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What would you have done?

Mrs. Potato and I had to spend the past week in Des Moines so to pass the time, we spent yesterday at the Amana Colonies. We truly enjoyed most of our visit but lunch was a bitter disappointment. The restaurant we chose was one of the original buildings which started life as a communal kitchen. We eagerly looked forward to our meal considering that the building has been used for food service for over 150 years, which only increased our incredulity when the beef gravy was canned, the Schnitzel was frozen, and the Spaetzle was precooked and greasy. Our only relief was that we ordered the $13 lunch portions rather than the $16 dinner portions.
We finished our meal and payed the bill without a word to the staff, but what would you have done? Would you have expressed your disappointment to the staff?

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  1. Not if I was just there for a short while. Consider it part of the experience.

    1. Was the staff friendly and welcoming? Were the portions big? Then you got a midwest touristy experience.

      I'd do what you are doing -- Make the best of it, post your review on the Great Plains board, and warn other 'Hounds off.

      1. Sounds like a typical tourist trap! Nah, I wouldn't bother saying anything, happens to the best of us.

        1. That's too bad. I've eaten at several incarnations of the restaurants at the Shaker Village in Canterbury NH (I know it's not the same group). It's always been freshly-prepared food inspired by, or directly cooked from, the original Shaker recipes, and it's always been memorable in the best possible way. IMO, the meals served at historic sites should reflect what the inhabitants produced, prepared, and consumed. It's part of the reason for visiting these places. Otherwise they could just have a fast food franchise or snack bar.

          1. no.
            it's sort of what i expect to be served at a tourist destination in that part of the country.
            anything better would have been a wonderful surprise.

            1. I suspect the staff already knows they are serving up bad food. These places cater to quantity (by the bus load) not quality.

              I would not have said anything.

              And may I suggest posting your comments on the Great Plains board? You would be doing a service to others and perhaps the locals would include some better alternatives.

              1. My attitude to complaining is that I can only be arsed to do so if I thought there was even a remote possibility that the place would be responsive to such a comment. In my experience, it is rare in even non-touristy restaurants. Commenting to a touristy place is pointless - they know exactly what they are up.

                Now, dissing them on places like Chowhound or TripAdvisor is an entirely different manner and it satisfies my need to get things off my chest.

                1. We had a similar experience when visiting the Black Hills in South Dakota. Every place we went, the food was worse than the last place. Bison burgers that had been sitting in a steam tray until they became rock hard hockey pucks. No apologies for serving us something that you could break a tooth on.

                  We went to a steakhouse at a casino in Deadwood. Boxed mashed potatoes and canned green beans to accompany a thin, industrial-portion of gristly steak.

                  These places don't care about what they serve you. They must know how bad it is but they don't care. Just be glad you don't have to eat there again.

                  1. How do you know that the gravy was canned and the schnitzel was frozen? Was it prepared in front of you? Sounds yuck!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: josephnl

                      "How do you know that the gravy was canned and the schnitzel was frozen? Was it prepared in front of you? Sounds yuck!"

                      20 years experience as a truck driver eating in dives across the country along with a lifetime of cooking experience. The consistency of the gravy was too uniform and the taste was too familiar to be homemade. The breading on the Schnitzel was too firmly attached to the meat (I had veal, Mrs. Potato had chicken) and the meat was too uniformly tender (even veal has a touch of tendon here or there) to be hand made.
                      That particular Schnitzel and gravy can be found in any T.A. Truckstop restaurant being sold as "Chicken Fried Steak".

                    2. Hmm ... Des Moines ... an old commercial kitchen ... elementary school-level cuisine. Sorry, no surprise here. You took one for the team, folks,

                      15 Replies
                      1. re: Cheflambo

                        I hear the same complaints in PA Dutch Country about the not-so-authentic restaurant fare. When people ask about where to go for "real PA Dutch or Amish" cooking, I want to tell them to keep their expectations low.

                        1. re: cleobeach

                          a family trip to PA Lancaster Amish Dutch (Deutsche) Country as a kid had me laughing for years after.

                          my poor father, the 'gourmand' of the family was so disappointed at not finding anything to eat anywhere we sat was too much for me. he still mentions it in conversation if you even hint at mentioning PA...

                          1. re: Gastronomos

                            I remember some good shoo fly pie that my parents brought back for me......that's about it.

                            1. re: coll

                              Your poor father, he is certainly not alone in his disappointment. Even the mom and pop type places where I live rely on Sysco for the bulk of their menu items.

                            2. re: Gastronomos

                              We visited Lancaster a few years back on a previous trip to America. Had dinner in one of the "Amish" restaurants. Of course, it isnt run by Amish - I think such enterprises might offend against their faith. It was an OK evening - but not memorable food. Not memorable, at all. Except that, years later, I'm still recounting the experience.

                              1. re: Gastronomos

                                Ahhh, the yellow gravy. I remember it well. But definitely not fondly.

                              2. re: cleobeach

                                What exactly is Pa. Dutch if I may ask?My late mom ( iron chef scratch cook!) migrated out to California in the early 1940's with my dad from Des Moines, Iowa. I remember she always referred to the PA. Dutch and how many of her recipes and cooking were influenced by them. I did Google some PA. Dutch recipes but could not find much information about who they actually are. Do they exist?

