Not a question so much as a mild rant: Many of my younger friends (I'm reaching retirement age soon) who are in their 20s complain that they are treated differently in restaurants than older, and presumably more affluent, patrons. I thought that was just sour grapes until I started watching to see if it was true. I dine out regularly at nice establishments that are known for their food and service. I was amazed when I began noticing that my wife and I received much better service than a table with a young couple (probably mid 20s) dining just across from us. It was not someplace where I had ever dined before so it wasn't because I was a regular. We both had the same team of servers, so it wasn't that. I was immediately offered a wine list, the young man had to request one. My bread basket and water glass were constantly refilled without me asking, theirs wasn't. I was offered coffee with dessert, he had to ask. Little things, but indicative of what younger folks complain about. Recently my son and some of his friends decided to go out to a nice dinner and took several bottles of wine from my cellar with them. He was recognized as having dined there before with me and received exceptional service. All of his friends commented that they never got that kind of service when they went out. (To be fair, none of them had ever eaten at this particular restaurant before.) However the complaint is heard too often for there not to be something to it. What is sad is that many of these folks have as much money as I do, and dine out regularly at nice places. But in any case, a restaurant should treat all of its patrons well, and not give young people short shrift.
Thanks for giving me the chance to remind the industry: Never assume anything.
Never assume that young diners won't be experienced chow hounds, never assume women won't want to be the first ones to see the wine list, never assume seniors will ask for separate checks, never assume children are going to create problems --- and so on.
While making sure to "read" each table for what they might need, treat everyone the same way you would a VIP and you might be surprised at the good karma that comes back to you.
Good morning, everyone. It's great to be back in the captain's chair after a week away. The Association of Food Journalists met here in Washington last week and I had a few obligations with them, including a State Department reception announcing the new Diplomatic Culinary Partnership between State and the James Beard Foundation.
Before we move on, I wanted to share an email from the general manager of Rasika in Penn Quarter, who is trying to track down the customer who complained about the restaurant in this forum a few weeks ago:
"Our staff is trained to accommodate any guest requests. It is very common for guests to make a meal out of our selection of appetizers.
The chef sends the appetizers as they are prepared to maintain the quality of the food.
We would like the opportunity to contact the guest to apologize and invite them back for a more pleasant dining experience. Please advise us the most appropriate manner to contact the guest.
We look forward to hearing from you."
If the chatter is lurking here today, please raise your hand, or write to me at email@example.com with your name and number.
You asked and I listened: A lot of you have been asking about where to eat in Chicago this year, and I finally made it back to the Windy City for my most recent Postcard from Tom. There are a trio of solid suggestions therein.
In other news, Jose Andres tells me he's a food consultant for the future NBC series "Hannibal," based on the fictional serial killer Hannibal Lecter (remember the doc with a taste for human flesh?)
And on that note, on with the show!
I'm a vegetarian who keeps reading all these good things about Mintwood. Would I be disappointed?
While carnivores are going to have a lot more to choose from, the menu at Mintwood Place includes a few dishes (foremost the glorious goat cheese and beet mountain "pie") that are meatless.
Looking at the current list, you could fill up on deviled eggs, shishito peppers, a vegetable risotto -- and the kitchen's wonderful desserts, of course.
Thanks for taking my question! I'm in the early stages of wedding planning (yay!) and was wondering if you have any suggestions of restaurants that might be willing to host a reception on Saturday night for about 150 people. I know it's a tall order, and we'll probably end up going with a non-restaurant option, but food is really important to the two of us, and this seems like one option to make sure our reception isn't just another entry in the annals of bad wedding food.
Can you give me more details, such as what part of the area you're aiming for, what yor budget is and what kind of food you want? I'll try to come up with a few ideas before the hour is up.
Hi Tom, BF and I ate at Mintwood Place a few weeks ago, and while I loved the food (we had warm olives, steak tartare, and shared the pork for two with risotto and broccolini), the service was severely lacking. And, we definitely got sat at the worst seat in the house, right next to the waitstaff station. But the food was great, so its hard to complain. The reason for my post: during dinner, a large insect (NOT cockroach, i'm just not sure what it was) was crawling along the wall next to my head, as I was sitting in the booth. My boyfriend wanted to call a waiter over and make a big deal of it, and generally cause a scene. I just let the bug crawl along, and it eventually went under my booth seat and out of sight. Did I handle this right? Should I have flagged someone over like my boyfriend suggested? I mean, it's just a (large) harmless insect, right?
