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When do you call it quits? (Lengthy)

  • jfood Nov 21, 2008 06:20 AM
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Had a 2+ hour fight and was bored so wrote this lengthy question.

Jfood was traveling on business and as usual decided to try a new place. He made a reservation through OpenTable, arrived at the restaurant and was seated at a nice 2-top.

The place looked great, a lot of buzz, the host who sat me was very nice, they spoke of the food and it was a great start. The waitress arrived with the menu, and she explained the specials. Jfood told her he had heard a lot of good things about the restaurant and was excited to try the food.

As he was looking through the menu, he looked around and every table was taken. There was a 12-top, a 6-top and the rest were 2’s and 4’s. The 12-top was eating their apps, so Jfood knew it would be more leisurely than normal as the kitchen worked through their order. He had his book and blackberry so it was not of concern.

For an appetizer he ordered a flatbread with duck confit, blue cheese, balsamic and frisee and for an entrée he ordered the braised short ribs with plum lacquer, sautéed bok choy, and seared soba noodle salad plus a side of roasted garlic baby mashed and onion rings.

Within 5 minutes the flatbread arrived. Jfood first bite was very disappointing. First, everything was cold, he thought this was a hot appetizer. Second were the flavors. The flatbread reminded him of burnt Matzah, the duck was overly salted, the blue cheese was actually liquefied with vinegar and it was not very good. When the waitress stopped by he asked her if it was supposed to a heated appetizer and she said yes and walked away. Okeedokee. He ate most of it and moved back to his book. Alex Cross was in a bind.

He watched as other tables received their food and they all looked like great dishes. OK, he thought, must have been a rush on the flatbread, everything else looks great. The 12-top received their entrees, looked beautiful. About twenty minutes after he finished his appetizer the waitress approached and told him his entrée was on it’s way out. Jfood told her he saw the 12-top was just served and he understood. Another 15 minutes passed and finally his food arrived. It looked fantastic. He grabbed an onion ring, first bite and his head snapped bad from the overpowering salt. He tried to dust the salt off. The insides were great though. Second onion ring was actually saltier. OK no onion rings for Jfood. A bite of the mashed potatoes and they were wonderful.

Now onto the main event. He cut his first piece of short rib and the inside was 75% fat/gristle. He took the bite anyway, and it was burnt. OK push that one aside and try the other. Meat was in better condition but the other one was also burnt. Move that aside and try the side. OMG, the salt content of the noodles was worse than the onion rings. No can eat that dish. Back to Alex Cross and the murders are getting interesting.

Waitress arrives, and Jfood explains. She does the proper thing and asks if he wanted another. It is now 805 and he’s hungry so he asks for a burger (thinking this is probably easiest and quickest) and another order of rings with no salt. Off she goes. At 825 he asks where the food is and she tells him that many of their dishes take more than 20 minutes to prepare. Jfood ordered a hamburger and no hamburger on earth takes 20 minutes to prepare.

At 835 he found her and asked for the check. She finally came over and said in a verycurt way said “there is no check.” OK. So Jfood started putting on his coat and saw the MOD. He mentioned what happen and he asked Jfood to give him a second, he would run to the kitchen and see what the story was. Jfood sat. Then he saw the MOD walk over to the glasses and napkins, grab a few of each and walk off to the other side of the restaurant and away from the kitchen.

At this point what would you do?

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  1. I would walk out. I've done it before. Why were the staff so obnoxious to you? I'm shocked b/c it sounds like a high line place

    1. I would just leave. You've been there for too long, you're probably still hungry, the MOD just completely forgot about you. Just grab your stuff, cut your losses and eat something down the street. What did you end up doing and where was this?

      1. I would have thrown a crumpled Andrew Jackson on the table and up and left. A good, sulfurous fart on the way out would have been a suitable punctuation mark.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Veggo

          you can do this on command? hats off to you sir!

        2. I'd leave a couple of bucks on the table and leave.

          1. I agree with everyone else. I'd have left and tried to find someplace else very nearby and hope to get at least something decent before giving up for the night. And I'd be darned sure to (1) write a letter of complaint to management and (2) confirm that you got your points from OpenTable.

            Just curious if you can let us know where you were. It would be interesting to know if any of us know this place and have had similar - or completely different - experiences. What city was it, anyway?

