12 January 2007

Addenda to my "blue plate blog"

My luffly bride Seraphim reminded me of two other experiences we've had in restaurants which I left out of my previous two posts. And, in a perfect sense of balance, one is good, the other bad.

CAROL at Frank & Linda's Diner, Rincon, Georgia, 2004-2005. For a good while F&L's was our Friday night routine. It's a very nice hole-in-the-wall eatery nicely tucked away in a side-mounted strip off 21 on the left as you're going into Rincon. It could best be described as a mixture of classic Southern comfort food and Greek cuisine. We've taken Nettiemac here a couple of times, and of course when Bolivar came over to visit last September, we had to eat here.

They have a great "fish fry" plate -- two (2) big-ass chunks of Pisces carcass, meeting 6,392% of the RDA for Omega-3. And it's a bargain at $10.99. That's usually what I order. Carol knew this, right down to my preferences (no lettuce on the side, extra plate - for ketchup, and extra napkins). Anyone sitting at our table would've been quite baffled at Carol's routine with us -- she'd ask Seraphim for her order, and then say "Okay, thanks." Carol would look toward me, smile, and not say a word. She knew exactly what I wanted, how I wanted it, and made sure everything was right.

And from us Carol got the tip she deserved. Every time.

Carol is long gone from there, and for awhile things started sliding -- not so much with the food, but with the wait staff and time spent waiting. Things are better these days, so we're making a concerted effort to show our decrepit selves there a little more often.

"PHIL" at Perkins Restaurant, Savannah "Gateway" (I-95, exit #94), 2005. One cardinal rule when dealing with Talmadge Gleck is when he declines to eat a particular dish of food, or topping, or whatever, you don't push any further. Some would say I'm a "picky eater", but I think I'm far more 'basic/spartan' than I am picky. Leave off the "bells and whistles." Meat 'n' potatoes, I is. I typically have my 'favorite' entree at any given restaurant, and tend to order just that one thing. You could say I stick to the tried and true.

It amazes me how people think I should be "changed" on this front. Geez.

Seraphim goes with the flow, saying this makes it easy to cook for me (well, it IS). My ex-wife, on the other hand, hailed from a family that always went for the frou-frou, adding gawd knows what to basic decent comfort food. My basic/spartan food repertoire was always getting in the way, especially with my former MIL.

Anyhoo, one night we were in the area of Perkins and partook of a nice Saturday night breakfast. I love breakfast as a night meal on the weekends ... that is, when we're near a restaurant that serves a good breakfast as a night meal on the weekends (see too-numerous-to-count rants about "when the @#$% are we gonna get an IHOP up in these parts??!!").

I ordered the "Tremendous Twelve" plate, basically the Perkins version of the "Breakfast Sampler." I asked for hot syrup with my meal, and "Phil" -- our server -- would have no part of that. He began pushing, and I mean PUSHING me to try the flavoured syrups on the table. I said NO, I LIKE THE HOT MAPLE SYRUP. The CLASSIC, TIME-TESTED stuff. As close to God's own syrup -- Alaga -- as it gets. I do not want the other syrup. It might be fine for other people, and I would never deny others the opportunity, but I wanted hot syrup with my flapjacks.

Phil damn near took the syrup and poured one of the other kinds on my pancakes; he kept on and on about it, despite Seraphim doing her damnest to convey gestures to the effect of "don' t go there, you'll be sorry." He ignored all warnings, and then said, "I'm not going to leave this table until you try that syrup."

And that's when Phil received several new ones, lovingly ripped him by Mr. T. Q. Gleck. I told him in no uncertain terms that his job was to bring me what I asked him, and since I was paying for this dinner, that by gawd I was going to eat it the way I wanted.

I was so livid I don't remember how much I tipped, but while it wasn't a penny, it was certainly far below 10%.

Eventually Phil became a running joke with us. We've been to Perkins several times since, but specifically asked the hostess for a table NOT in Phil's section. Service was good, but I know he was glaring toward us. People who wait tables have elephantine memories when it comes to faces.