You did the right thing.
No one wants to see critters roaming through a restaurant while they're eating, but what exactly is a restaurant supposed to do in the middle of service and without drawing unwelcome attention to a rather small problem? After paying, you could have mentioned what you saw, just in case the restaurant hasn't sprayed for insects recently, and then as more of a courtesy than a rant.
Not to get all Carolyn Hax, but your BF sounds unpleasant.
Tom, I'm wondering if you (or any of the chatters) have recommendations for food in the Cancun/Quintana Roo area? I'll be going there in a couple of months for my honeymoon and would love to try some authentic Mexican food (and margaritas!!!)
I know nothing about the food possibilities in Cancun. Maybe some chatters can weigh in?
Tom, will your recent trip to C'ville be reviewed in the paper anytime soon?
Hi Tom I've gotten some really good restaurant places you've suggested to others but now I need some help. It's my wedding anniversary next week and it's my turn to choose where to go but I'm stuck. We'd like to stay somewhat close to home (springfield, burke, fairfax, fairlakes, etc), good food, moderate level noise where we can carry on a conversation but not shout, moderate price level - I don't want to break the bank but was planning around $25/per person or less (not including drinks). Drinks aren't that important. This time around we're looking for a good seafood place. I'm really at a loss on where to go, don't really want a chain. What places do you suggest?
Your best bet, the place closest to you and with most of what you want, is probably Coastal Flats in Fairfax. While it's a Great American Restaurants establishment, the locally-owned seafood destination has plenty of personality. Another option is Ford's Fish Shack in Ashburn, which does a nice job with crab cakes and lobster rolls, among other dishes.
Twice in recent weeks, we've gone to neighborhood places where we probably qualify as regulars and been treated to inattentive service. The first time, we were seated and at least 10-15 minutes passed without anyone coming by the table. When I finally flagged the hostess, she apologized saying that they were short-handed, took our drink order and made sure that we were well tended to for the rest of the evening. At the second place, the waiter seemed to be more interested in chatting with nearby tables than in tending to his other customers. He never checked with us to be sure that our food was okay or if we needed anything, and even though he could clearly see me signaling for a check, he took his time to come over. Another table was having the same issue. We asked for the manager and told her of our displeasure - again receiving apologies and a promise that she'd talk to him. We left a 10% tip (probably more than he deserved), but now my wife feels that if we return and encounter the same waiter again, she'll feel uncomfortable. Is she overreacting?
The waiter who wasn't doing his job should be worried about you, not the other way around. Let's hope he indeed was talked to and has stepped up his game. You and your wife should go back with confidence, though.
All restaurant owners and managers need to post a statement in their kitchens or waitstaff's break area pointing out the old adage that every satisfied customer tells three people but every dissatisfied customer tells eight. With the corollary that in today's connected world, younger customers are much more likely to tell the entire world, via their iPhones, about being slighted at such-&-such a restaurant. These waiters are shooting their employers in the foot as well as themselves.
I'm nodding my head in agreement.
Tom, you're awesome. Good advice about that boyfriend, and good of you to say it. That's all.
You think? I just thought the gf handled the incident so smoothly (and that she probably deserved better than Mr. Let's Make A Fuss.)
I see these everywhere now...are they the new, hip snack of the moment?
They are! Well, they''ve been around for some time, of course, but they're popping up everywhere I eat these days, both here in DC and on the road.
There's not much labor involved, but the peppers have the potential to pack a surprise: some are mild, some are fiery, you never know until you bite one. Fun.
Hi Tom, My husband and I are expecting an addition to our family in the next few weeks and decided to go out for one last big hurrah before our lives are turned upside down. At first we were thinking of doing a nice big dinner out, but now are leaning more towards doing a "restaurant hop" where we get a favorite dish at the bar of a few different restaurants within walking distance. We were thinking Penn Quarter area where we could stop by Graffiato, some Jose Andres restaurants, etc. What other restaurant recommendations do you have and what about a few of your favorite dishes there? Thanks, Soon to be Mom
Great idea, grazing through a bunch of restaurants rather than just one.
