Anachostic

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Tag Archives: dining

A Little Bit Of Tim Taylor In The Kitchen

Thanksgiving is almost here and that means it’s time for cooking.  I believe I probably think like most guys in that in order to do something properly, you have to have the right tools.  If you don’t exactly know what the right tools are, it’s best to just have all the tools.

And so, in this year, I’ve been building up my kitchen tool chest.  I pitched my ad-hoc cookware and bought a brand new starter set of pots and pans.  Then I augmented that set with a couple more small pots, for flexibility of course.  And last night, I saw two more pieces from the same model line (in the same color, too!).  I hadn’t ever seen them before, and I wasn’t entirely sure I would ever see them again, so I picked them up.  Now I own a stock pot and a deep sauté pan.  Will I ever use them?  Better to have and not need than need and not have.  Clearly, a man composed that line.

That’s not the only thing I’ve done in my tool refresh.  I pitched my dinnerware and bought all new, matching pieces, including things I shouldn’t need, like a serving bowl, a platter, and a gravy boat.  And although my meals are typically for one, I have 4 large plates, 4 small plates, 4 bowls, 2 additional large bowls, and 2 more additional small bowls.  I like soup and salad, but still, that might be pushing it.  I have the additional plates and such in case I have guests.  ha ha ha ha

I also swapped out my flatware.  Just because.  The old set was over 10 years old, and a change was needed.  Also, more knives.  I have two carving sets.  I have multiple whisks, multiple peelers, multiple strainers, multiple cutting boards, multiple crock pots, and more wooden utensils than I can use in a week.  More mixing bowls than I expect to realistically use, but they’re in all different sizes, so I will have the perfect size bowl for whatever it is I plan to do.  You need to have the right size tool for the job, right?

Last night, when I picked up the most recent pot and pan, I made the joke that I was a “completist”.  But then I looked up the definition, which is: “an obsessive, typically indiscriminate, collector or fan of something.”  That doesn’t sound fair.  It’s not an obsession, nor is it indiscriminate for me.  For one, it’s opportunistic. (This also applies to my CD collecting.)  Also, my purchases serve a purpose.  I’m not exactly acquiring these things for the sole purpose of having them.  I do intend to use them when there is a legitimate need.  I just need to create that need.

Service Standards

It’s a new month, so I need to keep my post stats active every month – here goes nothing.  This is something I’ve mulled over for some time, but never gave it much internal analysis until recently.

Restaurant kiosks are starting to proliferate.  My reaction to them ranges from indifferent to disgust.  The first kiosk on the scene was at Chilis.  And at this place, I am indifferent to the presence of the checkout device.  I use it without any issue and I’m out.  Next up was Olive Garden.  This one irks me.  I try to pay for my meals through the waitress, and if I’m made to pay through the device, I always leave a comment that I hate using it.  The most recent arrival is at McDonalds.  This one really irritates me.  After a few interactions with these huge devices, I gave thought to my feelings.  Why do I not mind kiosks at Chilis, dislike them at Olive Garden, and hate them at McD’s?

In the Chilis/OG setup, I know that I disliked OG’s more because it cheapened the dining experience.  Go ahead and laugh that I think OG is a “dining experience”.  But it is a full service restaurant.  So is Chilis, but the atmosphere at Chilis is definitely less formal.  Go ahead and laugh that I think OG is “formal”.  Whatever.

So if I don’t mind that Chilis is informal and has kiosks, then why do I have an issue at McDs?  It sure isn’t more formal than Chilis.  I gave it a lot of thought and this is what I came up with.

At McDs, a part of my satisfaction of the meal is the service.  You can laugh and say that’s a pretty low hurdle, and you’re right.  And you’d be surprised how often it isn’t met.  Or maybe you wouldn’t.  But when it’s good, it makes things pretty awesome.  Think of it like a shitty baseball team.  You want them to win.  You know it’s a long shot – a really long shot.  But when they put up a good fight and still lose, you can still have some pride.  You know they really tried.  They’re just not good.  Doesn’t that sound like your typical McDs experience?

