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Neptune Oyster Owner Really Unpleasant!

Hit the place with some business associates on Tuesday both of whom take their food VERY seriously. Father and son, they are both serious world travellers and are not at all hesitant to pay for a top notch meal. Both are serious amateur cooks as well. When last year I brought the father fresh mackerel I caught, he ate them raw, because "fish that good did not deserve to be cooked." I had been telling them how wonderful the place was for a while.

While one of us went to park the car, two of us sat at the bar to have a drink and some oysters and proceeded to get totally ignored by the bartender (who I later found out was the owner) even though the bar was essentially empty.

With some hand waving he finally came over and was repeatedly obnoxious and rude.

When he grudgingly takes our oyster order absolutely nothing happens, and the shucker who was at the oyster bar is completely gone. After a 10 minute wait, still no beverage or oysters or even some of the crackers one other customer at the bar had in front of her. I ask, again only after gesticulating desperately to get a shred of attention: "will those oysters be along soon?" The reply: "you'll get your oysters," nothing more."

I could say more but it would just be boring. He continued to be obnoxious the entire time we were at the bar. My buddy basically made it clear it was some of the worst service he had ever received in Boston and that he would under no circumstance consider eating there again. And this was all before I found out, after a phone call the next day to share my experience, that it was the owner. It was the Chef Michael Serpa with whom I spoke and the person who clued me in to the fact that I had been served by the owner, not some random bartender. Michael was kind enough to offer some gift certificate, etc and if it was an employee I would have taken him up on it, but such abuse coming from an owner is just unacceptable, period.

I would credit this to a bad day, who knows? But after conferring with a few other hounds, another friend had a nearly identical experience with "Jeff" the owner of Neptune.

Honestly, in this post I am being kind. Even with a gift certificate I would not suffer such abuse a second time. He was such a jerk he really deserved to be slugged. Much as I like the food, I can't conscious giving such a person any business ever again.

One post script is that I was not going to post on this at all, everyone has a bad day, until I had realized that a friend had the same experience.

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  1. Wow. Shockingly disappointing. Sounds like an excellent case for absentee ownership.


    1. Utterly the opposite of dozens of experiences I've had with the man. Not saying it didn't happen, but it strikes me as odd.


      8 Replies
      1. re: MC Slim JB

        Another hound who shall remain nameless had the identical experience independent of the night I had.

        1. re: StriperGuy

          He's definitely not an obsequious, fawning type of restaurant personality, but in my experience shows umistakable professional hospitality chops: he's attentive, interested in educating diners about the menu and the wines, has a kind of calm equanimity.

          I'd definitely be pissed if I got the kind of treatment you describe; it just doesn't jibe at all with my own experiences. Gotta believe his cat died that day, or hemorrhoidal flare-up, or something.


          1. re: MC Slim JB

            Agreed. Not the ass-kissing type. A bit of an odd duck, perhaps, but I'm okay with that. I have enjoyed sitting at his bar many times, and I have to say that the OP's experience is odd... had to have been a bad day, or something like that. Hopefully he'll give it another shot (the OP, that is). Maybe wait for a table if he's not interested in dealing with the owner.

            1. re: MC Slim JB

              To flesh this out a tad more, once he had done a little detective work to figure out that the bartender had in fact been the owner, even the Chef, Serpa did not sound surprised when I implied that I had had a bad experience at the bar the night before.

              There is a reason they call it the hospitality business, and none of us were feeling it on Tuesday. I don't mind a little rough service at Durgin Park, or a restaurant run by recent immigrants who might not undertand the niceties of Americanized "service." But at a high end place, from an owner, just no excuse.

              I really liked Neptune, plugged it to countless friends, and woud NOT have posted if this was a one-off experience.

              1. re: MC Slim JB

                Wow. I concur with Slim on this—but then you all knew I'd say that. But really, he was nothing but gracious to me from the first week, well before I became a regular. Ditto the staff.