            1. I would have left, no Jacksons or any other Presidents.

              1 Reply
              1. re: rockandroller1

                Pcakes thinks jfood showed remarkable restraint , in keeping with his generaly impeccable manners. She would have left as well. No presidential honorariums. There may have been some spitting (or flatulance) involved.

                Depending on how I felt, I might also have gone on a local review site & copied/pasted what you wrote here. I might also have found out the name of the owner/manager and sent an email/letter referencing a link to this thread.

                Was Alex Cross as well?

              2. BiscuitBoy would have walked out, and thinks Jfood was adequately patient. At least they didn't charge Jfood...Was there a tip? Will Jfood name the establishement?

                1. I would have walked out, and not even bothered to talk to the MOD, I typically have no use for, or have ever had a situation resolved by a MOD, so I now skip the step, and write the establishment off. Too many fish(restaurants) in the sea to worry about a poorly run one.

                  1. Thanks all.

                    Yes jfood did get up and leave as all of you would.

                    1. Assuming the server was rude, indifferent and slow I would not have tipped her and I would've left. As you said, I think you showed remarkable restraint and should pat yourself on the back for not getting into a heated "chat" w/ the mod (not that you could've since he left you high and dry). I am typically a proponent of forgiveness and will give a place a second chance, but I don't think I would in this case since everyone (server, kitchen & mod) seemed as though they couldn't have cared less.

                      1. Jfood was way more patient (perhaps indulgent?) than Karl S would like to he would have been.

                        Then Karl S realizes he's been a compliant single diner before, too.... One of the reasons he is more pungent and tart on these boards is because he realizes that being less compliant (without toggling the a-hole switch that so many diners do toggle) helps future diners.

                        1. I probably would have left after the short rib and eaten someplace else. You really should write them a constructive letter about your terrible experience. A restaurant will never know unless you tell them.

                          1. First things first. I would never have ordered a duck confit and bleu cheese combination. I bring those two things close together in my mind and they start fighting. I think that chef must have been tanked when he came up with that one!

                            As for what to do when the manager says he'll check things out and b e right back, then goes off in another direction, I would have gathered up my things, tracked him down and told him they had already made me late for my next appointment so I can't wait any longer, then asked him to cancel my upcoming reservation for a party of 12 and left. Hey, if he can lie to me about being right back, it's fair to up his angst! And I'd leave hoping he spends an hour or two trying to find my reservation for 12! Waste a little of his time!

                            1. jfood, interesting post. I think everyone -- you, your waitress, the restaurant -- was being reasonable until the uncaring, dismissive brushoff by the MOD.

                              The waitress wasn't right on top of your disappointment with the flatbread, but you mentioned that you ate most of it -- not like it was left on the plate with only one obvious bite eaten. You make a point that the food served to the 12-top, and to you, looked great. The server certainly doesn't taste the dishes as they come out, particularly for salt. And as the first episode of this season's Top Chef NYC showed, tastes and preferences for salt vary widely. You acknowledge that she responded correctly to your dissatisfaction by offering a substitution. When the burger took too long and you asked for the check, she gave a generous if curt response that there is no check. You began to leave.

                              And here things deteriorated. You encountered a manager who is incompetent. He may be afraid to confront the kitchen, so he went in the opposite direction. He may have just been a liar brushing you off, and wanted to show you so. He may be a tyrannical ass, wanting to strut his stuff for his underlings. He may just be drunk or lazy and didn't want to jeopardize the apparent success of the 12-top by extending the interaction with you.

                              The kitchen was being jammed by a huge party in front of you, and you are sophisticated enough to recognize this. Unfortunate about the confit flatbread starter. To me, a "flatbread" does denote something hot and crisp, fresh from the oven. How this is supposed to go with a duck confit, which should be unctuous and rich and normally is not served piping hot, is a mystery, as is a bleu cheese as a combo. And now comes shortribs which are both fatty and burned? Not just crusty? Onion rings ok but too salty, then way too salty. And soba noodles? Was the salt from too much soy? This menu doesn't exactly make much sense. Is this MSP?

                              jfood, I'm not always in agreement with your opinions. But I know that if your dozens of posts and accounts are to be believed, you are a lot less apt to provoke a scene than I might be. I would: Go ahead and leave. If I had the cash conveniently accessible, I'd leave a few bucks tip for the server -- about 10%. She wasn't fantastic, and you say she was curt at the end, but she also works for an incompetent manager. The food wasn't her fault. I would go up the chain about a manager who promises to check on a late, substituted order in the kitchen, keeps you there, and then heads in the opposite direction. But most of all, I'd post the name of the restaurant. What ethical or moral principle argues against that?