Oh wait, I had a better example that explains how I feel about this.  Imagine a band playing at a concert.  There’s an awesome song you want to hear because it has this really technical, difficult part in it.  Even if the band messes up the part, it’s still great.  You know they can do it (because they did it before, when they recorded the album), so you give them a pass.  Maybe they mess it up at every concert you go to, but you still love them for trying it.

Now imagine the band determines that they just can’t play the song like they did in the studio, so they decide to cut out that section.  They just don’t play it.  Yay, no more mistakes.  But you get no satisfaction out of seeing them try and maybe they’ll actually kick ass and get it right.  That would be awesome after so many times of seeing them get so close.  But, they cheated.

And that’s what McDs is doing.  They’re cheating.  They know they suck at the service part, so they’re cutting it out.  But they don’t always suck!  A lot, yes, but not always.  And I want to be there when they don’t suck – that makes it awesome.  But they’ve taken that potential away.

So now when I go to McDs (3 out of 4 of the locations I go to have kiosks now), sometimes I get a cheerful person introducing the device and how to use it, and sometimes I get nothing.  Either way, I’m in no mood to talk to a person.  That’s not what McDs wants, clearly.  And that ruins my meal.  It’s like buying food from a machine.

Currently, they are bringing the food to your table, but I expect that practice will probably stop and you’ll just get your number called and you have to pick it up.  Then they will probably just wall off the kitchen and serve you through a small window.  Maybe you won’t even see a person back there anymore.  Maybe there won’t be people there anymore.  Time will tell.

It’s Happening Again

A couple of years ago, I wrote about tea.  I had casually mentioned that I found a new tea brand and I was enjoying it.  That brand was Te Bustelo.  Well, over two years later, I am still very much enjoying it.  My GF, ever-thoughtful, bought me two huge cans of tea mix, and they lasted me, well, two years.  I’m just finishing up the second canister now.

For Christmas, I suggested she replenish my stock.  Te Bustelo could only be had at Wal-Mart, and that’s not a place I go.  A few days later, she reported she was unsuccessful in finding any.  So I searched Wal-Mart’s website.  It said the product was no longer available.  Panic starts setting in.  I jump on Amazon.  The only thing available is a 6-pack of canisters and there’s only 8 cases left of them. At a little over $7/can, this isn’t really a great deal.

Oh shit.  This is just like what happened with Nestea.  I find something I really like and it disappears.  So, without delay…

WP_20151202_001

Today, Amazon only has one case left in stock.  You can’t find Te Bustelo anywhere else online.  This is the end.  So, I guess I’m probably good for 2-3 more years and then it’s on to something else.  But what?  Back to Lipton?  Try the 4c brand I see everywhere?  Will they even be around in 3 years?

You Change, You Lose

Today, I noticed a restaurant I used to visit closed up.  it got me thinking about all the places that I stopped going to because they changed in some way for the worse.  I keep telling myself that the one thing I wish I could express to the younger generation is that they have no idea what they missed out on, when fast food used to taste great.  But anyway, these are my reflections:

Burger King:  They used to have the best fries up until about 1996.  They were so good, I’d get a large and another medium with my meal.  Then this big craze of “coated” fries happened and everyone’s fries started sucking.  Later, in the “Great Recession” of 2007, they decimated the double cheeseburger.  That used to be single greatest value on the whole menu, then they turned the patties into tiny silver dollars.  Now, if I ever go there, I have to get two double cheeseburgers and the smallest fries available.  That’s maybe twice a year.

Wendy’s:  My first experience with Wendy’s was a long time ago, maybe early-to-mid-80’s.  It was amazing.  I had to wait for a long time for one to open near me, but when it did, I ate there all the time.  Then I moved away and I’m not sure if it was an operational coincidence or a geographical difference, but they stopped pressing their burgers.  This made the patty a thick cube and significantly altered the taste.  I tried to work through it, but ended up going less and less frequently.  Their fries have also declined in taste, so it’s now a very infrequent visit.  I feel bad because my nearest store just did a complete new and modern rebuild and I don’t even go there.  The parking lot is empty every time I drive by, too.

Longhorn:  I discovered their burgers maybe around 2003 on a vacation and ate them religiously until only a couple years ago when they changed their buns to some Brioch crap.  I ate them much less frequently, then just gave up and started eating the 6oz steak instead.  Longhorn’s fries have declined in taste lately, too.  I used to eat there multiple times a week, and now it’s maybe every other week.

