An Elbow (Room) to the Face

Flickr user: arellis49

Ah, Mother’s Day brunch.

I love brunch. Mother’s Day is a little iffier because Hallmark Holidays aren’t my thing. But, this weekend, The Fiancée’s father and stepmother were up for the weekend and we had plans to take her out to a nice brunch for Mother’s Day before they hopped on a plane.

So, we booked an 11 a.m. reservation at The Elbow Room in West Beat for the four of us — the time they open. When we arrived, we were only the second party there. We requested to sit outside on the sidewalk or up on the roof but were told by the sixteen year old hostess that they had done their seating plan already. (So…what happens if some sweet old granny doesn’t want to sit in the sun and you put her outside? Tell her to suck it up?) We told them that we wouldn’t be dawdling as there was a plane to catch. Nope, no flexibility. Okay, fine. Crappy but whatever.

As we sat at our indoor table by the hostess station, we watched as a couple parties without reservations came in and were told (rather impolitely) that they could not be accommodated and they should have made reservations. At this point, the place was still mostly empty. Out on the sidewalk, only one of a dozen or so tables were occupied.

Our waitress was nice enough, if a little slow. She neglected to ask The Fiancée’s dad how he wanted his eggs or what kind of toast he wanted — he had to ask if he got a choice. When the food came, it was…sub-sub-par. Dad’s eggs were over cooked, there was no butter on the toast, both my and The Fiancée’s dishes were luke warm to cold and one of my two eggs was overcooked. Luckily, The Fiancee’s stepmother’s sandwich was good — she was the guest of honor after all.

How in God’s good green earth does a kitchen manage, with the first or second order of the day, to send out dishes that are overcooked AND cold? It’s some sort of odd impossibility that they made possible. It’s not like they were slammed — the place was still mostly empty! It’s not like the waitress was too busy to pick up the orders — the place was still mostly empty! The waitress offered to send them back, but there wasn’t enough time to wait for a new meal, and I didn’t want a side order of spittle.

The on-duty manager, “Farina”, a cute tiny girl of about 20 at the most came over and made a flaccid attempt to “make things right.” It was just an unpolished and feeble speech. Eh, whatever. It just became clear that the army-sized staff was a little inexperienced and young. In business, some flexibility and finesse is a must to keep customers coming back for more. Or, if you’re going to be inflexible, at least be consistent in your inflexibility. Am I right or am I right? I’m right.

Meanwhile, a group came in for brunch who was not originally slated to sit outside on the Holy Seating Plan Carved in Stone. However, they asked to sit upstairs and were summarily accommodated. WTF? Also, there was still only one table occupied outside.

At 11:45 when we left, the restaurant was still more than half empty, the sidewalk tables had one and a half tables occupied — a gentleman at one table was clearly waiting for someone to join him. We could also see that several tables on the roof were still unoccupied. Clearly, they could have easily sat us outdoors, and probably could have accommodated some walk-ins. Instead, they had a very unhappy party of four (including one irate Asian), and a couple of turned away parties who were probably also very turned off.

It’s Mother’s Day, for heaven’s sake, you vapid dingbats! Try your best to make it a pleasant experience for everyone — be accommodating, be friendly, be mature, and be on top of your game! Think of what experience you’d want to give your mommy. (Although, to be honest, these kids still looked the age where their moms were probably yelling at them for their slutty taste in clothes and they were running up to their room and slamming their doors to blast Bieber.)

Cold, overcooked food and inexperienced, terrible staff equals an awful experience over all. (Luckily, the company was good.) The only thing keeping the Elbow Room from getting NO SALTSHAKERS is the fact that the Bloody Marys were half decent and heavy on the horseradish. Otherwise, a place that may have been cool and good at one point in time (and I remember about 10 years ago when it was the place to be) is just really a sh!tshow with crappy food.

Half a saltshaker…the lowest I’ve given, I believe. Remember, that’s only for the Bloody Mary.

UPDATE 5/17/2011: I wrote an email to the Elbow Room last Monday (5/9/2011) sharing much of the above. No response as of yet. You know, I had a bad experience at a McDonald’s a few years back and even those soy burger flippers got back to me in a more timely and professional fashion. Who would have thunk it!