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Bad service in the Twin Cities [Moved from MSP board]

t
torchon Sep 28, 2010 08:30 PM

I've noticed a pattern of bad service in the Twin Cities and have been meaning to comment on it for a long time. Here are some recent examples:

On a visit to Travail, the restaurant lived up to its name: travail means both suffering and to inflict suffering or to torment, although I'm sure this isn't the experience the restaurant has in mind. From the moment we sat down at our table, our chef-server seemed intent on finding a reason to punch someone, anyone. He was not only brusque but also uninterested in offering details about the items on the chalkboard menu. Perhaps this is a shortcoming of the chef-as-server model: his mind was on the food, and we were distractions. Or maybe it's true that most chefs are misanthropes: Gordon Ramsay may be a great chef but I wouldn't want him to be my waiter.

At a late-evening dinner at Piccolo, we encountered the prototypical pretentious server. When we mentioned at the beginning of the meal that we would likely be ordering several courses, he balked. A minute later he returned and declared in no uncertain terms that 10:00pm was approaching (our reservation was for 9:00 but we weren't seated until 9:30) and that we were running out of options. There would be no opportunity for additional courses. Leaving aside the fact that restaurants should never discourage eager customers (especially in these tough economic times and especially before they've even begun their meal), there's a professional way to handle closing time considerations. Unfortunately, this guy had no idea how to handle them. An hour later, a table behind ours asked him for the wine list and he couldn't suppress a groan.

To make matters worse--much worse, because I think this is the Cardinal sin of service--he was condescending. He corrected one companion's pronunciation of a dish, not with grace or charm but with nearly vindictive relish. He also grew impatient with another companion's questions about preparations and his explanations were cryptic.

Remarkably, and to his credit, he must have realized how off-putting his demeanor had been because he apologized to us about 15 minutes into dinner. It's a good thing he did, because that had been the kind of service that can absolutely spoil a terrific meal. I know many people (myself included) who will give restaurants a second (and third) chance after eating mediocre food but are forever turned off by condescending service.

There are other examples, too: predictably stuffy service at La Belle Vie, gruff servers in tank tops at Craftsman, perennially uppity and indifferent service at Heartland, even moody cashiers at such pedestrian places as Turtle Bread Co.

I'm curious if my luck is bad or if other people have a similarly pessimistic outlook on service in the Twin Cities. (Full disclosure: I was once a server myself and was not immune to bad moods; however, the experiences I've mentioned go far beyond simple irritability). There are exceptions, of course. For instance, I've found the service at Meritage to be outstanding. I also know the risks of generalizing. Still, having lived in or eaten extensively in cities with better and "fancier" restaurants (Chicago, New York, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Atlanta), I'm left with the impression that several Twin Cities restaurants are plagued by bad service. So much for Midwestern hospitality.

Your thoughts? Recommendations to prove me wrong?

-----
La Belle Vie
510 Groveland Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55405

Turtle Bread Co
120 S 6th St, Minneapolis, MN 55402

Meritage
410 Saint Peter St, Saint Paul, MN 55102

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  1. d
    DiningDog Sep 28, 2010 08:46 PM

    Wow...you seem to bring out... a certain... attribute in people.

    1. k
      kevin47 Sep 28, 2010 09:15 PM

      Service in the cities is notoriously terrible. Most of us have learned to take it in stride, and chalk it up to the fact that, at the price points we customarily enjoy, the waitstaff at a top-tier restaurant is likely to be outearned by a popular bar. As well, people here are reluctant to complain to the manager, which doesn't help.

      Actually, I would have cited Piccolo as an example of great service. They really went the extra mile for us on our visit. There is no excuse for any restaurant, least of which Piccolo, for taking reservations for a table to which it will not serve multiple courses.

      I can't prove you wrong, because you are probably right, but here are some counter-examples:

      The Modern: Servers have gone all out on several visits here. They always understand the menu (not that it's emphasis on local foodstuffs constitutes rocket science) and always deliver promptly and competently.

      Chimborazo: In the chef-as-waiter-as-owner vein, one gets the impression the man would give you his kidney if you asked politely.

      Heidi's: The new place opens soon, and I have no reason to expect anything less than stellar service.

      TSC: Service was knowledgeable and spot on. They absolutely nailed some tricky timing on platings while the resto was packed.

      Grand Szechuan: Went here for lunch on a Saturday at about 2. Ethnic restos usually succumb to empty restaurant syndrome at this hour, but they were ridiculously on top of our orders.

      2 Replies
      1. re: kevin47
        jfood Sep 30, 2010 12:21 PM

        "Heidi's: The new place opens soon, and I have no reason to expect anything less than stellar service. "

        Please tell...

        1. re: jfood
          b
          babaoriley7 Oct 17, 2010 05:49 PM

          I believe last I saw they were likely to open in late November. Maybe December. Construction at the new place is what it is, slow with unexpected twists and turns. They have stated that they'd like it to be more of what they were doing at the old location. And I agree, their service has been outstanding and I would also expect more of the same.

      2. s
        semanticantics Sep 28, 2010 09:40 PM

        Those are the first negative words I've read re: Travail. Interesting. Wonder who your server was. Throughout a meal there, it's rarely, if it's ever been, a single person. Did he actually punch someone, even playfully? And if you didn't like their service, can't wait to hear your thoughts on V44.

        Worst service, notoriously bad, is / was Taste of Thailand on Selby. I stopped going there about 7 years ago. They have my favorite dish prepared my favorite way, and I will not patronize them.

        Best service I've ever had is Meritage. It's top end without feeling like ettiquette lessons, being worried about making an ass of yourself for using the wrong fork kind of formality.

