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Pambiche - I walked out...

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San Francisco hound on a road trip; through Portland, a few days in Seattle and Vancouver, and back through Portland. On the way up, a great meal at South Park. On the way home, I had been heartily recommended to Pambiche. I used to eat a lot of Cuban in Los Angeles and there isn't very good Cuban in San Francisco so I was greatly looking forward to my meal.

When I arrived, there were only a few empty seats available and those were by the door; it was cold and rainy and understandably, everyone in the restaurant wants to sit as far as away from the cold drafts which occur when someone new comes in or leaves. Upon my arrival, I took one of the remaining tables as far away from the door as possible. I ordered a glass of sangria while I perused the menu and a couple walked in, taking the table next to me, near the door. The couple next to me ordered drinks but it became apparent that another table, away from the cold draft was opening up and they were able to move.

Dining alone, I am always anxious to try and order in such a way to get the most tastes for my dollar and I was asking the waitress about their Frituras; there were four flavors available and she indicated that *sometimes* they will give you half-and-half with two flavors, but not one of each to get all four flavors. Apparently I was asking too much for I also had several questions about Ajiaco and Ropa Vieja. I had a lot of questions about their menu and it was obvious the waitress did not have all the answers and was growing impatient with me, but in mid-sentence and just as I took a breath to place my order, she abruptly excused herself, walked to the other guests who had come in after me, and proceeded to take their order. There was a brief moment she could have salvaged her rudeness by coming back to me, but instead she proceeded to the kitchen to complete submitting the other guests' orders, leaving me sitting there with no order having been given at all.

Even the other guests sitting on the other side of me couldn't believe I had been so abandoned with such atrocious lack of service. I would like to chalk it up to a bad night for the waitress and I have had many friends recommend the restaurant. But I'll be hard-pressed to want to return since my visits to Portland are so few and far between. After walking out, I headed to Clyde Commons and had a great time and perfect service, despite being a solo diner with lots of questions.

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Pambiche
2811 NE Glisan St, Portland, OR 97232

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  1. Let's remember diners need to be courteous as well as servers.

    Was it rude for her to just leave you? Yes.

    Rudeness, however, goes both ways. Detaining a server with a litany of questions in a place that is packed is rude not only to the server but to all the other diners. If I were sitting next to you, not being served because you kept asking that server questions, I would be mad. At you.

    5 Replies
    1. re: route99west

      I agree. If I saw that others were waiting to order (you were aware or should have been aware of that), I would ask the server to help them first and then come back to me.

      FWIW, I've eaten there many times and have always had great service. And I've asked my share of questions.

      1. re: Leonardo

        There was no way I could be aware of others waiting to order; they left the table next to me and moved to the other side of the room. And, Route99west, the people who WERE sitting next to me did so for less than 2 minutes before they moved; they did not move because I was asking a lot of questions but because it was cold and they saw a table open up.

        I would not have been bothered at all if the waitress had even acknowledged the fact that she was going to walk away from me to help other people, but she did so IN MID SENTENCE, while I was starting to place my order.

        I am a seasoned and experienced diner. I know when places get slammed and are busy, but the folks that were sitting on the other side of me were equally appalled to have witnessed what occurred and when I got up to leave, acknowledged that they would have done the same thing in my place.

        1. re: CarrieWas218

          My apologies Carrie I may have read too much into what you wrote.

          I'm not by any means defending what the waitress did. She shouldn't have done that regardless.

          I'd agree with Stark Raving further down this thread -- Pambiche is a "good food" place but not a "place for foodies" place. The kind of service you'd find there would not be at all comparable to a place such as Clyde Common.

          But, again, I do not disagree with you, she should not have done what she did.

      2. re: route99west

        I have always been under the impression that part of a server's job was to not only be informed of the menu, but also have the ability to inform others about the menu regardless of how many questions there are.

        I will also say that generally when I go to a restuarant I do not look at other tables to see if they are ready to order, or not. Is that rude of me to make sure that when I come in to a restuarant that I am not concerned about every body sitting around me? I mean, I am there for myself and to enjoy myself, not to worry about whether others have ordered or not. And if I do not understand a handful of items, is it rude to ask a handful of questions. Again, I am there to enjoy myself and get as much as I can for myself, not the folks at table 24 or the folks at table 35.

        1. re: passionfoodie

          It is not rude to want or even demand good service.

          However, going out to eat is not a war with other diners to see which of you can monopolize the server the longest.

      3. Sorry about your experience. Of course, as others have insinuated, there might be two sides to the story, but I will say that my experiences at Pambiche have had some similarity to yours. Not anything appalling, just that they can get rushed and a little short with customers. There is a difference between a place with good food (such as Pambiche) and a place for foodies (such as Clyde Common), where the staff delight in answering questions. At Pambiche, the servers are usually attractive young women who are friendly as often as they are not, but they are not trained to answer questions about ingredients or the finer points of Cuban cuisine.

        My out of town guests have remarked over and over again that Portland, despite having fantastic food, has an overall low standard of service at restaurants. Not everywhere, but many restaurants just don't take it seriously, combining hippy-punk laziness with west coast over-friendliness and a general lack of knowledge of the basics. ( If you ever want a truly Portland experience, take a New Yorker to Kuhn Pic Bahn Thai on Belmont: great food, if you can wait three hours and don't mind a frantic husband sitting down at your table with you to escape his pot-banging tornado of a wife in the kitchen....)

        1. I have also had really terrible service there. I won't go back- they forgot my order and my food came out 20 minutes after everyone at my tables. They didn't even offer to comp my meal or buy our drinks. It's off "the list"

          1. It is very important for service to be exceptional whether it be at the bank, the grocery store or the restaurant you choose to patronize. Being a server, I have always tried to treat the customer exactly as I would love to be treated while dining. The server/diner relationship is just that, a relationship. I know it is only for an hour or so at best but I do think that during that time both parties should have a clear understanding of their expectations. I do think it was wrong of your waitress to leave abruptly. She should have explained to you that she needed to step away and excused herself. I also think that perhaps you should've looked around at the restaurant and surveyed the causes of her lack of attention. Take into consideration all of the things that she must do to ensure that every single one of her diners gets to eat. Be slightly sympathetic. AT the same time, however, there is no excuse for a server to be abrupt or sharp unless the diner is behaving accordingly. I take pride in the service I provide and do it efficiently and with charm. On Yelp however, there was a review of a restaurant in which I worked where I was described as "too friendly" and "too informative" Can you believe it? It just goes to show that there is no telling what people may want. Just know that while these forums of discussion are interesting, the ramification of writing a bad review of a restaurant you've been to one time, might be much harsher than you intend.