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Jun 20, 2009 09:02 PM

Didier: I was warned; I walked out.

My GF was going to buy me dinner tonight because of some recent overtime she had earned. We are both in our mid-twenties, but were dressed reasonably well (me: suit, no tie. Her: some kinda wacky old thing).

We have an eight o'clock res at Didier because I have heard good things about the impressive looking prix-fixe. We get there and are promptly seated, despite an odd exchange between the manager and maitre d', wherein we overhear service directions pointing us to table 50. (Nothing uncouth about this other than that we are allowed to witness the inner machinations of the restaurant's bowels in a way which I am unaccustomed to at this price-point). Our table sucks; we can see the door and receive its draft. As we are seated, we have our drink orders taken--a gin martini for her and a Manhattan for me. It is 15 minutes before a menu shows up. After we get menus we wait and wait and wait (while our drinks empty) to be given a wine-list (or bread) while other tables are fawned over. We decide---around the 25 minute mark that this is too unpleasant and that we are not paying $200 to be ignored (no matter what the food is like) and declare to the busser who finally decides to announce the specials that we would like the bill for the cocktails we ordered half an hour ago. He leaves, comes back, tells us that we will "now be made a priority," we explain that things have gone off to too bad a start and that we would rather respectfully pay and take our business somewhere else. He leaves. The manager comes over and asks what the problem is. She explains that the chef is happy to cook for us (surely that was to be assumed), that the menu is reasonably priced (insulting), that no bread or anything else is brought until orders are placed (irrelevant when you are ignored for 30 minutes) and asks if we would not like to continue our meal---all the while shaking with poorly concealed and indelicate rage. We explain that we would not--feeling sufficiently insulted and bullied.

*My girlfriend wishes that I should mention that she approached our table in a very aggressive and abrasive way.

**I feel that against my girflfriend's better judgement that I should mention that we are veterans of several european ***'s and that we have together been badly treated in lots of very local diners, dives, and barbecue restaurants across the southern states, and have never received such a cold shoulder.

We head up the road to Cava for a lovely meal at the bar. Excellent sangria. Very good Charcuterie, and a long and varied menu of Spanish treats.

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  1. Next time, don't ditch the tie, and do ask your girlfriend to wear anything other than the wacky old thing. : )

    Sorry to hear about such a horrible experience in a supposedly good restaurant. I'm surprised at the treatment, particularly in this economic climate. Good call going to Cava.

    1. Don't take it personally. The complaints are always the same, long waits and feeling ignored. If the food made it to the table, you would have, probably, found it too simple and not worth the wait. This restaurant has always been like this. I'm surprised its still in business.
      Do people remember when Didier was considered the top chef by T.O. Life and then dropped two stars the next month?

      1. Good for you for leaving. At that kind of money you better well had. Good for you.

        And as for attire, I always go to Scaramouche in a T-shirt and jeans. I look fine but not Bay Street. There it doesn't seem to matter what you look like, as long as your money is still green and you act appropriately they treat you like they treat everyone else.... amazingly. Formal attire, ESPECIALLY in this current tough climate for higher end restaurants where they should be making accommodations and bending over backwards to get people in spending, should mean nothing. It is outdated and irrelevant. Even for French fine dining. As you long as you don’t go in ragged jean cutoffs and a RATT concert tee, attire should mean very little these days.

        3 Replies
        1. re: magic

          Indeed. The true mark of class is the ability to make all around you feel comfortable.

          1. re: magic

            If a restaurant decides they want a dress code, that's all fine. However, if you are dressed well enough to not be turned away at the door, then you should be treated with every courtesy upon being seated. As googs says, people with real class know how to treat all others well.

          2. I applaud you for having the courage to express yourself and stand your ground. If more customers took this approach, perhaps the quality of service in this town would improve. One can dream. It is never OK for patrons to be treated with "hostility" but especially in this economy, restos should be grateful for every table that is filled. Truly an unacceptable experience. I hope the management got that there was nothing they could do to redeem themselves.

            1. mstacey42, are you implying that you think you were treated badly because of your attire? I read the situation differently. I think you were seated at a crappy table because you weren't a regular. They probably receive the choice tables. I think the absent service follows the same logic. Servers fawn over regular favourite customers, which might result in ignoring other tables. This, in my opinion, is inexcusable. It is possible to show familiarity with preferred customers, while offering exemplary service to all tables. The fact that the service stinks at Didier speaks more to the hiring, training and oversight of staff performance by management. The manager should have apologized profusely, offered compensation for the restaurant's shoddy treatment of you and amended the situation immediately. You absolutely did the right thing, in light of the reactions by your server and manager, in demanding your bill and taking your hard-earned dollars elsewhere.

              Bad service shouldn't be rewarded. Terrible customer relations should be reported. In this economy, the restaurants that thrive should be the ones offering the best food and service, at any price point.

              1 Reply
              1. re: 1sweetpea

                I didn't really get the feeling that there was anything particularly wrong with our clothes, although we do look young. I remember eating at Alain Ducasse in New York when I was 18 years old--wearing what were surely obviously unstylish slacks and my grandfather's ancient blazer--and they convincingly complimented me on my tie. Dress codes are totally fine (especially in ancient or ancient seeming places) but great servers make everyone (who isn't doing something rude or inappropriate) feel like they are entirely welcome.

                I even have no problem seeing regulars given special treatment (I am given special treatment at restaurants where I eat every week) but good servers never make anyone feel abandoned or unwelcome. Quite the opposite, they allow first-timers (or people for whom this is a special occasion) to share in the feeling that they might become regulars too.