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The Food is Great But I'll Never Go Back

Noise? Long wait? Ignored reservation? Attitude? Wha will make you not go back to a restaurant even when the food has been fine?

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  1. A painful noise level, be it diners or live entertainment, can place a damper on an otherwise great meal but traveling a distance to a resto only to be told they didn't hold our reservation (especially if dh & I are with friends) would be a deal breaker.

    1 Reply
    1. re: HillJ

      For me, I can overlook many things and many miscues if the food is great. e.g., :

      Incorrect Food Temperature on Steaks
      Bad Service
      Bad Attitude and Indifference
      Dirty Bathrooms......most of the time...
      Rude customers
      Noise and etc.....

      But the only two deal breakers for me is simply a place with long waits(no reservations accepted)..... and pricing and my perceived value received in return. Expensive is not a problem, but being fleeced by small portions or short pours on drinks, but by charging excessively for the experience will not win any points for the scorecard and a return.

      The first time I traveled to the Californian desert in the early 90's, I arrived before the rest of the group in town, so I had a chance to research potential restaurants. There is a place in Palm Dessert/Springs that is one of the better known Steakhouses in the area. In dining issue of Palm Springs Life Magazine, the advertisement for the said restaurant stated they had the best Crab Cakes in the Coachella Valley. When our group dined there, I ordered it as my appetizer. The waiter suggested if I liked Crab, they had a special of Jumbo Alaskan King Crab Cocktail that evening, and maybe I would enjoy that instead. I asked how it was prepared and his reply was "Cold in the Shell with drawn butter". I asked how large the portion size was and his reply was "eight ounces". I said I would be fine with the crab cakes. Two others in our group ordered the AKC Cocktail. For the CrabCakes, What came out were two one inch balls of deep fried crab at a cost of $13.50. I have had Hors Doevres larger than what was served to me. The AK Crab came out with a candle lit ramekin of drawn butter and three sections of AK Crab about the size of your fingers.....hardly Jumbo. When the bill arrived, the price for the crab legs was $39.90 per order.....everyone at the table shook their heads in disbelief. The portion size was also debatable, but even giving them the benefit of doubt, the extension of $79.80 per pound for consumption is ridiculous. The manager walked over and asked how everything was....and I told him he should be ashamed to serve both Crab dishes as they were and to charge such insulting, outrageous prices for such minimally prepared items. His response was the Alaskan King Crab was flown in daily........I told him he was full of S#/T.

      Needless to say, we never returned.

    2. Being rushed, after two visits, and after I've specifically asked NOT to be rushed and gotten a completely rude response from server and manager on the second visit.

      1. There are a couple things that put a restaurant in the "They won't get another DIME of my money" category, firstly would be bad service, I loathe being served by someone who hates their job, or is terrible at it. I can forgive a novice but I cannot forgive a seasoned pro being a spiteful wench. Secondly is comfort. If I am sitting mere inches away from the next table, I might not even sit in the first place. I do not care how good the food is at that point, if I have to hear the conversation next to me more than my own.

        1. Noise, tiny tables and out-of-control children.

          8 Replies
          1. re: beevod

            You know, I am a hypocrite. There is a local place I go to frequently which is guilty of all of the above attrocities. I might say I will never go back, every time I have a meal near some wretched toddler, but I GO BACK. In point of fact (and may I add that I am indeed the classic misanthrope) food wins out. I am deeply ashamed.

            1. re: NYJewboy

              >>There is a local place I go to frequently which is guilty of all of the above attrocities.

              Do they have a bad attitude, though? I can forgive tiny tables, undisciplined kids, noise, and a long wait, but if the server and owner/manager are conciliatory in addition to the food being great?

              Wins out over shrugging servers and similar owners/managers every time.

              1. re: dolores

                Went a while back to a highly rated Italian restaurant in NYC (no need to name). Their big thing was authenticity-the chef had studied in Italy, etc. We ordered some unusual dishes, wines, etc. and then ordered what was listed on the menu as "whole roasted branzino". When the fish came out, it was minus the head. I inquired of the server in a nice, non-complaining manner as to where the head was, since it is part of the visual presentation, there are some parts to eat on the head and that again, the menu said "whole". The response from the server and the captain was that "the average customer doesn't want to see the head, so we just automatically remove it". I didn't complain, but just expressed disappointment, which was met with a shrug of the shoulders. I've been at other places-not as fancy-where they at least ask you if you want the head on or not. In keeping with the theme of this thread-food was very good, but I wouldn't ever go back due to attitude.

                1. re: dolores

                  I am just addicted to their food. I am hopeless.

                    1. re: NYJewboy

                      What's "hopeless" or "hypocritical" about that? It's Chowhound. We're here for the food. And beer for the horses.

                      1. re: NYJewboy

                        Hey, attitude is just not your deal breaker.

                        I would guess you have some other deal breaker. Or not.

