Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Tale of Two Restaurants- A Tragedy in Two Acts

Dateline: Memorial Day Weekend, 2012
Act 1
Location: Waterfront Restaurant, Newport Beach, CA

We come up on this chosen restaurant (name withheld to protect the guilty, but read Yelp for more information) around 7:30pm to see a line. After putting our names in, and told that it is about 40 minutes to seating, my three dining companions and I take a short walk and then retire to the bar area for a cocktail. The bar area is trashed with paper and appetizer detritus everywhere.  The server does a brush off of the coffee table and couch and takes our drink orders and brings us bread.  After 15 minutes, no drinks and we are being led to our table, which we assumed was on the patio facing the boats, which was our request. The first table offered was inside, we rejected it. The second table offered was on the alley side near where the restaurant staff brings out the garbage, also rejected. After much cajoling, we are seated dockside at a table with no lights and two place settings. Extra place settings are not brought until after the salad course is served.

I am a vegetarian, which proves difficult for me at specialty restaurants like steakhouses or seafood restaurants, like this one. I ask the waitress about options for me and she points towards the salads on the menu (traditional fall back for lazy chefs) or assures me that a pasta dish could be modified without seafood and with vegetables instead. I order the linguini vongole minus the vongole (clams in the shell) and a roasted beet and spinach salad.  All other first courses are brought out at the same time, but mine, which I had to wait an extra ten minutes for and remind two different server/runners about.  I am not even halfway through my salad and the main course is served. Much shuffling of plates ensues and I am presented with plain pasta (no promised garlic butter shallot sauce) and overcooked zucchini and broccoli on it. I have a dining companion taste it just to make sure that there is in fact no sauce.  There is none. I send it back for lack of flavor and color (I notice that carrots and red bell peppers are offered on other diners dishes) and assure them that they cannot fix this with an Alfredo sauce. I have salad only.

One of the braver dining companions complains to management about our treatment and several faux pas (including an unclean men's room) and we get my meal taken off and 25% discount on everything else. We did let them know that two of our dining companions are regulars at this and other locations and have never received such poor service. This is followed by a lame excuse about the holiday weekend. We are implored to return and try them again, I will if offered a coupon.

Act 2
Location: Arenas Road, Palm Springs, CA (The Next Night)

I am with my favorite dining companion at a restaurant I have been meaning to try for a while. It is a hole in the wall place that features pizza and other psuedo-italian fare. We are one of two couples on the front patio and the other couple already has their entree. There is a smattering of others inside.  We order our vegetarian entrees and notice a party of four has now joined the outdoor seating. While we have our cocktails, we notice them order and get their appetizers.  Next they get their pizza after we get assurances that our order is coming right up.  Five more times the waiter sashays through our area without bringing us our food and hand serving slices to the group of four. After noticing our displeasure, a comment and vague promise was made. ten more minutes goes by and no food. I get up and go over to the manager and waiter and cancel our orders and want the cocktail bill. Our drinks are comped and we storm out to have a sandwich at home.

Lovely weekend for restaurants!

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