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Does anyone else find that the Uzbek places in Queens tend to be rude?

NicoleFriedman Aug 15, 2011 03:24 PM

I've found that I have gotten much much better service when going to these places with Russian speakers. However, when I've gone by myself, I often find myself ignored on one extreme and on the other, simply receiving surly service. The places I've received this kind of treatment include Grill Palace, Salut and Troyka among others in the neighborhood. By the way, I absolutely love the food at Grill Palace which is why I continue to return- I just wish the service would improve for non- Russians. Does anyone else feel this way? Also, I haven't tried many other Uzbek/Russian places because the outside of the establishments are so uninviting (drawn curtains/lack of posted menu, etc).
*On a similar note, what do you think can be done to improve this situation? I would hate to see my neighborhood that I grew up in become isolating; it should be the complete opposite.

63-42 108th St, Queens, NY 11375

Grill Palace
64-19 108th St, Queens, NY 11375

102-55 Queens Blvd, Queens, NY 11375

  1. EricMM Aug 16, 2011 08:29 AM

    The only Uzbek place I have gone to is Cheburachnaya. I have never been treated rudely there. I have found that it is actually busier at lunch, and most of the customers then are mixed...all ethnicities, not just Russian/ Bukharian. At dinner, the crowd seems more Russian and Bukharian. Sometimes the wait staff is Bukharian, and the English is limited, but they are still polite. However, I have also had Russian waitresses whose English is excellent, and they are not only polite, but very helpful.

    92-09 63rd Dr, Queens, NY 11374

    3 Replies
    1. re: EricMM
      AubWah Aug 16, 2011 02:29 PM

      What neighborhoods is this?

      1. re: AubWah
        Mike R. Aug 16, 2011 04:02 PM

        Rego (as in Real Good) Park and Forest Hills.

      2. re: EricMM
        NicoleFriedman Aug 18, 2011 06:20 PM

        I actually had a good experience there, but I was with a huge party of Ukranians so I can't really compare it to the other places I mentioned.

      3. johnk Aug 16, 2011 10:11 AM

        A ten spot in hand when you arrive might "improve this situation".....
        Normally works wonders!!

        3 Replies
        1. re: johnk
          janie Aug 17, 2011 08:51 AM

          what is it, llike Joe's stone crabs in Miami? Part of the charm is the rudeness, kind of like a Jewish deli when they slam your plate down in front of you, wouldn't have it any other way :)

          1. re: janie
            NicoleFriedman Aug 18, 2011 06:22 PM

            At Dick's I do find it charming because that's what they do:} I'd be more ok with the rudeness if they did it to everyone EQUALLY. If they're being rude to me because I'm not of a specific ethnicity or speak X language it's not charming to me.

          2. re: johnk
            NicoleFriedman Aug 18, 2011 06:21 PM

            You may be right but I just would rather not go to a place if I need to pay them upfront for proper treatment.

          3. b
            BigV Aug 17, 2011 03:30 PM

            I go to Salute once a month so I know what you are talking about. However, I see it as part of the experience of going. They aren't rude, they just aren't particularly warm and loving. I've been in there I don't know how many times- they don't know my name, but I do get a glimmer of recognition when I do and that's enough for me. I expect good food at reasonable prices and they never let me down. The rest- the minimal love in service and the colorful people who eat there- is part of the fun for me.

            22 Replies
            1. re: BigV
              Polecat Aug 17, 2011 06:36 PM

              I know what you mean, and it's all very well and good when you actually get seated and served. On a few occasions, both at Salute and Arzu, I didn't even get that far. One time, my wife and I stood near the entrance at Salute for about 10 minutes without getting so much as a nod, then seated ourselves, then still couldn't manage to flag down a server. We took the hint and split.

              During a solo visit to Arzu, the waitress actually disappeared into the kitchen for several minutes when I was trying to order, and I actually caught her peering out the door window to see if I was still there. It was so blatant, that I was actually laughing when I left. I don't take it personally, but it is a deterrent. When it occurs to me to hit up these places, I have to first think about whether I'm up to the hassle, ie what's Plan B in case I don't get served tonight. Perhaps the waitstaff is expecting outsiders to ask all sorts of stupid questions about the food, such as "does the lagman have a lot of trans fats?" and such, and they're just not in the mood for it. I could care less about being an outsider, or even being treated like one. That's part of the experience in a lot of my favorite Queens eateries. But I draw the line at having to fight or strategize just to get seated or to place a simple order.

