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A Dining Disaster

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      When good restaurants go bad.   By Judi Gallagher   With the risk of sounding a bit bah, humbug, I just want to tell you about a disappointing dining experience my husband and I recently suffered through. As a writer, I do not give any restaurant bad press—I figure everyone has a […]

December 4, 2006


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When good restaurants go bad.
 
By Judi Gallagher
 
With the risk of sounding a bit bah, humbug, I just want to tell you about a disappointing dining experience my husband and I recently suffered through. As a writer, I do not give any restaurant bad press—I figure everyone has a bad day now and again. I choose instead not to write about them until they get their act together. But some egregious experiences have no excuse.
 
A few weeks back, my husband and I decided to make reservations at a favorite restaurant. Although we reserved well over a week in advance, we were escorted to the worst table in the restaurant by a non-smiling host. My husband requested that we be moved, and after some hesitation, they moved us to a better table, larger and in the corner, much more of what we would have expected with advance reservations.
 
A server came to the table and greeted us without looking up: “Welcome… (pause to look a scrap paper with our names on it) Gallaghers… (now looking at us directly for the first time) is this your first time with us?”
 
“NO, we have been dining here for six years,” was what I thought of yelping back, but I a simple, “We have been here before, thank you” served as our response. He then presented my husband with the wine list, even though the reservation was under my name. As I reached over for the wine list, I was aghast—large food stains blotted the paper. As if to match the stained wine list, my menu was torn and dotted with food stains as well.
 
Fortunately, we caught the eye of a favorite server from an old downtown haunt and requested his service. Within an instant, service was not only attentive, it was relaxed and comfortable. Unfortunately, we weren’t as lucky with the food. Our side dishes were bland and nowhere near where they had tasted in the past. Do I smell complacency?
 
I do not like dirty menus, and I certainly do not like unfriendly hosts. Perhaps if I were not spending $200 for a dinner for two people, I might have been forgiving, but honestly—I have never been given a dirty menu at Old Salty Dog when I am just hanging out in beach attire, grabbing a basket of fish-‘n-chips.. Is it too much to expect the same at a fine dining restaurant?
 
Do you have some low points—or peak experiences—from the local dining scene to share? Please tell us about your experiences by adding a comment to this week’s blog.
You can also enter our holiday side dish contest (the prize: a $100 gift certificate at downtown’s Bacco’s). Please e-mail your entry to judig@sarasotamagazine.com …and for all those restaurants that do get it right—thank you!