The ups and downs of restaurant dining

spaghetti-TwistedHaloThe beloved husband and I eat in most days but we do enjoy an occasional evening dinner at a restaurant especially with friends. We did one of those recently with an old college buddy of my husband.

We usually get together during the summer at a New Jersey shore point but since the timing didn’t work last summer we scheduled for January. (I know, what were we thinking! It was about 15 degrees outside. That’s fireplace weather!)

We went to a very trendy popular local restaurant.  Overall it was a fun evening but some things just didn’t make sense.

First, as seems to be the custom lately, we couldn’t be seated until the whole party was there. That meant we had to stand 15 minutes. We were early and the other couple was slightly late by 5 minutes. There was no room at the bar, not even standing room and there was no place to sit. We stood at the door with about 10 other people waiting. It was cold so we kept our coats on.

That meant I couldn’t have my first drink yet. Any good restaurant knows that getting the first drink service is especially important. It sets the tone for the evening.

As we were seated I noticed that there were a lot of open tables. We could have been seated and I could have had a drink. Now I’m a little bit grumpy.

The menu was disappointing. Everything was ala carte (read expensive). Most of the main courses were in the $20 to $30 range (without sides). Many were pasta dishes.

The college friend’s wife had a glass of house Chardonnay. It was $20. I can understand that if we were in a fancy restaurant or it was selected from a wine list but it was the damn house wine! It was Chardonnay for heaven’s sake! (Note to self: perhaps we could serve her Thunderbird next time she is at our home.)

The sneaky part about ala carte menus is that everything looks reasonable until you add them all together. Yikes! The sides are expensive but they serve 2 to 3. Well, supposing only one person wants it?

It will be a while before we go back there. We had a great time because of the companionship. My spaghetti was wonderful but there is a local restaurant that serves great spaghetti for half the price (with wonderful sides). Oh yes, my margarita, when I finally got it, was lousy. Now that is a problem.

22 thoughts on “The ups and downs of restaurant dining

  1. Would you consider sending them a copy of your piece? I think feedback of one kind or another is a good policy. And you never know – maybe they’ll fire the bartender and give you free margaritas next time? 🙂

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    • I got a lot of inquiries from local readers wanting to know which restaurant. I think everyone just shrugged and said, “oh yes, I don’t like that place either.” However, it is very popular with someone!

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  2. In a warmer climate, the wait would be tolerable. But, I don’t think it makes good business sense to have your customers chilled to the bone … and unable to get a drink to warm themselves. $20 for a glass of house wine? It’d be a surprise if they continued to draw in customers.
    One of our favorite Italian restaurants in Syracuse, NY looked like a hole in the wall. But the food, service and prices were excellent.

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  3. I really hate it when restaurants make you wait until the entire party is there before they will seat you, especially when there are open tables. I don’t quite understand the reasoning behind it, but, like you, I have stood with my coat on in a freezing cold vestibule waiting for my friends to arrive.

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  4. I’m amazed. I’ve never been anywhere where they will not seat you until the whole party arrives. I hope they don’t pick up that habit here. It does sound ludicrously expensive as well. Oh well, just means that some other venue will get your business from now on. Their loss.

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    • The whole party thing is big here. It started with the chains. Now even some local restaurants do it. I don’t mind if they have adequate waiting areas and you can have a drink there but otherwise it’s annoying.

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  5. Your night out reminded me of our time at a then new local restaurant. We were among quite a large group waiting to be seated. Three times during our wait, staff came around with a tray to offer us appetizers. We felt not only cared for but full by the time our table was ready.
    Their kindness won our loyalty!
    Sorry your night out left you with the grumps. 😦

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  6. $20 for a glass of house Chardonnay? That’s outrageous even at a very nice restaurant! My problem at restaurants these days is the noise! We don’t go out much on our own, but like you, from time to time with friends we will choose someplace probably similar to what you’ve outlined, and then on top of the high prices, we are talking over very loud music or just loud people! 🙂 I’d be frustrated, too, if I’d spent that much and didn’t find it a good value! Of course, I’m impressed you went out at all…that’s too cold to stand by a door! 😦

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    • The noise is a problem for us too. I guess as you get older is harder to hear above the background noise. That was the one good thing about this place. The acoustics were good and it wasn’t noisy.

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  7. They did NOT want you to sit at a table and order a drink before your friends arrived BECAUSE they serve lousy drinks.

    They were afraid you would leave. 😉

    We never go out for dinner. For all the above reasons and more. We’re happier eating at home ~ especially when it’s C~O~L~D. If we want to go out to eat, we do so at lunch or for happy hour ~ less crowded, less pricey, less pretentious.

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  8. The reason why they let you stand outside all lined up is to create an illusion that the restaurant is sooo popular that people have to wait. If drinks are too expensive and lousy, you are right, that is a problem.

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  9. Like so many things in life, it’s not quality or sincerity that make a success. It’s the buzz that surrounds a place (or a person) that draws people in. This restaurant sounds like it’s got the buzz thing going for it… & not much else.

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    • That’s my thought but this one has been very successful. Can’t quite figure out why. It’s very nice — comfortable and not too noisy. The food is good but expensive for what you get and not really creative.

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