Flash forward to Saturday, 16 December 2006. Again, we were in the area on Saturday night, and again we hit Perkins. We joked, "I wonder if Phil is here tonight -- it's been nearly two years since this incident, certainly he's moved on." We didn't ask for a non-Phil table. We sat down.

Our server? That's riiiiiiiight. I think he lives there, and sleeps on a cot in the kitchen.

Ohhhh, I know Phil remembered me. I could see it on his face. I was gracious and civil to him, while Seraphim was no doubt uneasy (as I was!). The food and service were good, not terrible, bad or outstanding, just ... good. I asked Phil for hot syrup. He said, in a voice clearly treading on eggshells, "Coming right up." Eggshells pretty much summed up that experience.

Tip? Exactly 15%. Minimum for good service.

There you have it, two extremes of reaction to someone who knows what they like. Carol got it. Phil did not.

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "That's why there's chocolate and vanilla" Gleck


bolivar said...

I must tell you this story - On 12/21/06, JLo and I went to see the Trans-Siberian Orchestra at Alltel Arena in LR. It ranks in my top 5 as one of the greatest concerts I have ever been to (and I've been to many of them). Anyway, JLo and I were hungry after the show, and since it was after 11 p.m. when the show ended, we knew our chances would be slim. We decided to stop at I-Hop in Benton. Here is what happened:

11:45 p.m. - JLo and Bolivar arrive at I-Hop.

12:00 a.m. - After standing for 15 minutes, JLo and I are finally seated.

12:05 a.m. - The waiter comes and takes our drink order.

12:10 a.m. - The waiter brings us our drinks and takes our food order.

12:11 a.m. - Bolivar gets up from his seat and heads to the restroom.

12:16 a.m. - Bolivar returns to his seat.

12:30 a.m. - Bolivar finishes first cup of coffee. No food.

12:40 a.m. - Bolivar finishes second cup of coffee. Still no food.

12:50 a.m. - Bolivar finishes third cup of coffee.

And still no food. At that point, JLo and Bolivar get up from their seats, put on our coats, and begin to head for the door when the waiter comes up. He asked me if everything is OK. I told him that we're going somewhere else. He apologized for the terrible service, but they just had two new cooks starting. I told him that at my store, my customers do not suffer just because someone calls in sick or someone is new. I told him that if it had been busy, I could give the benefit of the doubt, but no busier than what it is, there's no excuse. So, we left and went back to Hot Springs.

We ended up stopping at a McDonalds and taking food home with us.

Just thought I would share this story...

Talmadge G. said...

I told him that at my store, my customers do not suffer just because someone calls in sick or someone is new.

Exactly. Too bad a lot of these restauranteurs don't get it. If I had a situation where I was short in the kitchen, or wait staff, I - as manager - would do the unthinkable: I would wait tables. I would also, if I had the aptitude, work kitchen. Or put the host(ess) to work. You can sooner do without one; just put up a "Please seat yourself" sign and you're covered.

Trouble with a lot of management types today is they feel above getting down and dirty with the nuts and bolts menial tasks. Guess what? Sometimes ya gotta do it!

Holy shit, I help take out garbage where I work!!! Both my manager and myself - both management capacities - are in the trash rotation with everyone else.

You had to wait 15 minutes to be seated and it wasn't busy?? That's inexcusable. I'll tolerate a 45-60 minute wait were all booths filled and a line outside. Not if the dining room is at 1/4 capacity.

I think this is why the majority of restaurants die on the vine in the first year. The owners are "above" doing all the grunt work, and hire staff to do it, and you might not have people with the same dedication. Service is bad, people don't come back, and then the owner(s) wonder why.

"Dee d'DEEEEEE!!!!"

bolivar said...

xxvmxqqx"Dee d'Dee"!!

Ahh, the minds of MSG - Mencia, Shagnasty, and Gleck!!

nettiemac said...

I would have ripped "Phil" several new orifices as well.