        Maybe it is just you?

        2 Replies
        1. re: semanticantics
          t
          torchon Sep 29, 2010 05:29 AM

          Regarding Travail, the server didn't punch anyone (even playfully) and I don't think he would have. He just seemed agitated and annoyed. That doesn't make for a comfortable dinner. He attended to us until dessert; the woman who served us dessert was very friendly.

          Maybe I bring out the worst in people, but then again I've heard lots of people echo kevin47's sentiments. It seems that restaurant owners and chefs don't always realize that nothing ruins a dinner, and ruins it so memorably, like bad service (and I don't mean merely inattentive service). The meal I had a Piccolo was the best I've had in the Twin Cities, and had the server not apologized and allowed us to order what we wanted, it would have been his bad attitude and not the great meal that stuck with us.

          1. re: torchon
            s
            semanticantics Sep 29, 2010 06:49 AM

            Did you like the food at Travail?

            Since getting a bit into finer dining this year, I've got an oddly contradictory outlook on service. I expect quite a bit more out of people now, but also after having watched way too much food TV, particularly Gordon Ramsay (BBC, not FOX, thank you) based, I also have a better idea of what is going on and what it's like in the back of the house, and am willing to let some of the smaller things some people get in a twist about go.

        2. g
          green56 Sep 29, 2010 05:40 AM

          I would have simply gotten up and walked out of Travail. I'd not have paid a sou for that type of treatment.

          Not that they care, not that it will impact their bottomline or keep them awake at night but Hearland will never see me darken their doorstep after reading here their treatment of jfood. While an attempt was made by Hertland to make amends, it was too little, too late in my opinion.

          I think Travail will join Heartland on my Forget It List.

          1 Reply
          1. re: green56
            ibew292 Sep 29, 2010 06:21 AM

            Good, I'm glad some of won't be frequenting Travail. I have had trouble getting seating there at times. The server your mentioning is probably Jeffery, he can seem to be brusque but if you interact with him he warms up quickly and will gladly discuss items on the menu. This may be off putting, so vote with your feet. After some interaction he suggested, let us taste, and opened bottle of wine for us that wasn't listed on the wine list.
            I think the food served there is inspired(Travail) and I am happy to have two great places on the north side(Victory 44). The Rabbit Cassoulet at Travail was one of the most memorial dishes I've had in a long time.

          2. k
            kevin47 Sep 29, 2010 06:44 AM

            I think service at Travail, such as it is, is an acquired taste. I don't think there is any latent hostility, though there is plenty of attitude. During a busy dinner service, it can be tough to discern which is which. I like it, but it's not the sort of concept that evokes a neutral response.

            It can be easy to infer contempt where none exists, but the best waiters are aware of this and make a particular effort to make the guest feel comfortable. That a resto with Travail's model can pack the house seems a testament to the fact that this isn't happening on a regular basis.

            6 Replies
            1. re: kevin47
              bob s Sep 29, 2010 06:50 PM

              My one meal at Travail was marred by a combination of attitude and studied indifference to my meal with my friend. To be honest, the combination really turned me off to the place. My food was good, but the vibe that I got was not particularly pleasant. For my money, I'd just as soon go back to Victory 44 for the same sort of food. (For the record, all of my meals at V44 were before the split, so I realize that any new visit might have a different experience than the 3 very positive ones I had last winter and spring.)

              1. re: bob s
                jfood Sep 30, 2010 12:25 PM

                jfood has spent 2 dinners at Travail and 10-11 courses and each and every person he interacted with was pleasant and professional. Each dish was plesantly explained, all questioned answered and he cannot imagine the opposite happening. Review is forthcoming as schedule and size has been an issue. And jfood loved the vibe, very relaxed.

                1. re: jfood
                  bob s Oct 1, 2010 05:40 AM

                  I'm glad you had a good time, I'm merely reporting what happened to me and can see how others may have had similar experiences. It was off-putting and put a dent into an otherwise nice visit with an out-of-town guest. The vibe was a little too relaxed for me - it seemed like we were being ignored.

                  I'm not saying I'll never return, but will only do so when I feel confident that the vibe won't conflict with the type of evening that I'm looking for.

                  1. re: bob s
                    jfood Oct 1, 2010 07:08 AM

                    And that is what makes these boards a great site. Different experiences and different expectations. Jfood has taken colleagues to several restaurants in MSP and it is always interesting to hear the different POVs from each on the drive back to the hotel.

                    1. re: jfood
                      bob s Oct 1, 2010 07:21 AM

                      Agreed! Great review of the food at Travail in the other thread, btw.

                      1. re: bob s
                        jfood Oct 1, 2010 07:36 AM

                        thanks b.

                        glad to take one for the team eating all food in one night. :-)

            2. katebauer Sep 29, 2010 08:20 AM

              I'm glad you mentioned Turtle Bread. Man that place drives me crazy. I understand that a clientele comprised mostly of monster stroller pushing parents and screaming kids isn't that enjoyable, but in my 20+ visits to the 48th and Chicago location (we live very close), I've never once had an enjoyable interaction with the staff. The coffee urn is almost always empty and they treat you like an idiot when you can't figure out their random queuing/ordering/waiting procedure. Unfortunately I'm too addicted to the tomato basil soup to give up on the place completely.

              1. b
                BigE Sep 29, 2010 08:49 AM

                I had a couple painfully slow meals at V-44 (one before and one after the Travail exodus). Beyond that, most of my downright laughable experiences have been in chains that aren't worth mentioning.

                1. Foureyes137 Sep 29, 2010 09:17 AM

                  My argument will be more philosophical as it seems the only way to argue your hypothesis.

