“Calm down, Adam,” said Patty. “You can take it all out on your blog later.”
I have rarely ever used my blog to seek revenge on dining establishments that perform poorly when I’m out to dine. Usually, I’m very generous about bad situations. If a friend takes me to a favorite restaurant and there are big bones in the fish (as happened a few months ago), I’ll contextualize my review so that it’s clear this is still my friend’s favorite restaurant. If I’m out to a meal at a lesser known restaurant and the meal just isn’t very good, I usually won’t write about: why pan a place that no one really cares about anyway?
No, it takes a lot to set me off. And our meal at Orchid on Friday night set me off to no end. I was literally fuming in my seat.
Here’s what happened. Patty, Lauren, Craig and I were going to see “Show People” (a horrible play) at 2nd Stage Theater at 8 pm. We met there at 6 and decided to walk to 9th Ave. to find a place for dinner. This is almost always a winning strategy for cheap adventurous eating in the theater district (NOTE: I get lots of e-mail asking where to eat cheaply in the theater district. Go to 9th Ave.)
We journeyed down 9th, laughing all the way, when we spotted the restaurant you see above: Orchid.
“It looks kind of sketchy,” said Craig.
“Yeah,” agreed Lauren.
But I was seduced by the blurbs taped to the door. Good press from sources I trust (New York Magazine, The New York Times) usually gives me that extra little nudge I need to try something new. Plus the food here–Carribean Soul cuisine–sounded intriguing.
“Let’s give it a try,” I urged and everyone shrugged and agreed to go along. [NOTE: Perhaps my fuming came from a sense of personal responsibility?]
We sat at one of the tables on a long bench where very few other people were sitting. “Not very popular tonight,” said Craig.
And then we met him. The very worst waiter in the history of dining. Let me explain: there are waiters who are hostile and rude who you can easily villify and then there are waiters who are lazy, inept and completely apathetic. That was our waiter.
A huge warning flare should have shot up at the very beginning when, taking our order, he told us they’d ran out of homemade macaroni and cheese “so we’re using Stouffers.” All of us eyed each other. “Uh oh,” we thought.
Here’s what we ordered: Lauren ordered a spicy shrimp dish, Craig ordered a spicy fish dish, I ordered roasted chicken and Patty ordered fish and chips. Patty and Craig ordered Caribbean lager to drink:
I ordered a lemonade and my facial expression, upon trying it, betrayed my true feelings to anyone watching. “What’s wrong with it?” asked Patty.
“Too sweet,” I replied craving water. I looked down at my water glass and it was empty. It was never to be refilled again.
Eventually the food started coming. Lauren’s dish came first. Her $17 shrimp dish came with five–count ’em, FIVE–shrimp. She had a stunned look on her face.
Craig’s fish looked decent enough but it was over done.
Here’s my roasted chicken with yams and collared greens:
Everything tasted fine, nothing exceptional. That’s not where my grievance lies.
My grievance lies with Patty’s dish. Where’s Patty’s dish? Funny you should ask. It didn’t come out.
“It’s ok guys,” said Patty. “Start eating.”
We began to nibble a little thinking the food would come in just a minute. It didn’t. The waiter stood behind the counter on the other side of the room and I caught his eye. “Can you check on her food?” I asked. He went into the kitchen.
He emerged moments later with a dish that he placed down in front of Patty.
“What is this?” asked Patty.
“Oh,” said the waiter. “You didn’t order this?”
“I ordered fish and chips.”
“Oh ok,” he said and started walking back to the kitchen with the plate.
“Will it take a long time?” I asked.
“No, he said: just a few minutes.”
Those words–“just a few minutes”–echoed around the room and morphed into vicious laughter. For “just a few minutes” turned out to be almost half an hour. Not only had Craig, Lauren and I finished all our food, we’d gone home, written novels, started families and returned back with time to spare.
As the 30 minutes passed I found myself filled with a rage I rarely experience when out to dine. Mostly it was because of the waiter who was completely 100% unaplogetic about the situation. We kept asking where her food was (because this was literally THIRTY MINUTES) and he’d say, “Oh, we have a new chef, she’s really backed up right now. We have lots of take out orders.”
Excuse me but the woman sitting at an actual table in your restaurant STARVING takes precedence over any take-out order. That’s just good business sense.
Lauren, who also found herself enraged asked us, when the waiter left, if we thought Patty would have to pay for her dish.
“No way,” I said. Everyone agreed.
So when the waiter returned without the food for the 8th time Lauren said she didn’t think Patty should have to pay for her dish. He reluctantly agreed.
And when the dish finally came out, it was laughably easy-to-prepare food. The fries were absolutely, no question about it defrosted frozen french fries. The fried fish looked like standard fried fish. I could’ve rented a boat, caught a fish, fileted it, brought it back and fried it in half the time it took them.
So in conclusion it wasn’t necessarily the ineptitude that angered me so much, it was the total indifference to Patty’s plight. Extreme cases like this highlight why service matters. When you’re in any dining establishment, I don’t care if it’s Jean-Georges or IHOP, you want to feel like you’re being cared for–the way that any guest would want to be treated by a host. When that doesn’t happen, all the pleasures of dining out begin to fade away.
After we saw “Show People” (which we all hated) Patty said “sometimes it’s instructive to see bad theater.” And I echo her sentiment about bad dining though I pray you never set foot in Orchid: let our bad experience be your own.