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: nosh

                                N

                                Always a pleasure reading your thoughful repsonses ans yes, we do see things differently sometimes.

                                Maybe the nuances did not come through in the OP with the waitress. Jfood normally expects when a server states that food is "coming right out", the timeframe to receipt is a couple of minutes. The short ribs did not arrive for 15 minutes. Jfood felt that the waitress was less than honest on this point.

                                Second, jfood felt the waitress was curt with the no-check comment and she was probably pissed at the kitchen, jfood, or both. But she crossed the line in jfood's opinion, when she told him that a hamburger takes >20 to cook, and stood by this more than less than honest (say that three times fast) and stood by this statement when jfood told her it was just a hamburger.

                                The reason jfood asked for the check was exactly as you stated. He ate most of the appetizer and it's always a tough putt to say how bad something was when you consumed 90% of it. And he would have given a tip on part of the entree as well since this was not her fault as you mentioned. But when she went down the hamburger takes >20, that's when she lost the whole tip.

                                As far as posting the name, jfood does not like leading the charge on turds in the punchbowl. If someone asks for an opinion on a place he'll chime in and try to steer the questioner away, but others seemed to be enjoying their meals, so maybe it was a bad night, or they do not want singles in the restaurant. If the latter they should tell OpenTable not to list "1" as an option in the number of diners for their restaurant.

                                Heck jfood is going to a place tonight that friends love and jfood is 0-2 in enjoying meals there. Hey you never know.

                                Peace Nosh

                                1. re: jfood

                                  jfood, you present an interesting situation that you properly characterize as nuanced. You were there, and have firsthand knowledge and perspective. I'll trust your account and conclusions. No criticism intended.

                                  As you describe a sequence of blunders, in my opinion by far the worst was that of the manager on duty. He interrupted your departure stating a last-ditch attempt to make things right, and then instead of even trying to salvage the situation he walked in the opposite direction. An "in your face" sort of move, unless it was so ignorant as to be recklessly negligent. The manager is the top of the food-chain there, at least at the time. His behavior comes closest to encompassing the establishment's. I'll admit it -- with absolutely no apparent arguments or defenses in his favor, I'd probably take some pleasure in going after him.

                                  I'll list some of the other factors that lead to this conclusion: I know from many past posts of yours that you do not drink -- I have not the slightest notion that you were at all out of control or out of line. You were willing to fade into the background, with a book and a distraction, and noticing that a 12-top is going to take a lot of time, attention, and priority. You had already reached a resolution, albeit an unhappy one, with the server excusing your check before the manager intervened and implicitly held you there under false pretenses.

                                  Now I disagree with your attribution that the server was less than honest when she told you your burger was a couple of minutes away. She, like you, knows how long a burger takes to cook if it was given priority in firing, as she probably intended and hoped. With a manager that bad, and cooks that produce a lot of goodlooking but intolerably salty food, she seems to me likely to have been trapped in the middle and sinking fast when things disintegrated.

                                  You gave an honest account, and even to the end pointed out some of the restaurant's stong points: "others seemed to be enjoying their meals..." Hey, I won't get all self-righteous on you -- I hardly ever get to NYC or the environs or MSP and some of the places I've enjoyed get flamed on the L.A. board -- my interest in the restaurant is pure and simple curiosity that kills the cat and enriches the papparrazzi.

                                  1. re: nosh

                                    "my interest in the restaurant is pure and simple curiosity that kills the cat and enriches the papparrazzi"

                                    brilliant verbiage that jfood may use in the future.

                                    In 8th grade jfood's teacher the one item he would want on a desert island is a box he can not open that he knows contains something he wants.

                                    You get the drift.

                                    Good food already in tummy for the weekend. Have a good weekend.

                                  2. re: jfood

                                    "...or they do not want singles in the restaurant..."

                                    In my eyes, that's a dealbreaker right there, rathar than a mitigating factor. When I travel, I'm ususally the one among my coworkers who scouts out places beyond the obvious chains and such. If they don't treat me decently when I'm solo, they'll never get my business w/ others. Like jfood, I'll be accommodating and uynderstanding, esp. at busy times, but if I get a hint that they'd rather not have my business, well, there's a self-fulfilling prophecy....