                  I've experienced poor service, great service and everything in between. 90% of the service I receive falls into the category I'll call "good to satisfactory".

                  But I'm a human animal. My brain makes note of the exceptions. The outliers. The surprisingly bad or terrific service I receive so infrequently. Most of my service interactions are brief, however that is rarely the case with someone serving me in a restaurant, thus there are a greater number of events and a greater number of expectations about those events that shape my opinion of the overall service (water service, menu tour, table clearing/resetting, coursing, drinks, check presentation). A poor showing in any one of those areas has the ability to shade my opinion negatively. A poor showing in more than one, and, well, they may be in that 10%.

                  On the other hand; I travel a bit and can say that most of the "outstanding" service I've received in my career as a diner has come in cities that are not Minneapolis/St Paul despite the fact that I eat here far more frequently than anywhere else.

                  I would also put forth that the culture of dining-out (and fine-dining in particular) is a comparatively (to say, New York, Boston, Chicago, etc) new thing around here. You can still hear the ghosts of the old-guard pining for the days of the bar and grill in their complaints about the price of a cheeseburger or a steak or a drink or all of these things (Yelp can always give me a laugh for this). Due to this, we lack a history of great managers, servers and training, however many Twin Cities diners travel extensively and know what good service looks like, your average restaurant GM and server likely does not. Heres to a GM/Server staging farm system in NYC!

                  1. f
                    foreverhungry Sep 29, 2010 11:28 AM

                    I agree with the "bad service in the Twin Cities" theme, but perhaps not for all of the same reasons. My biggest issue with servers in the TC - and please forgive the temporary generalization - is that for most, it seems that food service is simply something that's being done to earn income. There's little pride taken in the job. Where I've lived in New Jersey, Philly, and Los Angeles, the attitude tended to be (in general) different. And the area of service I see it most often is when it comes to recommendations and knowing what a dish is all about.

                    Before coming to the TC, when dining at a new restaurant, if I saw 2 or 3 items I thought looked really interesting, I'd ask the server a few questions, tell them a little about what I like, and ask them to surprise me. In the vast majority of cases, the dish I received was excellent. In many of those cases, it's not what would have been my first choice, and that made the meal even better. And in one surprising interaction in Los Angeles, I ordered duck, and the waiter told me it wasn't very good. I asked him why, and he said it was fatty. I said duck can be fatty, but still be very good. He said he enjoyed duck a lot, but that that restaurant just didn't get good duck. I said OK then, bring me something else, which he did, and it was excellent. I later heard from friends that had ordered the duck there that it wasn't very good. The guy took a big chance, but that's his job. Here, when I ask servers to surprise me, they often look like I asked them to perform surgery on me.

                    Now, of course there are several exceptions, and there are many excellent servers in the TC. But more the rule than the exception here, servers really see their job as to simply take an order, relay it to the kitchen, and perhaps bring the dishes out.

                    BTW - the best service I ever had was at Spago in LA. Every time I went there, it seemed the servers could read your mind. When you formed a question in you mind, they appeared. Before you knew you needed something, they filled the need - but doing so unseen. What you thought you might need magically appeared at the table. And the rest of the time, they were completely unobtrusive. They truly saw their jobs as a profession to be proud of, and to excel at, rather than simply a way to earn some cash.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: foreverhungry
                      f
                      forgottendreamr Sep 29, 2010 12:05 PM

                      The story you relate about talking to the server about their dishes is something I experience quite frequently here in the TC. It is not uncommon at the restaurants I frequent to start talking to the server. And, since many of them eat the food at the restaurant themselves, they have opinions. When I've asked for recommendations on what's good, I've never gotten what I hear can be a standard response of "everything's good here." The server always has a recommendation, and it's usually the not most expensive thing on the menu.
                      I place a very high value on good service. As mentioned above, I think it's crucial to the enjoyment of the meal. Afterall, I could go home and cook instead. I'm paying for the experience as well as the food. However, I also think that a server will read a patron and will react to how you're carrying yourself. That doesn't mean that either person is wrong...a patron may want to be left alone, or maybe they don't want help picking their meal, etc, but we do need to keep in mind that there are people on both side of the interaction.

                      1. re: forgottendreamr
                        t
                        torchon Sep 29, 2010 12:39 PM

                        Foureyes37: I think your point about the relative novelty of fine dining in the Twin Cities is a good one (assuming it's true--I don't know enough about the history of TC restaurants to confirm this). This may explain why most service here isn't horrible but rather rough around the edges. I'd say that more than 50% of the time, my TC experience lies in the "satisfactory to leaves-a-bit-to-be-desired" category.

                        I also tend to agree (though I have no inside knowledge of this) that many Twin Cities restaurants seem to lack either a) equally high-end training programs for servers, which may be a casualty of the economy; or b) professional dining room managers to oversee servers. I certainly would not be surprised if there is a shortage of great managers here; nor would I be surprised if all the chef-driven restaurants around town simply treat service as an afterthought. A NYC farm team is an excellent idea!

                        Having said that, I have no problem with servers doing it for the money. It's unrealistic to think that the top 20 Twin Cities restaurants, let alone the hundreds of lesser restaurants around the metro, could hire career servers. This is possible only in a very few cities at certain types of restaurants (I'm thinking of Daniel in NYC or Galatoire's in New Orleans). A grad student who's waiting tables can still take pride in her job, complete a training program if it's offered to her, and try to summon patience and knowledge when interacting with customers.

