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gargoyle's ....why so irritating?

Went to Gargoyle's last night for first and last time. Dropped off the SO while I look for parking (didn't realize I could park behind the restaurant). Takes a while to find a spot (it's a Friday nite in Davis Sq.) and, when I get to the restaurant, my wife is waiting by the host's table. That's odd as I dropped her off right at our reservation time. I ask why she's waiting; she tells me the host told her they were setting up a table. Oh. Within a minute of me walking in the door, amazingly and coincidentally, the table is apparently ready. So around the corner we go and into the dining area.

Oh? They were setting up a table? Odd...there's something like 8 2-tops empty.

They lied to us. They weren't setting up table. There were plenty of tables ready and waiting. They were waiting for the rest of the party (me) to arrive. Wow...that's a great way to start with a restaurant: starting with a lie.

Well, maybe it was some communication fade...so we sit. Get the drink and food menus. Oh how quaint: look, dear, a women's menu for the drinks menu. The drinks menu had NO PRICES on it. I guess that's the new definition of useful. Well, actually, there were prices on the drinks menu, but not for individual drinks -- the flights had prices. Now I'm beginning to get really irritated. I'm not rich enough to "just order" stuff without first knowing how much it will be.

Oh and the kicker was that when my entree was served, I had to remind the waiter to bring a new setup to the table as I had no knife or fork. But that was the smallest of the problems.

Food? Some good and some tres average. My SO had the sweet onion soup which she snarfed in zero time flat (it was good). I had a spinach salad which looked and tasted like it was put together by a 12 year old taking home ec in middle school. Just a boring agglomeration of spinach and mushroom slices and some uninteresting dressing. Entrees were better: flank steak for my SO and the duck confit (which was very very tasty) for me. Dessert was shared carrot cake which was good but they put bits of off-tasting freeze-dried (or some other odd prep) carrot bits around the cake (the cake did have the best cream cheese frosting I can remember).

Is it usual to get bald-faced lied to in restaurants? Is it usual to get menus without prices? Am I just a whiner who gets his undies in a knot because it's Friday nite in Davis Square and it takes 15 minutes to find a parking spot?

Gargoyles On the Square
219 Elm Street, Somerville, MA 02144

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  1. Drink menus without prices are common. Sounds like maybe they were trying to maximize tables? Either way, it seemed to spoil your meal.

    1. I've had some weird service issues at Gargoyle's as well (like buying a sake flight and watching them spill sake from one bottle into all the glasses, then spill the next into all the glasses sloppily... and then forgetting which glass was which). But the issues you're describing sound like very minor communication issues, nothing that would make me do anything more than shrug and ask for clarification.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Boston_Otter

        "Am I just a whiner who gets his undies in a knot because it's Friday nite in Davis Square and it takes 15 minutes to find a parking spot?"

        Um, yeah, I think you might be ;)

        I agree with Boston Otter, the issues you are describing were pretty minor and I certainly don't think I'd let them ruin a good meal. I mean, who really cares that they didn't seat your wife until you came in? So she waited a few minutes for you to arrive...and do you really know it was a 'bald faced lie" that they were setting up your table? Maybe they did have a specific table they were planning on for your reservation. Maybe they didn't *have to* use that table, but they did anyway, and so had to clean it up. Who knows? And who really cares?
        Yes, it would bug me that there weren't prices on the drink menu. And it is kind of a drag to have the onus put on YOU to get the prices. But again, not that big of a deal, in the scheme of things, and I do think there are other spots that don't list prices on your drink menu, even though it's annoying.

        Sounds like for the most part, your food and service was good though.

      2. At a fine-dining restaurant, nobody should expect to be seated with an incomplete party, ever. "Setting up a table" might be less than forthright, but easier than saying, "You know, everyone says that their dining companion is just parking the car, so rather than have you potentially tie up a two-top without ordering for an hour because you were fibbing about your DC's imminent arrival, we're going to deflect you with a white lie until they show."

        I like Gargoyles, but that dining room is really dark. I tend to end up in the bar most of the time.


        6 Replies
        1. re: MC Slim JB

          I've been to plenty of FDEs (Fine Dining Establishments) and, maybe my memory has been soiled by whining too much, but I really don't recall partial party seating to be a big issue for the house. Your mileage may vary.

