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Oct 10, 2011 04:09 AM

Terrible disappointment last night...[Durham, NC]

This place is so inconsistent, I won't go back. From great food and service one night to sandy food and argumentative, lecturing waiter the next. It was actually kind of a nightmare last night. The first visit the waiter was knowledgeable, reserved, which I liked, but charming enough...the food was actually great and the mixed drinks as well. That waiter also acted as manager when I went for lunch, nothing special but I wasn't about to judge dinner again based on lunch. Imagine my disappointment when I went on a Sunday night and for half the dishes the food was poor and terrible, terrible service!
The waiter last night was unskilled, reading the specials off of his paper and recommended a terrible wine for my dishes- ok things that could be overlooked. Then the food started coming out- dry squash tarte with very little of redeeming value, as opposed to the tomato tarte they served the first time. I love squash but this did not work at all and seemed to be leftover from the night before. We also had the charcuterie plate- two pates and some small chips of spicy salami - hardly a charcuterie plate. Still, I was optimistic.
Then---the waitress assisting our waiter cleared our appetizer courses, on which I had left my silverware. She informed me "why don't you keep your silverware, we're um, out of it right now." Ok....Also, my daughter told her "I'm done," in response to her coming and I repeated what she said but she still left her plates there on the side of the table for the rest of the night. For the main course we had a very good steak that was served with dried out cauliflower, that again could have been roasted one or 2 days ago, and some pasta that seemed to have been baked - but was not supposed to be. The pasta had dried out large shrimp, sandy clams and something dried on top of the dry and hard linguini. Tasteless and sandy!
The waiter asked how the food was and I told him the pasta had sand in it. I didn't make a big deal out of it or ask to return it. He came back and proceeded to argue with me about how it must "just be in the clams." Excuse me, but it is the restaurant's fault for buying and serving sandy clams, not mine! He also argued with me about my comment that the other server had told me they had run out of silverware when clearly they had not. He explained and lectured me on how changing silverware was wasteful, but they would do it if the customer wanted. I again did not make a big deal out of it, but just listened. My daughter told me "that man told us to leave."This was not the case but in retrospect it certainly felt like it and I should have dealt with him differently, but was really just trying to relax and have the enjoyable meal I had the first time. I would expect that this quality of restaurant, with no tablecloth on which to put dirty silverware, would change the silverware on Sunday as well as Saturday nights! Further, I had pate on my fork and wanted a change for the other food! I was not argumentative at all with the waitstaff, and still tipped him 20%, only because I felt they were expecting me not to and I was still trying to leave feeling good about the experience. However, I am very disappointed with how it did not live up to our previous experience. I feel like the first experience was false advertising- and I am quite disappointed that I didn't have such a nice experience again. But who wants to risk that by going back again? Very very disappointed...a restaurant should have a lot more control over its wait staff training and the food it puts out.

Watt's Grocery
1116 Broad St Ste 100, Durham, NC 27705

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  1. Screeds like this always make me cringe, especially when most people who go to this restaurant come away satisfied. Instead of tipping 20% while keeping quiet, only to trash a place online later, why didn't you request to see a manager, and/or explain why a tip would be lower and why. Or alternatively, e-mail the restaurant - they are always very responsive. As it stands, it seems like your experience was a mix of legitimate complaints coupled with some failures of due diligence as to the composition of some dishes further coupled with being in an increasingly sour mood and expecting to be dissatisfied.

    2 Replies
    1. re: mikeh

      The reason why I didn't address this with the manager was because I was with my daughter having a celebration dinner. Why should I further ruin my night? And on the contrary, I was trying to stay upbeat about the experience - is that not clear from my post?
      I debated emailing the restaurant directly -but for what? I am reporting my experience, which was based on both bad food and bad service. Clearly the restaurant has policies that I don't agree with- reporting this directly to them won't help much. I was certainly expecting to be satisfied- that was why I went there!