Chilis:  I used to eat there a lot starting around 2005, then they changed their chili recipe from a Texas Red to something heavy on the beans (i.e. cheaper).  I didn’t eat chili, but my SO at the time did, so we never went back.  Fast forward a few years, new SO and new weekly+ enjoyment of Chilis burgers.  Until recently when they changed their buns to some Potato bun crap.  Seriously, it is like eating latex foam.

Green Iguana:  I discovered this place maybe in 2012.  It was somewhat close to work and they had great burgers and fries.  Then one day, they were closed.  Turns out they were moving to a new location.  After patiently waiting, I hit them up soon after they opened.  But it wasn’t the same.  They changed their fries and changed from Coke to Pepsi, and overall wasn’t just as good.  I went there twice, then stopped.  They just closed down; maybe they lasted a year at their new location.  There are other locations that I could and would be willing to try if I was near them.

Who Wants To Live Forever?

Things that MSN Healthy Living says are bad to eat:

  • BBQ Sauce
  • Pasta Salad
  • Macaroni Salad
  • Potato Salad
  • Ranch Dressing
  • Fatty steaks
  • Breaded chicken
  • Fried chicken
  • Hot dogs
  • Sausage
  • Hamburgers
  • Pie
  • Cake
  • Gluten-free foods
  • Greek frozen yogurt
  • Asian Chicken salad
  • Fruit Smoothies
  • Fish Sandwiches
  • Chinese vegetarian dishes
  • Chipotle’s burrito bowl
  • Tomato soup
  • Baked fuckin’ potato
  • Omelet
  • Microwave popcorn
  • Light salad dressings
  • Trail mix
  • Granola
  • Artichoke spinach dip
  • Flavored fat-free yogurt
  • Dried fruit
  • Flavored soy milk
  • Energy drinks (well, duh)
  • Turkey sandwich
  • Parfait
  • Blue corn chips
  • Chicken wrap
  • Low-fat muffins
  • Frozen diet dinners
  • Canned soups
  • Veggie pizza
  • Spinach pasta
  • Wheat bread (or any fucking bread)
  • Diet soda (duh, again)
  • Reduced fat peanut butter
  • Fruit cocktail
  • Swordfish
  • Imported catfish
  • Farmed eel
  • King Mackerel
  • Orange Roughy
  • Chilean Sea Bass
  • Shark
  • Imported Shrimp
  • Tilefish
  • Bluefin Tuna
  • Non-organic strawberries
  • Anything from McDonalds
  • Canned Tomatoes
  • Corn.  Yes, corn.
  • White chocolate
  • Artificial sweeteners (no, really?)
  • Sprouts
  • Anything with food dyes
  • Ice cream sundaes from chain restaurants
  • Eggnog
  • Candied Yams
  • Creamed Spinach
  • Cranberry Sauce
  • Cheese straw
  • Fruitcake
  • Swedish Meatballs
  • Pot Roast
  • Yorkshire pudding
  • Prime Rib
  • Sausage stuffing
  • Dark meat turkey
  • Green bean casserole with fried onions
  • Croissants
  • Potato pancakes
  • Lobster Newburg
  • Yule log
  • Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha
  • Caramel apples
  • Gingerbread
  • Sugar cookies
  • Plum pudding
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Gooseberry pie
  • Beef Wellington
  • Glazed Ham
  • Gravy
  • Cinnamon Rolls
  • Peanut Brittle
  • Apple pie a la mode
  • Chocolate covered cherries
  • Cheese fondue
  • Shepard’s pie
  • Smoothie King’s Hulk Strawberry Smoothie
  • Starbucks’ Double Chocolaty Chip Frappuccino Blended Creme with whipped cream
  • Coldstone’s PB&C Shake
  • Auntie Anne’s Jumbo Pretzel Dog
  • Cinnabon’s Caramel Pecanbon
  • Wendy’s Sweet and Spicy Boneless Wings
  • Dunkin’ Donuts’ Coffee Cake Muffin
    And although there are many more articles I could have pulled items from, I think that serves to show that if you really want to be healthy, all you can eat is organic lettuce.  But even then, some articles complain about foods that are improperly produced or prepared, so make sure that straight-from-the-ground organic lettuce doesn’t have any bugs, dirt, or animal feces on it.