Off the top of my head, I'd be inclined to start at Rasika for something fun from the bar and baked cabbage dumplings in pale yellow yogurt sauce; move on to Oyamel for ceviche and margaritas; head up to Jaleo for whatever specials and sangria might interest you and -- well, at that point, you really ought to hail a cab and go home with smiles on your faces, right?
I'm shocked at your answer re: Mintwood bug and I disagree -- who wants to eat a nice dinner with large insect companions?? Not saying to make a huge scene but I would definitely alert the waitstaff and expect them to remove the insect immediately.
I'm a big boy. If I saw a bug like that, I'd either ignore it or use my napkin to "hide" it myself. Why bother a busy server?
Oh, this problem is not just in restaurants. Several years ago I was told at work that while I was qualified to take on a newly vacant director role they just hesitated because "I needed a little more grey hair."
That is SO WRONG. I hope you complained to someone. (Bugs don't bother me much; discrimination makes me crazy.)
Tom- OP here, just an FYI, I think my boyfriend was just being overly chivalrous. He even suggested that we switch seats so that the bug would be near HIS head instead of mine. So you can't really fault him. But it was a rather silly reaction to a bug. No need to cause a fuss over it. BTW, me and all my coworkers love your chat! We are having a good laugh over yours and the chatters reactions to my bf. Thanks for the entertainment during a boring work day!
I feel better now. Thanks for letting all of us know what a doll your bf really and truly is.
I don't blame BF for wanting the bug removed, tho I agree it wasn't a "big deal". It however was next to GF's head, not yards away. Shouldn't staff be expected to remove it and then wash their hands, instead of the diners having to interrupt their meal had GF not been so accepting? I wouldn't mind a cricket, but an unknown and large insect? Ugh!
I realize I'm paid to be, well, critical, but I honestly think I'm more sympathetic to what goes on in restaurants because I've seen just about everything one can see in restaurants over my tenure. A mouse in the house? I'd let the manager know. But it wouldn't send me scurrying, necessarily.
I echo what the orignal poster said. I tend to dine out a lot (business and pleasure) but I do know that the service I receive tends to be lesser than other patrons. As a former server, I was told that people of my demographic are poor tippers so I wonder if it is because of that. But that puts me in a bad position, do I tip poorly because the service (from the hostess on) left something to be desired, or do I overcompensate due to the stereotypes I know exist? I honestly would like to go to a restaurant and not be judged by factors I cannot control.
I err on the side of over-tipping, but that's the former waiter in me. I can also tell the difference between the mistakes made by the kitchen and those made by the dining room staff. Just don't lie to me, or make up some excuse because THAT drives me nuts.
This feels like group therapy today!
Tom, just moved to Silver Spring this year (downtown) and am celebrating my birthday in a couple of weeks. My girlfriend (who lives in Bethesda) wants to take me out for a special dinner, but since my birthday is a weeknight, it would probably be somewhere in that corridor. We're open to all sorts of cuisines - anything from "American" to Indian to Italian, etc. - and would be looking for something not too pricey (maybe $20-$30 for an entree, neither of us are big drinkers). Thoughts?
In Silver Spring, you should try Jackie's (love that groovy ambiance) for American fare; Jewel of India for lamb vindaloo, smoked eggplant, chicken in a dark gold gravy sweetened with fried coconut and terrific Indian breads in a festive setting; or the newish LacoMelza for very good Ethiopian food in an art gallery setting.
Tom or Chatters, I'm looking for dining recommendations for Savannah, GA for this weekend as I'm attending a wedding with plenty of down time. What's good? Thanks in advance.
Tom, I have a two-day convention coming up at National Harbor next spring. I want to visit this weekend to get a sense of the dining options. What would you recommend for a classy dinner and a casual lunch? Thanks.