          In any event, I think I can deal with a "I'm sorry, but we would prefer to only seat complete parties" statement rather than dealing with what can be generously described as a misstatement.

          Also, as I indicated, there were a lot of unoccupied tables at that time: they weren't operating with a shortage of seats.

          I'll gladly admit I am not much of a cocktail kind-of-guy, and so I usually don't even look at cocktail menus, but why is it a good idea for cocktail menus to NOT include prices? That just seems weird.

          1. re: hondodog

            Momentary availability of tables is not the point. It's good policy (from the restaurant's point of view) not to seat incomplete parties. I agree that there are different and possibly better ways to communicate this, but I still think customers need to appreciate why they might not be seated before their entire party is on the premises.

            I prefer that prices of drinks, specials, and the like be explicitly specified without my having to ask, but I've learned from hard experience to always ask when they're not.


            1. re: MC Slim JB

              I *fully* understand the we-don't-seat-until-the-entire-party-is-here thing. I've been to my fair share of restaurants that have such a policy and I do not begrudge them their priveledge in having such a policy.

              I fully *do not* understand the need to patronize customers by misleading them about the policy. I find it insulting that they think I can't "get it" if they had told me the truth. That was the rub.

              'Nuff said.

              BTW...the drink I did have, a Savoy Hotel Ricky, was quite nummy. I'll have to have it again...just not at Gargoyle's.

              1. re: hondodog

                It's your right to hold a grudge against a restaurant for a perceived injustice, and it's clear that what you interpreted as a "lie" ruined both your night and your opinion of Gargoyle's entirely. I've had exactly the same thing happen to me, and it didn't bother me one bit, because I give them the benefit of the doubt. Whatever works for you.

                1. re: Boston_Otter

                  what bostonotter said. whenever i'm asked about full party here? i simply say yes, he's parking and if they don't turn to seat me, i tell them i'd like to sit and presto chango they've led me to my seat. funny; G is a regular spot for us and pkg has never been an issue, what with the parking row directly behind and the large lot directly behind that, and the bank lot.

                  food and service are what make us regulars in the din. rm there. Loyal knowledgable authentically nice waitstaff and inventive robustly flavored foods in generous portions.

              2. re: MC Slim JB

                I don't really mind either way, it's their joint to run. It does irk me when some of my DCs are late and we're at a place that won't seat us, but my irritation is squarely at said DCs who are being rude jackasses by being late.

                Anyways, my experience has been that the better places have more often than not offered to seat the partial party w/o even being asked. I always feel weird when that happens, but hey, they're the one that brought it up. It's typically the more casual places that say that they won't seat w/o the whole party.

          2. Last night I had dinner at Russell House, and the server didn't mention prices when she listed the specials. So I asked. And she told me.

            1. Gotta say it sounds like you're indeed a bit of a whiner. There's plenty of horrible restaurant experiences out there, and it sounds like you had a pretty nice meal. Frankly not listing drink prices is a bit of a pet peeve of mine, but it only becomes a pet peeve if it's common. Maybe you should just get over relatively minor things (I mean, you were seated as soon as you joined your "SO" right?) and not let them ruin what, again, sounds like a pretty nice meal. Life's too short.

              1. Hmmm...I've been to many places where they won't seat you until your entire party is there, so what's the harm in that? If that's what set the tone for your evening, I'm sure everything went downhill in your eyes.

                As they say, if you have to ask for prices then you probably shouldn't be there..hahahaha!! But cripes it's only Somerville, so not sure why they don't have prices.. I'm sure the wait staff enjoys being asked a million times how much items are.

                1. Hondo, I think for whatever reason you did not like this place. It sounds like an overreaction.

                  That said, every time I have been to Gargoyle's, something about the place has rubbed me the wrong way, whether it be the attitude of the host, the server(s), the food...that I won't go back anymore - it is dead to me. (I also been there and seen a dish on the menu that caused my SO to comment EXACTLY as you did - like a 12 year old thought it up.)

                  I kept giving the restaurant another try mostly because of how well liked it is here. I have given up - it just doesn't agree with me for whatever reason. More for everyone else to enjoy.

                  Anyway, take a tip on parking - you need to slow down and relax - it's the secret to parking karma.