Do not, I repeat, do not cook.  Mankind has been lucky to survive as long as it has with people indiscriminately making food.  If you didn’t pull it from the ground or from a bush or tree with your own hands, it is not safe and you will die.

Food Bitching, With A Twist

Here we go again.  Another restaurant on my blacklist, which is a shame because I’ve been very tolerant of them in the past.  But this incident had a a new, unexpected element to it.

I arrive and wait for attention.  This is typical.  I have no idea why this restaurant doesn’t have a host.  Finally, a man notices me and tells me I can have a seat anywhere.  And I do.

He brings me bread and a glass of water and says the waitress will be by soon.  Huh.  I guess they did get a host.  Good for them.  A lady comes out and takes my order.  Coke, salad, and an entrée.  Nothing fancy.

After a while, the host comes back out and asks if I need anything.  I just placed my order and I have bread and water, so, no.  I’m fine.  Good, attentive host.

Another party comes in and sits in the booth in front of me.  The waitress is apparently good friends with them, since they texted each other before arrival.  When the waitress eventually comes back around to take their order, she sits in the booth with them, chats with them for an extended time, and in-between, takes their order.  I’m thinking, “Where’s my coke?” 

Waitress goes away, checks on another table, then brings the neighboring party’s salads out.  Um, where’s my salad?  She goes away, comes out and clears a table, checks on another table and refreshes their drinks.  At this point, my water is empty and I’m being completely ignored, even when she looks right at me.  As I sit and stew, I decide:  It’s on.

At last, the waitress brings out my entrée.  I say thank you, then turn on the asshole mode.  “Now, may I have my Coke, my salad, and a refill of my water.  Please.”  She is stunned for a moment and says the other guy is my waiter.  What?  I thought he was the host.  She took my order.  She brought my food out.  I thought she was my waitress.  I tell her such.  Nope, they had switched.  She said that she got the Coke and salad ready, but he just left them there.

Wait.  She just admitted that saw my drink and salad sit there in back and did nothing about it?  She says the guy is new and she doesn’t think he’s going to work out.  Yeah, I never saw him again after he asked me if I needed anything, but I didn’t think he was a waiter.  In hindsight, why wasn’t he bussing the tables?  Hmmm.

Anyway, she apologizes and says she will get my Coke and take the salad off the bill and talk to her manager.  I’m semi-sympathizing with her at this point because of the misunderstanding that (at the time) I didn’t realize was more her fault than anything.  But then, a challenger appears!

The guy in the booth in front of me half turns around and says, “This is my first night here, and I’ll be your waiter.”  Remember, this guy is close friends with the waitress.  Obviously he’s been there plenty.  I didn’t quite get where he was going with his statement.

I chuckle and say, “Oh, I’ve been here several times." 

His voice changes slightly and he says, “This is a good place to eat.” 

Instinctively, I sense he’s a bit peeved about my dressing down of his friend.  I reply sympathetically and emphatically, “You’re right, this is a good place.” 

His voice changes more significantly and he orders, “Then shut the fuck up and enjoy it.” 

Dramatic pause.

Using a tone I have mastered that basically says, I have to say this, but I don’t mean a word of it, I reply,  “I’m sorry if I offended you, sir.”

He delivers more rambling f-bomb accusations with his back to me.  His wife is saying, “Honey, stop.”

Well, that’s that.  Without a bite of my food, I say, “You know, I don’t think this is a good place.” I remove my napkin and stand up.  I walk by his booth and say to him, “Thank you very much, sir.” 

I go to the waitress, who, despite the situation I put on her and the one happening between me and her friend, is helping another table… before she gets my damn Coke.  I put a bill in her hand and say, “Here’s $10 for the food. I won’t be eating here again.”  She chases after me trying to give the money back, but I shooed her off.

Sometimes the poison isn’t just the staff, it’s the patrons, too.