              I concur with others' experiences at Cheburechnaya. Have never had any of the same problems with service that I've had at the other joints. In my one trip, thus far, to Grill Palace, whose menu strikes me as being more Israeli than Uzbek, the service was fine.


              Cafe Arzu
              101-05 Queens Blvd, Queens, NY 11375

              92-09 63rd Dr, Queens, NY 11374

              63-42 108th St, Queens, NY 11375

              Grill Palace
              64-19 108th St, Queens, NY 11375

              1. re: Polecat
                janie Aug 17, 2011 08:47 PM

                the owner of Grill Palace is a total uzbek, and owns a mini mansion in cord meyer, you know the ones where they kill the trees and pave over everything.....the food's ok, but the guy is such a blowhard that I can't go there--------cheburch is friendly enough, --hate to say it, but frankly, they want white people, and jewish people, israeli's ok, sephardic preferred, and american jews, ok, if you know what you want------anyone else, get ready for some stares, and other crap thrown your way............sorry but that's the way most of the places are, they run them like social clubs. --not restaurants "open to the public"..if you can handle that, then fine, but if you're expecting them to change or accomodate you, uhhhh, it ain't gonna happen...and it's not just their restaurant etiquette, it's part of the whole Uzbek culture. The exceptions are unusual.

                1. re: janie
                  EricMM Aug 18, 2011 08:16 AM

                  Cheb is definitely different in that regard. Especially at lunch time, the crowds are definitely multi-ethnic....and not just white. I have been to Cheb with a mixed crowd and we were all treated quite well. However, all the other experiences mentioned tie in well with most of mine at the other Russian/Uzbek food related businesses. When I go into some of them, I am either completely ignored or hounded if I don't buy something.

                  1. re: EricMM
                    janie Aug 18, 2011 09:20 AM

                    I don't live in Rego Park anymore, but when I did, what made me stop going to many of the russian (uzbek) stores is that besides the ignoring and surly service, they simply don't say thank you when you pay, and that just pissed me off too many times, that I finally let one of the places on 64th Road know, how completely rude it was,--I felt so much better after I told them off. And by the way, they were just as rude to my Israeli next door neighbor also. She eventually told them off too.

                    1. re: janie
                      EricMM Aug 19, 2011 10:13 AM

                      Interestingly enough, it appears to be mainly food places that are like this, the Russian ones as well as Bukharian ones. In other businesses, the attitude is different. My optometrist is Bukharian, and they always treat me very well. Same with several other businesses..the shoe repair shop, the liquor shop, some of the pharmacies. But food shops? Forget it.

                      1. re: EricMM
                        UnitedNationsOfFood Sep 17, 2011 08:32 AM

                        I completely agree: every Bukharian I've met in another context (mostly barbers/hairdressers) has been warm and wonderful. I don't know what the deal is with the restaurants, though the people at Baron Kebab were pretty friendly when we went there. I love the food at Tandoori (not to be confused with a nearby Indian joint with a similar name), but the servers definitely weren't warm there, despite the fact that we ordered in Russian...

                        Tandoori Bukharian Bakery
                        99-04 63rd Rd, Queens, NY 11374

                        Baron Kebab
                        97-26 63rd Rd, Queens, NY 11374

                  2. re: janie
                    thegforceny Aug 18, 2011 01:10 PM

                    "...they want white people..." "...just their restaurant etiquette..."

                    Oh, now I get it: racism is just an endearing little quirk and we all should get over it.

                    I wouldn't set foot in a place like this.

                    1. re: janie
                      NicoleFriedman Aug 18, 2011 06:26 PM

                      That may be part of their culture but that doesn't make it acceptable when you come to a foreign country and open up a restaurant to the public. Our country has anti-discrimination laws for a reason. I'm actually curious if there have been any lawsuits against any of these places. I'm sorry but I'm still shocked when I confront such blatant discrimination- and I know of country clubs that are "white only" but knowing about it and seeing it in action are two different things.