Hi Tom, Remember when this place opened on 15th and P? I wrote to you bemoaning the waste of good restaurant space for this place? Well, I stopped in on Saturday for a drink and had their guacamole and it was actually really good! Well, except there were some bits of not-ripe avocado but the taste was excellent. Then yesterday, I went for lunch and had the carne asada and tacos al pastor and they were really good too! The rice they come out with is not worth the calories but the meat was really well seasoned and the presentation was nice. Finally, the service has been really good both times, nothing to sneeze at in service-poor DC. Tom, what to do? I'm having to eat my words along with my tacos!
In case everybody else has not already jumped on you for this, if the "soon to be mom" is not adopting, but pregnant, i don't think she wants to know where to get the best margaritas, sangrias are....
But her accomplice might! And each of those restaurants I highlighted offers interesting virgin drinks, I should have noted.
back in 1987 my bro and I both in our 20's received crappy service at Blues Alley. We were there to see Wynton. Waiteress totally ignored us but gave great service to the couple in their early 50's next to us. Both my bro and i have done everything in a restaurant but manage. As former servers she got stiffed on a bill of $100+. It could have been closer t $150 if she did her job.
Wow. There's a lesson there.
Did you get reassigned to Ghana? Insects during your meal is OK with you? Where do you draw the line -- cockroaches? Mice? Rats? Cats?
Actually, I've seen all of those critters -- and more -- in my restaurant rounds.
Look, I like a clean dining environment as much as the next diner. But stuff happens -- despite spraying for bugs and such -- and I'm not going to get all crazy about a single bug sighting in a restaurant.
Tom, thank you for taking my question! Where would you go for a romantic, fine dining experience to celebrate an anniversary? There is a catch, though, it has to be on a Monday! The spots I had in mind seem to be closed on Mondays. Tastes are wide open, but we are particularly looking for quiet atmosphere with a great wine list.
Lots of romantic choices are open on Monday. They include the Source and Fiola in Penn Quarter for pan-Asian and Italian, respectively; 1789 in Georgetown for traditional American; Bombay Club near the White House for Indian; and Vidalia in the West End for a taste of the South.
Fogo de Chao has a great upstairs that can easily handle the capacity. Bonus, the style of service guarantees fresh food for all involved with entrees sitting in a window or food getting cold while being delivered. And vegetarian option obviously!!!
Don't automatically give the check to the guy! I have fun saying "Oh, that's for me" to a waiter that handing a check to my husband-- it all comes out of the same bank account anyways!
Good for you! (And how true.)
Americans have gone off the deep end about pregnant women drinking. There's nothing wrong with a moderate amount of alcohol, particularly late in the pregnancy. Europeans think we're nuts on this issue, with good reason.
To each her own, I say.
Take a trip (about an hour south) to Akumal for an afternoon snorkeling in the bay. Akumal has both a bay - featuring large numbers of sea turtles - and a lagoon - with schools and schools of fish. After the snorkeling, happy hour at the Lol-Ha beach bar and dinner at Cueva del Pescador for simple fish prepared well. It's light years away from Cancun in feel and the food is quite lovely.
Sounds like fun. Thanks for the suggestion.
We'll be meeting our college aged daughter in Baltimore this weekend and taking her and a friend out for dinner. These girls are foodies and, as we do, appreciate a great meal and experience. We're not looking for anything fancy, just something delicious. Any recommendations?
If the girls are chow hounds and want something casual but interesting, check out the Bohemian Chameleon Cafe in the northeastern part of Baltimore, Lauraville. The restaurant pours terrific cocktails and entices further with great specials: choucroute garni, steak Diane, cornmeal fried oysters if you're lucky. Desserts are worth lingering over, too. I can still taste the sour cream chocolate cake I had a year ago there.
I must have gone on a really off night because that was the longest dinner I've ever had in my life. We were there for over two hours, is that normal? My boyfriend and I showed up 10 minutes early for our reservation and we were seated immediately. We sat there for 30 minutes and the waiter still didn't take our drink order, mainly because after 20 minutes of sitting there and waiting, he dropped drinks all over one of his five tables. We decided to move to the bar after telling the hostess the situation. The bartender was great but the food came out so slooooow. I was just really annoyed by the whole situation especially since by this time, we were there for one hour and still no food. I don't remember what time the food came out but it was long enough. Is this normal at Bistro Bis? Thank goodness the food was good but it wasn't worth the wait.