Advances in Management Through Nudity

In other Florida news, a mostly-naked woman went berserk in a McDonalds, trashing the equipment and eating ice cream.  Yeah, that’s pretty much the headline.  But after watching the video, I had one primary takeaway.  It didn’t have anything to do with the nudity.

I have no idea what the woman was upset about.  That point actually doesn’t matter.  The thing that was the most informative in the video.  She calmed down after sucking on the ice cream machine.  She then made herself an ice cream cone and didn’t trash anything else.  Low blood sugar, maybe?

Regardless, here’s my idea.  With an agitated customer, the manager has to do two things: establish trust and defuse anger.  The first should be offering to meet on neutral ground to discuss the problem.  When a manager is behind the counter, there is a clear barrier between the parties.  This can allow the manager some safety and power over the situation, but it can also raise the perception of inaccessibility to the customer, which just intensifies the situation.  The manager can say, “Let’s sit down at a table and discuss this.”  There will still be a barrier between them, but the playing field will seem more level.

Defusing the anger can be easy.  Ask the customer if they want a drink, dessert, or ice cream.  Whatever they want, have someone immediately make it and bring it to the table.  The manager should not make or bring the request; the manager’s attention is solely on the customer.

If all goes well, the customer will be snacking and explaining the problem, maybe very aggressively.  But by seating them at a table, you’ve gotten the scene away from the front counter, where others would be subjected to the tirade.  Additionally, the customer may not back down from their argument in front of a bunch of spectators, but in isolation, may be more agreeable.  Everyone wants to look strong in front of others.

And if the customer is nude for all of this, it may be a blessing for some.

The Forgotten Nestea

It’s been many years since I left this brand behind.  It was a very sad parting and not of my choosing.  I grew up drinking Nestea Sugar Sweetened iced tea mix.  I drank so much of it, I had visions of being the first rock star that promoted a consumer brand on tour.  Nestea’s change ended up being a painful, prolonged, losing battle for me.

At some point in their genius, Nestle decided to make what they must have considered a trivial ingredient change.  And because the product was different, it was re-launched under a new name.  The product used to be called “sugar sweetened”, and then became “sweet tea mix”.  The tiny change was changing the ingredient fructose to sucralose.  The latter is an artificial sweetener, which I have a slight reaction to.

When it first happened, I knew something was wrong because my tea made my stomach hurt.  I eventually figured out the difference and began a desperate search for any remaining “sugar sweetened” product available.  At one point, I ordered a full case of giant tea cartons from an online seller, only to discover they used the wrong photo in their product description and I had to ship back a case of “sweet tea mix”.  It was something like 27 pounds.

Surely, my quest was futile and the supply inevitably ran out.  I called Nestea and asked for an explanation.  Amazingly, I got one.  The change was done because sucralose didn’t cake and clump as much as fructose.  So, I wrote a physical letter to Nestle expressing my dissatisfaction with their recent decision.  In return, I got coupons to try their new liquid tea mixes.

I drank Publix brand tea mix for a little while, but it was too caramel-ly.  I eventually had to grow to enjoy the taste of Lipton tea mix, which has served me well for the years since.  Every once in a while, I’d remember Nestea and sometimes would pick up a jug to confirm the ingredients were the same.  They were.  But yesterday, I was going to buy a new jug of Lipton and saw two things: one, a brand of tea mix called Te Bustelo.  It had no sucralose, so I picked it up on a whim and I’m rather enjoying it.  It’s a little stronger than Lipton, but not as strong as Publix.

The other thing I saw?  No Nestea on the shelves.  None.  Not that it was sold out; it was not even stocked.  I found this pretty shocking.  Could it be that the change affected that many people to lower sales that much?  Yeah, it took years to happen, but was that it?  I did a little research online and it seems that Coca Cola used to be partnered with Nestea and now that partnership has ended, with Coca Cola now selling a competing product – Fuze.

In some ways, I feel a bit vindicated.  In other ways, I feel like this didn’t have to happen.

But How?

Here we go with another dining disaster story.  Let’s reiterate something.  I eat out almost all the time.  The percentage of times that a normal family eats out is the same percentage of times that I make something at home to eat.  For me, eating at home is the exception.  So I know what restaurant food is like, how it should be, and how service should be.  Because I am specifically mentioning service, that doesn’t make me a snob.  Because I eat out so much, I understand small mistakes and misunderstandings.  I don’t hold it against the server or the restaurant.  But this time was different.  This time I felt it was necessary to be mean to the waitress.  That is saying a lot.

