Monday, November 29, 2010

May I Take Your Order?

We don't go out to eat very often, so when we do, I want to have a good time.  I want the food to be tasty, the atmosphere to be fun and the service to be good.   A local morning show recently had listeners call in with what they consider "deal breakers", or experiences that would keep them from going back to a particular restaurant.  I didn't call in, but here are some experiences that were deal breakers for me.

Waiting Too Long To Be Seated -  There is a restaurant a few miles out of town that makes great fish and chips and killer Long Islands, so it's usually our first choice for dining out without going very far from home.  Once, when my niece was visiting my parents, we all decided to go there for dinner.  It was a Friday evening and it was pretty crowded, so we were prepared to wait for a table.  There is no real waiting area, so we stood near the door.  The owner's wife had a problem with this and told us to "quit blockin' that door!".  We asked if we could get a chair for my dad to sit in because he has back problems and can't stand for very long.  The answer was no.  We asked if he could sit at the bar and wait.  Again, no.  We asked how much longer we could expect to wait for a table.  The owner's wife said "How in the hell do you expect me to seat seven people on a Friday night?"  We left. 

Waiting Too Long For Food - We had dinner in a restaurant while on vacation in North Carolina.  We were seated almost immediately and our order was taken right away, but after that, it was a long wait.  We asked our server about it several times and the response was always the same, "Not much longer".  After nearly an hour, our meals were finally brought to the table, for the most part, cold.  The manager came by to explain the delay.  The restaurant was out of bread, and because I had ordered a club sandwich, he had to drive to the nearest store, choose a loaf of bread, stand in line, drive back and then have the kitchen make my sandwich.  He seemed rather put out by the whole ordeal.  I couldn't understand why they didn't just ask me to order something else!

Bad Food - This has happened so many times, it's hard to narrow it down to just a few experiences.  There was the place that served us chicken sandwich that were still raw in the center, the Italian Ristorante where my Alfredo sauce was rancid, the Chinese restaurant where the lobster sauce looked, smelled and tasted like low tide, the seafood joint where the drinks tasted like antibacterial cleaning fluid......I could go on and on.....

Bad Service - Another all too frequent experience.  You know how it goes, you get the wrong food or it hasn't been prepared the way you specified (rare instead of medium, fried instead of baked, Italian instead of Ranch, etc.) and the server is rude when you ask him/her about it.

Overly Friendly Service - Pleasant and conversational is great, but there is such as thing as being overly friendly.  We had dinner at a Jamaican restaurant on a slow evening.  Because she had no other tables to wait on, our server pulled up a chair and sat with us while we ate.  We heard all about her multiple ex-husbands.  It was awkward.

Disappointing Atmosphere - We had a gift certificate to an Inn in Canada.  When we checked in, we were told to dress for dinner as their bistro was very high-end.  After being seated, we noticed that Mr. Willoughby was the only man in the dining room wearing a jacket and tie and I was the only woman in the room wearing a dress.  The favored attire seemed to be sweat suits because most of the other diners were wearing them.  Still, we wanted to have a nice dinner so we asked for a bottle of local wine.  A bus boy dropped it off at our table, so we waited for a server or sommelier to come by and open it.  When neither did, we asked the bus boy if he could bring us a cork screw.  "No need, I can do it for you", he said while he unscrewed the top.

Dirty, Dirty, Dirty -  From lipstick on the cups and glasses to food encrusted utensils, dirty restaurants are a real deal breaker for me.  If my sleeve is stuck to a puddle of syrup that hasn't been cleaned from the table, how can I enjoy my food?  And how clean do they keep the kitchen?  I don't have a lot of experience with this category because if a restaurant is dirty, we don't eat there.

Assorted Objects In The Food - I should probably skip this category.  After all, you probably don't want to know about the scrap of hand written shopping list I found at the bottom of my macaroni and cheese or the fish bone Mr. Willoughby found in his pulled pork sandwich.  The hair in my sandwich is too gross to think about and........I should stop now.

How about you?  Got a good deal breaker story?  Do tell!



Purple Flowers said...

I hope you've had as many good experiences as you've had bad ones. I have to admit, some of them were quite funny.

Matty said...

I'm curious about which restaurant in NC. I think I told you that we go there almost every summer.