                                1. re: MamasCooking

                                  Yes. PA Dutch cooking is possibly the strongest of the regional folk cooking that still survives in the US today.


                                  Strongly rooted in German cooking but with modifications over the years. My father's family comes out of the PA Dutch heritage (though a bit further west in Franklin County, Pennsylvania) and whenever I visit relatives in PA I see plenty of traditional PA Dutch food, particularly preserves, pies and baked goods, for sale in local markets.

                                    1. re: Roland Parker

                                      I never thought about the strength of the PA Dutch (actually German) regional influence but it makes sense. I know plenty of families that trace their roots back to the UK and Eastern Europe that assimilated quickly into the culture and one or two generations later, PA German was their first language and their grandmothers cooked (and talked) like mine.

                                      Once in a while I will have a good piece of ham that stirs fond memories but overall, it is in my opinion a rather bland cuisine. For example, my uncle considers garlic an exotic spice and forbids its inclusion in anything my aunt makes.

                                      I am not a dessert person and wouldn’t touch a whoopie pie or shoe fly pie with a ten foot pole. Mr. CB, on the other hand, loves nearly all PA Dutch dishes. I suspect that up to his family had better cooks than mine!

                                      1. re: cleobeach

                                        Ah the garlic thing... I basically sweat garlic like the good Italian (3rd generation) American that I am but my in-laws would think you are trying to poison them to mention it in the same room as the food you are eating. Completely offended some house guests of mine.

                                        1. re: melpy

                                          At least my relatives will gladly eat our cooking. I guess it falls under the ignorance is bliss. They would, however, have a heart attack if they saw what my husband puts in the mashed potatoes during the holidays.

                                        2. re: cleobeach

                                          The recipes my late mother referred to as being PA Dutch were a homemade butterscotch pie made with butter...brown sugar and heavy cream and served with fresh sweetened whipped cream. Also her hand made egg noodles served with sirloin beef tips and gravy and her fresh apple cake with walnuts. Those types of things. Why she called them PA Dutch when she was raised in Des Moines, Iowa and moved to Sausalito, California when she was 21 years old is beyond me:)I would never say her noodles were mushy but because they were home made they were very soft and tender.

                                          1. re: MamasCooking

                                            The noodles sound like PA Dutch noodles to me!

                                    2. re: cleobeach

                                      Overcooked, mushy, starchy... Must say, I was warned in advance, but didn't take them seriously! But it's funny to look back on now. After a couple disappointing attempts, we found a pretty decent Asian restaurant, as we couldn't take another meal like that. Never considered ourselves as having a "refined palate".

                                  1. You got crappy food at a tourist restaurant?
                                    Nooooooooooooooooooooo. Really?

                                    1. No. Amana, by the way, is a great refrigerator.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: beevod

                                        My 1979 Amana electric range (one of the earliest cooktops made) is still working and I hope it outlives me.
                                        My first microwave was also Amana, same year. At the time, they were the only ones known not to leak energy around the door gasket. It lasted over a decade.

                                      2. It has happened to all of us. I will not eat unappetizing food unless I am famished and there are no other food options available. I would have consumed whatever I could keep down...paid and rewarded myself with a food *splurge* later. As far as mentioning the poor quality of the meal to the staff that is always an option but you did write that you did finish your meal.

                                        1. Yes, I would have, nicely, in private to a manager. Even if it's part of their money making strategy - cheap crap at good margins sold to tourists who will never come back again - they should know that someone knows their food is crap.

                                          1. If they are truly serving canned crazy and frozen Schnitzel, I don't think they need it brought to their attention. They just don't care.

                                            Did you eat the food?

                                            5 Replies
                                            1. re: LeoLioness

                                              "canned crazy" is, I assume, an awesome auto-correct of "canned gravy"?

                                              1. re: cookie monster

                                                It would make a great screen name though, I'm thinking.....people would be afraid to argue with you!

                                                1. re: LeoLioness

                                                  Yeah, we ate it. The saving grace was knowing that back in the hotel room we had handmade chocolates from here;


                                                2. Yes, change this to the Great Plains board and maybe Amana colony will get the message that the word is out. But, hey, they make freezers. Expect everything to be frozen.

                                                  1. I probably wouldn't have said anything unless I was asked how I enjoyed the food...when that happens, all bets are off; I'm the direct and to the point type of person so that would be my cue to let them know how I feel about the food. This happened to my fiancé & I when we went to a place for the first and only time.

                                                    The food was horrible and service was worse. While we were paying on the way out, the cashier asked how was everything...I just couldn't hold my tongue (not my strong suit anyway) but I just told her how lousy the food & service was. If you don't wanna know, don't ask. There happened to be two other couples behind us paying also who voiced the same opinion I had. Not that it probably did any good but I let it out. We will never go back.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: Cherylptw

                                                      I'm guessing most restaurant staff know if they are preparing/serving crap.
                                                      The staff taking the $ is going to know from the customers.
                                                      Any sentient person knows something about the restaurant they are trying to get a job in.
                                                      Just watched a GR episode. Restaurant open for about 16 months. Twenty menu changes. Ten chefs. About twenty wait staff.
                                                      Apply for a job there and you know what you'll be preparing/serving. ****