I wrote an awesomely bitchy note on my iPad earlier. My intent was to work it into a blog post but, as I was polishing it, it somehow disappeared. Poof! Gone. It was a verbose piece. I used lots of big words, inspired perhaps by my stay last night at the Saratoga Hilton
, formerly Cheryl Clark’s
The post was prompted by the dining experience I shared last night with two friends, each of us restaurant server alumni. We went to Max London’s for dinner. This was the second time around at ML’s for two of us and, unfortunately, the experience was unerringly similar to our last visit – thoughtfully prepared food, nicely presented at the appropriate temperature contrasted with abysmal service. I’m talking comically bad. Epic.
It all began with the complete lack of welcome. Both times I’ve ventured in to this place, the greeting, aka as the tone setter for the evening, in my opinion, was completely absent. The folks standing behind the bar – posing perhaps for some unseen camera, didn’t acknowledge us whatsoever. All right then.
The hostess was busy and eventually got to us, estimating the wait for a table as about 20 minutes. I set the timer on my phone and we walked and window shopped, returning in 12 minutes only to learn that we had lost our table. A good hostess estimates a bit better than that, I think, and a great hostess notes the time she spoke with the prospective guest and does her best to honor it.
We elected to wait at the bar the second time around and, miraculously, 3 seats magically appeared. We sat. And sat. And sat. I would estimate it took a minimum of 5 minutes before we were acknowledged. Please be aware that there were 4 or 5 people working behind the bar, none moving with any sense of urgency. Not very impressive. At last, we ordered 3 simple drinks (2 glasses of Prosecco and a g&t) and waited again, probably closer to 10 minutes this time. By the time the cocktails were served our table was nearly ready and we were advised by the hostess to settle up at the bar because we would soon be seated.
Now, there’s a nice way to convey to a guest that you’d like them to wrap up their check at the bar, I suppose, but her approach was not it. The way she spoke, her tone of voice and her choice of words, was abrasive. Nonetheless we attempted to pay the check as soon as it was presented (maybe 2 minutes after we requested it. Pretty good, right?), but after waiting more than 5 minutes to have our credit card processed, we ultimately took our unpaid check to the table. And a tip? Forget it.
Our server was earnestly green, a welcome change from arrogantly jaded, and he did his best to provide us with what we ordered. And the food, by the way, was terrific. Everything you’ve ever heard about their polenta fries? All true – delicious! When we ordered a second mixed drink and the wait to receive it was pushing the ten minute mark, we knew it was time to abandon any hope of the evening being redeemed. I texted a friend and we headed to Capriccio Saratoga for the remainder of our dinner.
I would be remiss if I didn’t share the funniest moment of the meal. When we questioned our server about the missing drink he responded, without batting an eye, that the bar was very busy. The laughter that erupted from my table was the purest moment of joy prompted by our dining experience. Overall impression: the kitchen deserves a much better front of the house presence – an effective dining room manager is sorely needed, in my professional and personal opinion. You’re welcome.