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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?

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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.

        http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

        6 Replies
        1. re: MC Slim JB

          <whine>
          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.
          </whine>

          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.

            http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

            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.