                    2. b
                      BatMan Sep 29, 2010 12:14 PM

                      Nick and Eddie. Hands down the worst service - ever.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: BatMan
                        c
                        churchka Oct 3, 2010 06:13 PM

                        Then you have never been to Bryant Lake Bowl.

                        -----
                        Bryant Lake Bowl
                        810 W Lake St, Minneapolis, MN

                        1. re: churchka
                          s
                          soupkitten Oct 3, 2010 08:26 PM

                          LMAO. I agree w Batman though. :)

                      2. MplsM ary Sep 29, 2010 02:56 PM

                        Service in Minnesota has such an odd quality due to our “Minnesota Nice,” passive-aggressive tendencies. It works against both parties in any transaction and leaves both feeling miffed in the extreme.

                        This summer I sort of ‘woke up’ to realize I’d let Minnesota Nice seep in and it was time to put an end to twenty minute goodbyes and saying thanks when I felt I was getting screwed over.

                        I tend to bring a good book with me and dine alone. Read that as target for crappy table, bad service allowed. When I’m getting steered to the two-top by the mens room, now I tell the host I’ll wait for a better two top. When I’m seated and I get the eyeroll and with grand flourish the other place-setting is taken away, I tell the server that I tip twenty five percent for good service, and that I’m sure we’ll get along just fine. And I keep my word. It’s worth it to me and it seems only fair for the smaller ticket.

                        Being up front with my wants works wonders. Try it.

                        1. d
                          dalewest Sep 29, 2010 07:58 PM

                          I am curious from your post if you like the "predictably stuffy service at La Belle Vie" or not. If not I assume you wouldn't bother going there. I have eaten twice at the old Stillwater location and once at the 510 location. Yeah, it is a bit more stuffy in that big room but that should be expected.

                          My general advise about how to enjoy dining out in the TC would be as follows.

                          1) If you regularly get bad service, don't go back.

                          2) If you are going to a place you don't normally to go to and you have certain expectations like when you need to be fed by, let the server know right away. They should be able to help you order dishes that the kitchen can handle fairly quickly or not.

                          3) If your server seems to be on another planet let the host know asap. If that doesn't help ask for the manager. ("Halley's waitress never comes around". Great tune from Fountains of Wayne)

                          I live walking distance from the Craftsman and have never had any issues with service which was nice as what I have received at Meritage.

                          All this being said, I don't often dine out at peak restaurant time times like Saturday night. I believe a popular restaurant on Saturday night is the rough equivalent of the the LA power grid during heat wave; there is not much margin for errors or problems. Keep this is mind if you are a customer at that time.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: dalewest
                            m
                            meljohns Sep 30, 2010 07:22 AM

                            I like the service at La Belle Vie; I feel like they're extremely professional and knowledgable without being condescending (and I SO miss the space in Stillwater). Broders is another place where I think the service is really good. Both tend to have longtime, loyal servers who are well trained.
                            I'll never go to Duplex again because of a horrid server experience. Same goes for La Chaya, although the fault in that experience was shared equally by the server and the kitchen.

                            -----
                            La Belle Vie
                            510 Groveland Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55405

                            1. re: meljohns
                              s
                              Seige Oct 1, 2010 09:32 AM

                              We've had great service at Duplex. The last time we were there it was taking a long time to bring our dessert of the trio of donuts (some fryer issue). Due to the delay, the waitress not only paid for the donuts but brought us the apple tart free of charge too. Granted we had spent plenty that night already, but we certainly weren't expecting 2 desserts free of charge for a delay.

                              1. re: Seige
                                m
                                meljohns Oct 1, 2010 10:11 AM

                                I'm glad you've had good experiences. Mine was unfortunately inexcusable, from start to finish.

                          2. a
                            alpa chino Sep 30, 2010 08:10 AM

                            Ahhhh...the main reason why I prefer take-out. I'm only interested in the quality of the food. If the food is great, then I don't care if the person gives me the finger, hurls a racial epithet at me, and throws the plate on the table.

                            I just learn to do without only because good customer service is rare. I see bad service at the caribou coffee. It's sad to see that you get bad service at high end gourmet restaurants too.

                            1. jfood Sep 30, 2010 12:35 PM

                              jfood has placed 112 Eatery on the DNR list for the female MOD. There is no way ANY food can make up for the increased blood pressure this woman can cause. The place on 50th in Edina that is part of some bigger group. Jfood has tried to have some burgers there and each time they were either raw or well done (ordered MR) and each time the server says, "Is there something I can do?" Yup, tell the chef to cook the freakin' burger medium rare, please. Then there was a place just behind the burger bar in Dinkeytown around the corner from Nea. Jfood was the onlyone in the restaurant and the server brought the entree while jfood was eating his appetizer. Jfood told him he was not ready for his entree. "What should I do with it?" Response, "Take it back to the kitchen and bring me the check." Is this the server's fault. 60% to the kitchen for bad timing and 40% to the server for treating jfood like a mushroom.

                              Overall jfood has found almost all the other servers similar to the places in DC when jfood was in college. Friendly, laid back, not pretentious, not 20-year veterans. He was not crazy about the "excellent choice" robo-speak at Oceanairre (and none of the food was an excellent choice), or the uncaring fakeness at Cosmo). Jfood just wants a quiet, relaxing time with his food and his book since he is usually dining solo.

                              -----
                              112 Eatery
                              112 N 3rd St, Minneapolis, MN 55401

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: jfood
                                Foureyes137 Sep 30, 2010 01:45 PM

                                "burger bar in Dinkeytown around the corner from Nea"

                                This makes no sense. Were you near Nea in Northeast or in Dinkytown (about 14 blocks east)?

