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Mar 4, 2010 07:44 PM

A restaurant with nice service?

My wife and I are making plans to go out for an anniversary dinner later this month. Budget is about $50-$60 per person before alcohol.

We're looking for someplace special--any cuisine that isn't wholly meat or wholly vegetarian is fine--but here's the catch....a lot of times when we've been out to "nice" restaurants we've gotten really lousy service -- waitpeople who forget about us, neglect to tell us about specials.....We're not sure what we can do about it or if we can do anything about it -- maybe it's a string of bad luck -- but my wife is getting paranoid wondering if it's something we exude. We're polite, we dress decently, we're quiet -- maybe too quiet -- we have a drink with dinner, but admittedly it's not like we walk into restaurants and instantly establish ourself as big spenders w/big appetites who are going to run up a generous liquor bill.

So my question is twofold: First, are there any restaurants you can recommend that have consistently nice & polite & attentive service? And second, is there something about us that communicates to the waitstaff "Don't waste your time on these people?" Or are we just a pair of paranoid people having a string of bad luck?

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  1. You don't have to be a big spender or run up huge liquor bills in order to receive proper service. And being quiet should definitely not be a factor. You haven't told us which restaurants you've been to where service has been lacking, and why you chose them in the first place. I'd be curious to know. But in any case, the trick is to select restaurants which have a reputation for excellent service.

    With that in mind, as well as your budget, I highly recommend Seasonal Restaurant & Wein Bar. The Austrian cuisine is superb, there's an excellent wine list, the ambiance is lovely, and most important for your particular case, the staff is very welcoming and service is attentive. Open a little over a year, it has been awarded a Michelin star. It's a wonderful place to celebrate a special occasion.

    Photos of our most recent dinner at Seasonal can be viewed here:

    And of our previous dinner here:

    Enjoy and Happy Anniversary!

    5 Replies
    1. re: RGR

      RGR, as you know I like Seasonal very much but a visit quite recently was disappointing in terms of service to say the least. We had a waiter who was unfamiliar with the menu, could not pronounce or understand the things on the menu, could not describe anything or tell us how anything was prepared....a real shame. We had to call over the manager/owner who was dressed like a complete slob and who seemed annoyed that he had to be involved. This is stark contrast to my other experiences there.

      The food was delicious as always.

      1. re: gutsofsteel

        I'm shocked, gos!

        We were there last weekend after a concert at Carnegie Hall. It was 10:30 p.m., and the place was fairly busy. We received a warm welcome from the two young women at reception (and, when we left, a warm good-by, as well). We were greeted by the executive chef, who came into the dining room frequently to see how all the tables were doing. The maitre d' who took care of us was smartly-dressed and couldn't have been more pleasant and attentive. During our first visit in November, a different maitre d' was on duty. He, too, was dressed correctly and gave us excellent service. The young runners who brought the food to the table have (Spanish?) accents, but they were able to describe what was on the plate, and we had no problem understanding them.

        I'm glad that at least your food was delicious (as was ours). However, poor service, which would be annoying in any restaurant, is totally inexcusable in a restaurant that has a Michelin star.

        1. re: RGR

          A number of restaurants went to hell during the days of and following the big snowstorms - while we who live in town were getting around very well, and you'd hardly know it had snowed, a lot of the regular help couldn't get in from the far reaches of NJ and far LI.

          1. re: Jane A.

            Even if regular staff had difficulty making it in, that does not excuse the manager's behavior.

            1. re: Jane A.

              This was completely unrelated to the weather. It was the day before yesterday.

      2. It's impossible to answer why you had bad service without at least knowing what restaurants you are referring to. Please come back and tell us.

        Some of the places where I have had consistently efficient and gracious service that will fit your price range:

        Vice Versa

        As far as Seasonal is concerned, I've only been once, but the service was anything but attentive, as several other reports on this board and others have noted.

        7 Replies
        1. re: rrems


          I considered suggesting Allegretti, one of our favorites, as well as Dovetail and Scarpetta. However, the main courses are mostly priced in the $30's, which, if we're talking about a 3-course meal, would make it difficult to meet the stated budget or would limit the possible choices in order to maintain the budget. Otherwise, I agree that both provide excellent service.

          Aldea and Tabla would certainly work budget-wise and, again, I agree that service at both is excellent.

          I have not been to the other four.

          1. re: RGR

            Actually, there are only two main courses over $30, so three courses are not likely to top $60, and they also offer a $39 prix-fixe.

            1. re: RGR

              If the pricing works out....I also highly recommend Allegretti.

            2. re: rrems

              Thanks for all the suggestions! One place where this happened was Kefi a few months ago, (Greek restaurant, Columbus Ave. -- had come recommended & was indeed good food), where the only way we found out there were any specials was when the waiter excitedly told the table next to ours about 15 minutes after we ordered. We asked him about this later and he said he hadn't told us about them because it looked like we knew what we wanted to order. My recollection was by that time we had a pretty good view of food on the menu & were impatient because he hadn't shown up for 15 minutes after we got the menus.

              Happened also 2 or 3 weeks ago at a really great restaurant in Sarasota -- Mozaic, a Mediterranean-influenced restaurant in downtown Sarasota. Went at 5:30 or 6:00 pm for a pre-opera dinner -- were put in an empty dining room & pretty much forgotten about.

              Don't know if I'm generalizing or not being assertive enough.

              1. re: hushaphone

                I haven't been to Kefi, but from what I've read about it, I get the impression it is a bit hectic (maybe others more knowledgeable can weigh in on this) and possibly prone to service issues. I have noticed a trend toward better service in the last couple of years. Maybe it's the recession, but I see more effort to be accommodating to diners. A pet peeve of mine has all but disappeared, waiters reaching across the table and trying to hand you your food rather than walking around and placing it on the table. They also seem to remember who ordered what, a reversal of what was a very annoying trend.

                1. re: rrems

                  Kefi is pretty hectic, and can get very crowded with 2 hour long waits. But the food is reasonably priced and the early bird prix fixe even more so. So I don't expect the same kind of service there that I do from EMP or destination restaurants.

                  I just have to add that I've been to Allegretti and found it disappointing taste-wise though it does fit the budget.

              2. re: rrems

                I second Allegretti, if the prices work. I was there a couple weeks ago and the service was notably good. The same for Tabla and Scarpetta, and it was fine at Perilla the other night.

              3. Georgio's in Grammercy Park is discussed on this board--it seems to be the sort of place where you would find gracious service and very good food in a comfortable setting...