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Feb 29, 2008 08:39 PM

Columbia SC - Al's Upstairs vs Young Folks

My 22 year old son has a new girlfriend and wanted to take her someplace special (romantic) for Valentine's Day. He asked my advice. I mentioned several favorite spots and included Al's as having a great view but so-so food. It was not high on my list.

Sadly, Al's was his choice. He checked the website and found their V-Day package. Four course meal with wine, champagne, and beer. $125 for two. He phoned.

"Do you have a credit card?" (Answer was yes.) "Go to our website and see what we offer."

He already had, but he checked again. Phoned the website's number and the same woman answered. "Didn't I just talk with you?"

She took his card number and made the reservation. Son and date arrived on time and were taken to a small room with four tables - NOT the main dining room with the cityscape view. Very cramped. He and date were seated next to a half-wall hiding a servers' station.

Son noticed that the other tables held only young couples. The room included - get this! - a TV showing regional sports! Others in the room commmented about the odd coincidence that everyone there was under thirty. He decided not to spoil his sweetie's dinner by complaining, and said the server was obviously aware of the age-ist segregation. She did her best to make the young couples happy.

I'm more displeased about this situation than he is. My child is no gourmand, but he was reared with good taste and good manners. I can't describe how much he was looking forward to impressing his date. His $125 was the same as anyone else's in the place, yet I feel he was treated very poorly. Because of his youth. Outrageous!

On top of that, he said there was an inter-racial couple there, seated off in a dead-end corner that almost looked like a broom closet.

I've never before heard of such treatment. Chowhound posters have tried to steer diners toward better venues. I'd like to take it a step further.

Do NOT spend your dining dollars at Al's Upatairs Italian. Please. Friends don't let friends eat there.

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  1. I hear ya, Ellen. Al Loftis has lived off the "view" thing for far too many years. His food is a sham. As I read on the New Orleans board the other day, "If you get a reputation as an early riser you can sleep til noon." It's amazing what some folks around here put up with and in fact seem to enjoy.

    1. I agree. I haven't been there in probably 18-20 years, and it wasn't that good way back then. There are sooooo many other spots around town now - I would never tell anyone to go there! Sorry about your son's bad experience - that is the worst!

      1. When I was in HS at BCHS (class of 1987), Al sent a memo to the school every year around prom time letting the school know that they did not want and would not accept reservations for students for prom night. I haven't dined there since and although I left Columbia after graduating from Carolina, I still tell people I know not to eat there, and do the same with all members of the Gamecock alumni clubs that I know. Glad to see old Al is still so freaking impressed with himself.

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