                    2. re: Polecat
                      NicoleFriedman Aug 18, 2011 06:30 PM

                      I'm trying to understand why you would put up with this? I've experienced rude service but I've always been served. If a waitress pulled that on me, I'd ask for the manager and then threaten to call the BBB... and do it. If you want to open a restaurant only for "your kind" you should go back to the 1950s. Am I the only one who thinks this is insane?

                      1. re: NicoleFriedman
                        janie Aug 18, 2011 07:44 PM

                        As I said, they don't care what you think, and whoever misquoted me above, I said, it's not only their restaurant etiquette, it's part of their culture, and yes, it is instiitutionalized if you want to call it that........but, again, they don't care. The same way, they don't care if they buy the house next to your lovely house from 1920, knock it down, erect a house too big for the property, extend to the sidewalk, get rid of all landscaping, and fence their mini mansion in.....like I said, I've had the unforunate experience of actually having several conversations with the owner of one of the establishments discussed as their kid went to the same program as my kid did at one time, and I talked about all this stuff with him, and he blatently told me,. that he believed in private property both in homes and businesses in a sense, and he could do whatever he wanted--he did not care to be respectiful to something that existed before him, or follow anyone else's rules---he insisted that this is why people from his community stick together and buy from each other's business, build homes in the same area, etc. etc............he made it very clear to me, that outsiders from the uzbek culture were not generally welcomed or appreciated in the way that any customer would expect to be by any race or culture....................like I said, I don't go to these places anymore, because they turned me off so much.........I was glad to be out of that neighborhood........................I was just trying to explain it for others not familar.......

                        1. re: NicoleFriedman
                          el jefe Aug 19, 2011 10:43 AM

                          Maybe Polecat's experience at Arzu was so "obvious" because there was someone else the waitress was trying to avoid? I've been there and was served, although perfunctorily. Otherwise, I don't really see any discrimination going on. If any of these restaurants really wanted to keep non-Russian speakers out, they just wouldn't translate their Cyrillic menu.

                          If the waitstaff doesn't want to chat and joke with me, that's their loss. Nor does it upset me that they may spend more time with customers that they have more in common with. That's their business and there's nothing wrong with it. Those customers are friends, relatives, and neighbors, not to mention customers who represent repeat business.

                          I've been to Cheburichnaya 7 or 8 times and have never been treated poorly, despite never being in the company of a Russian speaker. Registan on 108th Street, while maybe uninviting-looking because of the closed curtains, is extremely friendly. I went with a big group and the waiter was happy to explain each dish to those unfamiliar with the cuisine. I haven't yet been to Stix, the new place next to Arzu, but it's always full with young families. they have an English menu posted in their big window.

                          I've been several Chinese restaurants in Flushing that didn't appear happy to have me. At one Chinese-Korean restaurant I was with a group that included a native Mandarin speaker. The manager asked us to leave. It took a lot of convincing to get her to change her mind. I've never had that experience at an Uzbek restaurant.

                          I've lived in Rego Park and Forest Hills for most of the last 45 years. I agree with most of Janie's cultural observations below, although I disagree with her attitude -- they can do what they want and tear down houses and build as big as they want as long as they don't break any laws. I don't see how this is any different than what happens in Flushing, Borough Park, and Lancaster PA.

                          To keep this on topic and "about the food", imho, of the places I've tried, Registan has the best food and the biggest variety.

                          92-09 63rd Dr, Queens, NY 11374

                          6447 108th St, Queens, NY 11375

                          1. re: el jefe
                            janie Aug 19, 2011 01:26 PM

                            wow, stop misquoting me, I didn't say "they can do what they want and tear down houses and build as big as they want as long as they don't break any laws"---what I said was "they do that, and they don't care. "--I didn't say anything about breaking laws. Zoning law that have been fought for now have to be followed but the earlier places are grandfathered in..but regardless I didn't even mention the legality of anything they do, I just said, they don't care what anyone thinks about anything they do. Their arrogance is unfortunately not withins the enforcement of any agency :)...as far as what they do in building construction, there are many complaints that frankly have not been dealt with either, they manage to skirt by a lot on all sort of things that actually do have a legal basis...if you knew anything about how the houses are actually paid for in cash, then we would be onto a whole other ethics debate..but, let's stick to the food, and please don't misquote me. Like I said, they're known for their rudeness, I've experienced it multiple times so, have many others, I lived in that area for many many years, and I don't find it charming at all, I was just making a joke earlier, and trying to equate those who want to put up with it, to find some parellel to gruff waitresses in Jewish deli's...but, anyway----yeah, Chech seems to be the best of the bunch, but take it as it goes, but can you police a restaurant's manners? I think not, and yes, there have been simliar complaints at other places in Flushing, etc..where outsiders aren't necessarily greeted with warmth...I like a friendly, appreciative place, and good service--especially in this economy when going out to eat is less frequent.

