were going to try Odeon, but he would not let us leave without taking 3 loaves of bread and some cookies because we were starving.

              You may have had a bad experience with George - everyone has bad days, but overall Upstairs is great and George is a nice guy.

              1. re: john

                I really appreciate this post. I do agree that I wouldn't want to be judged by one moment and for that reason I know eveverybody has a bad night or two in them.

                That said, I also understand why Simetrias wouldn't set foot in the door again. I think "I" forget about chemistry and that there are some ppl I am just not gonna gel with, no matter how skilled we are, or are not, at what we do.

                1. re: john

                  Scottish, actually. Surprised to see this as he's one of the most charming maitre d's anywhere.

                  just a thought but if you take someone out for a business meal, you may want to call the restaurant ahead to let them know - speak with the maitre d' or manager to make sure they know you're tax exempt, etc. the burden really is on you to make sure everything goes smoothly. you don't want to leave it to chance and risk any potential embarrassment. i doubt Upstairs gets a lot of business crowd - it's really a neighborhood place and, yes, cramped.

            2. Couldn't agree more with John and Lucia. This place is a godsend for TriBeCa residents in that it offers consistently high quality food at sensible prices whereas so many other places in the nabe offer mediocre food at high prices or focus disproportionately on the scene. And it has 3 separate menus which allows for great variety, including pretty much the best sushi in TriBeCa. And an open kitchen which is a great spectacle. And to my mind a slice of "New World NYC", always goes down a treat when I take along friends visiting from the UK/Europe.

              I've always had above average service here. Clearly not a place to linger what with the cramped seating but that's a given.

              5 Replies
              1. re: oonth

                No lingering, no group (it was I and one person), no problem, except with the maitre's rudeness both on arriving (the old "i'm so bothered to have to seat you" routine) to the loud, unpleasant, plain rude rejection of the tax exempt form I have used at a hundred NY places. It may be a gem, but it's got a rough edge that was unpleasant. Down the street is the wonderful Duane Park cafe, always welcoming and reasonably priced; Azafran, fun and funky, with great tapas and paellas; Thalassa, great food, great atmosphere, etc. etc. It may have been the Friday night at 7 time that incited the maitre to discover his inner bitch, I don't know, but it's a rudeness I rarely find precisely in Tribeca, where I eat all the time.

                1. re: simetrias

                  simetrias, how is Azafran these days? I have not been in awhile. Seemed like it was getting overpriced (kind of an oxymoron in TriBeCa) for standard tapas. We usually go to Pylos for Greek. We love meditteranean food, is Thalassa worth a try or is it just another overpriced TriBeCa restaurant?

                  1. re: financialdistrictresident

                    Azafran is not terribly overpriced for tapas, IMO. But it was better a few years ago. The paella needed improvement on last viz. Thalassa often has a prix fixe/participates in restaurant week; if you get the fish by the pound, it'll cost you. Otherwise, reasonable.

                    1. re: simetrias

                      Thanks for the update, simetras. We may have to give Thalassa a try. It's hard to compete with Astoria and Pylos. We had dinner at Duane Park Cafe recently and it was very good. After reading this thread not sure if we should try Bouley Upstairs. There are so few places by me we often walk over to TriBeCa for more options.

                2. re: oonth

                  I think it is not only some of the best sushi in Tribeca, but some of the best in the city. I am a yasuda devotee, but short of places like that, the guys at upstairs are some of the best.

                3. I arrived 45 minutes late for my reservation at Bouley (oops!) but they were extremely forgiving and even managed to crack a joke or two. Was definitely prepared to get a good dose of French snobbery but was glad they were nice about it all.

                  I like to eats.

                  1. I have been reading this thread with interest since I have not been to Bouley Upstairs. I went to Bouley several times (ages ago) when they were in the old location. We recently went to another Bouley establishment, Danube.

                    Perhaps simetiras just hit an off night (everyone is entitled to a bad day now and then, even in a service industry) and needs to "let go" of her bad experience and give Bouley Upstairs another chance. Perhaps not.

                    Please note a tax exempt form does not provide a free meal, just a tax free meal if the diners are there on non-profit buusiness or make purchases for a non-profit entity.

                    1. Um, not paying tax when doing gov biz doesn't mean you are footing my bill, but maybe that's what George thought when he rudely rejected the certificate that literally 100 other restaurants in NY recognize and accept. Truth is, I was slumming for that biz meal because I was in a hurry, and should have gone down the street to Scalini Fedeli or another place that would never embarass me in front of a guest!

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: simetrias

                        Had brunch today at Bouley Upstairs. Food was so so - it kind of feels like a glorified diner. The service was erratic - waiter was pretty bad, but bus-girl was helpful.

                        Sad to say the bakery basket was pretty bad.

                        It's a place that I will not return to.

                      2. George is simply one of the best, if not the best, Maitre D's in NYC. Dozens of wondeful evenings at Bouley subsatantiate my opinion. I'm am suprised he was working at Upstairs. He is usually at Bouley, in fact I have called him to "get me in" at Upstairs and as you may know they do not take reservations.
                        Everyone has a bad day. George is the kind of guy that would feel really badly if he even thinks he treated you unprofesionally. Sure you're not going back, it is really your loss, I can't wait to go and greet George soon!

                        1. I also live in Tribeca , Upstairs is one of my very favorite places to eat and George (oh, I delighted to now actually know his name) is the most FABULOUS host. He is charming, warm, funny and best of all an absolute professional. On a raining evening recently I worried that my beautiful umbrella (a Mother's Day gift) would be snatched if left unattended by the door -- he couldn't have been nicer, offering to guard it and finding a spot for it -- we giggled like old friends.
                          As for some of the other commments here: Yes, it is not a place to linger but who cares when the food is so terrific, it is a neighborhood place to eat -- if you want to linger go across the street and you can pay the lingering fee. The wait staff are generally attentive the best of all being the gentile Latina bus-girl -- I have NO complaints. I've never noticed that they are playing commercials over the stove area -- I am too busy enjoying my dinner out with my family. Oh, and that's another thing, it is so wonderful to have a place that I can bring my teenage and tweenager to that has fresh healthy food (no baby strollers and that means no fried foods) -- everyone is happy when we go Upstairs -- the burgers are a bargain, the sushi is the BEST in the neighborhood, the halibut is out of this world..... but the most delicious of all is George.
                          By the way, I don't think that you can use a tax exempt form for meals. You can use it to buy food that is to be prepared or consumed elsewhere but I've NEVER heard of anyone using as you tried to.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: yllas

                            Listen, I'll give you all your George -- please -- but don't argue with me about the tax exempt form. Just spent 3 k on dinner, tax exempt, at Scalini Fedeli. A not for profit or gov't agency of the state of NY doing business in restaurants does not pay NY state tax. I have used the tax exempt form hundred of times. George simply didn't know what he was talking about, or, more likely, didn't want to be bothered. Fine. But let's not call it something else, please.