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Cafe Blackbird (Minneapolis) - the front of the house counts, too

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David.Spawn Jan 5, 2009 11:12 AM

New to the "Chow" scene but had heard this is a good forum and wanted to see if others had experienced anything similar. I am always disappointed when the food is good but the front of the house is not in order. Appears to be another case of too much south Minneapolis attitude being served.

Blackbird staff if you're reading this - in this economy, the front of the house counts, too, and if you give up on it, we may give up on you. Read on if you want the details.

Went to Cafe Blackbird - a casual eatery in south Minneapolis - for dinner (previously there for brunch) last Saturday. I had called to make a reservation and was informed that they did not take reservations and they would see us later that night. Upon arriving, we were told (upon asking) that all of the empty tables were taken ?! but they could find something for us. Is there a call ahead policy? Nobody told us in advance.

We were seated shortly - nice - and sat down for a very some good food that is accurately praised for its craft, and also hyped for its local sourcing. However, one of my dininng companions received the wrong sandwich and when the waitress had not returned quickly, he decided to try it - he found it good, just different, you know, steak vs. the wished for fish. When he asked what he had been served, the waitress laughed and admitted it was her mistake. By now, the sandwich was about 1/3 finished, so he continued on with it and did not ask for it to be replaced.

For dessert, we ordered the vanilla ice cream & espresso - typically referred to as "afogato" but not at Blackbird. I asked if it came with anything such as a cookie or biscotti and was told "no". I asked for a piece of biscotti with it and was served 2 thin slices (1/4 inch). Upon receiving the bill, I realized that the waitress had charged us $2 for the biscotti. I thought it seemed an unpleasant end to the meal since she had made a mistake regarding the entree and had not bothered to find another way to make up for it aside from bringing out an entree after most of the meal would have been completed.

Our previous brunch experience was good food but not particularly attentive or helpful service from all staffers, especially regarding a cold draft that was blowing paper lamps around like a fan was in the room.

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  1. MSPD RE: David.Spawn Jan 5, 2009 12:45 PM

    David, welcome to Chowhound. Good input.

    My experience with Blackbird (shared with my wife) has been an exercise in averageness both from a food and service standpoint. I wouldn't warn people away, but there are far too many more intriguing semi-casual places and neighborhood bistros for me to rush back anytime soon.

    1 Reply
    1. re: MSPD
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      petergray RE: MSPD Jan 5, 2009 01:01 PM

      i've been to blackbird five times...my first visit was the week they opened. i have to say i am suprised by these reports of bad service. each time i've been there, the hostess and the wait staff have been excellent; very attentive but not overly so, knowledgeable, and accomodating. the food is excellent, not mind blowing, but perfect for the price point.

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      DiningDog RE: David.Spawn Jan 5, 2009 04:56 PM

      We had a strange experience there a few Sundays ago. Walked in and were told there would be a fifteen minute wait to be seated. Okay, fine we would wait. After 20 minutes or so we asked how long it might be. The woman seating people told me that she had mistakenly given our table away and that it would be about another 20 minutes or so.... People make mistakes, I can accept that, we were disheartened but didn't want to wait another (at least) 20 minutes to maybe get seated. So I told her that we couldn't wait another 20 minutes and asked if our coffees were complementary- one cup each. She asked the woman behind the counter, who I think was either the manager or owner, or both maybe, and came back and said "it's $10.50." Incredulous, I asked to speak to someone in authority and the manager woman barked at me "we're getting slammed here." This coming from someone who didn't lift a finger to help her staff or move more than two feet during the entire time we were there!!!!! Wow.... do you think we'll be back????
      Incidently, we didn't pay for our coffees and I told her that she should be embarassed the way she runs her place. Nonetheless I hope they learn how to run a restaurant and make a go of it. God knows that if The Malt Shop next door can make it, they can.

      3 Replies
      1. re: DiningDog
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        petergray RE: DiningDog Jan 6, 2009 01:04 PM

        is there a malt shop next to blackbird? are we talking about the same place, on W. 50th street, next to heidi's? again, i am confused by these reports of bad service. the front of the house has been fantastic, every time i've been.

        1. re: petergray
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          DiningDog RE: petergray Jan 6, 2009 01:40 PM

          I don't know. Are you talking about the right place? While technically not right next door, but within spitting distance, The Malt Shop has been on that block of 50th Street for about the last 25 or 30 years.

          1. re: DiningDog
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            petergray RE: DiningDog Jan 6, 2009 01:46 PM

            hmm. i guess i never noticed the malt shop before. maybe next time i'm on the street, i'll start with snacks from blackbird, dinner at heidi's, and desert at the malt shop? could be fun.

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