Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Southwest >
Apr 7, 2008 05:12 PM

Zinc Bistro(Scottsdale) bad experience?

Anyone been here lately?

We found ourselves up in this part of world today with a few hours to kill while our car was being serviced so we had the dealer drop us off at Kierland and decided we'd stop in for lunch.

Zinc has always been one of our favorite spots and with the exception of a croque monsieur I ordered at lunch last year we've only had great experiences(and even that sandwich wasn't poorly prepared I just didn't care for it).

Last time we were up there was December and everything was fine.

Everything today was a disaster. The food(dry duck confit, terrible terrible terrible overdressed soggy crab salad), the service(practically nonexistant and rude when we were lucky enough to get a flyby by the server).

Just wondering if this was a one off experience or if it's representative of changes in the kitchen and the front of house(the service particularly was horrible today). We're reluctant to ever give them another try after this.

It's always disappointing to have a poor dining experience, at an old favorite it's really a bummer.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I've always had very good but not life-changing experiences at Zinc Bistro. Their cheese plate is one of the very best. They used to have a flatiron steak with a bone marrow sauce and unbelievable truffled mashed potatoes. The dish they replaced it with did not hold a candle to the first. Bummer!

    They probably just had an off day. I wouldn't give up on it based on one bad experience especially when you have had so many previous positive experiences there.

    1. ziggylu

      My last visit, and I mean my last, was over one year ago.

      Sunday afternoon, midday, the place was empty and with Sunday newspaper under my arm.

      I asked for a cafe au lait. The hostess replied no the restaurant did not make whatever that is. (This is a French Brasserie? Right?)

      I asked, cappuccino? She yes we do make those.

      I said that will do and asked for table in the empty bar area. The hostess said tables in the bar are reserved for food customers, only but I was welcomed to sit at the bar.

      I asked for the manager. He echoed the words of the hostess.

      I said thank you and goodbye.

      Frankly, with so many restaurants why support one with either bad food or bad customer service. And by “bad” customer service I mean not only rude or incompetent but as is most often the case unreasonable and simply dumb behavior.

      When faced with bad food or dumb behavior don’t you to be dumb by staying or returning.

      Excuse the rant but there it is.

      1 Reply
      1. re: au lait

        I've been there around 10 times. Zinc has never been a 5-star experience. Heck, the prices reflect that. In my experience, it's always been no less than good food with no less than good service. Au lait's experience is shocking based on my experiences there.

      2. We have had excellent experiences at Zinc over many years. Have had wonderful lunches outside, good service, great times. Other times it is not so good. Last time we were there the server for our area just flat ignored us. I was getting pissed and we were seconds from walking when another server took pity on us and took over. After two wonderful Steak Frites and a bottle of nice wine things were fixed. We tipped the server 25% and went on our way.

        Had some friends that went there for a nice dinner, two couples. They ordered a bottle of French wine. The server brought out four of the smaller red wine glasses. They then asked for the larger nicer glasses, the server told them he could not do that, they were only for their most expensive wines. They asked for the manager and he also told them no. They have not been back.

        I think the management has some attitude problems, maybe they are French?

        17 Replies
        1. re: duck833

          I lived in France for two years and never had the kind of service we experienced today.

          We contemplated talking to the manager but decided not to husband made the comment "don't you get the impression they just don't really care today?" And in fact that was how it felt, from teh hostess to the bussers and everyone in between.

          We've always liked the place but really they aren't goign to miss our 4-5x a year business so why bother.

          We've been eating out a lot less than we used to...not necessarily a reflection of economic times....more and more we're finding that in the mid-range (the $50-$100 range) it's just not worth it anymore. Maybe we have bad luck. We're not overly demanding customers- simple requests really: well prepared food, polite service, and please do not rush me through my meal. Today was the epitome of every reason we've cut back on dining out other than inexpensive ethnic options or the special occasion high end splurge.

          1. re: duck833

            Maybe it's just me, but I don't understand why guests ordering cheaper wine would decide they had a right to the glasses used for the expensive wine? There are probably a limited amount of said glasses, and they need to be available if someone orders the better wine. Seems like common sense to me.

            1. re: invinotheresverde

              I'm no wine expert, but generally I expect a restaurant that cares about wine to match the glassware to the what's in the bottle, not to the price tag on the outside of it.

              1. re: hohokam

                Agreed, but as long as the regular glasses were adequate, why the fuss? If the restaurant's policy is the nicer stemware is only for $100 bottles and over (for example), and the guests didn't order a bottle that cost over $100, why should they get the glasses? Sounds like a bit of self-entitlement to me.

                1. re: invinotheresverde

                  Seems incredibly petty to me on the part of the restaurant not to grant a simple request like that. After all, how many times would they get asked this favor and how hard would it have been to grant it? If it concerned the people enough to ask further clarification by the manager it obviously was something that they felt would have improved their experience at the restaurant and that should have been the manager’s desire as well.