                                1. re: Foureyes137
                                  MSPD Sep 30, 2010 03:04 PM

                                  I was thinking NE, not Dinkytown. Maybe Gardens of Salonica? (Behind Bulldog NE, around the corner from Pizza Nea).

                                  Purely a guess for fun.

                                  1. re: Foureyes137
                                    jfood Sep 30, 2010 03:05 PM

                                    drive across river on hennepin, nea on the right hand side, make a left at the burger place on 4th and the restaurant jfood is referring to is on the right hand side about halfway down the street.. Maybe he confuses dinkeytown and northeast...oops

                                    1. re: jfood
                                      k
                                      KTFoley Sep 30, 2010 03:51 PM

                                      Using the street view on Google Maps, these are the storefronts on that block of 4th St NE:

                                      Bulldog NE
                                      Ground Zero Nightclub
                                      The Front
                                      Old St. Anthony Chiropractic

                                      -----
                                      Bulldog NE
                                      401 E Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55414

                                      Ground Zero
                                      121 S Main St, River Falls, WI 54022

                                      1. re: KTFoley
                                        jfood Sep 30, 2010 04:17 PM

                                        great help KT. if The Front is the place with the awnings then that was the place.

                                2. Latinpig Oct 1, 2010 10:48 AM

                                  Capital Grill always has stellar service. For all you foodies out that that write it off as just another Steakhouse chain you are selling it short.

                                  8 Replies
                                  1. re: Latinpig
                                    f
                                    foreverhungry Oct 1, 2010 11:26 AM

                                    Agreed. The service at Capital grille is very good, and the steaks are extraordinary.

                                    Do people seriously write off Capital Grille because it's a chain?

                                    -----
                                    Capital Grille
                                    801 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55402

                                    1. re: foreverhungry
                                      Foureyes137 Oct 1, 2010 11:57 AM

                                      Yes.

                                      1. re: foreverhungry
                                        s
                                        Seige Oct 1, 2010 12:09 PM

                                        I wrote it off until I saw all the spectacular reviews about it here. Hubby and I went for the first time to celebrate our anniversary last month. The food and service were exceptional. Definitely a top notch restaurant - chain or no chain.

                                        1. re: foreverhungry
                                          mtullius Oct 1, 2010 12:50 PM

                                          I'm more or less one of them. It's not only because it's a chain-- for me, it's also because I only eat grassfed beef-- but I'd rather spend my eating out $$ on locally owned, locally sourced restaurants. So yeah, the fact that it's a chain is part of the reason why I'm unlikely to go there.

                                          1. re: mtullius
                                            f
                                            foreverhungry Oct 1, 2010 01:33 PM

                                            Perhaps this question doesn't belong on this thread, but what exactly defines a chain? And while I'm not putting Capital Grille in the same category as the world's top restaurants, there are many top chefs that have several locations for their restaurants. Joel Robuchon has multiple locations of his L'Atelier restaurant, but I don't think anyone would call it a chain. Tom Colicchio has multiple locations based on his "'craft" theme, and again, I don't think anyone would hesitate to eat at any of those because there are more than 10 locations.

                                            If Capital Grille had only 8 locations, and the exact same food and service, would attitudes be different?

                                            I'm not trying to be argumentative, or deviate from the thread, but I'm just trying to understand how the food or service at a restaurant is affected by how many relatives it might have across the country (or world). Is there a magic number where "several locations" turns into "chain", and where great service turns into bad service?

                                            -----
                                            Capital Grille
                                            801 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55402

                                            1. re: foreverhungry
                                              mtullius Oct 1, 2010 06:11 PM

                                              For me, and I can only speak for me, it has more to do with whether it's a locally owned business. I mean, Punch has a bunch of locations now, but it's still a Twin Cities restaurant and I don't consider it a chain.

                                              I have no idea whether Capital Grille is franchised, or how the ownership works-- are there local owners? For me, the bigger issue is that the beef is not beef that I will eat anymore. If I want a steak, I buy some Thousand Hills beef or something from the farmer's market, or I go to The Strip Club.

                                              -----
                                              The Strip Club
                                              378 Maria Ave, Saint Paul, MN 55106

                                              Capital Grille
                                              801 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55402

                                              1. re: foreverhungry
                                                g
                                                galewskj Oct 8, 2010 11:12 AM

                                                First off, I just went to the Capital Grille last night, and have been there many times. Their service has always been great. They are nice, friendly, professional and take of you without acting fake nice or laying it on thick. Also, it is one of the good places to go for restaurant week, as $30 gets you a nice dinner there for less than the usual price.

                                                Second, with 31 locations sprinkled across the country, I think it easily qualifies as a "chain".

                                                -----
                                                Capital Grille
                                                801 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55402

                                            2. re: foreverhungry
                                              jfood Oct 1, 2010 09:11 PM

                                              jfood used to go to the CG in Boston once a month. It's an excellent steak, whether chain or not. Morton;s on theother hand is not worth the time of day.

                                          2. s
                                            seahag Oct 3, 2010 09:21 AM

                                            Travail is the french word for work. Non?

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: seahag
                                              f
                                              foreverhungry Oct 3, 2010 09:28 AM

                                              Oui.

                                            2. j
                                              JimGrinsfelder Oct 4, 2010 07:14 AM

                                              I haven't been in over a year, but the service at La Belle Vie when I visited was not stuffy. It was highly professional. Perhaps the most formal-professional service I've ever seen in the Twin Cities.

                                              I think, generally, I've had very good experiences with the waiters and waitresses in Twin Cities restaurants. Comparable to any of the other cities in the USA I've visited in the last two decades.