                Either way, so sorry to hear it, Striperguy. I'm sure our good experiences don't take the sting out of your bad one.

              2. re: StriperGuy

                Make that three, though I didn't know he was the owner until you started this thread. I chalked it up to an off day at the time, as we all have them. I didn't post for exactly the same reason, I thought it was an isolated incident.

                Now that I think about it, while the rest of the bar staff has always been pleasant enough (though certainly not service I would gush over) to me, I have witnessed some fairly indifferent service toward other customers (particularly those who are clearly tourist types). The fish rots from the head and the owner's capricious treatment of customers may be rubbing off on the rest of the staff.

                1. re: Gabatta

                  Part of the reason I started the thread is that I instinctively knew that if he had be so harsh to two of us, others must have also had a similar experience.

                  Funny thing is I am typically low maintenance in restaurants. I never send anything back. As other hounds know I'll eat just about anything. Pidgeon heads at BLR anyone? ;-)

                  I have been in jobs where I have heavily interacted with customers and clients all of my life. Early on in a retail environment. I personally enjoy it, it is part of the fun. Any owner in the hospitality realm had better, or had better leave the front of the house to someone else.

              3. re: MC Slim JB

                I was thinking exactly the same thing as Slim...strikes me as VERY odd...all of a sudden Jeff is self-destructing..

              4. does he kinda look like Christopher Walken?

                2 Replies
                1. re: ScubaSteve

                  ....and you know what happened to him in The Deer Hunter.


                  1. re: ScubaSteve

                    A little more like Peter Brady IMO.

                  2. I'll stop by today and take that gift certificate off your hands.

                    1. I ate at the bar a couple of weeks ago and bartender was very helpful in recommending raw stuff. thoroughly enjoyed. then two nights ago we arrived around 9 and were surprised to learn we could only order raw bar stuff as they had otherwise shut the kitchen down. i don't remember any mention of this policy on their website. very disappointing as i was really looking forward to that wonderful hot lobster roll.

                      1. Out of curiosity, you are a high poster and very vocal person on this board. In your past posts, you have put forth strongly that if a diner has bad service, they should confront it immediately. As you probably experienced (due to your silence at the time), this is easier said then done.

                        Why didn't you ask for the manager (at the time, you were unknowingly dealing with the owner) to complain or flat out tell the server that you were unhappy?

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: ILoveRestaurants

                          I don't actually believe in bringing it to management's attention on the spot and am not sure where you got the impression that I do. I almost never comment on service to management because I believe any given dining experience is a reflection of the establishment and should stand on it's own.

                          In addition, if you do say something you risk making a bad situation worse. Finally both of the two people I was with would never make any kind of a fuss in a restaurant under any circumstance and doing so would have made them very uncomfortable.

                          That said I have strong opinions about what a good meal should consist of, and, very rarely (including this instance I have done it maybe 3X in my life), if a special place disappoints, might let management know after the fact.

                        2. I'm sorry to hear about your experience with Jeff. The last time I took friends to Neptune while Jeff was around (he's not always there), we sat at the bar, and enjoyed a wonderful dinner. While the owner was certainly not all out charming (as many bartenders try to be), he did offer us each a complimentary glass of dessert wine. Was kind of surprised.

                          Anyhow, I too have recommended Neptune to countless friends, and would be disappointed if were treated with such rudeness and indifference. I can only hope that your feedback gets passed on somehow to Jeff and that your next meal at Neptune will be a much more pleasant experience.

                          1. I'm the friend who had a similar unpleasant experience with Jeff. Let me say I LOVE Neptune, and most of the servers are awesome. 99.8% of my experiences have been lovely. The *only* time I've ever had a bad time there was when Jeff served us and aggressively upsold my DC and I on a bottle of wine when we only wanted a glass. After we politely demurred from the bottle he treated us shabbily for the rest of the evening. I wanted to chalk it up to a bad day, too, but when StriperGuy mentioned his experience, I remembered mine pretty clearly. Now when I visit, if he's working the bar, I'll sit at the end where he is not (ie: closer to the bivalves).