      By the way, the manager was aware of the sandy pasta. I had not asked to have the dish removed, so that was entirely their generosity (it was inedible). The waiter talked to her apparently about the dish, and told me "So and so said we could take it off." Oh thank you! If this were Applebee's I'm not sure I would've been so thoroughly vetted. The manager did not come by after this. Do I really need to create a problem while I'm *trying* to having a nice dinner? I just wanted to get out of there at that point - there were a NUMBER of problems as I explained. Perhaps if everything else was lovely and the manager was not aware of the sand then I would've asked to speak with her.

      1. re: fara

        On a general note, I think it makes perfect sense to email a restaurant about policies that you disagree with. It's not as though the policy is government-mandated or that it's some huge chain. And even if a nice restaurant has a policy not to generally change out silverware between courses, they should definitely change out a piece on request without a second thought.

    2. "and still tipped him 20%, only because I felt they were expecting me not to and I was still trying to leave feeling good about the experience"

      I have SOOOO been there. Something is awful, and you complain, and then they imply that you are just interested in having it taken off the bill, and therefore cheap, and you want to prove them wrong with a good tip ....but then you bitterly regret not having stiffed them (and told them their children were ugly). I hope you have a great meal soon to get this taste out of your mouth !

      6 Replies
        1. re: fara

          I've been to Watts many times for dinner and it's been consistently very good. I'm sorry you had a bad experience there. If you contact restaurant directly, I'm confidant they'd make it right with you.

          I don't know how to remove the sand from clams, but a restaurant that serves them should know how.

          1. re: Tom from Raleigh

            You soak them in water with corn starch to purge sand. Even after doing this properly, I've ended up with occasional grit. Wild clams are sandier than farm raised clams as well, and there's a good chance watt's sourced wild clams.

            As far as the bad experience, I'm with Tom. Contact the restaurant and give them a chance to amend what sounded like a poor experience. Watt's is normally a good restaurant.

            1. re: veganhater


              How long do you soak the clams in corn starch and water? I know there's a risk on killing them if you leave them in tap water too long.

              1. re: Tom from Raleigh

                We usually add kosher salt(or un-iodized salt of any kind) and soak for 12 hours. You can change the water out to re-oxegenate, but the survival rate has been high without a water change. You can also use corn meal, although I find the clam flavor is slightly diminished versus corn starch.

                1. re: veganhater

                  We just soak ours in water for about an hour before cooking, changing the water out once during that time - seems to work pretty well. We have well water, so no chlorine, etc.

      1. Sounds like a nightmare of an evening. I feel for you. Nothing worse then looking forward to a wonderful dinner with friends and family and having to put up with that. I really would email them and explain what went on. This happened to me at a very fine(?) restaurant last winter, I emailed them when I got home and got a call the next day apologizing and offering to send me a GC for the amount of my dinner. Since I had no intention of going back I thanked her but refused the GC. Hopefully thinks might be better for the next person.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Mother of four

          I am going to Watt's Grocery this weekend. I will report back.

          Watt's Grocery
          1116 Broad St Ste 100, Durham, NC 27705

          1. re: Tom from Raleigh

            Hi TomFR, I am also wondering if they have the best service on Fri/Sat and my problem was because it was Sunday? Let us know..thanks

            1. re: Tom from Raleigh

              A group of 6 of us had an early reservation on last Saturday night. It was rock solid all around. The service was especially good. The manager recognized my 11 year-old son and remembered his name and even gave us a free app of mac and cheese, which was a great starter for the table. I got the chicken fried ribs (how could I not?). They'be been deboned and served with some slaw or something. I liked them for what they were. Most everyone else had the ribeye, so there was plenty of leftover ribeye to try. We agreed the ribeye was excellent. I passed on dessert.

              All in all, we had an excellent meal at Watts, even better than before.

          2. I used to go to Raleigh-Durham on business frequently. The first time I went to Watt's (2+ years back), it was wonderful. The next time, last fall, service was both pushy and neglectful. I literally had to get my own silver, after staring at my plate for 5+ minutes, having asked twice, but then having mains arrive on top on the just served apps... Food was forgettable, and I left sooooo dissappointed at how far it had fallen.

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