                  1. re: beevod

                    I had a friend who told me a story about a table next to him with small children and the parents were allowing the children to run around as they continued to talk. As if that was not bad enough, the child came up to my friends plate and tried to take some of his food off of it!! I can't remember what he said to the parents but I know it was real pleasant. I realize that is not the restaurants fault but thought it was a funny story to bring up!

                  2. Filthy restaurants and/or those with cockroaches crawing around.
                    Expensive meals (upscale/elegant) where waitstaff and managemnet ignore out of control children. I do not want to pay a premium and feel I am in McD's.
                    I don't mind breast-feeding women (or any of that) if the baby is reasonably quiet or if they leave the room with a fussy one. Been there, done that, so I don't begrudge parents wanting to have a night out. This is also certainly in the context of whether you are in Denny's or Per Se.
                    Noise level. If I can't hear or be heard then I won't return. Doesn't have to be painful...
                    Management that doesn't seem to give a shit if you bring up a real problem with the meal or service (that goes beyond whether the food itself was good). IE, I received my food course way too early or late. It was dumped in my lap...(and I didn't deserve it) :)

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: Scargod

                      >>Management that doesn't seem to give a shit if you bring up a real problem with the meal or service (that goes beyond whether the food itself was good). IE, I received my food course way too early or late. It was dumped in my lap...(and I didn't deserve it) :)

                      Yes, agree on your first and second sentence and WOW on your last sentence!! You trumped MY horrid experience...........

                      1. re: dolores

                        I've come close to that happening, but I was just proposing a scenario...
                        What was your horrid experience?

                        1. re: Scargod

                          Ah! Your scenario*, minus the last sentence. I've never gone back and use them as my barometer of deal breaking restaurants ever since.

                          ETA: food arrived way too early, one course on top of the other, and server plus mgmt. didn't give a tinker's damn when I complained after having asked specifically not to be rushed on this my second visit.

                      2. re: Scargod

                        Cleanliness is definitely a deal breaker for me. That includes the bathrooms and the city health code. Although I'll be flexible with that for some things. What really grosses me out is a dirty, sticky menu.

                        1. re: southernitalian

                          Omg that is a huge pet peeve with me as well. Gross menus. If the menu has food, grease, ketchup, slime whatever on it, it makes me ill and I have literally walked out of a small restaurant right after picking up a menu and seeing a dead fly stuck to what appeared to be ketchup (at least I hope it was!) Bathrooms are another one. I do not care how busy a restaurant is, there is no excuse for black crud around the throne.

                        2. re: Scargod

                          Uh-oh. Katz's Deli in lower Manhattan is pretty filthy, but the food is still heavenly. I just get it to-go! And close my eyes while I'm inside. I did have to use the restroom once - it was a scary experience.

                          1. re: Catskillgirl

                            >>Katz's Deli in lower Manhattan

                            Oh boy, the king of the deli meat. No frills, but the food is to die for.

                        3. Really, really bad service. "Bad" can mean a number of things but is usually several small bad things adding up to one big bad, including very, very slow service, absent server when needed, no drink refills, forgetting the order and having to return to confirm what people had (JUST WRITE IT DOWN, WOULD YOU!), not bringing things that were asked for, improperly making change, having to go into the kitchen to ask for a server after waiting for 17 minutes when first sitting, etc. And yes, all of that happened at ONE restaurant that I took some colleagues to. None of us have been back.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: rockandroller1

                            I will go back to Lola in Dallas but the owner was on his honeymoon, and according to the waiter, "only he really knew his way around the wine "cellar"." Actually an air-conditioned room, since few buildings in Dalllas actually have cellars. He took about thirty minutes before he returned to tell us he could not find the wine we ordered, but did upgrade us at no additional charge. Then, I was the "first ever" to have my salmon overcooked. Really?? I was not impressed by this waiter....and he made us miss our show.

                          2. now that cigarette smoking is thankfully gone, that is no longer a no return issue. Service can be an issue, but if the food is great I may give a couple more chances. I dont like being rushed, so that is typically a deal breaker.

                            As far as children, and babies, there is only so much a restaurant can do legally in regards to bad parents who let their kids run around. So I cant blame them, I would just go later when the kiddies are less likely to be there. Babies kind of the same thing, if a parent has no respect for his or her fellow diners, and lets the baby cry without attending to them, or whisking them away from the dining area, there is only so much the restaurant can do. As a parent of a 1-1/2 year old who likes to go out to eat we are considerate of other diners, and if she starts crying, etc, we take turns away from the table..

                            1. A no reservations policy and long waits for a table (I'm in NYC), but even then I'll go back once in a while. I can't think of any instance where the food is great but I wouldn't be tempted to go back for other reasons--it would have to be REALLY rude service. Noise, uncomfortable seating, etc. I'll put up with.

                              1. Loud music. It's weird that as I get older, I seem to be more sensitive to noise in general, but particularly to the muzak-type "elevator music" often played in restaurants. And stores. What's going on?

