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Sep 8, 2008 09:24 PM

Flatwater on the River - HORRIBLE service, who keeps them in business?

Went with my boyfriend on Labor Day weekend to have lunch overlooking the river at Flatwater.
I guess many Chicagoans were out of town/holiday and it was early (11:00 AM,) so the place was 10% full.

We noticed that all the tables for 2 were in the hot, direct sunlight, so asked for a table in the shade (with an umbrella), since it was too sunny.

Hostess refused b/c "all the tables in the shade are reserved for 4 people."

I looked around at the nearly 10 EMPTY shaded tables in amazement. The entire place was practically empty, ghost town, and she refused to seat us at a shaded table? Who was she reserving it for? at 11AM? imaginary guests that would magically arrive any second?

She basically stated that we had no choice but the table for 2 in the hot, direct sun, and couldn't do anything about it. "Their policy."

Duly amazed at this incredulous display of bad customer service, i asked to speak to the manager, Janna (or Jana, not sure how you spell it). I also told her i was visiting from New York and came specifically to dine at Flatwater. Janna came over, unsmiling, surly-looking, and
matter-of-factly repeated the same thing in a --- if we wanted to sit in a shaded umbrella table, we would need a party of 4. And then walked away.

Now i understand if this place is operating at full capacity, but it was 90% EMPTY!!!
my boyfriend was just shocked at this inexplicably quizzical response.

the attitude of Janna and the hostess were so impolite and rude it just shows that management lack of ethos and service and its trickle-down effect on its employees.

Instead we walked over to Smith & Wollensky next door to Flatwater, which also was pretty empty but they immediately put us at a shaded table upon request. That's what service is about and that's what gets repeat customers. I will never attempt to dine at Flatwater again. i hope they go out of business.

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  1. I went here with a friend recently for the first time. It seemed that the majority of their customers were there for a corporate party.

    Anyway, my friend and I specifically chose this place because we wanted to sit outside overlooking the river (we both work in the Loop and wanted to go someplace after for drinks and apps). The service was fair, but the two appetizers were flavorless. They both LOOKED great (interestng colors/presentation) but were somehow completely flavorless.

    I remember commenting to my friend at the time that the only thing keeping this place in business is that they have outdoor seating by the river. I said "in the winter, who would come here???"

    I agree with you. It's just a matter of time until this place closes....too many better restaurants around there to choose from (LOVE S&W!)....

    1. Agree with the two of you - I went there a while back, maybe a year ago, and was so disappointed. The food was lackluster and their wine list was not only disappointing, they were out of just about everything! I was there in a party of 6, and they had to keep switching us from wine to wine because they would only have a glass or two of each one. It was ridiculous! And same experience with servers who couldn't care less. Haven't been back. (It was fairly empty when we were there, too, btw - at around 6pm on a weeknight)

      1. I really commend you for walking away when they wouldn't accomodate what was a very reasonable request! Many people these days would have rolled over, taken the table in the sun and then bitched about the experience to everyone except the restaurant management. It's apparent that these people could care less about their customers and since the food is mediocre, they will eventually feel the full karmic circle.

        2 Replies
        1. re: chowmix

          For lack of a better term Flatwater SUCKS!!!!
          I have been there a couple times and if wasn't directly on the river, it would have been out of business 2 weeks after it's opening last year. The food is average at best, and the OP is right, the sour attitude staff would be fired at any other restaurant. Can you tell I have had such great experiences there (that statement is dripping in sarcasm).

          That being said, people will still go and I'll likely have another drink there--it's on my walk home from work. I just hate to admit it.

          1. re: jbontario

            I walk home from work as well, up LaSalle. Perhaps English is an option? I have yet to go there, but have heard a couple of positive reviews.

            There's also Kinzie ChopHouse. They have a happy hour from 3:00-6:00pm in the bar area. The several times that I've gone, the service has been pretty friendly.

        2. I just spent a weekend in Chicago with some friends, and we chose to eat brunch at Flatwater since it was located so nicely on the river, and so close to the Westin, where we were staying.

          From the moment we walked in the door (too cold to sit outdoors!) down to when we walked out the door more than 2 hours later, we were astonished at the lackadaisical waiter (never brought spoons with our coffee, butter for our toast, and at one point disappeared entirely) and tawdry atmosphere. The view is wonderful, but we were the only party in there; probably a bad sign. The chairs were chipped and falling apart, the tablecloth and menus were worn and stained. Later, when the waiter took our plates he revealed greasy black rings on the table, presumably from the bottoms of our dirty plates. Yuck! Go elsewhere, or sit outside for a drink only, on a nice warm day.