                  1. re: AzDumpling

                    In their defense, some bottles at Zinc Bistro are *very* expensive and do demand elite glassware. As a customer, if I'm paying $300 (it goes up from there, believe me) for a superior bottle of Bordeaux, it would be unacceptable for Zinc to serve my wine in the same glassware as a $20 Merlot. If I'm paying $25 for a bottle of Merlot, I'd *prefer* elite glassware but I can appreciate why it isn't provided. Expensive glassware is just much harder to maintain than cheap glassware; drying it takes much longer (gotta get out all the smudges) and because it's delicate it chips and breaks easily. If you deliver my $25 bottle of Merlot in elite glassware and then the table next to us orders the same bottle of Merlot and gets *standard* glassware, the manager has a real problem. I suppose Zinc Bistro could charge a premium for the nicer glassware but then *that* would inspire resentment among some customers ("What a cheap restaurant. I have to pay *extra* to enjoy my wine in a proper glass? This is so not the parisian way.") The other alternative is to throw away the cheap glassware and replace it all with elite glassware (but do you, as a customer, want higher prices to pay for that decision?). Or Zinc could drop the premium wines *and* the premium glassware--that would be fine by me. Ah, jealousy among the rich; isn't it ugly?

                    1. re: foofood

                      thats ridiculous.

                      so if i merely order the salad i should get the cheap silverware and cheap plates? only those who order foie dare get the good plates, evidently. cheap paper napkins for the folks who don't order appetizers with their entrees?

                      dumb policy. end of story.

                      1. re: winedubar

                        YOU may find it to be a dumb policy, but every restaurant I've worked at in the last 15 years has had "normal" glassware and "high end" glassware.

                        1. re: invinotheresverde

                          its a stupid policy. i don't remember a separate set of glasses at either rancho pinot, mary elaine's, kai, durants, binkleys. or even french laundry, or chez panisse, zuni cafe or any number of the fantastic places we've eaten over the years.

                          does it exist? sheesh, nothing would suprise me

                          does it make sense? hell no!!

                          if one kind of stemware is good enough for thomas keller its good enough for me

                          1. re: winedubar

                            can you remember a place in paris where you've seen different levels of glassware used depending on the wine you ordered? i sure didn't see it happen...

                            1. re: azhotdish

                              i've never seen it happen. especially at a place with 'bistro' in its title.

                              1. re: winedubar

                                Regardless of whether the establishment does or does not have more than one level of stemware the question really is one of customer satisfaction. If a customer feels that their experience would be heightened by the use of a better quality of glass then why not try to make them happy if indeed such stemware is available. It is a very easy thing to do and I cannot believe many people would ask for a stemware upgrade as they would simply drink their wine from the glass provided. The aforementioned group’s second request to the manager, after asking their server, should have been politely accommodated as it would seem that the manager would have sensed the possibility of cultivating a good return customer. Perhaps, as said, the customer is NOT always right but reasonable requests with regard to menu preparation, stemware selections and such are part of why the industry is called the hospitality industry I believe.

                                Of course perhaps the management felt that the foursome were Greeks and they feared the worst for their expensive stemware.

                                1. re: AzDumpling

                                  all quibbling about the specifics of various stemware aside, i do agree with your assessment of customer service here, azdumpling. cheers to that.

                                  1. re: winedubar

                                    Sorry to interrupt, but if any posters want to discuss wine glass issues further, please start a thread on the General Topics board, so that we can keep the focus here on local chow.

                                    Thank you!

                  2. re: invinotheresverde

                    honestly, i am having a very hard figuring out WHY there are different glasses except to cause strife and class divide :) moreover, what seems lost here is: the customer is always right. seriously. the place is empty, give them the damned glasses.

                    1. re: hzp

                      Here's where we have our fundamental difference: I definitely don't believe the customer is always right.

                      1. re: invinotheresverde

                        actually, you're right, and I'm wrong on this one. people have become unreasonable in the last 10 years, and they do make demands that are not always possible to accommodate, and in some cases, shouldn't be even if they CAN be.

                        but i don't think this is one of those cases. and... i suppose if this were a limited instance, i could say, "there was something going on behind the scenes we/the customer don't know about".

                        but it doesn't appear such is the case from all reports.

                        that said... when i last worked in a restaurant, as it happens, a french bistro in another town far away.... we were told everyday that it was our job to accomodate customers... in the great tradition of nordstroms (who also don't do a great job at this anymore). Make them happy. As a waitress, few people were hard to make happy, and most of the time, i found it harder to make people unhappy. takes effort to give less than standard service, IMO.

            2. That's really a shame that things did not go too well, as I love Zinc. In my visits there, the service has ALWAYS been truly exceptional, with congenial, unobtrusive, yet informative and highly attentive servers. I can see how someone may not like a dish that they ordered simply becuase it was not their taste, but every item I've ever had there has been absolutely stellar.

              I would definitely chalk your visit up to a bad day.

              2 Replies
              1. re: crsin

                This wasn't things not going well, it really was a disaster.

