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Jun 18, 2008 03:45 AM

Bacchus (Bethesda) - really bad night

We've had several very good meals at Bacchus, with good service. Last night was a very different experience. First, my friend wanted seafood. We tried Yin Yankee. It seems to be out of business. Then we tried Pacific Grill. It was closed for no apparent reason (perhaps it too is out of business?). She said she'd also like Middle Eastern so we went to Bacchus. Usually, you can't get in there without a reservation. A couple of tables on the patio were occupied, but inside, only one table was occupied and those people were finished with their meal. No one greeted us for some time, but eventually we were shown to a table. They didn't ask if we wanted to eat inside or out. After about 20 minutes, a waiter came to take our order. There appeared to be one waiter and two runners, but remember, ours was the only "active" table inside. We placed our order - beverages and meal - at one time. We then waited a half hour before we saw anyone again. I finally snagged a runner and asked him about the iced tea. Almost instantly our food appeared. We'd ordered two salads and two apps - chicken schwarma and scallops - not things that ordinarily take a long time to prepare. She was given mine and I was given hers. I don't like the auctioning of plates, but if the runner doesn't know, he should ask. Still no iced tea. I asked about it again. At this point, another couple had been seated, but they were still looking at the menu. They'd also seated a large group that hadn't ordered yet. The food was meh at best. The chicken was overcooked, the pita was downright awful. My friend said her scallops were dry. Finally the iced tea showed up. No one ever checked on us at any time. Finally, we asked for the check, and at that time, the waiter (putting in his first appearance) asked how things were. We asked if there was some kind of problem, because by this time 90 minutes had elapsed. He said they were short-handed. Well obviously, but then say something to customers when they walk in. Maybe they'd rather not share that particular problem with the restaurant. But being short-handed doesn't explain the problem when there are at most four or five active tables (during most of our meal, there were only three active tables). He said he'd try to make it right and next thing we know the runner brings over one dessert with two spoons. Nice gesture, but we just wanted to get out of there so we again asked for the check. It showed up quickly, but then another ten minutes before they collected it from us. I have never, ever stiffed a waiter, because I usually think it isn't their fault, but this waiter and the two runners were definitely part of the problem last night. This happened to me once before at another Bethesda restaurant that is now closed. I really do think the restaurant would be better off saying to customers that they are short handed and service will be a bit more leisurely than normal, so the customer will have a choice to stay or go. Otherwise, you risk losing a customer for good. And what's with closed/empty restaurants in Bethesda? I know it is the summer, but this is really weird. Maybe the recession is hitting harder than we've been led to believe?

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  1. Over 1,000 restaurants in Montgomery County were closed yesterday due to a water main break. I don't know if Bethesda was affected. And the water main break is (obviously) not the reason for such poor service.

    3 Replies
    1. re: 4X4

      No - none of the restaurants inside the Beltway were affected. That problem was only outside the Beltway. And we actually thought that the restaurants in Bethesda would be very crowded, as people who might otherwise eat out in other suburbs would go to Bethesda, but apparently not. I do wonder how any of these restaurants will survive, having been closed at least once in recent weeks due to power outages, and no doubt several more power outages will occur this summer, plus the water main break, the recession, higher spoke volumes when we were able to find a space at a meter on the street at 7 p.m. in Bethesda, only a block away fro the restaurant.

      1. re: Just Visiting

        Eating out is pure discretionary spending and it's one of the first things people cut out when belt-tightening. I think many restaurants will likely go under. I really don't understand why Bethesda has so many restaurants in the first place, ande not many of them are any good. I can't think of one place that would inspire me to drive to Bethesda to eat. We have often gone to Bethesda to shop and not eat there.

        As for Bacchus, I haven't been in years but it was one of the first restaurants that served mezes. I have fond memories of eating a small fried fish (smelt) there that was as good as the ones I had in Morocco.

        1. re: Ericandblueboy

          Agree entirely. It has always baffled me - you would think that with all the competition, these restaurants would have to be good just to survive. And some have gone under (several restaurants have died in the Yin Yankee location), but there's still a large number of mediocre and/or chain restaurants. The few that stand out to me (besides Bacchus - I'm willing to give them another chance) are Rock Creek and Green Papaya. I know people really like Black's but I have had issues with management so I choose not to go to any of their restaurants.

    2. I ate at Bacchus once, and thought that the mezze was delicious, but that the bread (pita) was awful. OTOH, when I have eaten at Lebanese Taverna, the bread is always delicious. The plain fact is that good Middle Easten food requires good bread. Bacchus is ruining their reputation by serving half-stale bread, and the tragedy of it is that they do have their good points, but unless they rectify the bread situation, I won't return.