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: Bob Dobalina

                    that's how we feel about gargoyles too. the dishes typically have too much going on all at once and don't really hold up. their bar tending doesn't do a lot for me either.

                    i do like the burger & fries, which i think is a great deal.

                    1. re: autopi

                      Feel compelled to chime in after following this discussion to say: I love Gargoyles. Of all the restaurants in its price range in Cambridge-Somerville, it's the one I end up eating in most often. Reasonable prices, for one; and I've eaten for relatively cheap eating in the bar (which I prefer to the dining room) and getting making a meal out of a couple of appetizers. Fun, unpretentious atmosphere. Good to great drinks and bartending. And above all, creative, highly flavorful food that satisfies. To my mind and palate, it's just right for an upscale neighborhood bistro.

                    2. re: Bob Dobalina

                      "like a 12 year old thought it up"

                      I remember asking our waiter a while back what an item was and thought it was a strange thing to call it (can't remember what now) and he mentioned the chef liked calling stuff by the oddest name possible. It's a Jason Santos quirk. Sort of like the rock and roll brunch on Sunday...

                      The tuna poke is good and the duck confit is as well...

                        1. re: maillard

                          Yeah, it's still Disco Brunch. It's pretty minorly disco. A disco ball and the music being the only things that really go with the theme. I was thinking I'd see people in all-out leisure suits, but no such luck.

                          I'll echo a few others-- love the bar area, hate the dining room. The bar menu is a good value, the burger is always delicous, and Paul and his drinks (priced on paper or not) are fantastic.

                          One more thing- beware the new scary hand dryers in the bathroom. They're going to give some poor old chap a heart attack. Those who've been will know what I mean.

                        2. re: Spike

                          I went in once when they were doing a "state fair special" -- new menu items like salmon with a cotton-candy glaze and cracker-jack chicken -- and the waiter said something to the effect of "I wouldn't eat any of that stuff if I were you. I think the chef is just trying to be weird."

                          1. re: Boston_Otter

                            "I think the chef is just trying to be weird."
                            LOL...perfect description. He wasn't as wacky as I thought he'd be in Hell's Kitchen either...there are even wackier characters that have been on that show :-)

                      1. I remember the one time I got drinks there, the prices were listed on the bar menu (one price for normal and another price for way-too-big).

                        However, when I went to their website, it lacked information for the regular menu and bar menu prices! Only the Sunday brunch had prices. Seeing that (or wait, not seeing that), is enough to deter me from visiting a restaurant in the first place.


                        1. Since you raised the parking issue and how it directly related to the service from the host, I need to link back to one my my previous Gargoyles experiences, which still impresses me:


                          Mind you, I'm not a regular there by any means (2x a year or so), so there was no reason for the host to jump through hoops for us other than good hospitality.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: Chris VR

                            wow chris, that's aMAZing! you should send that into The Globe's sunday magazine feature- Tales from the City. it's o.k. that it was last yr or whatever. they often print good stories that didn't just take place. Last yr. they printed my story of another great service story- from an unexpected helper-

                            An Unlikely Ally

                            Last Wednesday we were savoring our weekly lunch at La Verdad Tacqueria, across the street from Fenway Park. A uniformed meter man came inside and asked the counter person if anyone had their car parked out front. Directed to speak to the manager, he disappeared into the main restaurant. As he was leaving, we asked what he was looking for and he explained that the parking regulations required that all cars parked on Lansdowne St. be moved 4 hours prior to every game. We exclaimed over his unusual and admirable considerateness and he responded that this was not his usual territory and he really would hate to see a hard working employee suffer from the regulation. A few minutes later, the Head Chef went tearing out of the restaurant to his car. He had been delayed beyond his normal shift end and the thoughtful meter man had just saved him a "Mandatory Ticket and Tow" totaling $175!!

                            La Verdad
                            1 Lansdowne St, Boston, MA 02215

                            1. re: opinionatedchef

                              Four hours prior to home games...home opener isn't until Friday.

                              1. re: rknrll

                                The poster said that it was an old story. From an old season., when the Red Sox actually won a game. I guess they probably will win one eventually this year.

                          2. We've moved a discussion of whether restaurants should seat incomplete parties to the Not About Food board at http://chowhound.chow.com:80/topics/7...