I don't mind an off center server if the place is nice and the food is good. We had one such server recently at a real nice small, cozy place in Pittsburgh. She needed help with her "people" skills, but otherwise not a deal breaker. The only real deal breaker for me would be the quality of the food. If it's to my liking, I will overlook the other things.

5thsister said...

I am grateful that in NC there is a grading system. The restaurant is required to post their score, in plain site. Anything below a 95 is a no go for me. You have to really be really bad to get points taken off from 100. Also, if they go to "sanitary school" they get an automatic 2 points added to their score whether they improved or not! So 95 or less is my deal breaker.

Jenny said...

I am howling at your post here.

This was sooooo funny. I think we've all been there but the "How the Mozambique do you expect me to seat 7 people on a Friday night" won the award for me!

Really, really funny.

Thanks for the smile.

Jenn Erickson said...

Great list! I totally agree with all of them, and can sadly say that I've experienced them all. I think it probably took my little brother at least 10 years to order refried beans again after he was served a batch full of pebbles. He was little when it happened and got it in his head that all refried beans came with rocks!

Nezzy said...

Ya'll know what a clean freak I am. I visit the restroom and judge a restaurant by the condition it's in. If it not up to par...I take my hunger elsewhere.

So sorry ya'll had such a bad experience but it sure made for some good blog fodder...and laughter. Baby, I'm cryin' and holdin' my sides here!!!

God bless ya and have an incredible day girl!

lisleman said...

Jamaican restaurant - that story is the best.

I guess you don't care for the "greasy spoon" type of place. I certainly don't want to get sick but if the food is tasty I prefer diner type places.

I posted about an Applebee experience

Donna-FFW said...

IN a restaurant in Chinatown, NYC, while on a date with the future FFH, we found a dead roach in the cold sesame noodles.

My God,, I shudder to this day thinking of it.

Joanna Jenkins said...

We have a restaurant grading system in Los Angeles too and I was so happy when they put that into place so I totally agree, dirty, dirty, dirty is a definite deal breaker for me.

I was a waitress for a lot of years so I try to give the staff a break but rude and lazy waiters are a deal breaker and so is waiting for a table, especially if I have a reservation.

We were at an expensive steak house once-- waiting in front of an empty table right next too the door (and it was freezing out.) About 12 other people were waiting too, all near/around the empty table. A full 30 minutes after standing in front of the table, which was also directly opposite the hostess stand, the hostess told us our "table was ready". Yep, it was the one we'd been standing in front of with all the other people. Grrrrr!

And, no, we did not dine at that table or that restaurant.

Cheers, jj

ChristineM said...

I have two!

I can't decide between the time we waited a half hour to be seated, then forty minutes for our waitress to mosey on over (thankfully we were near the bar), then she disappeared for another twenty minutes...the hostess was useless, but finally spoke to the waitress who then pulls up a chair, sits down and starts to cry, telling us how her daughter didn't show up for work and she was trying to cover her tables in addition to her own.

The other was at a beautiful, trendy, well-rated Italian restaurant in NH - my husband order a steak, they talked him into the "special" which was basically a $40, 4" thick hunk of beef...raw in the middle. He says "Excuse me, I ordered this well-done...I really just wanted the plain sirloin" Waitress responds, "Well, if you take it home and cook it some more you might like it more." (I'm serious...not making that up!)

My Farmhouse Kitchen said...

this was too funny...and i hear ya sister...sounds like our luck here...we don't go out very often either...but we were 2 time losers last week. First night we tried italian... we ordered...she plunked down some burnt pieces of bread knots in a basket and a bowl of vegetable oil ( i think they thought it was olive wasn't) and we waited...finally someone comes and asks if we want to order a drink, o.k. mr. farmhouse gets a beer and mrs. farmhouse orders a glass of wine. the cheapest by the glas was 10 bucks. geezzzz o well, so i order it a HUGE fishbowl of a glass...with MAYBE 1/2 cup of wine in the bottom. oh, yeah, i think i see it. 2 sips and gone..we ordered was what they were "famous" for. we would have been better off at Pizza Hut.

next night we try again. let's try japanese. we get there. order. mrs. farmhouse's comes out in under 30 seconds. piping hot tempura. mr. farmhouse. nothing. we wait. over 20 minutes. we finally told the manager we are leaving..oh no..please..the chef is having a bad night..we walked out. without paying a dime.

we haven't been out since. i told john on night number 3..we were going to my farmhouse kitchen for dinner...and it was good