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Jan 19, 2010 12:16 PM

Oregon Grille -- taking the "host" out of hospitality

My wife and I drove our daughter to a party on aupper Falls Road last Saturday night, and had about an hour to kill before picking her up, so we decided to stop by the Oregon Grille for appetizers and a drink. (I had been there once for lunch and was underwhelmed, but we were in the neighborhood and besides, how bad could it be?)

As neither of us was wearing evening clothes (although I should note that we were both neatly dressed), and the main dining room requires jackets, we took a small table in the bar area. The high seats at the bar were fully occupied, but there were several empty tables available. I ordered a glass of wine and asked for a bar menu. The waitress responded that on Saturday nights, they did not serve food in the bar area, but only when seated at the bar itself. When I pointed out that the bar seats were full, and asked whether we could simply order an appetizer, she refused (snippliy), and when I finally asked whether we could simply get some peanuts ot pretzels to go with my glass of wine, she replied that they "didn't have anything like that."

(Some of you may be saying, "did you ask to speak to the manager?" The answer is no, because 1) we had very little time, as we had to pick our daughter up, and 2) I don't go to restaurants for conflict, I have enough of that in my everyday life as a lawyer.)

By now our hour was running short, so I paid up and left. It's very hard to understand why a restaurant would (a) refuse to serve its guests food, and (b) show what is essentially the exact opposite of hospitality. I should have been warned by the lawnjockeys which line the entrance walk, and the faux hunt club scenes which circle the bar.

Never again.

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  1. Thanks for this heads up, lawhound. We had been thinking of eating here with some friends, but I no longer feel a need to patronize places that don't seem to want my business.
    Good luck to the Oregon Grille, I'll be dining elsewhere.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ivysmom

      I have heard nothing but how pretentious the restaurant's attitude is and the dining experience is nothing more than over-priced mediocrity. Thanks for sharing so I'll be certain never to go.

    2. Speaking with the manager could've avoided all this drama. When I am enjoying peanuts, pretzels, and an overpriced drink, I am on an airplane, and not at a fine dining restaurant.

      2 Replies
      1. re: hawaiigrl2003

        Speaking to a manager there won't help, just cause more embarrassment and stress. It's always been that way. They think an air of snootiness conveys exclusivity and their idea of class. It's a business feature for them. This is the kind of situation that could be mentioned on the current online zagat survey.

        1. re: chowsearch

          OG= familiar atmosphere and decent but uninteresting food for luxury WASPs afraid of the city. Amusing anecdote:

          Went there with a friend of mine a couple of years ago, on an expense account. Now, we both look on the young side, and were well dressed but not with any obviously pretentious labels or what-have-you. We were sized up by the FOH, and seated at a deuce against a wall, almost in a hallway.

          And there we sat. Without menus. Without bread. Without water. For almost 10 minutes. I try to imagine that happening at Charleston or the Prime Rib, but that's what it will always be, a figment of the imagination, because those places actually take care of people.

          But I digress.

          Eventually we get water, and then menus, and are again abandoned, for another 10 minutes. Eventually we get to order, and my friend takes the server's suggestion of the steak special, which is a Prime NY Strip a poivre. We order a 2000 vintage Bordeaux off the list. The server returns with a 2002. We refuse, telling him we'll pay that price for 2000 but not 2002, and ask for the list back. *sigh* nothing interesting, at all. So he comes back, ask if we'd made a selection, and we ask if there are any selections available not on the menu. He reluctantly returns with the captain's list. We order something pricey but worthwhile from it...

          ....and everything changes. Now we're important. Now we have not one, not two, but THREE people doting on the table. They exchange our weapons-grade Libby glasses for Reidel. We get bread (yay!). We get the right wine from the right vintage
          (yay!) We finally eat in peace, listening to the gents around us, dressed almost universally in blue blazers and penny loafers, discuss golf. We had a decent dinner, nothing to write home about, and we got the message loud and clear that we were NOT in the circle.

          And the steak a poivre? Rang up at $48.

      2. I dunno. Seems to me you're just upset the restaurant didn't make an exception in its policy for you, but I'm not sure why you think it should have. Sure, if the waitress was rude or snippy then that was uncalled for, but simply adhering to its policy of not serving food except at the bar on Saturday nights does not, in and of itself, seem like something to rake the place over the coals for. Just MHO.

        20 Replies
        1. re: charmedgirl

          Well, to us the policy says something about their attitude towards their guests. And the refusal to get us some peanuts or bread to go with drinks? That was just silly.

          1. re: lawhound

            Snootiness and incivility is a trademark of Oregon Grille unfortunately.....I refuse to ever return after 3 visits. The food can be well prepared at times but the attitude is simply over the top and at that price...forget about it!!!

            1. re: lawhound

              I am also not sure why you are upset or think it's silly that they don't have peanuts to go with drinks.

              1. re: hawaiigrl2003

                It is way more than the peanuts. This place has been going down hill for years. still can't fathom how it stays open. What peanuts Milton Inn has a great bar menu and they serve peanuts!!