So let’s set up here.  It’s a little late on a Sunday and the place is pretty empty.  We wait a little bit for the hostess, but the bartender acknowledged us quickly, so we’re fine.  We get seated and wait for a while for service.  A waitress finally comes over and says she thought someone else was helping us.  The waitress playing the blame game at this point doesn’t mean much right now, but it’s in memory, waiting to see if a pattern emerges… which it does.

Drinks and appetizer ordered.  One drink arrives without the requested lemon.  Oh well, not going to make a big deal out of that.  Appetizer arrives without Ranch dressing and without serving plates.  Annoyance is starting to settle in, but we’re going to bear with it.  Flag the waitress down and request the missing dressing.  By the time the Ranch arrives, there’s only two pieces of the appetizer left.  Keep in mind there’s only a couple other tables seated in the place.

Entrees arrive and I can immediately see that my steak is underdone.  Blood on the top means not well-done.  So I alert the waitress and she takes it back.  So now I have to watch my partner eat her meal alone.  It would have been ok if I had my soup that I ordered.  Yes, for you dining-aware persons, I ordered soup and it did not come before the entrée, nor did it come with the entrée.  Where is it??  At this point, annoyance is turning to anger.

After a while, my steak is returned to me cooked properly and with it comes the soup.  Now we have a new dilemma.  She did not bring a steak knife with my plate.  So, I fight through cutting the steak with my table knife.  Then I turn to the soup.  There’s no spoon.  There’s no fucking spoon.  This is the point where my anger boils over.  I push the soup bowl out to the end of the table as a hint that something is wrong.  Surprisingly, the waitress makes another stop at the table to take my partner’s plate and asks nothing of the soup or if everything is ok.  She disappears.

Now I am fuming.  After I finish my steak, the waitress returns again and asks if we saved room for dessert.  I say “no, we’re more than well done” in a sarcastic tone that gets her attention.  She asks to take my plate and I say sure.  Then I say, “…and the soup… I never got to try it.”  She asks why and I say I just couldn’t try it.  She gives me a puzzled look and pushes the bowl towards me, saying, “try it.”  I lose my cool and yell at her, “How?!”

It takes a few seconds and I thought I was going to have to educate her on her fuckup.  Finally she looks around the table and says, “ohhhhhh… the spoon.”  And I sarcastically agree with her, “yeah.  The spoon.”  The meal is over.  She wants us gone and we want to be gone.  She brings us the check, takes my credit card and returns, quietly offering “have a nice evening.”  She gets a $2 tip on a $36 tab.

While she took the brunt of the anger, I know it wasn’t all her.  She messed up on timing, observance, and supplying plates and silverware, which is more than enough reason, but the cook messed up on cooking the steak and who knows who screwed up the soup.  But a huge blame also falls on the manager.  Whoever was managing that night had no idea this was going on.  And if a customer yells at a waitress and the manager doesn’t get involved ASAFP, there’s something wrong at a much greater level.

Let Me Tell You About This Meal I Had…

It’s never good if I have a story to tell after a meal.  This is one of those meals.  This is one of those long-ass stories, too.  Tonight, I was deep in my usual gyrations over what the hell I was going to eat.  Running through the mental list of eating places wasn’t triggering anything.  I went on UrbanSpoon and listed everything in my area.  Nothing did it.  I started to get a bit sentimental over places in PA that I used to love eating at and couldn’t get to anymore.  I remembered some of the non-chain restaurants that I enjoyed and wished I had something like that here that I could rely on.  Unfortunately, despite searching, I have yet to find a good mom-and-pop.

But, a light came on.  There was one place I could try.  It was an Italian restaurant that had replaced a sports bar I used to go to.  I’d been there once before and was sorely disappointed.  At the time, they had just opened up.  I think I went within the few couple weeks of their opening.  My impression of the staff was that they were clueless.  The waitress acted like she didn’t know what a waitress was supposed to do, like checking on tables.  The kitchen was backed up beyond comprehension.  I think I heard “an hour” mentioned.  At least one table walked out during the time I was there.  I was on the verge of leaving, myself.