                                2. "Had a 2+ hour fight and was bored so wrote this lengthy question."

                                  A two hour fight? I was thinking, well, this should be very interesting, that's a long fight indeed...

                                  This is a rather unfortunate incident. At least you did not have to pay for this meal, that would have added insult to injury. But I do wonder about the tipping protocol in this situation. What do you tip on a non-existent bill? I'm a little torn. It sounds like the server was fairly reasonable if a bit curt. So do you reward that behavior and tip on what you would have paid?Or just forget the whole thing?

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: moh

                                    the body language,tone and the like of the server can only be explained by better writers than jfood. It was very uncomfortable and jfood did not leave a tip. He will always leave a tip in this situation, but he did not feel it was deserved.

                                  2. fold 'em. some days things don't work out. you can't explain it, you can't fight it.

                                    had a similar experience at bayona not too long ago. susan was in the kitchen, vibe was good and then things just started to fall apart. long short, i cut my losses. i'll go back but i'll pull the trigger again if necessary. don't think it will but you never know.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: steve h.

                                      yup, exactly.

                                      good thing jfood had cookies in the hotel room.

                                      live to fight another day.

                                    2. Long question, short answer:

                                      When things are going badly and the server curtly says "there is no check," that's when you call it quits and get your short rib laquered elsewhere.

                                      1. Jfood had to be extremely upset! I have never seen as many self-referential 1st and 3rd person personal pronouns written by Jfood in all Jfood's posts! HE must have been livid! Argggh!

                                        First, you need to identify this place, here and at every opportunity. It's what we do for each other here - not only refer wonderful places to go, but places to avoid. Obviously, with the number of mistakes on the food, this kitchen is not ready for prime time. The FOH is even worse. You should do the world a favor by telling us who that is.

                                        1. When was your reservation? As a detective, this seems important. Was the place thinning out at the time you ordered a hamburger?

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: Scargod

                                            Reservation was at 730
                                            Definitely on the downslope when the burger was ordered but still moved at an snail's pace if you understand the "cargo".

                                          2. Would have left- just walked away.
                                            One thing, hamburgers often take 20 minutes to prepare- having worked for years in restos, if being well done, they are often the lengthiest wait time on the menu-

                                            11 Replies
                                            1. re: nummanumma

                                              med rare numma. no way 20+

                                              1. re: jfood

                                                It could take 20 minutes if there was no room on the grill. I'm not saying that is what happened but it certainly is a possibility.

                                                1. re: KTinNYC

                                                  I am not understanding why everyone is trying to dissect Jfood's motives. Previous post history shows him to be a person of character & good judgement, as well as a Hound who knows his way around a restaurant. In this instance, he showed a level of restraint that most of us (including me) would not have shown. He admits that his decision to leave a tip was, in hindsight, not the best decision & wishes he had not done so. The horse is dead, stop beating it.

                                                  1. re: PattiCakes

                                                    I'm not sure why you think I was "dissecting Jfood's motives". A burger can take 20 minutes or longer if there are orders that came earlier and there isn't room on the grill to cook the burger.

                                                    1. re: KTinNYC

                                                      The comment was not directed at you specifically, but rather at the myriad other posts. My apologies if it appeared to target your response. On the other hand, 20 minutes for a med. burger does seem excessive, particularly when you need to placate an unhappy customer.

                                                      1. re: PattiCakes

                                                        Exactly. The burger should have gone to the head of the line!

                                                        Also, there have been several times when I felt slighted as a single diner: slow service, less attentive to me compared to larger tables, giving me the worst table in the house even though they were 90% empty.

                                                        1. re: PattiCakes

                                                          It took only 35 minutes for jfood to get his complete order and respond to the waitress that it was unsatisfactory. Then business is slowing down and he does not get a burger in 20 minutes? I think they didn't deem satisfying one person worth the effort. It seems from several actions of the MOD that he didn't rush to satisfy an unhappy customer.

                                                          1. re: Scargod

                                                            sorry S. jfood arrived early and probably waited about 25 between app and entree which, given the rush from the 12-top was no big deal. If the waitress had said that the kitchen was handling the large table and was a little backed up he would understand, but her words were "on it's way out" then the 15 minute lag. Jfood's point was to be honest with the customer, not say on it's way out when it was not. Just a bad choice of words and a mismanagement of expectations. Hope that clarifies

                                                            1. re: jfood

                                                              My first sentence was ambiguous. I meant only about 35 minutes had elapsed before you told your waitress the FOOD was unsatisfactory.
                                                              Thus you would think getting a hamburger out would take no time...
                                                              You should really have gone to the head of the kitchen's queue, if anyone cared.

