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Jan 18, 2011 06:15 AM

Service? What service? At Famous Daves

I like BBQ. I really do.

I wish I could tell you about the ribs at Famous Daves BBQ in Manchester, NH, right across the street from the Mall of New Hampshire, but alas, I cannot.

About five years ago or so, my wife and I went to this place sometime after it opened. My daughters were still in school and had dance class. We made the trip up to Manchester (about 20 minutes), and had about an hour to kill before needing to head back to Salem to pick the girls up after class. Thus, we had a bit of a hard stop at that hour.

Famous Dave's advertised BBQ, so we went in. The place wasn't crowded. My wife and I ordered drinks, no appetizers, and standard BBQ fare: ribs (me) and a brisket sandwich (my wife). Our waitress didn't come back to our table. In fact, she spent nearly all her time flirting with a few teenage boys sitting in one of the booths. My wife's ice tea was never refilled. And, after waiting fifty minutes, our food still hadn't arrived. We had no time left, so we got the waitress' attention and told her to forget about our food and give us the bill for our drinks. She apologized profusely, and even the manager was brought over, but we said waiting for fifty minutes for food with zero service during all that time was inexcusable. We left the place, still hungry, and raced back to Salem to pick up our girls.

Well, my wife suggested this weekend that we should give the place a second chance. After all, it had been five years; any kinks in the system must have worked themselves out. It was this past Sunday at 3pm, about an hour or so before the New England playoff game.

Once again, I ordered ribs. My wife ordered the fish sandwich this time. We had drinks and no appetizers. After a half hour, our waitress came back saying, "I've got bad news. The kitchen is out of cod." In other words, the waitress put the order in, and nothing was said from the kitchen about the lack of fish until she inquired a half hour later. Should communication be handled a bit better than that? Once again, we decided not to eat there. Sitting around a half hour for food that will never arrive is, once again, inexcusable.

Once again, I talked to the manager about the lack of service. The manager offered no apologies, no excuses, and absolutely no comment whatever, except a "good bye" to me as I left.

It may be that my two experiences at this place are atypical. It may be that usually, the place has the best and fastest service in the area. However, I did not witness this at all. On top of that, the lack of care from the manager about what happened to us this last time indicates to me that customer service isn't a high priority at this location.

I am appalled by the lack of service, and my intention is to tell everybody I know about how I have been treated at this restaurant. I cannot rate the food; I never had the opportunity to eat it.

I've sent a copy of my experiences to Famous Dave's web site, which says I may hear from them within two business days. I'm not holding my breath, though.

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  1. And you did what all the Chowhounders say you should have done after they read a negative review: you spoke to a manager. Unfortunately, this happens more often than it should. You shouldn't have to "escalate" (keep going higher up the chain) just to get some acknowledgement that what you experienced is not their norm.

    1. We went there around 5 years ago and had a less than stellar experience--so crummy I've erased it from memory and have never been back. Let's face it, South Willow is a culinary wasteland.

      2 Replies
      1. re: whs

        Not so fast. There is an excellent Indian restaurant.

        1. re: giantmouth

          on the other end of S.'re correct, though Gil's is better. Johnny Troy is good too for pizza, near Perimeter Rd. Around the mall though, slim pickins.

      2. Sorry that you had such a lousy experience. I'm not surprised at all, though. Famous Dave's is the McDonald's of BBQ.

        Go to KC's Rib Shack next time. It's on Second Street. Best ribs I've ever had, and I've been to the "best" places in Memphis.

        4 Replies
        1. re: ecwashere7

          YMMV I guess.

          Our local store (Puyallup) does a good job - granted it is fast food
          BBQ but it's been good and have enjoyed the burgers, too. I get tired of
          Red Robin and FD is a good change. The beer is cold and sports are
          on in the bar. We like to eat outside in their covered area - rain or shine.
          The waitrons have been very attentive, as well. I guess it's all relative.

          1. re: Johnny West

            To the OP, if you live in the Salem area this place was reviewed recently and might be worth a try.


            KCs is way better than Famous Daves. I prefer Goody Coles if you have some extra time and/or are in the Brentwood area.

            1. re: Msample

              Brentwood is more than a casual drive from Salem. Lobster Q looks interesting from the review you linked to.

          2. re: ecwashere7

            I used to think KC's was good, then they closed for awhile and it wasn't the same afterwards. Didn't seem like they smoked anything anymore. Went to Goody Cole's once, it was ok but not great.

          3. Further news:

            I received a "we're sorry you were disappointed" email from, and they forwarded my message (which was very similar to the message I posted here) to the franchise owner.

            This morning, I received a reply from the franchise owner (Jaime Jaimes) also with a request for me to contact so he can make sure my next visit is better. My attitude is that the place has failed me twice, and neither my wife nor I have any interest in giving them a third chance.

            So, anyway, the place at least gives lip service toward customer service, even though it was not in evidence in either of my two trips to that place. I only post my experience here.


            1 Reply
            1. re: lar3ry

              A few years ago I occasionally had to travel to Knoxville, TN for business. There was a Famous Dave's near the hotel I stayed at and the bbq and service were quite good, for a chain type place. As a frame of reference I believe I know Tennessee/Carolina-style bbq pretty well, and I have a ceramic smoker (Kamado) that I turn out some decent 'Q on. (Bone-in butts, rubbed, and smoked for 18 hours @ 225 deg. See my photos)

              So having been satisfied with the FD's in Knoxville, when one showed up in Manchester I thought "oh - cool!"

              On both visits, each about a year apart, service was very poor. And the most offensive offense of all.... both times the bbq pork was completely lacking in every possible way..... DRY, DRY, DRY, and very little smoke flavor. There was pink smoke ring on the outside, but what happened to the smoke flavor? It tasted like it could have been meat scraped from yesterday's over-cooked pork chops done in the oven. A massive disappointment. That place is an embarrassment to the word barbeque. Maybe Yankee franchisers just lack the necessary love to make bbq. No idea how they stay in business in Manchester.

              This is what bbq should be....... moist and tender, with nice smoked hickory flavor!! Shame on the Manchester inFamous Dave's.