                                              The one thing I think might be different in Twin Cities restaurants' service staffs is that they tend see themselves as socially equal to the diners and as consultants, not slaves or serfs or peasants. If you feel you are of a higher caste than a mere waitress and you project this feeling. in most Twin Cities restaurants, you are probably going to feel like you're getting bad service.

                                              -----
                                              La Belle Vie
                                              510 Groveland Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55405

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: JimGrinsfelder
                                                ibew292 Oct 4, 2010 07:26 AM

                                                Well said Mr. JimGrinsfelder. when I'm in a bad mood I get bad service. When I'm happy I get great service.

                                                1. re: ibew292
                                                  m
                                                  mncharm Oct 4, 2010 02:50 PM

                                                  Co-sign -- both on LBV and waitstaff in the Twin Cities generally.

                                              2. Michael Florey Oct 6, 2010 02:11 PM

                                                I posted on this last year, and basically was flamed/ridiculed as being a snob. But I'll stick by my opinon: restaurant service stinks in the Twin Citie because its being done by starving artists and students who view the work as temporary and/or beneath them. With a few rare exceptions, there is not a class of professional restauant wait staff who make a career out of it, enjot it and take pride in it.

                                                Some of the comments also reflect the local clientelle. Many Minnesotans seem violently opposed to anything or anyone that aspire to any degree of elegance. Hence the odd comments about "stuffy" service at La Belle Vie. It is simply excellent professional service at an elegant, refined restaurant.

                                                -----
                                                La Belle Vie
                                                510 Groveland Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55405

                                                9 Replies
                                                1. re: Michael Florey
                                                  a
                                                  alpa chino Oct 6, 2010 11:01 PM

                                                  You have a point. Just out of curiousity, how much can one of these servers earn at a TC restaurant--a high end gourment place? Basically, I'm wondering if there is any incentive to aspire to be elegant. Can someone make a decent career out of it, here in the TC?

                                                  1. re: alpa chino
                                                    Foureyes137 Oct 7, 2010 05:51 AM

                                                    Very few can. There aren't many Twin Cities restaurants with check averages high enough to create a wage that would annualize to what I'd call a "decent career". On top of that, there is no room for advancement really as it's not like you're going to be so good you get a job at Per Se or Le Bernardin. Perhaps you'll get a job at LBV...and you'll make a decent amount of money...on Saturdays.

                                                    The restaurants with those "high-enough" check averages here simply aren't busy enough during the week (unless it's restaurant week...which makes a sever very little money comparatively) to sustain more than perhaps 5 full-time insured server positions. The good ones like Alma and LBV will book every table for maybe one turn on a Monday, but they are the exception.You can get a table in this town at almost any restaurant during the week the day before you'd like to dine there. That is not common in many cities.

                                                    But to be honest, I work in one of these restaurants a couple times a month and do not buy Michael's premise to begin with. Per capita, I believe the demographic of full-time professional servers to "starving artist/student" servers is in-line with other cities. I can tell you at the restaurant I work "starving artists/students" make up 0% of the servers in the dining room,

                                                    1. re: Foureyes137
                                                      f
                                                      foreverhungry Oct 7, 2010 06:38 AM

                                                      Like most things in life, there is likely to be multiple issues at work. Part of it is that given the market, there are very few professional servers.

                                                      Another issue, I think, is that servers here are likely to be from Minnesota. And I think, on average, fewer folks from this area are as adventurous food wise as folks from the coasts tend to be. So when servers are recruited from the local area, they are less likely to be knowledgeable about all the dishes, or perhaps to even care as much about the dishes.

                                                      From personal experience, I know a few people that have worked or currently work as servers in mid-level restaurants. One eats only chicken, salmon, and shrimp when it comes to meats. Pork, duck, beef - she won't go near them. How can you make an honest recommendation when you won't eat those things? Another worked as a server, and will only eat chicken, pork, and beef. Some seafood, not much. But no beans. None. If a patron asks about a dish that contains beans, what can you say about it? The others I know are a bit more broad in palate, but not much. I certainly don't know anyone in the service industry that would eat sweetbreads, brain, oysters, kidney, or anything else that's outside of the standard range. I think it can be a problem when someone is asked to help customers about an item about which they have little personal knowledge.

                                                      1. re: foreverhungry
                                                        Michael Florey Oct 7, 2010 10:27 AM

                                                        That's a great point I had not considered. Although it's changing, historically MN has not been a place where really good food is valued. More of a low price/big portions mentality.

                                                        And I love the word people here use when I tell them about the stuff I've tried (like an omelet filled with baby eels): "Ish."

                                                        1. re: foreverhungry
                                                          sebetti Oct 21, 2010 04:15 PM

                                                          I understand the point you're making but I think your supporting argument is a little weak. Food preferences does not determine whether or not you you can be a good server - as long as they're honest ('sorry, I don't eat beef so I can't really tell you but I know it's very popular among most of our customers') or helpful, they'll do just fine.

                                                      2. re: alpa chino
                                                        Michael Florey Oct 7, 2010 10:23 AM

                                                        I don't have hard numbers, but it wouldn't surprise me if it was in fact very difficult to make a real living here in service. The only place I know for sure pays well is Mannys, and the service there tends to be quite good.

                                                        1. re: Michael Florey
                                                          Foureyes137 Oct 7, 2010 11:03 AM

                                                          Just imagine what it must be like in a place like Milwaukee where the servers don't even make minimum wage @ base.

                                                          1. re: Michael Florey
                                                            s
                                                            soupkitten Oct 7, 2010 11:13 AM

                                                            there's also folks who are bussing tables for 15 years at mannys, and lbv, waiting for someone to literally die so that a serving shift on tuesday lunch opens up.