                                                              On occasion, I've heard their mantra, "it's on it way out" repeated two or three times and it doesn't work for me. I'd rather have them say, "can I bring you this or that, which is readily available, because the line cooks are really backed up"?

                                                              1. re: Scargod

                                                                yup, at our ages, lots of things are ambiguous. :-))

                                                                jfood also thought burger would get gold card priority cooking status since he stated that he would take "something simple".

                                                                Same pager

                                                        2. re: KTinNYC

                                                          I've worked in a bunch of steakhouses, and I've never seen a grill so crowded it couldn't take one more burger, but more important:

                                                          If I had been the server, I'd have been all over the kitchen and the manager to get that replacement out ASAP. If the cook told me there was no room on the grill, I'm pretty sure I would have hissed "Saute the d*mn thing, and finish it under the salamander", or some such. We had a cook at one spot who was a master at grilling a steak long enough to put nice marks and a crust on it, and then finishing it in the microwave; he could get a well-done steak out to me in less than 10 minutes in a pinch, and (possibly because people who like well-done steaks have no taste buds), I never had a single complaint about them. 20 minutes for a burger doesn't compute for me, either.

                                                2. I would have left the restaurant and left no tip for the server. I would never go back.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: Bite Me

                                                    >>Within 5 minutes the flatbread arrived. Jfood first bite was very disappointing. First, everything was cold, he thought this was a hot appetizer. Second were the flavors. The flatbread reminded him of burnt Matzah, the duck was overly salted, the blue cheese was actually liquefied with vinegar and it was not very good. When the waitress stopped by he asked her if it was supposed to a heated appetizer and she said yes and walked away.>>

                                                    This is where I'd cancel the rest of the meal, pay for what I already ate and leave.

                                                  2. I hope this wasn't in one of your many visits to our town (MSP).

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: MSPD

                                                      i'd like to know, too. if it is an msp place, i can't figure out where--from the menu items mentioned-- but it would be good to know if one of our home boards' oft-recd places has a tendency to choke like this under pressure/full house (maybe something else going on?), or if the food is in decline for some other reason. i would feel pretty bad if Jfood got a bad meal off of my own rec, in any case :(

                                                    2. Jfood,

                                                      I do agree with the walking part. I would do two more things:

                                                      1.) Write to the managment, and list the above.

                                                      2.) On the appropriate CH board, do a full review, so other CH's do not make the same mistake.

                                                      It *appears* that no one in the FOH really cares about the food, the service or the experience of the diner. Even though this might be in my backyard (the frybread makes me wonder), I think that others need to know. While I love doing positive reviews, I feel it a duty to others, to do reports, when things do not go very well. Were I planning a trip, I'd definitely like to know who to avoid.

                                                      Now, when I see a spot, that I am considering, panned, I usually do a bit of research on the poster, if possible. For one trip to Hawai`i, I was looking to add two new spots to our list. I searched the boards and found some really great reviews, but each had an extremely negative one. This was on each of a half-dozen boards. In this case, all of the negative reviews were from one person. Upon checking, I found they had only (or so it seemed) posted horribly negative reviews on dozens of restaurants, and on dozens of boards. Seems that they had never had a good meal in their life. Base on that, I discounted those reviews, and was impressed by both additions. In your case, while me might have had different experiences, I'd always weigh your reviews heavily. I think that everyone on the CH boards should. You have proved yourself to be objective, and knowledgable on dining. Post, and we shall read.

                                                      Hunt

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                        well said, Mr. Hunt.

                                                        1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                          Bill, I do the same thing. When there is a restaurant I am seriously interested in and a review that seems out of whack, I want to know why, if possible. Though a place can have an off night in one area, it is doubtful the whole experience will be bad.
                                                          "One post wonders" are always suspicious to me, especially if they are strongly positive or negative. A disgruntled employee, supplier or competitor? Some posters seem to have a grudge against management, as if they do or have worked in restaurants where they felt they got a raw deal. If reviews seem strange, I look elsewhere on the internet for corroboration.

                                                        2. Walk out w/o tipping. You definitely showed a lot of restraint. Which James Patterson book was it?