But I got my drink order in (I’m stuck now!) and then after a while, my waitress was ready and able to take my order: spaghetti with meat sauce – nothing amazing.  Yet another extended while after that, the waitress comes back and says they don’t have any meat sauce, would I like marinara?  No, I wouldn’t.  This is an Italian restaurant.  How do you not have meat sauce?  I ended up getting my drink and salad for free, and I left a $5 tip on the table and walked out.

Why would I want to go back to that?  Well, it’s been at least two years since that first experience and the place is still around, so surely they’ve got it figured out, right?  So I revisited the restaurant with elevated hopes.  And I don’t have any desire to go back again.

I show up in the front of the shop and walk up to the counter.  I say I’m dining in and I don’t know whether to order here, be seated, or seat myself.  Right off the bat, this is something that shouldn’t happen.  The waitress says, “You’re dining in?  You can go to the back room.  It’s much nicer back there.”  So, now your employees are saying that the restaurant has a nice section and a shitty section.  They’re still freaking clueless.

I seat myself and place my (same) order.  I’m kind of excited because their house dressing is a homemade creamy Italian – that’s hard to find.  But when the salad arrives, it seems weird.  Lettuce, onion, carrots, and… a hot pepper and chickpeas?  Odd, but no hassle.  I eat the lettuce and the carrots, but the house dressing is not to my liking.  Flavor-wise, it’s super sweet.  Makes me think of eating Vidalia onions.  Second, it’s warm.  That doesn’t sit so well with me.

My opinion is wavering at this point when my entrée comes out.  It’s soup!  I’m not saying that the meat sauce is runny, just that it’s a bowl full of sauce.  Like I can’t see the noodles, full.  And the sauce is really dark.  The first thing I think is, “Did they burn this sauce?”  Then I smell it and think, “Did they burn this sauce?”  Then I taste it and it’s… different.  Probably burnt.  Seasoned, yes, but I can’t put my finger on what it is.  Doesn’t really matter what it is because I just. don’t. like it.  Then the breadsticks came out.  I didn’t think you could screw up bread, but these sticks were completely tasteless.  They had parmesan cheese sprinkled on top and butter and/or oil poured on them.  It looked like oil, but darker.  I didn’t watch to touch it.  What the hell is up with this place?

I eat what noodles I could fish out from the depths of the sauce pit and at one point in my search mission, I found a leaf.  Yeah, a full leaf.  I think it’s the kind they use for seasoning, but I also think they’re supposed to be finely chopped?

Has the service redeemed itself after the “get out of the slums and go to the back room” direction?  No, not really.  My entrée was brought out by a different waitress that again didn’t understand the finer points of service.  She asked if I had spaghetti with meat sauce, which I confirmed, and she left it with me and bolted.  Waitresses with experience will first ask if everything’s ok and handle common requests, like cheese, napkins, or refills.  My main waitress that brought the breadsticks asked about cheese, but had to take care of multiple things before actually getting around to it.  Even then, she had a lot of trouble finding the cheese. (Who moved my cheese?)  Fascinatingly, although my salad dressing was warm, the cheese shaker was refrigerated .  Also, since I had the table next to the open kitchen, I was able to deduce that the cook didn’t seem to know how to be a cook.  I heard a shout at one point and I heard an exchange where he had to scramble because he forgot to make an appetizer.  Bad night?  Or just another night?

Finally – the weirdest part to me – the owner made his way around asking everyone if their food was ok.  I go to other “real” Italian places, and I know the owners do this. They love chatting you up in their heavy Italian accents.  This guy, no accent.  Didn’t look Italian at all.  Didn’t even look like an owner.  He could have been just another patron, I don’t know.  I lied and said the food was good.  Had he pressed harder and asked if it was “good” or “great” or “amazing”, he might have gotten the truth out of me.  But he seemed satisfied.

In summary, there wasn’t one redeeming piece of my entire meal experience.  As crazy as it sounds, this place is a sports bar that serves Italian food, with bar-quality food and service.  And that’s speaking badly of bar food.  It’s usually really good, I just can’t handle the atmosphere.