The last time Seraphim and I dined at Fire Mountain Grill in Savannah -- or, as we've come to call it, "Fire-Is-Cool Grill" (huh-huh-huh, Beavis) -- was last night.
Emphasis on "last time."
Now, before I continue here, I have to give kudos to our server. UNLIKE IN THE PAST, we had one who was very attentive. Indeed, one of the few such creatures in that building. My Coke glass, and Seraphim's Diet Coke, never went completely empty before they came by with a refill.
As well it should be.
More than once I wondered if they remembered me from our previous visit. Yes, that was the time I up and DeAnn'ed me some Coke. How could they forget a galoot like me? Well, anyway, I was kept nice and full of Coke ... and I swam the Georgia 21 canal all the way back home!
You'd think the visit was a good one. Alas, it wasn't. Far from it. This was about 630 PM. Middle of suppertime. The time when food on a buffet is the freshest it gets.
Ahhhhhh, a big hunk of turkey on the carving bar. Mmmmmmmmm, turkey...........
I got me a slice, along with a couple of pieces of fried chicken. One from the batch that'd been there just before one of the Merry Fire People dropped what purported to be a fresh batch of chicken into the bin. My second piece came from the new pile. And, with a helping of rice to round out the plate, I sit down, ready to partake of what appears to be a wonderful meal.
Let's start with the rice, shall we? Low expectations always come from rice on a buffet. I have a name for it: Russian Roulette Rice. Or "Triple-R" for short. You sink your teeth into a forkful of lucsious Northeast Arkansas white grain, and at least 1/3 of the grains are either undercooked, or nearly raw. The rice appeared to be completely cooked, but this puppy was hiding massive amounts of Triple-R landmines. Ick.
The turkey. Yeah, the turkey. It hadn't been five (5) minutes since I'd sat down with my plate. Folks, a cooked squab doesn't go cold in that short a period of time. Even with the temperature hovering at 45 degrees outside, it was nicely heated inside, with enough warm bodies to more than compensate for any outdoor chill. But this gobble tasted like a Thanksgiving turkey right out of the fridge on Black Friday afternoon.
And now the chicken. Mmmmmmmm, fried chicken...........
Two (2) nice chicken-boobies on my plate. I went for the first breast piece, the one I picked up before the new batch arrived. It tasted lukewarm, just as you'd expect a piece of chicken to taste after being under hot lights since at least the end of As the World Turns.
"Meh," as my son would say.
But it was the "newer" of the two pieces in which lurked the surprise. As I pulled the skin off, I noticed something very disturbing: this "fresh" piece of chicken was cold. Damned cold.
So cold that I had to warm it up by taking it outside in the 45-degree weather.
What happened was obviously similar to what we noticed the previous time we darkened Fire-Is-Cool Grill's doors. The chicken was prepared, fried, and such, per SOP. What is then done is the stainless steel bin full of hot fried chicken was placed on the ledge of the window between the kitchen and the dining room. One of the servers is supposed to see this chicken and then take it over to the buffet so patrons may partake.
[sigh] If "supposed-to" was currency, we'd all be filthy rich.
What happened was, simply, that fried chicken arrived at the buffet after having spent at least 30 minutes in that window getting cold.
I brought this to the attention of a manager, who basically gave me his card, apologized and started a litany of excuses, i.e. we took over this division in December and we're in "damage control" (funny, that was about the time Fire-Is-Cool began declining).
Excuses and empty promises. They don't give a damn. I hate to say it, but Dan, the assistant restaurant manager caricature in the movie Waiting is devastatingly on-target.
The most outrageous part? Fire Mountain Grill and sister chain Ryan's were both bought by BUFFETS, INC., the parent company of my beloved Old Country Buffet. The deal was closed on November 1, 2006, and while there's mention of the acquisition on the Buffets website, the FMG/Ryan's locations haven't yet been integrated into the site's location map. Obviously full transition hasn't occurred; I've never seen an OCB this poorly run in my life! What I'm worried about is instead of Buffets lifting Fire/Ryan's up, that Old Country Buffet will fall to THEIR level.
Most curious of all, though, I gathered a very negative vibe from this manager about his new corporate boss. He hinted that some changes were coming, such as one price for all drinks (did I mention Fire-Is-Cool charges $8.99 a head for a weeknight buffet, and $1.59 for drinks ... compared with an average $7.99 for dinner at Old Country Buffet. And OCB's price INCLUDES THE DRINK, WHICH YOU GET YOURSELF!)
Frankly, what I really wanted to tell him is, "Gut this place, remodel it, put the servers to work in the kitchen, convert and reflag this building as an Old Country Buffet." Hell, that's what I'd do.
For now, I guess it's back to the middling Golden Corral here in Savannah. WHY the @#$% can't we have a good all-you-can-eat buffet restaurant in this town??
We're through with Fire-Is-Cold Grill until I see some positive changes with the place.
Okay, the "Cardinal Rule" as it's stated in Waiting is "Never f(BLEEP)k with the people who handle your food." But what about buffet restaurant drink-fetchers and brain-dead restaurant managers who so clearly look the other way while perfectly good fried chicken goes to waste? (to say nothing about possible nasty bacterial critters that just love to hitch rides on food sitting out for 30 minutes at room temperature)
C'mon, Buffets, Inc. -- come down here and crack some skulls. Please!
Ciao for niao.
--Talmadge "Yes, as a matter of fact I did taste your spit in my Coke" Gleck
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