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Nov 4, 2011 07:24 AM

Service in Baltimore: Get your act together!

The other night we decided to try dinner at Vino Rosina. We're pretty hesitant to go out anymore because it's such a crap shoot but we felt emboldened because of a universally great experience at Hamilton Tavern the previous week.

We were seated in the empty dining room by the host, who then promptly disappeared. Two servers passed by numerous times (and the open kitchen staff clearly saw us sitting there waiting) and we tried to get their attention but 5, 10, 15 minutes passed. Considering we were ready to drop a bunch of money we didn't feel like hooting and hollering to be acknowledged so we just got up and left.

Feeling deflated, the amount of money we were willing to spend on dinner plummeted so we decided to sit in the bar area at Chazz and get small plates and cocktails. The bartender immediately noticed us and came over to take our order. We ordered two cocktails (a fall martini and something like plum soda) and a couple of small plates. A few minutes later she came over with two fall martinis. We asked if that was two different drinks and she said that we ordered two fall martinis and two "club sodas." I can understand how plum soda might sound like club soda over the loud (mood-killing) rock music and even louder bar patrons, but what I don't understand is what happened next: My wife said, politely, "No, we ordered x & y" and the bartender looked flat at her and said "That's not what you said!" We were stunned. Then she looked at me and said "That's not what she said, RIGHT?!?" I was like "uhhh...."

Anyway, she rolled her eyes and huffily got the other drink, brought out the food, etc, but the night was dead. When she brought out the bill it only had the food on it, so we figured she was comping the drinks, which made us feel bad. I went to tell her that she didn't need to do that and that we would happily pay for what we ordered, but by then she was telling my wife that she had just "forgotten" to add the drinks to the bill and already had a corrected bill with all the items on it.

Come on Baltimore! Get it together! It's not like you can get by on your charm! Cash is tight and people don't want to go out and spend money just to be made to feel insignificant by the restaurant staff. I mean, that's two restaurants off our list of places to spend our money. The list is dwindling!

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  1. I'm not one bit surprised. Service in the DC Metro/ Baltimore region is typically bad, if not atrocious. I'm actually surprised when I go to a restaurant and experience good service.

    1 Reply
    1. re: socaldiner

      My experience has been completely the opposite. I dine out a lot and find service attentive, albeit a bit unsophisticated. Maybe a bit too attentive. I have no reason to knock B-more restos for service.

    2. It saddens me that you have experienced so many bad service dining out evenings. In fact, I was planning to dine out at Vino Rosia for the first time just before your commentary. There is no excuse for bad service. My hubby and I dine out rather frequently, and even at chain restaurants. We have mostly benefited from good to excellent service. Occassionally, subpar-but NEVER the rudeness that you experienced at Vino or at Chazz. At Chazz, perhaps you should have complained to the manager. But, like my hubby and I we don't like to engage in confrontations. We would prefer to just walk away.

      If I may suggest--a few options that are providing exceptionial service, not to mention food. Since you didn't seem to be consigned to a strict budget, these recommendations may or may not be in your dining budget, but are definitely worth while as far as service, food and atmosphere IMHO--Sotto Sopra--romantic atmosphere, great food and service-request Irena to be your server. she is so sweet and attentive--not to forget, that Ridcardo Bassio (owner/chef) is impassioned with his food and service.. He will oversee that you have an impeccable dinner and dining experience with attentive service.

      Oregon Grille--very pricey, but the elegant atmosphere, piano accompaniment--very good food (many Chowhounds will disagree me regards to food selection)--but ask for Tom (or any of thier servers). but, Tom is a genuine joy. He is so pleasant and accommodating. Truly one of Baltimore's best. He used to wait at Peerce's Plantation and was so excellent, unless one was a regular, it was difficult to have a request as his serving one's table. Bar none--the best.

      Jennifer at Milan is a truly professional with a soft edge of serving. Very laid back, but very attentive. If you make a return visit, she will remember your likes and present them to you upon your request. Post Haste.
      Go back. she is exceptional--the food is very good, but not groundbreaking--the restaurant has its own vibe vying to be trendy, etc.
      Molly (or any of the servers) at Fleming's. Molly is is a delight. She strives to please--almost like a well trained puppy. Also, Tiffany at Fleming's. Very astute with regards to food, beverage and temperment of the table atmosphere and pacing. But, any of the serving staff are very accommodating. Also, the entire managing staff is very professional and they oversee every little detail to make certain that you dinner is perfect.

      Very professional service has been delivered to us at Tio Pepe's. No slouches at that establishment.
      And, despite the more trendy cuisine, I still love the "old school" dining experience.

      For less then high end dining out--we have always been served promptly and expertly at the Olive Grove Restaurant in Linthicum. The chef has even taken a few elements of different dishes and combined them per my request to make a perfect "My Designed Dish." We have joked with the manager to name "
      "My Dish" after me. Don't suggest that my veal/eggplant breaded dish (instead of parmiagiana)--prepared it a'la scallopini-- oh my--scrumptious is a slouch. The tangy /buttery sauce--veal and eggplant "franchised." Oh and the mushrooms.