Hi Tom, you steered us right last year with your recommendation for Sushi Taro (the phenomenal tasting menu!) so I was hoping you'd help me impress my boyfriend again (he's still talking about his last birthday dinner). We don't have any food restrictions, in fact, he's a super adventurous diner (he ate sauteed silkworms when we were in Vietnam without batting an eye). Where can we go for a fun and dynamic dining experience that would not set me back further than $250, drinks+tips not included? Thanks so much!
Hi Tom, my boss would like to take our 20 person office out to lunch this Friday. The budget is $500-600 (no drinks - we all have to head back to work!) and we have a couple of vegetarians and one person who can't eat dairy in the group. My first thought was Vidalia, for their prix fixe lunch, but it's difficult getting the daily menu ahead of time. Can you recommend any other restaurants downtown that might offer nice prix fixe lunch menus and can accommodate our group? Thanks!
some work colleagues and I went for lunch at a one-step up from a hole in the wall chinese restaurant near work. when we walked in (there were five of us) and asked for a table the hostess said "you know if you sit down to eat you have to leave a tip". Later when we asked for our check she came over again and reminded us to be sure to tip our server. We are all young professionals, we don't look particularly sketchy... and it never would have occured to us to not leave a tip. I can understand that in the past maybe there have been some young kids who haven't left a tip...but is there any excuse for this sort of questioning? I found it really rude..and am not going to be heading back there soon.
Did you mention your surprise to the hostess? Did you tell her you and your friends include gratuties in their payment? Sometimes, people need to hear these things ...
Hi Tom, I was inspired by yesterday's article in the WaPo about the Ethiopian New Year. Where is the best place (DC or MD) to get authentic Ethiopian food right now (without spending a small fortune)? Thanks!
Hi Tom, I don't have a question but wanted to comment on the lovely experience we had at Little Serow on Saturday. My boyfriend and I went there for dinner for my birthday. I wanted to go after reading all the positive things that you and other posters have said. I was not disappointed. The food was wonderful and the service was superlative. It all made for a very special birthday celebration.
You wont answer questions on Q and Absolute Q?
Uh, yes. I'm not seeing anything like them at the moment.
Nando's is a must for casual lunch!
High end dining: Elizabeths on 37th is worth every penny. B. Matthew's eatery is very good for breakfast and everyone goes crazy for Mrs. Wilkes but if you're not in line 30 mintues before it opens, then forget about it. Also, Leopold's is a great ice cream joint for a midday snack.
I thought Mrs. Wilkes was atrocious, a shadow of a shadow of a carbon copy of what it used to be. Like a bad Thanksgiving in a stranger's basement.
(But Tom, don't hold back!)
Tom, I am one of your biggest fans and a devoted chat reader, but I have to speak up about Mintwood as you continue to rave about it. I have been there three times and the food and service I have had can only be described as so-so. I gave it two more chances but I am not a fan. Are we eating at the same place? Still a fan...
I haven't been back since I reviewed it -- and I'll keep my eyes peeled for signs of changes, thanks to your memo here.
The question about the bug reminded me of a time at Bua on 18th (which tells you this happened at least 15 years ago) at which a very large and univited cockroach jumped onto our table, one of my friends stood up without scooting back and the table and its contents were launched onto others of our party. Good times. Good times.
How much beer did that involve? ;)
I am totally with you Tom on the bug thing. People seem to overreact to this sort of thing, but restaurants are not hospitals. In fact, even hospitals get bugs! And try leaving a city bar or restaurant when you get off your shift at 1 am, and then just TRY to avoid the alley rats and other delights.
Hey, Tom. For the wedding couple, 150 is going to be difficult to do in a Restaurant setting. I'm a wedding planner, though, and BY FAR the best caterer in the DC area is Main Event -- they are SUPER flexible, and are perfect for foodies -- a TOTAL foodie couple of mine getting married in October is having an Ethiopian station, a Latin American station, a BBQ station, and an Asian station, and Main Event did an excellent job with all of them, even earning the approval of one of the girls' Puerto Rican mother for the Puerto Rican rice and beans! I highly recommend them (and I most definitely don't work for them, I work with lots of caterers, and they are the best -- they're who I would use if I were getting married).
