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Jan 28, 2008 03:10 PM

Review: Plum's Cafe, Costa Mesa

You know, often I can really separate the food and the service when I evaluate a restaurant, but sometimes bad service adversely affects not just the experience, but also the food. This was the case at Plum's Cafe, where the food would have been better if the service were better. Here's an overview of our experience: Went for Sunday brunch. Seated after a short wait (not too bad at all, especially for a peak time). Ordered their famous dutch baby pancake, the northwestern waffle with berries, a side of bacon, and 2 lattes. Waiter informed us that the dutch baby takes 30 min to prepare. We said ok, but please send out the other stuff as soon as it's ready because we are going to share everything anyway so we'll eat it in courses. We wait a long time, then get water. We wait a long time again, then get lattes. Only neither latte is particularly hot. And I can tell that they have been sitting there for a long time before they were served to us, because the streams of spilled liquid that no one bother to wipe off the side of the cups are completely dry when the cups reach our table. For me, the lack of hotness made the latte less enjoyable. And husband drinks 1/3 of his latte before noticing a substantial amount of lipstick on the cup. He claims he doesn't mind, that it still likely went through dishwasher and is sterile, he'll just drink out of the other side of the cup. I try to suppress my annoyance and repulsion for husband's sake . Then we wait a very long time before getting served the dutch baby pancake and waffle. The waffle, like the lattes, is not cold but not hot either, seems to have been sitting for a while. It seems like the kitchen got the message to go ahead and make the waffle, but then the waiter forgot to give it to us before the pancake was ready, as we had requested. We ask for the side of bacon we ordered, which we didn't get, and it comes out shortly. Waffle itself was fine but nothing to write home about, but topping of berries and fresh whipped cream was really delicious. Dutch baby pancake was good (and hot), but was vastly improved by the addition of the butter, lemon, and powdered sugar provided on the side. Only we didn't get these accompaniments until we've been eating for a few minutes, so the first few bites were lackluster. This is what I mean about the service impacting the food...if every component were hot and served at the appropriate time, the food and drink would have been much better. At the end of the meal, the pancake, waffle, 2 pieces of bacon (which were good but not revelatory) and 2 small lattes added up to $36 before tip. We left with the feeling that we had enjoyed our meal, despite the service problems, but that for around $40 we could have a much more enjoyable meal elsewhere.

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  1. I hope management at Plum's reads this, as it really is a very good restaurant. I've never had service problems of this magnitude there, but have seen them very busy and the waitresses's attention hard to come by.

    1. I know I was one of the people who recommended Plum's. I've eaten there a few times. I don't remember the service being bad, but I completely understand what you mean about bad service at a restaurant affecting what otherwise would be a very good meal.

      What are your favorite breakfast places in OC? Maybe, I will try one of them the next time I'm in that area.

      1. I like Plum's and have had both the waffle and the dutch baby. They were both good but I can see they that would be considerably less enjoyable when not served fresh.
        Break of Dawn in Laguna Hills is my new favorite place for breakfast. I ordered the Smoked Salmon with poached eggs and was blown away that it was only $10. My only complaint about Break of Dawn is that they use whipped cream from a can as opposed to the real stuff.

        1. I tried Plums for the first time a few weeks ago, and didn't find anything special about the place. The service was fine, but it was the food for me. We ordered the campfire trout and the crab omelete. Both were very bland and boring. The omelete was slightly better than the trout, but still average. We probably won't be back.