                            1. re: janie
                              thegforceny Aug 19, 2011 02:12 PM

                              But denying service to anyone except for "whites" IS within the enforcement of an agency.

                              1. re: thegforceny
                                janie Aug 19, 2011 06:00 PM

                                I don't think they are blatently coming out and telling people of color, don't eat here, or having them order and not serve them, they just like to give the evil eye to ALOT of people that just aren't like them, and that includes asians, hispanic, white americans, blacks, etc--if you happen to be black, and it happens to you, then yeah, you're going to feel more targeted I would think based on a historical precedent for segregation,...yes, the civil rights act does technically prohibits public establishments from discriminating on the basis of race, religion and other specified categories--and individual states have even added to that by including marital status or sexual preference, --funny thing is there's a loophole in there, and some restaurants have taken to banning children under age 6 or whatever age they deem,--they don't seem to have the same rights...though.......hmmmm....
                                maybe a group of blacks, hispanics and asians, should plan some group dinners at all the Uzbek places all over Rego Park, to piss them off, take some video, send it to shame on you--------------like I said, they're just not friendly people, overall. I'm not saying they are all like that, but the majority that I have encountered are, and I'm in their tribe, baby..........:)

                                1. re: janie
                                  JFores Sep 3, 2011 05:36 AM

                                  Guys, this is former Soviet service. We're talking an alternate universe where it is acceptable to whistle loudly at or hail down your waitress like a taxi. Warm service only seeps out of Russian speaking places after you become a regular (I go to a lot of Russian speaking restaurants, bars and clubs. The only restaurant I go to often that welcomes me and treats me particularly well is Cafe Kashkar. To everyone else I'm just some kid that orders in English.)

                                  The weird thing about this is that I generally find the Central Asian places to be a lot warmer (if they have Central Asian servers at least.) Cheburechnaya can be a bit clinical, but I've never had particularly bad service at any of the Uzbek places in NYC. Russian and Ukrainian places are a different story. They don't want to keep out all foreigners, but the staff at a lot of these places doesn't speak all that much English (waitstaff at Russian places in NYC is a world of female J-1s.) As customers, we are a bit of a hassle to deal with.

                                  As a demographic (in the eyes of the staff) we're just unknowing outsiders who may dislike everything that's put in front of us and then toss some stuck up Yelp review up in which we rip a place to shreds when in reality we've never had that cuisine before and just don't like it. Our tipping habits are better, but it's also pretty much acknowledged that we'll leave one. Russian speaking customers have to be schmoozed far more. Random Russian guys that are magically getting better service probably eat there a lot more than you.

                                  It's normal. Learn how to say "Can I have..." in Russian. There's not much more you can do.

                                  1. re: JFores
                                    driggs Sep 6, 2011 08:36 AM

                                    Well said.

                                    There was a brief thread called something like "What annoys you about chowhound", well recently complaining about non standard service in non standard restaurants makes my list.

                                    If you are expecting western service, stick with western places. If you go to Eastern European places expecting to always be warmly received you will be disappointed. As I wrote below, If I want to eat in these places I am aggressive; I don't mind grabbing a waiter, or marching up and getting my own menu or even placing my own order if no one comes to me.

                                    I have never seen outright denial of service based on race, religion, etc. Some folks, who speak the language, personally know the owners get treated better. Not surprising.

                                    If that treatment is going on then its simply illegal and needs to be addressed on something other than a food forum.

                                    I remember a small polish place back when I moved to NY that had a typo in the menu, saying "We maintained the right to sear our customers" Sometimes it felt like they would!

                            2. re: el jefe
                              Polecat Aug 19, 2011 02:29 PM

                              I honestly think it's more about behavior when it happens and less a concerted or conspiratorial effort. Whether it's in Rego or in some ultra-hip joint like M. Wells, snooty service is just that. Speculating on motives, no matter how obvious they seem, can be sticky business.