      Okay I got off course, sorry about that. Just continue on your dining expedition in the Baltimore and surrounding areas. You will eventually discover some wonderful dining out experiences. I'm certain that the other Chowhounds will insire you with their experiences and inputs. Great dining to you. FoiGras

      Even have been served promptly and professionaly at Ruby Tuesday's. and have been accommodated for one or so special preparation requests without hesitation. I love their rye bread croutons--and have been given a small carry out portion that the waiter prepared for me to take home.after I expressed my opinion that the chain should bos them and sell them for takeout as many chain restaurants have done with their various products.

      Cinahgale is not one of my places to truly recommend--was underwhelmed when I dined there about 2-1/3 years ago, but the service was, indeed, impeccable. I was a bit less impressed by the food, but would entertain the thought of returning.

      Of course, if you want to break the bank so to speak--there is always Charleston. At their prices there should be no excuse whatsoever for sub par food,, service atmosphere--in fact, only excellence. Anything less would be outrageously insulting.

      So, without futher ado, this my observation and list of recommendations based on your dissastisfaction with your recent dining our disasters. Please don't discount Baltimore and the surrounding counties as a dead end for great dining experiences.

      Oh, lest I forget--Prime Rib and Linwoods--both impeccable service, atmosphere and cuisine.

      May I preface this--I have been fortunate enough to dine at the finest restaurants across the country in every major city (but truth be told--not within the past 5 years or so--I realize that things change dramatically in the dining arena).
      With that being said, Baltimore may not (actually to be honest-NOT) on the cutting edge of trendy cuisine, but hold its own with some very stable, enticing, innovative dining establishments.

      There are a few that I've neglected to include, but I'm sure our Chowhounds will help you to change your course of decision and upcoming restaurant selections. As my hubby often reminds me (after perhaps being disappointed in an anticipated dining extravaganza that doesn't measure up)--"Sweetie--it's only a meal--we can always go grab a pizza at Poppa John's and toss away the doggie bag onn our way home." Hasn't yet materialized, thankfully.. But we have had some very disappointing dining out experiences -especially those at the higer end price point. Try again, don't give up on Baltimore's enticing dining scene. You'll find your mark. Best
      wishes. FoiGras

      Definitely, for a VERY ROMANTIC EVENING--dine at Elkridge Furnace Inn. Request Hillery for your waiter. Amazing! Both food-wise and atmosphere and perfect service.

      Also, King's Contrivance--impeccable service, lovely atmosphere--just one of the old school types of dining out--dress up a bit (but you don't have to do so)--The duck entree is succulent--my soft shell crabs were to die for. On subsequent visits--I ordered about 4 appetizers--fried oysters, pate (country style) and various other delectables. My eyes were certainly bigger then the stomach, but had lots of great snacks to nibble on once I got home and over the course of the evening managed to put a dent in the remaining leftovers.

      The Elkridge Furnace Inn
      5745 Furnace Avenue, Elkridge, MD 21075

      Olive Grove Restaurant
      705 N Hammonds Ferry Rd, Linthicum Heights, MD 21090

      6 Replies
      1. re: FoiGras

        I'm disappointed that someone has married one or two bad experiences at one or two restaurants to the overall level of service in our town.

        1. re: winegeek

          Oh please. I didn't just roll into town. Baltimore's trademark is inconsistency. I've had this annoying level of service or have flat out been ignored many times. I've also had many great experiences and don't hesitate to post about them - look at my past posts and see that I'm no negative nancy - but to have such blatantly crappy experiences at two places... in ONE NIGHT! was really annoying. I don't pay good money to be disrespected.

          1. re: kukubura

            I haven't found Baltimore service to be any more inconsistent than other cities I've dined in. I've had great and lousy service in Baltimore, DC, Philly, and New York among others.

            1. re: Hal Laurent

              Baltimore is a fine service town if you shop wisely. Fish rot from the head. We should only patronize places where owners maintain staff that want to please...the list of caring service staff is long and from fine to plebeian, the Foreman-Wolf places, Volt, Chameleon, Samos, Zorba's, Ikaros, Jennings, Pappas, Mr. Bill's, Costas, Jimmy's, As far as poseur joints with attitude like Vino Rosina--screw 'em.

              4710 Eastern Ave, Baltimore, MD 21224

              1. re: chowsearch

                I definitely agree with this. I also think that it's a Baltimore mentality to jump into projects without doing the hard initial groundwork. You see that mentality all the way up to major development projects. But lots of people think that a nicely renovated restaurant in an old spot is good to go but don't think to focus on the basics.

                But without a doubt there are places where you can almost certainly get great service. It's just that mediocre will often do just as well.

            2. re: kukubura

              Haven't been to Chazz, but I was at Vino Rosina recently and both the food and the service were very nice.