                            1. With now three hounds reporting similar experiences and Gabatta also observing poor treatment of other customers I feel much better having posted my experience.

                              At a relatively high end restaurant there is simply no excuse for management mistreating guests. It was YumYum's similar experience that initially prompted me not to give Neptune a pass. Add Gabatta to the mix and I am sure that the three of us are just the tip of the iceberg.

                              When a restauranteur is routinely mistreating guests chowhounds deserve to know.

                              1. Just to pile on, about a month ago I had a very similar experience. The rest of the staff was fantastic and appeared like they knew the drill.

                                What really ruined it is that about half the dozen or so oysters I ordered had a lot of broken shell in them, and most of the rest had a little. I would have said something had be bothered to ask.

                                I used to love the place and it was my default for a oysters, but I've had weak service there before and the poorly shucked oysters are forcing me to get my fix elsewhere.

                                9 Replies
                                1. re: sailormouth

                                  I would think that any restaurant worth it's salt would've served you up a 2nd order of oysters and taken the oysters off your bill, if you had told them about finding broken shells

                                  1. re: sailormouth

                                    The night of my dinner, once the shucker actually returned to her station it was clear she was a total amateur. I wanted to grab an oyster knife and give her a hand. She was on the shuck one oyster every 3-4 minutes plan.

                                    The staff does seem to be aware of their bosses' unfortunate inability to consistently be nice to patrons and does their best to make up for his (mis)behavior.

                                    1. re: flyer1

                                      I also have been eating at Neptune for years. Jeff has always been wonderful. Sometimes, I sit at the bar and sometimes I sit at a table. I was there two weeks ago for a late lunch and literally came straight from Logan for my fried clam fix. Vinny who waited on me was wonderful. I order fried clams a strange way - 2 half orders served separately. The first half order was perfect, the second overcooked. It was immediately taken off the bill. They would have made another order, but after perfect oysters and a generous helping of clams, plus a taste of a perfect lobster roll, I was full. I also love the place.

                                      Pics here:

                                      1. re: lizziee

                                        Vinny is my favorite too. He handled a very loud table of hungry hounds once with aplomb and just never seems to rattle.

                                        1. re: yumyum

                                          yumyum, do you remember Natalie? She was a terrific waitress.

                                          1. re: lizziee

                                            I don't. Vinny is the only one whose name I know mostly because I was so taken by his unflappability. We tried to flap him repeatedly. No dice.

                                            1. re: yumyum

                                              Yes Vinny is just fantastic and I will always steer towards him for great service. Couldn't remember his name, but those fabulous pictures tell the story behind why we love Neptune and can forgive the owners moodswings, who I think is a really nice guy, but sometimes forgets to put on his gameface. And like I said below, perhaps it is just staff burnout.

                                              1. re: gyppielou

                                                I didn't know his name either. He's a doll. Ditto Dan Tebo.

                                      2. re: StriperGuy

                                        Yup, he's an odd duck and inconsistent. I think sometimes he has to actually consiously try to be gracious. I've also felt ignored by one of the barmaids. It was amazing that a single person behind a small bar could walk by that many times and avoid eye contact or my waving hand.

                                        Perhaps it is burnout from years of success and the tourist population can certainly wear you down. The food has not dissapointed and the oysters have always been properly shucked.

                                        I will return, when I crave it, but unless I am up for very casual service, I'll go to a table, as some of the waitstaff are exceptional.

                                    2. Interesting thread. I have been to neptune probably a dozen times and my GF has probably been two dozen. For wahat it's worth she always gets better service when she is with other females. We have discussed this a lot btwn us and actually find it funny, doesn't stop us from going back, just provides us with a chuckle when we go together and Jeff ignores us (she goes enough that he remembers her trust me).