                              Interesting that you mention the nice service at Registan. That space has changed names and hands quite a bit. Years ago, when they were known briefly as Beautiful Bukhara, I went once, had wonderful service, and some terrific salmon kebabs. Perhaps the kitchen and waitstaff have remained the same.


                              6447 108th St, Queens, NY 11375

                            3. re: NicoleFriedman
                              Bob Martinez Aug 19, 2011 11:28 AM

                              I agree completely. I never consider rudeness "charming."

                              1. re: Bob Martinez
                                bobjbkln Aug 20, 2011 06:38 PM

                                I think there is a difference between "gruffness" and rudeness. Gruffness (Katz' table service, old time Luger's) can sometimes be charming. Rudeness never is.

                                1. re: bobjbkln
                                  janie Aug 20, 2011 06:55 PM

                                  the uzbek's win on both, gruffness and rudeness, how's that? new word, "grudeness"

                                  1. re: janie
                                    driggs Sep 1, 2011 09:48 AM

                                    Yes the service is rude/gruff whatever. The way I deal with it is just be aggressive and polite back. Seat myself if need be, walk up to counter grab a menu and if they still don't come go back with my order. All while smiling and being polite. It always work and in half the cases they end up being friendly. When in Rome.....

                                    The few times I was initially given the cold shoulder that is what I did and it worked.

                                    I just don't find the food that great....

                            4. re: Polecat
                              birdsandtogs Jan 19, 2012 04:20 PM

                              I went to Salute last month and I had a wonderful waitress. I even told my friends beforehand to expect some gruffiness from the waitstaff but she was so pleasant. She was very patient, explained to my friends what were her recommendations, gave us extra napkins, etc. Very nice.

                              I'm crossing my fingers next time that she waits on my table the next time I go.

                          2. Ike Jan 19, 2012 11:20 AM

                            I don't know about Queens, but if you want very good Uzbek in Brooklyn with decent service, then try Nargis Cafe. On my first visit, I went with a Russian speaker and got good service. The second visit, without a Russian speaker, they were maybe a little bit frostier, but still pretty OK by Eastern European/Russian standards. Popular place in that neighborhood. I was a little bit disappointed in the plov (I guess I prefer a different style of plov, like the one that existed for a hot minute at the long-gone Roosevelt food court in Flushing), but everything else was yummy.

                            It may not be a fair comparison since I haven't been to Cheburechnaya in a few years, but Nargis is way better than Cheb based on my experiences.

                            Nargis Cafe
                            2818 Coney Island Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11235

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: Ike
                              el jefe Jan 19, 2012 11:19 PM

                              I've heard good things about Nargis Cafe too, and they may well have "decent" service or "pretty OK by Eastern European/Russian standards". I'm not a huge fan of Uzbek food but I've been to Registan on 108th Street in Forest Hills several times and their service is excellent by anyone's standards.

                              6447 108th St, Queens, NY 11375

                              1. re: Ike
                                missmasala Jan 20, 2012 09:47 AM

                                Does Nargis have sweetbread skewers? These are the only things that would take me back to Cheb when now there are so many good places in Brooklyn. But I have yet to find a Brooklyn place with the sweekbreads. didn't see them on the Nargis menu, but thought maybe they might have them on a specials board or something.

                                1. re: missmasala
                                  Ike Jan 20, 2012 02:09 PM

                                  There were no specials as far as I could see. I don't recall anything like sweetbread skewers. I could have missed them easily though.

                              2. f
                                ForestHillsFresser Jan 20, 2012 06:02 AM

                                I live down the street from Grill Palace. I went once and walked out after being completely ignored for 10 minutes. It wasn't crowded, waitresses were standing at the waitress station chatting. I wasn't even brought a menu. I will not return. It's not just the restaurants. I am routinely ignored in some of the Uzbek/Russian deli/groceries on 108th St. I had one encounter there were the guy behind the counter asked me a question in Russian, I said I didn't understand, so he switched to English. The guy in line behind me actually said to me "you don't belong here." I told him I was born in the hospital 4 blocks away, and that I most certainly belonged here. It pains me that my neighborhood has become so rude, but I suspect this will change over time as other ethnic groups move into the area.

                                Grill Palace
                                64-19 108th St, Queens, NY 11375

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