Given March Madness is in full swing, I thought it was a good time to dive into the mailbag and let some readers – well, one at least – vent their madness.
Some days I wish I had your job. I would like to be able to tell someone about the poor quality of some of the restaurants I visit.
In the last two weeks we have been in restaurants where we nearly froze to death, once because we were sitting by a poorly insulated window and another time because the door opened into the dining room, with no thought as to blocking the cold air. Another time we were seated right in front of the kitchen where we could hear and see all the commotion going on in there.
In each instance when we complained, we were told there were no other tables available. Doesnt anyone care if their customers are comfortable anymore?
I have often had salads with black lettuce, or shrimp with the mud vein left intact, served to me. I tell my server that I dont eat food like that at home; I am certainly not going to pay extra for it in a restaurant. Frequently silverware or dishes have gunk hanging off them.
Doesnt anyone care about cleanliness anymore?
Today we ate at a restaurant and ordered an appetizer. Before we had even put a dent in our appetizer, our salads were pushed in front of us. Then before we had a chance to start our salads, our hot food was shoved toward us. I felt fortunate that I only had to pick a couple black leaves out of my salad and only sent back a dirty bread plate. One good thing – we didnt have to wait for our bill because it was delivered to our table long before we finished eating.
Doesnt anyone train their servers anymore?
Am I expecting too much? I dont think so. What happened to the basics of a good restaurant? I really dont care if I ever eat out again. Id rather eat at home where I know the food is clean, I dont have to tip a poor server, and I dont have to wear my coat while I eat. – Kathy, Fort Wayne
Wow, Kathy, sounds like you have some really bad luck.
Much of your issues are service-related, and I can tell you that nearly every restaurant owner I have known says that the hardest thing about the business is finding good people to work for them.
With so much turnover, it is hard to get servers trained properly if at all before they are thrown into the fire. Dont hesitate to tell the server when ordering when you want your salads served (before, during or after appetizers) if they dont ask.
I, too, have been frozen out – and baked out – in a few places, but I never hesitate to demand the heat be turned up. If it doesnt warm up quickly or if they tell you they dont have another table, remind them that another restaurant probably has a table and see whether that gets it fixed.
But also be a bit patient this time of year because the ever-changing weather can be tricky for some heating and cooling units to keep up with.
As for the black lettuce and mud veins, I can only tell you to be careful what you order and where you order it.
The salad you get at the little greasy spoon diner is likely to have come right from a bag, so I doubt they are taking the time to make sure there arent any gnarly pieces of greens in there, which is sad but just a fact we have to live with.
If it happens at a $25-per-plate steakhouse, then show it to a manager and let him or her handle it.
Most of the shrimp served around these parts – except for maybe some of the upscale places that specialize in seafood – are flash frozen and most should have been cleaned before shipping. If you see mud veins in the shrimp, again, point it out to the manager and order something different.
When it comes to dirty flatware, it too is inexcusable but is, sadly, a fact of life.
My first job in the industry was running a dish tank and when things got busy, it pretty much was impossible to inspect every prong of every fork as it left the washer.
But on those seldom instances a customer sent a dirty spoon back to the kitchen, you can bet the managers let us hear about it loudly.
So, to wrap it up, Kathy: No, you are not asking for too much. These things should never occur, but anyone can have a bad day. That is why I always visit a restaurant more than once when reviewing.
In general, how do you get news about new restaurants opening? Do you check permitting by the government agencies involved or does the restaurant call you hoping to get coverage? – Tom, Fort Wayne
One of the first questions people ask me is how I decide which restaurants I am going to review.
There is no scientific formula, Tom, but I do try to hit new restaurants within the first six months of their existence, but never before they have been open at least two months.
As for finding out about them, I strongly rely on suggestions. When someone says I need to check a place out, I usually do.
When owners ask me to review their restaurants, I always thank them for the offer and tell them I may, indeed, review them, but never promise I will or tell them when. I do, however, take most up on the offer because if they invite a critic in risking a bad review, they must feel strongly that their restaurant is doing things right.
When it comes to finding new places, I do not check with any government agencies and, again, rely on the rumor mill from readers and other industry folk.
I also make sure to read Stefanie Scarletts The Dish restaurant news column in The Journal Gazette every Wednesday to keep me up on all the restaurant happenings.