                1. re: sas

                  I have been to OG many times over the years, although rarely in the bar, and have never encountered snootiness, I often go with my elderly and slow mother and have always found the staff courteous and helpful.

              2. re: lawhound

                Except that you don't know the reason for the policy. It could be designed to improve guests' experiences. Maybe they found that serving food at the bar tables causes people to overcrowd the tables creating traffic jams, or causes people to linger inconveniencing other guests who use the bar as a staging area before going to their reserved tables, or that the kitchen isn't staffed/equipped to handle food orders from the restaurant, the bar AND the bar tables, or any other possible reason I can't think of right now. I just disagree that the restaurant's action in this situation warrants such a strong, negative reaction.

                And you know, maybe they really don't stock peanuts.

                1. re: charmedgirl

                  All good reasons for not serving food in the bar area, I can see having no peanuts because of allergy risks - even Five Guys has peanuts, posts a warning on the door, and asks that you not take their peanuts outside due to the potential allergy exposure.

                  But nothing to munch on at the bar? No pretzels? No high-falootin' bread sticks? No carrots? <g> Bah!

                  1. re: MikeR

                    People are not inclined to cut them slack because they're unjustifiably expensive for the quality of "continental" food they make and overtly mean and snotty to many. If you have a farm that allows foxhunting or buy $400 wines you may be exempt. The owners want it this way. Some still resent the bald attempt to take Miltonn Inn's clientele and the underhanded way they sleazed the zoning laws when they bought the country store and then expanded. Prep-school ties and last names matter to the owners and when someone not in the Elkridge Hunt Club feels dis-included, it's on purpose, even if the customers don't know why. And the quality of the food has slipped notably from opening chef Mark Henry's time--if it was very good they could get away with this.

                    1. re: chowsearch

                      Why don't they just make it a private club and be done with it? Probably because it's more fun to lure in the unsuspecting hoi poloi in order to demonstrate their utter contempt for them. I suppose they feel obligated to make a show of rubbing people's noses in it as a way of toadying to their uber-wealthy preferred customer base. Or, maybe just for their own satisfaction. Who knows? Here's to the timely demise places such as these. Next time your held hostage in upper Potomac, pack a pint and a picnic lunch and drive out to Great Falls.

                      1. re: flavrmeistr

                        You're spot on about the vibe, the contempt and their aims. It's the Falls Rd. that runs from Baltimore north to northern MD's horsey area, so the solution could be to pick up from Wegman's nearby for an outing at Oregon Ridge Park behind this restaurant, with concerts, trails and kid activities. Not all equestrian areas are like this, thinking of PG/Bowie, but those with people thinking they honor their ancestors by snobbing newcomers to protect the fatherland have similar vibes from Plains to Monkton.

                        1. re: chowsearch

                          Sorry, I was thinking of a similar place in Potomac. I guess every city has at least one of these. It's funny, but I've noticed a similar attitude at places that cater to weekend crowds of bikers. If you roll up in a sedan and are not sporting the proper drag, they make a big show of attitude. That's just show business, I guess.

              3. re: charmedgirl

                I'm with you, charmed. The restaurant stuck to its policy. Why is the OP so special that they wouldn't have?

                1. re: invinotheresverde

                  I checked the website, the "bar" is advertised as the bar area (as in, "jackets are not required in the bar", replete with a large bar menu, lunch specials and a Saturday Burger Special, and certainly nothing about a suspension of the menu on Saturday nights. Why offer a substantial bar menu of appetizers, main courses, soups and salads, to just 10 people in a room that seats twice that many?

                  anyhoo, if there really is a "no food at the tables" policy, why not make people aware on the web site, and save them the aggravation of driving all the way out there? It's a hike, and that is an unusual policy.

                  I don't think the OP feels the need to be special; more simply voicing frustration at a mystifying, unadvertised policy

                  1. re: pleiades

                    The waitress told her that they only served food at the bar itself. Once told, the OP asked for food to be served to them, even though they weren't at the bar. Sounds like asking for special privileges to me.

                    I agree that this policy should be advertised.

                  2. re: invinotheresverde

                    I think the point is more "that's a stupid policy" than "they should bend the rules for me".

                    1. re: reiflame

                      Is it, though? You and I have no idea why there's no food served to bar tables on Saturday nights. Why don't you call the restaurant and ask them why?

                      1. re: invinotheresverde

                        On the other hand, why bother to ask why? If it looks like s--- and smells like s---, is it really necessary to step in it again for confirmation? How terribly tedious.

                        1. re: flavrmeistr

                          One person's logic is another's head-scratcher.

                            1. re: flavrmeistr

                              Invino, by way of explanation, us locals are predisposed to not give this place the benefit of the doubt because they are very expensive, very pretentious, have a history of highly snotty maitre d's, and their food quality has slipped since the celebrity opening chef departed. If you read the original post, the main issue is not their policy, but the waitress attitude to a customer request: "snippily". They just are not nice and those of us who live here, post here, and maybe even eaten here know it. It's not like the somewhat kidding surly attitude at Durgin Park nearer you--the surliness is genuine. And it's one of the most expensive places in the area, with food about Durgin Park level.