Out of Service
The way that a botched dish situation is handled can be worse than the problem itself.
So, let’s talk about service for a minute. Or, rather, expectations of service.
I took some family members out to a restaurant in Winter Park last week—I’m not going to name the place, but when I refer to a “cursed” Park Avenue location that has had many, many restaurants in it before, you might be able to figure it out.
So many warning bells went off: crammed with spiffily dressed bargoers at an extraordinary noise level; a server that felt the need to explain, in excruciating detail, what “farm to table” means in an age when even McDonald’s is using the term; a plastic pot of basil mid-table that we took turns pushing around until one of our party simply asked if it could be taken away.
On the plus side, we had a 7 p.m. reservation and we were seated at 7 p.m. Our server was prompt and attentive. When the problem occurred (which will be referred to as “The Problem”), a manager appeared almost immediately. However …
First course here was pretty good, if small. Of the four of us, three ordered shrimp and grits as entrees, to acquaint our Scottish cousin with a true Florida classic. What arrived once again proved the famous Hayes Appetizer Corollary: the quality of starters is often in inverse proportion to the awfulness of the entrée. Consistently inedible, the grits were oddly enough both undercooked and overcooked, with shrimp that looked (and laboriously chewed) like they had been cooked during the lunch shift and left to carbonize. Imagine sending three dishes back to the kitchen. Imagine it’s me doing it. Our prompt manager offered replacement dishes, and as an experiment we reordered the s&g.
And they came back perfectly cooked, showing that the kitchen was capable of making it but somehow didn’t think it was worth the trouble the first time.
The manager returned to check on us, and offered, I quote, “desserts for the table on us” to make amends. Four desserts later, the bill arrived with the admonition, “You sent back three plates, so we’re picking up three desserts.” Think about that.
So take note: an $8 mediocre dessert is not worth pissing me off about, and if The Problem hadn’t been resolved, I’d be naming the restaurant. Bad situations never bother me; it’s how they are dealt with that offends me.
TRUCKIN’ AROUND TOWN
The big trend I’m seeing for 2018 is food trucks knocking off their wheels for something more permanent.
* The owners of the Bad As's Sandwich truck went the brick-and-mortar route and took over the old Se7en Bites location on Primrose after two years on the road.
* Caro-Bama BBQ, a very popular truck, is opening a stationary location (like a stationary bike, but without the sweating) in the North Quarter Market next to Downtown Credo.
* Little Blue Donut parks its sweet goodness in the former Scratch location in Winter Park any day now.
* Rolling Brazilian specialist BemBom has been working on an immobile site for almost two years, and it looks like February will be the charm.
* The Leguminati vegan truck folks, after a few false starts, are joining the new Foxtail Coffee Co. outlet in the up-and-coming Hourglass District.
* Tamale Co. truck is opening two motionless takeout spots, in Altamonte Springs and Orlando, sometime this year.
* The setup I’m most looking forward to experiencing is Truck Stop Pop-up Kitchen in Thornton Park, a restaurant that welcomes normally roving chefs for one night to showcase their craft without the burden of a parking lot environment.
* Meanwhile, lock-down areas for food trucks (sort of an epicurean mobile home lot) are starting to appear. A La Cart: Street Food and Craft Beer is under formation behind Se7en Bites Bake Shop in the Milk District, a pavilion to host up to five trucks and a courtyard for tables.