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Restaurants You Frequent Despite So-So Service


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Are there restaurants and bars that you'll go to again and again, despite mediocre service? And if so, what is the draw? I'm working on a piece for Express that I've been assigned and I'd like to expand the reasons beyond the draw of the chef . ..

I don't intend for this question to bring out service horror stories, just a discussion as to whether you put up with absentee waiters, general grumpiness from servers, or whatever, and if so, why.

If you'd rather pm me, I would appreciate that, too. Thank you!

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Are there restaurants and bars that you'll go to again and again, despite mediocre service? And if so, what is the draw? I'm working on a piece for Express that I've been assigned and I'd like to expand the reasons beyond the draw of the chef . ..
Location, Location Location

There are places (Clydes comes to mind most definitely), that has both mediocre food and mediocre service. We go because it is easy and convenient for everyone. Probably about the company more than the food.

When we want good food we won't go there. When we want easy we go there.

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Are there restaurants and bars that you'll go to again and again, despite mediocre service? And if so, what is the draw? I'm working on a piece for Express that I've been assigned and I'd like to expand the reasons beyond the draw of the chef . ..

The Brickskeller, hands down. The revolving door of servers means that if you're sitting at a table, getting a knowledgeable, competent server is a complete crap-shoot. Still, it was my first beer bar, so there's the nostalgia aspect...and of course, the beer list is unmatched. It may not be the best-maintained list in town, but it's still a great list.

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Not in recent years, but when I lived in the neighborhood: The Trio. Especially back when all the old waitresses were still there, the service could be downright bizarre at times. Like when a friend was given a dish he didn't order, and I said "that's not what he ordered", and what's-her-name, the one with the bright orange hair, said "he'll eat it" and walked away. She was usually half in the bag. The waitstaff could be okay at other times. But regardless, it was like home to me back then. Dependable food--which is to say you could depend on much of it be dreadful slop, but if you knew the things that were likely not to be dreadful slop you could eat okay, very inexpensive, a two-block walk, and lots of entertainment value from staff and customers. They used to have wicked good onion rings.

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1. Lebanese Taverna in Woodley Park. It is nostalgic for me and reminds me of the old days, when I lived in Cleveland Park and used to go to City Blues all the time (Ah, City Blues, how much do I miss you?). I like the menu and what the restaurant was like when it first opened.

2 I also reluctantly admit to going to Penang. The service there runs from indifferent to horrible, which describes the time my friend ordered Beef Rendang (it's her favorite dish) and what was served to her was some other dish unrecognized by either one of us. When she questioned the waiter he insisted it was the Beef Rendang she had ordered. Ten minutes later he admitted that the cook had made the wrong dish and finally agreed to bring her beef rendang. That was a few years ago and to this day the phrase "I was beef rendang-ed" is a sort of code between us. But I've been back -- it's a convenient location and the food is more than decent (and occasionally great).

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Bread and Chocolate on Capitol Hill. I don't know that I go there enough to use the term "frequent," but it's convenient and I like several of the items on the menu. The sit-down service did improve from abysmal to less than abysmal a while back, but I still usually anticipate having to shrug off service problems if I want to eat there. I just accept it as part of the experience of going there. Service is slightly better getting takeout coffee or baked goods from the counter.

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Not in recent years, but when I lived in the neighborhood: The Trio. Especially back when all the old waitresses were still there, the service could be downright bizarre at times. Like when a friend was given a dish he didn't order, and I said "that's not what he ordered", and what's-her-name, the one with the bright orange hair, said "he'll eat it" and walked away. She was usually half in the bag. The waitstaff could be okay at other times. But regardless, it was like home to me back then. Dependable food--which is to say you could depend on much of it be dreadful slop, but if you knew the things that were likely not to be dreadful slop you could eat okay, very inexpensive, a two-block walk, and lots of entertainment value from staff and customers. They used to have wicked good onion rings.

Having breakfast there one morning many years ago, I actually witnessed one of the waitresses knock back a shot of warm Popov vodka at 10AM. Trio certainly was atmospheric.

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The original Austin Grill. And then it closed. :lol: I have an unhealthy addiction to the Texas toast and bacon, particularly the pecan (or whatever) butter that comes with the toast. Mmm... I overlooked it when the salsa (that yes, comes with chips gratis at brunch) was arrived all watery and the server would glare at me when I asked for a better pour. I overlooked the same reaction when my bacon came out raw when I asked for it crispy so I sent it back. I can't tell you how many times the manager, poor guy, would notice his lame staff screwing up and thus insist on comping something. And yet I kept going back until it closed.