                                Are the managers or workers cranking up the volume for their own enjoyment? (hard to imagine enjoying that crap, but diff'rent strokes and all that)

                                When everyone at your table has to shout to be heard over what is intended to be background music, I won't be back, no matter how wonderful the food.

                                6 Replies
                                1. re: juliasqueezer

                                  I think they do that in a primitive attempt to drown out the table noise, which is a product of bad acoustics in the first place, thus noise is set upon noise. Just get some damn baffles!

                                  1. re: NYJewboy

                                    I've had some success, depending on the restaurant, in asking them to turn down the music, or in the case of a particular Italian singer whose voice is like nails on a chalkboard in my brain, to turn him off altogether. And they have, bless them.

                                  2. re: juliasqueezer

                                    worse than that is when the music or sound system skips, and is staticy. This happened to me yesterday out to dinner with my hubby, we went to a new bar and grill in Manchester NH and the music was loud, and the kept cutting out, and was staticy! Boy did it irk us. Not only was it music we don't like, but it sounded like it came out of Gilligan's coconut radio.

                                    PS the food was terrible as well.

                                    1. re: gryphonskeeper

                                      Or the crappy, tiny speakers and the jazzy/disco background crap; where (with all the other sounds), all you pick up the dull, flat bass. Thunka, thunka, thud....thunka, thunka, thud.... throughout the whole meal.

                                      1. re: Scargod

                                        Oooooh. You are so right. The headache-inducing bass pumping from a cheap system, layered under the general noise of bad acoustics. The. Worst.

                                        It always leaves me wondering if the manager and staff actually LIKE it this way, or if they don't notice how irritating it is.

                                        Or, how about this? It's intentional! It's a sort of water torture/wearing away at the last nerve of their customers so diners will shovel the food in and get the hell out, and the restaurant can turn their tables. If so, it's ingenious. Until people stop coming to the restaurant altogether.

                                        1. re: juliasqueezer

                                          or, it's to drown out the yelling in the kitchen...

                                  3. #1 Bad attitude of servers or management
                                    strange as it may seem, a grungy looking hole in the wall with good food and a friendly attitude will have me coming back often...but I do draw the line with certain filth levels, but then the food won't be good and thats not what we are talking about here.
                                    Noise level is appropriate for me in some cases and in others it is not. (no romantic dinners in a loud place, but I will take some I know for a fun time to a loud place)
                                    It would take a couple of issues with a broken reservations to cause me pain, again back to #1 - if the management doesn't care- I am out of there. If they try to be accommodating, no problem (even if it is only a drink a the bar for a wait).
                                    Long wait will mean I will try to find a time when there is no long wait...if the food is good.

                                    1. So then, to summarize: Chowhounds will go to almost any length in their hunt for excellent food, unless the place where it is found is: too hot, too cold, too loud, too crowded, too bright, too dark, overstaffed, understaffed, too attentive, inattentive, too big, too small, tables too far apart, tables too close together, too many children, and too many headless fish.

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: thebordella

                                        Naw. You got it all wrong. Most people don't care about that fish head.

                                        1. re: thebordella

                                          I can deal with fish heads, as long as they are roll-y poll-y fish heads so I can eat them up YUM!

                                          1. re: thebordella

                                            You forgot too rushed, too overpriced, and too expensive for parking.

                                            Sounds about right, though, thebordella. Know any places like that?

                                          2. High end restaurants where there is an obvious difference in the way the "regulars" get treated (service, seating, smarminess, etc.) and how the "other" customers get treated.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Scagnetti

                                              Yes, repetitive patronage and spending big bucks proliferates smarminess...

                                            2. A sports bar type place, baseball game ends on the 27 tv screens throughout the resto. An infomercial with screaming psuedo-australian guy starts up and stays on for over 45 minutes, apparently no one who works there was paying any attention at all.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: Scrapironchef

                                                This is fascinating, since no one had touched on this, till now. It seems like few American restaurants (save those classed as "sports bars") have adopted the practice that seemed common in places like Greece, where TV's were on in most every restaurant. This was a huge shock to me.

                                                I have experienced this very few times in the US; usually in Asian restaurants. It is a huge turn-off for me. Sometimes it is the proprietor's "family" watching it in a far corner and not being attentive to service; never mind the noise! I don't think I've returned when I've found this public watching of a TV by employees, cook, etc.
                                                I'm a little annoyed when the sounds of the bar area of a restaurant invade the dining area. I remember several instances of having dinner in a favorite spot of ours. There was a sporting event on and when the local's team did something spectacular a loud (and frequent) roar would come from the bar, even though it was out of sight and down a hall. Since this coincedence is infrequent, I can tolerate this festivity.

                                                1. re: Scargod

                                                  My favorite Burmese resto, Innya Lake in San Bruno, has this going on. The guys who staff it are mad basketball fans and somehow manage to find a game to watch every day of the year. To their credit it has never detracted from service and has even become a bit of the "atmosphere".