Either service is getting to be a lost art, or I’m way too picky. Having spent the better part of a decade in the restaurant business, I think I’m more than sympathetic to the plight of servers, cooks, bartenders, etc., so I hardly think it’s the latter. But even I have my breaking point. I’ve recently had two experiences in which the service was subpar. I left one restaurant feeling like it was just an aberration and the other as though the whole place was rudderless.
Lucile’s Stateside Bistro (4700 Camp Bowie Blvd.) has been cranking out good food for almost 20 years. On a recent weekday lunch, my guest and I arrived fairly early. By the time we were ready to order, the place was full, and our server was doing his best headless chicken impersonation. We waited and waited, but our panic-stricken waiter was so deep in the weeds he needed a machete to hack his way out. After a good 10 to 15 minutes, with no bread and empty drink glasses, we were getting a little impatient.
But this story has a happy ending for two reasons: One, he apologized and seemed genuinely bummed that we had to wait so long to order; and two, our lunch was well worth the wait.
The duck, shrimp, and andouille gumbo ($13.95) with tomato, bell pepper, okra, onion, and celery has a little bit of a throat-tickling kick that makes it the perfect cold-weather lunch. I cleared every drop of the remaining broth with the bread we eventually got. It was supposed to come with a salad, which I never saw. The chicken BLT wrap ($7.95) features a jalapeño dressing that elevates it beyond its seemingly simplistic ingredients.
My guest and I may have been a little late back to work, but we still left with pretty good feelings about Lucile’s. The same cannot be said for my last visit to Brewed (801 W. Magnolia Ave.). I visited a few months back and gushed about the gastro pub’s potential (“Bold Blossoms on the Boulevard,” Oct. 31, 2012). I’m sad to report that during a recent dinner there, the staff had all of the coordination of a soccer riot.
The wait staff is very young and would look more at home in a college town’s pizza joint than at an upscale, quirky/cool restaurant with an ambitious menu. We never could figure out who our server was. Four different people took various orders and brought us food. But we still suffered long waits and never did get a refill on water.
After he told my table of four that the place didn’t serve wine by the bottle, I pointed out the wine menu to our first very young server. We went for the modestly priced Truchard pinot noir ($45), and a different young server brought it to our table already opened and proceeded to empty the entire bottle into three glasses. At one point, I asked him to stop pouring, since one of my guests wanted only a taste of the wine, and he ignored my request, stating: “This is how I was trained to do it.” Um … OK.
After waiting an absurd amount of time to take our food order, a third waitstaffer really crossed the line when he argued with one of my guests, who asked for some kind of dipping sauce for the Brewed fries ($4.50). “We’re supposed to try and encourage people to try them without a sauce,” he said. While I agree the duck fat fries don’t necessarily need any dipping sauce, I didn’t appreciate my guest having to make a case for getting it. We were just happy to get out of there.
Even the best food, drink, and ambience can’t overcome terrible service. Still, an apology goes a long way with me. I’ll be back at Lucile’s for more gumbo any day now, but I’m giving the folks at Brewed at lot longer to, um, mature before I try them again.
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