                                                            in msp there is not a deep pool of service professionals to draw from like in larger cities. heck, until recently, we lost the best of our *chefs* to the coasts-- there was nobody opening the decent restaurants we have now 15 and 20 years ago (with a few exceptions that got traction and paved the way for others, so no dissing intended). the foh staff, at large, is naturally going to lag a bit, where there hasn't been wide opportunities to train anywhere decent. still on the most part there isn't the "i'm an artist and you're fortunate that i'll wait on you" attitude from the servers here-- they are actually trying to give good service and treat each individual customer well, and there isn't anything fake about it. i think your odds are much better at getting the server-as-diva treatment on either coast. sure, you have the "perkins waitress" syndrome around here quite a bit at the lower levels, but that's where a lot of the very young servers come from, and it isn't *bad* it's just inexperience, and it does get better as they get more experience in more restaurants. i think that in msp, you're much more likely to be waited on by a harried single mom trying to put herself thru night school than by the next "american idol" finalist, let's get real.

                                                            as far as doing the job long-term and as one's primary means of income: there are some very fine servers who have worked at the same establishments for more than 10 years, and they are extremely professional and competent. i am thinking right this minute of one of the servers at lucia's, whose name i don't know offhand. these servers aren't going anywhere-- they aren't looking for new jobs at the new shiny downtown spot-- but they are *there,* and they are training the servers who will go on to other newer places. when i look at applications now there are some very qualified people who've worked in good restaurants with good service. six years ago it was a lot of soft serv ice cream slingers wanting to make tips now. i dunno it's probably the economy as much as anything else, but there are more and better restaurants in msp than there were not so very long ago.

                                                            lastly, in this town you can make a better living (perhaps not long-term, but still) as a tavern server than in fine dining. most servers know this to be true, and so if they choose a bartending job at first ave or a serving job at the local, over a lunch shift at wolfgang puck's restaurant-- it doesn't make them stupid, or unprofessional, or naiive hicks, or whatever else you want to say. it makes them able to pay the mortgage, simple as that.

                                                        2. re: Michael Florey
                                                          lstereo Oct 11, 2010 09:29 PM

                                                          Agreed. I also think many minnesotans cannot/don't appreciate service. This is in fact how/why the servers maintain their poor performance. Someone, we, accept it.

                                                        3. a
                                                          alpa chino Oct 7, 2010 02:56 PM

                                                          Ahhh. I think I understand. Basically what you're all saying is that there isn't a fine dining culture here in the TC, like in other cities. So, since eating out isn't as big an event here---you won't find many servers who are professional about it. It's just not in the culture?

                                                          1. n
                                                            Nrasser Oct 13, 2010 09:29 AM

                                                            Personally I won't judge a restaurant's waitstaff by a single experience, tending to follow the "3 strikes" rule for most. Everyone has a bad day; though encountering more than one in the same place will turn me off to that establishment for a long time, regardless of how good the food is.

                                                            I have on occasion been with parties who've asked to be seated in a different server's section, or asked for a server by name with the reservation.

                                                            My example of great service in the Twin Cities would be Fogo de Chao. I've had three terrific dining experiences there with an excellent waitstaff performance each time.

                                                            1. m
                                                              misterodell Oct 15, 2010 09:54 AM

                                                              Wow,

                                                              And to think that I have been thinking of moving to Minneapolis, am a professional waiter, have been for a long time, and this is what I have to deal with.

                                                              With that in mind...where can I work in the downtown area and make a comfortable living?

                                                              I know what service is and how to administer it. I am educated in my profession. I know food, liquor, wine, etc...

                                                              What I really know and understand is SERVICE. The guest pays my rent, cable & electric bill. The guest allows me to save for my future. The guest is my lifeline to the world and is treated with such respect.
                                                              PERIOD.

                                                              gr8waiter coming to town soon.

                                                              10 Replies
                                                              1. re: misterodell
                                                                j
                                                                jason topp Oct 18, 2010 07:21 AM

                                                                I don't know if service is worse in MSP than in other cities but my experience as a waiter in MSP (from 20 years ago) was that customers in the area were signficantly worse tippers than in other locations where I worked. I averaged around 18% in Phoenix and Montana. In Minneapolis I averaged 13%. Because the hourly wage is largely irrelevant to a server, that amounts to an approximately 30% cut in pay.

                                                                Tips vary wildly from table to table, but the average determines whether a job is attractive.

                                                                You get what you pay for.

                                                                1. re: jason topp
                                                                  m
                                                                  misterodell Oct 18, 2010 09:09 AM

                                                                  I've noticed that trait in guests from Minnesota. I am currently in Naples, FL. When people tell me that they are from Minnesota I expect less of a tip. Regardless of the service which is excellent and obviously superior to what they receive at home the tip is still 15% at best.

                                                                  Believe me, I am not moving to Minneapolis soley for financial gain. But, I am still coming to town. I just need some ideas. There seem to be several outstanding restaurants all of which get reviews for bad service. Are the people of the TC that demanding? And more importantly will they reward excellent service with more than a 'verbal tip'? I am almost inclined to seek employment in a hotel room service department where tips are included. Or in a banquet situation. I know it is sort of selling out but what is a waiter to do?

                                                                  1. re: misterodell
                                                                    j
                                                                    jason topp Oct 18, 2010 09:19 AM

                                                                    There are plenty of terrific jobs where a waiter can make great money in downtown Minneapolis. Manny's would be the first place I would check but any of the high end high volume restaurants would be perfectly fine places to work. I have been out of the restaurant business for long enough that I cannot really provide much more specific advice.