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Having breakfast there one morning many years ago, I actually witnessed one of the waitresses knock back a shot of warm Popov vodka at 10AM. Trio certainly was atmospheric.
That could have been the orange-haired waitress I was talking about. She always had a glass somewhere, ready for a quick knock-back.
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The original Austin Grill. And then it closed. :lol: I have an unhealthy addiction to the Texas toast and bacon, particularly the pecan (or whatever) butter that comes with the toast. Mmm... I overlooked it when the salsa (that yes, comes with chips gratis at brunch) was arrived all watery and the server would glare at me when I asked for a better pour. I overlooked the same reaction when my bacon came out raw when I asked for it crispy so I sent it back. I can't tell you how many times the manager, poor guy, would notice his lame staff screwing up and thus insist on comping something. And yet I kept going back until it closed.

Yeah the original Austin Grill was bad. I actually knew a couple of people who use to serve there and a lot of that was because of understaffing. One girl said she would routinely get most of if not the entire floor by herself. Depending on the dining scene (no matter how good the server) I think most service starts to drop off a bit when you go to 5 or more tables. One of my strengths is being able to handle a lot of tables without stressing out. But even if you can handle 10 tables without extreme waits for food or forgetting things you just can't give that same level of friendliness and go over every menu item and chit chat with the customers who like to small talk with that many tables. It's like "Good evening, specials, drinks?"

I think the most I ever took was one time in the summer when I had all but 3 tables on the patio at deluxe. It isn't as bad in the summer because people want to lounge for a bit but the weird thing about our patio is that the tables are very close together. The reason this matters is that you really have to be on top of your shit because if you make a mistake with one table its like making a mistake at 3 tables because other parties hear the conversation about the problem so it is almost like a group think situation. They start discussing the problems that their neighbors had and are subconsiously expecting the worst and looking for problems with their own meal.

I made it through that night without a single complaint but when you have that many tables it is like a house of cards, one recook that requires fixing something or wine being sent back and everything just starts snowballing. The trick is really nipping problems in the bud early and effectively. I think that night I actually rang what must be a Cafe Deluxe record, 32 checks from 5:30 to 11ish. For some perspective for non industry folks, if I have a 4 table section I would love to get 3-4 turns at each table (12-16) per night.

p.s. This post STARTED relevant, apologies for wandering....

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Echo the Trio breakfast experience and add the Fox and Hound patio for the lazy early summer/late afternoon drinking session. Fantastic people watching, service less than attentive and often a bit bizarre. Ah, my days of late 80s slackerdom!

Also, thanks for the City Blues shout out upthread. My now wife met her future in-laws with me at City Blues soon after they opened. ABout six months ago we were trying to recall the name of the place and the mention above locked it in.

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the Fox and Hound patio

I was having a hard time coming up with an example of someplace that I frequent despite less than fantastic service until you mentioned the Fox and Hounds. There are few outings I enjoy more than throwing back a few stiff drinks on their patio, but I sometimes find myself ordering two drinks at a time, knowing that it might be a long, long time before I see my server again. Having said that, the service is always friendly, and I get the impression that the problem is caused by understaffing. It isn't uncommon to spot a single server taking care of the entire patio, in addition to some of the tables inside.

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I second Bread and Chocolate on the hill. Will be walking my dog and then find myself on the patio drinking terrible coffee and pushing food around on my plate. Every time i leave i swear to myself never again.... then three weeks later i am kicking myself. I think when it comes to places with patios one is (at least i am) much more willing to repeatedly have those moments.

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Bread and Chocolate on the Hill? i live near there and wonder how, why, who would ever go there. (yet it's always packed)

I challenge you to walk past B&C to either Murky (great coffee and seating!) or a bench at Eastern Market while you graze on the 100s of fresh morsels available there, especially the blueberry buckwheat pancakes.

I wish they'd take out B&C and expand montmarte to the corner. Then again, if every restaurant on the Hill could just be montmarte, I'd be in french paradise.

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How did I miss this? :o

One could write a rather large book about that miserable place's shortcomings and how they still manage to pack the house in spite of them.

It is like a broken record...

I guess I don't know what horrible service is becuase I have always found it adequate.

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