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Nov 14, 2010 05:04 AM

Brick & Tin, Birmingham

I wanted to relay an experience I had last week at Brick & Tin in Birmingham and get your opinion of things.

First of all, I really like it there - the atmosphere, the approach to sourcing local ingredients, and the food (I've had both the Cuban and the New Orleans, both of which were great).

Two issues, though:

On both occasions I've been there for lunch, it's taken at least thirty minutes to get my party's order. The first time, I decided that since they had only been open a month, they probably were still getting the kinks worked out and that's okay. This last time I noticed from the time on the sales register ticket that it literally took thirty minutes to be served. I go out for lunch several times a week, a somewhat-regular at Ruth's Chris, Chez FonFon, and Bottega, and the rest of the time I try a variety of places all over town.

I can't think of a single other restaurant at lunch in which it's a thirty minute wait to be served. I've heard from a friend who also likes Brick & Tin that the long wait there is just expected and my (twice now) thirty minute wait isn't at all out-of-the-ordinary there.

Anyone else have that experience? If so, that's fine and I just need to adjust my expectations.

Secondly, and this is the part that really bothers me: this second time I was there, I paid for both my and my friend's lunch on my credit card. As my friend, as is our custom, leaves their tip at the table in cash, I leave mine on the credit card slip.

It was a $20 bill, and at the register once I ordered for us both, I left a $2 tip for my portion. That's right at 20% for my half of the bill.

When the person at the register saw what I wrote, he let out an audible 'hoo!' and *really* embarrassed me. I was so caught off-guard that I didn't bring up that the other half of the tip would be left by my friend for her portion as cash on the table. Was in disbelief that I would feel the need to explain the situation. Ouch.

When I told my friend (who left $2 as a tip on the table, matching my 20%) she mentioned that we were probably over-reaching by leaving 20% as the only service we received was that our dishes were placed on the table and were cleared once we left.

We ordered at the counter, got our own drinks and refills, and were never asked if everything was okay, etc. as is the custom there. A table next to ours had their order wrong and went to the counter to get it resolved rather than getting the runner to handle it.

All that to say: is she right? I leave 20%-25% at my usual lunch spots for worlds more service and did so here for worlds less service (I think there is one runner, maybe two, for the entire restaurant). What percentage is more in line with the level of service at Brick & Tin? I'd like to hear your opinion.

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  1. Personally, I think management should be made aware of the comments by the cashier since they are unprofessional no matter what the tip, or lack thereof.

    For order at the counter service where the food is delivered to your table, I generally leave 10%-15% assuming they clean the table. If I'm expected to bus the dishes then I'll leave 0%-10% (for example I never tip at McDonalds).

    1. Counter service with no follow-up, I treat mostly like a buffet as far as tipping (10%) but sometimes I give 15%.

      I have only ordered takeout from there during the day and the food took about 10 minutes on top of the long wait in line.

      I have been there twice for dinner. Once was a few weeks back with counter services but I think they did come by for refills. We were two of six in there that night, so food came out fast and I think I tipped my standard for "full" service.

      We went back last Friday to try the tapas . The food did take a while, especially for tapas, and they seemed to arrive in two shifts, rather than as prepared which is what I typically expect for tapas. Service was great that night and full service all the way. While the meat and cheese platter (what type of bright green olives were those and serve some more bread please) and the duck confit were both good, the belly was amazingly unctuous (in a good way), the rabbit rillete was ... maybe too thick for me and not as smooth as I had expected. The empanada was ok but come on for $6 there should have been at least 2.

      1. This is going to turn into a tipping thread. Uh-oh.

        I've waited tables (recently, not like 15 years ago such that I barely remember it), so I'm a pretty good tipper. I generally leave a minimum of 20% unless the service was really terrible, and a server needs only a minimum amount of charm or effort to get more than 20%.

        That said, I do not tip for counter service. At all. I'll make an exception if there is some extraordinary, beyond-the-call-of-duty service, but this has happened maybe two or three times in my life.

        I tip servers because that is how they get paid. If there were no tips, there would be no servers; $2.13/hr simply isn't enough for anyone to do that job. Tipping at a full-service restaurant is part of the dining out paradigm. Frankly, it's sort of weird and nonsensical, but that's the way it is. Employees at counter service restaurants get paid at least minimum wage (I'd be shocked if Brick & Tin employees didn't make significantly more); they don't depend upon tips for their wages, and the amount of service they provide generally reflects this.

        Obviously, then, I'd say that you were being extravagantly generous to tip 20% at Brick & Tin, and even the 10% he thought you were leaving was more than necessary. In fact, I'm almost inclined to believe that maybe the guy at the register was making that "hoo!" about something else and there must have been some misunderstanding. Otherwise, I agree with mahalan that you should let Mauricio know about this.

        2 Replies
        1. re: bovinekid

          One of my colleagues and I ate at Brick and Tin last week. It took all of 30 minutes to get served. We sat outside, and first one of us, then later the other went in to check on our order. It was ridiculous. I think they need a new "service model"...More than one cashier and more prep guys are probably more important there than more servers . The current model just isn't working, and the food, while good, isn't good enough to keep me going there as it stands. My colleague, a less patient guy than I am, will not ever go back there for lunch. As far as tipping is concerned, the service there cannot, at best, merit a 20% tip when you order at the counter and fetch your own drink, then wait....and wait....

          1. re: curej

            I have had a very similar experience (more than once, unfortunately) at Brick and Tin. At first I thought it was just growing pains, but my most recent 45 minute wait was just last week. I have grown to like Razzleberries a good bit. They had some similar issues with wait time, but they seem to have their system down now. They are always really nice in there, too. The owner used to be a nurse, I found out by talking to him one day. Try the Big Easy there. Bayou Deli is mostly good, too. Had a few chancy experiences, but when it's on it's really good.

          1. Just wanted to add that Brick & Tin has mostly solved the wait issues. While the restaurant is always crowded at lunch, the ridiculous crowds have died down as the newness has worn off and the downtown lunch options have increased. The past 3 times I've been, my wait has been no longer than 10 minutes (which is certainly worth it).

            2 Replies
              1. re: magiccityfoodie

                Yeah but unfortunately they are no longer doing the Friday night tapas menu as we learned to our chagrin last Friday. The brisket sandwich was fine, although tasted much more baked than anywhere near smoked.

                I am not sure I'll be back for dinner as I thought they were the best, and most reasonably priced, semi-authentic tapas option in town. Still, they have the sandwiches and a few specials which will satisfy some.