                                                                    1. re: misterodell
                                                                      s
                                                                      soupkitten Oct 18, 2010 06:59 PM

                                                                      sorry, i don't understand your post. why would the service at a restaurant in naples FL be "obviously superior" to the service at restaurants in msp?

                                                                      1. re: misterodell
                                                                        MSPD Oct 19, 2010 07:44 AM

                                                                        I've found this whole thread to be nonsense, but this just put it over the top. Tipping and service attitudes are no different here than nearly anywhere else in the United States. If you come in with that preconceived notion re: Minnesotans maxing out at 15%, you're setting yourself up for failure. If you are as professional and skilled as you say, you'll do just fine. My guess is the "oh shit, here come some Minnesotans..my tip is going to stink" preconception is showing through in your colleagues' service and is the root cause of the crappy tips.

                                                                        Beyond that, I disagree wholeheartedly with the overall premise of this thread. I agree with those that point to the shallow pool of deeply EXPERIENCED servers as the main issue affecting service. In hundreds of meals out from shack to high-end every year, I can't recall a single bad experience with service attitude. I can, however, recount numerous times when it was clear the server was in over his or her head when it came to knowledge of the product, sometimes to the point of laughable (order the "chef's menu" with wine pairing at Grecco's in St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin some time. My friends and I were in tears the whole meal).

                                                                        Lack of experienced service: Yes. Trend of rude, indifferent, etc. service: No.

                                                                        1. re: MSPD
                                                                          s
                                                                          soupkitten Oct 21, 2010 09:01 AM

                                                                          +1

                                                                          all of the op's examples of "bad service," especially the 2 main ones, are special cases. to me it's problematic to base a thread about poor service using examples of 1 (travail) a restaurant that **does not employ servers,** and 2 (piccolo) a restaurant that is so small that if there are more than 3 people on staff in the building at once, they are in violation of fire code. piccolo doesn't have a foh "program"-- it has ONE DUDE-- and it sounds like either a personality conflict with the op and the one dude, or it was a one-off event. other threads on piccolo haven't listed service as any sort of problem.

                                                                          of the op's other examples, one (la belle vie) is one of the top restaurants in town, with a beautiful foh program and classic fine dining service that is in no way impersonal or "stuffy" imo. sounds like the op didn't get it. i don't think it's at all fair to pick on craftsman, as the restaurant just suffered a mass staff exodus following mike phillips' exit (duh)-- it would not surprise me if someone reported they were waited on by dancing bears at craftsman, or if line cooks, dishwashers, or random people snatched off the street are currently being drafted in a pinch to help the foh there. was the other example srsly turtle bread? again, it's a *bakery* with a cafeteria line and a min wage cashier. if you don't like the service model eat at a real restaurant. i'm surprised we aren't bringing hot dog cart vendors and gyro counter staff into this "exhaustive" discussion of professional servers in msp.

                                                                          1. re: soupkitten
                                                                            The Dairy Queen Oct 21, 2010 03:59 PM

                                                                            The service at Craftsman has long been spotty at best. But, still, I don't think that is indicative of some kind of overall service problem in the Twin Cities.

                                                                            I've never had anything but excellent service at LBV.

                                                                            ~TDQ

                                                                            1. re: soupkitten
                                                                              jfood Oct 21, 2010 04:29 PM

                                                                              bad service at travail? Oh please. the chef brings the dish and explains every element. and normally it is the owner that does this as well. better than a runner, whose job it is to ping-pong back and forth from tablle to kitchen like a hamster

                                                                              1. re: jfood
                                                                                s
                                                                                soupkitten Oct 21, 2010 04:59 PM

                                                                                the op has stated that s/he experienced bad service at travail and then by extension states that service is bad in msp.

                                                                                but there are no servers at travail, as Jfood states. at travail and v-44, the diner is served by the same person who prepares the food, and the cook-as-server model can be quite successful, as Jfood has experienced, or potentially problematic, as others have experienced, depending on the direction the wind is blowing. point is, it's an unconventional service model. it's incorrect to call the cooks at travail servers in the first place, as they are hired as cooks and execute all of the food. it's also incorrect to extend a problematic service experience at travail to encompass other msp area restaurants that DO employ servers-- servers that don't prepare the food. like the op's cafeteria line example-- if a patron doesn't care for the service model, then by all means--don't go back, but imo it's not right to use a broad brush to disparage a whole area's professional servers based on one bakery cashier, one cook-server, and *one* server at a microscopically small chef-driven restaurant who found your party to be tiresome. . .

                                                                                it would seem that Jfood would dispute that service at travail is bad. many hounds state that service at lbv is excellent. several have said that service at piccolo is good, at least one has said service at craftsman is as good as at meritage--yours truly won't go that far, but will say that the foh staff at meritage is an example of an excellent msp service team-- it's the only thing i seem to agree with the op on, unfortunately.

                                                                                1. re: soupkitten
                                                                                  jfood Oct 22, 2010 06:38 AM

                                                                                  I would agree that extrapolating a bad experience at any restaurant to the entire area is unwarranted. I have been fortunate to have probably a 98% success rating with the servers and MODs at restaurants in MSP. And when I have posted about 1 or 2 in particular it was time to wear the kevlar jacket when the "how dare you" started flying.

                                                                                  people expect different things. I like to have my food delivered as ordered, pleasantly and safely. I am not there to make BFFs. You forget a dish, or act surly or send a different dish that contains an ingredient I am allergic to, yup that is upsetting.

                                                                                  But to say that all servers in MSP are bad or all tippers are bad is grasping at a feather in a monsoon.

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