Main Event is new to me. But the caterer sounds promising.
Bugs fly/crawl in while the door is open. Harmless waterbugs the size of Volkswagons mosey up the drains. It's not an antiseptic world, folks. They're nothing to make a fuss about.
Yup, Part 2.
I was out to lunch with co-workers (just friends where we each pay our own way). The waiter managed to drop an entire pitcher of water on me, which actually was painful to my shoulder and left me soaking wet. I could tell he felt bad and the manager did come out but she decided to give us a free appetizer. So basically my co-workers got some free food and I was left soaking wet and with a sore shoulder. I guess I can't expect that she would know the relationship of all 5 of us at the table but it still annoyed me. What do you think about this?
I think *you* should have been comped a *meal* for the hosing and asked by the manager if there was anything she could do to make you more comfortable -- up to and including sending someone out to buy you a white shirt, so at least half of you would be dry.
We lined up at 5:15 - later than we wanted. We weren't able to be in the first seating but they took my number & texted us when the table was ready. Another kudows, the estimate they gave us for the table was spot on at 7:15.
Awesome. Good to know.
The poster has commented several times on that incident over the past several years. Glad he didn't repeat the story of his black AMEX he tossed at the server this time!!!!
Didn't catch that repitition.
Well "maybe" you don't work for them but I'm sure you receive something when your clients use them. These type of over-the-top recommendations always seem so phony to me.
Always take anonymous posts with a grain of fleur de sel, I say.
Having just done my wedding reception at a restaurant to rave reviews from my guests (best weddining ever - just great food & booze, no trite crap!), the best advice I can give the bride to be is pick your restaurant and then slash your guest list to fit the space. The quality of food and beverage that say...$100 per person (before +++)....can provide is far, far, far and away superior to anything even then best hotels or caterers can provide. I say that from experience as a corporate events planner, having worked with hotels such as The Fairmont, Four Seasons, Ritz Carlton, etc. Restaurants are a much better value for your money.
Thanks for the advice.
Based on your review, we ended up going to Thai-Xing for a friend's birthday. We had the top floor to ourselves and it was a very memorable evening with amazing food. Thanks!
NCouple comments: First, your developers need to look at the chat on an ipad, the submit a question function doesn't work... Second, here is my part about do not assume: do not assume that women don't know anything about beer or don't eat different things. I'm in my late 30s, dine out often alone, usually sitting at the bar, and you can't imagine how often I'm offered well known boring lager and chicken when I ask for recommendations (and please don't e plain to me what sweetbreads is when I order it) I'm adventurous, know a lot about beer, wine, and spirits, and love to try new things. I generally end up with people watching me while I enjoy a big with lambs tongue, kidneys, or something theycan't dream of tasting. Of course I go back to places where they treat me as a regular customer, and tell me what's good and different! On the bug issue, I agree with not making a big deal, but There's no way i'd eat next to a bug. Someone needs to take care of it (definitely not me, especially with a bug I don't know) and preferably change my seat and offer me a cold drink ;-)
I;ll look into your technical question and I thank you for your point of view.
Just push you duster aside Tom and dig your spurs in and blow the offending bug to who knows where with your coach gun. Should get the attention of the management Rodents and other vermin will also get the message. Whats a little buckshot and birdshot amongst friends.
Darn tootin' right, cowboy!
Tom, Carolyn Hax has a long-running discussion in Hax-Philes as to whether it's appropriate for a parent to bring in a happy meal or similar to an upscale restaurant if accompanied by a child who won't eat that restaurant's cuisine. I'm appalled by the very thought. Leave the child with a babysitter or go to another restaurant. While a large majority of chatters agree with me, some see nothing wrong with this practice. If you were the Maitre d' at a 3 star establishment, how would you handle this?
That is SO WRONG. You do *not* bring food or drink from another establishment into a business that makes its living off of selling food and drink. Either leave the fussy little diner at home or call the restaurant in advance to see what it might do for the little one.
And that's a rant, and a wrap, for today, gang.
Let's gather again next week, same time. Thanks for your wisdom and the laughs you delivered this morning.