                As I mentioned the food itself was an issue. Not from a "I just didnt' care for it" point of view. This time from a prepartion point of view My husband had the duck confit sandwich...the duck was dried out. The real offender was my crab salad which was overly dressed and soggy soggy soggy. An enormous mound of soggy iceberg topped with very little crab. the dressing while present in copious amounts was flavorless. I ate two bites and quit. No way was this worth the tremendous amount of calories that had to be in all that dressing. Not stellar in anyway, and not just because it wasn't my taste this time.

                The service was truly horrible. We sat and the server approached. No smile, no hello, no welcome. Long brown hair halfway down her back that she apparently couldn't have been bothered to pull back before service(sorry a turn off to me...I have long hair as well and know how much I lose throughout the day. Even in my own kitchen I always pull it back for this reason). "the special today is jidori chicken" I asked what type of preparation "jidori" was as I was unfamiliar with it, she sneered that it was "free know never in a cage" OK..thanks I wonder if they braise them on the range or roast them. Let's just skip that whole special thing anyhow.

                We ordered an iced tea and a small carafe(a glass essentially) of the white burgundy. We also went ahead and placed our lunch order at this time as we were ready. She brought the tea and sneered at my husband while pointing at the salt cellar "that's salt? Don't use it in your tea. If you want sweetener i have to bring it to you?" He doesn't use sweetener anyhow by really why not just bring it with the tea and save a trip? And I realize they probably get folks that don't realize what a salt cellar is(even if sitting next to the pepper mill) but surely the issue can be addressed politely and without yet another sneer.

                A runner dropped the food. Before we could taste it, she flew by..."everythings' fine? good" and kept on going not to be seen again until the check drop.

                My salad sat after the first two bites. . My husband wanted me to send it general experience sending is sending things back usually isn't worth it. The only time I'll send something back is meat or fish not prepared to correct temperature and fortunately I've rarely had to do this. I just figured I'd write it off as a loss and just share his fries which were good and for lunch made me happy(hey a nice sunny day with a glass of wine and good frites...ok by me for lunch really). When they noticed I'd left the salad 98% uneaten, I'd explain I didn't care for it. Maybe they'd take it off the bill, maybe not...if not, not the end of the world as I didn't really do anything from my end to correct the issue other than not eat it. See, I'm really not a demanding or difficult customer for the most part. Kitchens have bad days, and customers make bad choices. I get that. In this case I think it was more the kitchen but for $16 it wasn't worth making a big deal about...write off as an experience and note to self to stick only with the frisee if ordering salad here.

                We didn't see the server again...or anyone else. Our water glasses were empty from before the food arrived as was the iced tea glass. i was never offered another glass of wine(yes I would like one thank you very much for asking).

                The busser approached to clear. He asked me if I wanted a box for my salad. "Um, no thank you. It wasn't good and I didn't care for it at all" A few moments later he arrived bringing me...A BAG WITH MY UNEATEN SOGGY SALAD! I was a bit flabbergasted. I refused it, and again pointed out "No, really that was a terrible salad which is why I didn't eat it" He disappeared with the salad.

                Seconds later the server finally arrived again...and dropped the check "here you go" sliding it across the table towards my husband as she again flew by without actually stopping. He caught it at the edge before it slid off the table and into his lap. (By now, I'm wondering if she was supposed to show up at Ed Debovich's this morning and got lost on the way perhaps) Gosh, no we didn't want any dessert. No thanks I'd not like a coffee. Oh, and yes as the busser apparently didn't mention I didn't care for my salad(which you might have known if we'd seen you at some point after we'd actually tasted the food) but that's OK I'd not like to order anything else today instead. And no we're not thirsty from looking at these empty glasses for the past half hour on this warm Arizona afternoon.

                We paid and left. I honestly can't tell you the last time we came close to stiffing service...we tipped $5 on a $43 bill and it was probably too much. this was when we contemplated talking to the manager, to let him know why the tip was low...but decided there was an atmosphere/attitude to the place that seemed no one cared. Even the hostess couldn't be bothered to smile and welcome us. that didnt' phase me at first as I in my mind stereotyped it as typical for hip Scottsdale hostesses...but as a part of the whole it was part of an overall bad experience.

                Despite many good experiences here, this was such a bad one I really don't know that we'll go back on our own again. We don't get to this end of the world too often and tehre's other good choices(we were kicking ourselves for not heading the other way from the car dealer to Andreoli instead for instance).

                Business was good yesterday, they won't miss us.

                1. re: ziggylu

                  All I can say is that the five dollars that left your wallet would not have left mine. Your reluctance to speak with the manager was probably well founded as this many lapses in service would have been impossible had the MOD had any interest whatsoever in seeing to it that his/her guests were well cared for. I expect that the ensuing interaction, if you had taken it, would have simply added to your level of frustration.

              2. So one can only hope Chef Carter scans this board every once in a while and will take these comments to heart. Having dined in more than a few real French Bistros, snotty service with attitude is not the norm. Professional service, good (to great) food is.