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Inedible Appetizers...What would some Chowhounds do?

How would you have handled this situation?

M&M Jfood went out for a date last night, dinner and a late movie (This is It). Jfood chose a restaurant (entrée prices mid-$20, specials mid-$30, so not inexpensive) that has received some good press, a small place, maybe 10 tables, one round table for a 6-top, a true 4-top and the rest 2-tops that can be combined. When they arrived only the 2-top next to the bathroom or the front door were available and not exactly date night material. Jfood approached the owner and mentioned this was not exactly what they were looking for, apologized and mentioned they would return on a weeknight when it was not so crowded. The owner suggested the true 4-top, which was nice and they sat. So the owner is very customer focused.

The Jfood order appetizers and entrees and they arrive. One bite and they look at each other. This could be the worst two dishes placed in front of them in a long time. They cannot eat them by any stretch. So they sit and discuss options. Do they suck it up and spend $100 for a lousy meal? Do they return the appetizers in hopes that the entrees are better? What should they do?

They decided to…tell the owner the dishes were not to their liking and asked the owner to bring the bill for the appetizers and they would call it a night. The owner’s response was very professional. He apologized and told the Jfoods not to worry about the cost of the meal and he apologized.

What would some of you have done after the two bites of the appetizers? Just curious.

TIA

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  1. It depends on what you mean by "worst"..an interpretation of what it should be, based on ingredients listed on menu, or spoiled/old ingredients or overcooked/undercooked or the appetizer was obviously just pulled out of a box you could buy at the grocery store and placed on a plate?

    'Good press' is sometimes paid for. Seeing other (happy or perhaps disappointed) diners at 6/10 tables is another. If everyone else around seemed to be eating and enjoying/emptying plates...

    You didn't give enough details.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Cathy

      onion soup with tasteless broth, undercooked, not caramelized onions and flavorless cheese. house salad made of 100% frisee lettuce, overly citricy dressing if that helps. None of the stiuff was rancid or anything like that, just inedible to the jfoods.

      1. re: jfood

        Ah. Not quality and major skipping on basic things.

        I would (and have) done the same as you. Cut losses and run. [My initial order at a new place is basics and if that cannot be done right, I don't go back. At the price point you mentioned, basic appetizers are a test.]

        Would have left something for the waiter/on the table, even though owner did not charge.

        1. re: jfood

          There is nothing worse than bad french onion soup. I have had some of the best I had ever tasted and one of the worst, in the same restaurant just weeks apart. It all depends on who is in the kitchen that day, and what they do right/wrong. So I am with you 100% on this one J. Same with salad... how do you screw up a salad?... easy bad lettuce.

      2. I think you handled it just right--and, in turn, the ownder was cool maybe even earned your business for another try on a different day.

        For a totally different reason, we made a similar early departure from a local favorite place of ours. We were unfortunately seated next to an out-of-hand golf banquet (read: too much alcohol = too obnoxiously loud to hear ourselves think,, nevermind speak). I was practically sitting in my "date's" lap so we could talk to each other. It was that bad. The food, luckily, was fine...but we couldn't bear to eat an entire meal like that. The atmosphere was simply not conducive to dining.

        The restaurant where we ate is one we frequent regularly. We explained to our waiter that we just wanted to eat our apps with our wine and call it a night. We also said we understood the loudness was not their fault--just not something we wanted to suffer a whole meal through. And we told them, of course, we'd see them again soon. They totally understood and we have been back many times since.

        Cutting your losses early when you know it's not going to work out as you expected, whatever the reason, is never a bad idea--especially when handled tactfully on the part of both the diner and the establishment.

        P.S. Hope you enjoyed the movie. We're going to see it this afternoon and are planning our post-movie dining options. ;)

        1. I'm wit jfood -- I think jfood did just what was appropriate. It's nice to offer to pay for uneaten appetizers. It was completely appropriate for the owner to comp them.

          I wanna know if jfood plans on giving this place one more chance.

          I recall receiving an appetizer at an Italian restaurant we've frequented. What was supposed to be some sort of cheese and onion pie had been incinerated nearly beyond recognition -- and shamelessly served by the waiter! We should've taken that cue that the regular chef wasn't there, and the chef on duty wasn't "on." Sent back both entrees because they were burnt. Felt like the burnt apps were a warning that we were about to be taken hostage by the restaurant. And we were. It took 45 minutes to replace our entrees. We did receive a lovely bottle of wine on the house.

          1. I've had my share of disappointment in restaurants, just like everyone else, but the only time I return food is if it is not cooked properly to temperature, too tough to chew or over salted. If I just do not care for the dish, I just assume I ordered the wrong thing. Not everyone cooks like out Grandmothers, so chances are I would not cut and run, unless the food came out looking terrible and very greasy on the plate.....think of something like a Fried Calamari appetizer, which has been over cooked, brown burnt and dumped on a plate with an obvious pool of grease sitting underneath without something to drain it upon. If such a simple dish could come out so poorly, I could only surmise that entrees may be a disappointment as well........I would immediately get up to try and see, as discreetly as possible, how the food looked on the tables of other diners...before I made my decision to stay or leave.

            By all accounts you have given, the owner seems like a sharp guy, so I would give the place another chance, but make sure to say hello to the owner on the way in and see, or make sure, he remembers your last visit.

            1. I would have done the same thing. What were the appetizers that you ordered?