The Worst Meal I’ve Had Since I Moved To New York

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“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:

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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:

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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.

25 comments

  1. Oh. My. God. I had the same experience in Vancouver. I was in the middle of a high-tuition, short-timeframe master’s degree, and had a number of assignments and exams coming up. I was totally freaking out, and my husband convinced me to go out for Sunday brunch.

    We went to Hell’s Kitchen.

    That should have warned me.

    A new restaurant, at the time. They’d been open about a month. The waitress seated us on the patio… first at one table, then another. She didn’t have menus. She wandered off to get them. She came back about 10 minutes later. By then I ready to ask for coffee and my husband wanted orange juice. She went off to get them. She came back 10 minutes later to get our order. No drinks.

    We ordered – he, eggs & sausage; me, eggs benedict. We watched other people get seated (without menus). We waited for our drinks. We flagged down another waitress and (successfully!) got glasses of water.

    We saw food being delivered to a table that had been seated 20 minutes after we did. The food was eggs & sausage and eggs benedict. The people at that table looked confused and the food was sent back – never to be seen again. We tried to flag it down- truly we did.

    We asked the waitress wandering past about our drinks. She apologized and promised to return with them immediately. I think she went off-shift five minutes later. We never saw her again.

    I kid you not, after sitting at our table for 50 minutes, having ordered both drinks and food (and having seen the food go to another table and then leave), another waitress came up to our table, presented menus and apologized for us having been left sitting without anyone bringing us a menu.

    I lost it.

    Now, I’m generally not the kind of person to swear at service staff; I understand that they get hosed left, right and centre. But COME ON!?!

    I had allocated myself an hour of non-study time, and we had lost all but 6 minutes of it to sitting there repeating our orders and witnessing the horror that is a restaurant that hires based on bust-waist ratio rather than experience.

    I haven’t returned, nor shall I. I gather that they managed to get their act together enough to not go under (but I guess that can be mitigated by short shorts)..

    [hm.. apparently I got a bit of a rant on here. Suffice it to say – I can relate]

  2. I’m so sorry to hear that you had such a horrible experience at Orchid. However, you can most certainly treat this as a learning experience for you. And other people can learn from you to not visit that restaurant.

    I wish you many happier meals :)

  3. being in the industry, i wonder where’s the mgr or supv ? No wonder their biz sux.

    Sorry to hear abt the bad experience.

  4. Do you think the horrible dinner tainted your play experience? Maybe it was a good show but your restaurant-induced anger clouded your judgment.

  5. How horrible to have to suffer through a bad play and a bad dinner experience. That’s how we live and learn though, eh? As always, thanks for the review!

  6. I still fume over going out for a big bachelorette party dinner for my friend, the hostess telling us, oh, see that, that will be your table, watching them give it to someone else, watching the hostess point to us, and the waiter shrug and then her coming back to DRINK A GLASS OF WINE and ignore everyone waiting. We told her repeatedly we had to make our next appointment, and she gave away our table, and she just acted flustered and ignored us. She sat us one hour and 30 minutes after she gave away our table. The kicker was when she came to our table, wine in hand, and said, “see girls, you will totally make your next appointment.”

    We didn’t.

  7. I understand your “sense of personal responsibility.” I hate when I pick a place to take others and then it turns out badly for some reason. I always feel like it’s my fault in some way.

  8. you know what Amateur Gourmet? Most of us struggle to keep our head afloat living in NYC with a dream. We don’t have the luxury to dine at Babbo, Jean George, River Cafe, Posto, and on and on and on with you…multiple times in fact. We don’t even eat out at sit down restaurants as many times as you do in a month all year long. Being a waiter or waitress or whatever the menial job, is a means to the end that is hard to come by. Most of the time when we know next to nothing about food and our writing is ok, we don’t get hit up for a book deal or people throwing free Broadway tickets to us. And, you’re a student! So, cut the guy a break – it’s not uncommon to have bad service in NYC and maybe he was just having an exceptionally awful day where he doesn’t know where he going to get rent money from next month. Most people aren’t apologetic for crappy service in this town because they are sick of seeing other people, especially spoiled rich kids, sitting around having a good time without a care in the world. Keep that in mind the next time your mom pouts and whines about where she is seated at her pretentious restaurants.

  9. Cathy — I don’t think personally knocking Amateur Gourmet is going to further your cause. His negative opinions are truly few and far between, and the restaurant undoubtedly deserves it because they failed on so many levels, from attentiveness (note the water) to stingy entrees (note the shrimp) to total dishonesty (wouldn’t it have gone a long way to say “the chef apologizes for not having what you want” or “the chef has your meal as her first priority?” or “can we bring you an hors d’oeuvres on the house to tide you over?”)

    Everyone agrees – attending to customers is a thankless job. But these guys failed on multiple levels. And it doesn’t have shit to do with the reviewer.

  10. First, the (seldom seen) wrath of the AG — thanks for the warning, I’ve walked by that place and now I’ll never darken their door. Instructive or not, bad service sucks.

    Next, the wrath of Cathy — why ya such a hater? I don’t get it: the *one* time (as far back as I can recall) that Adam really lets loose with a bad service complaint, he’s a spoiled brat for eating at nice places most of the time? Huhhh? That’s like flipping out on Frank Bruni or Jeffrey Steingarten for stopping by a Taco Bell and giving it the thumbs down — anybody can have a bad taco (especially at The Border), what does it matter where they usually eat? AG’s review was *not* written as though he “normally” gets much better service at the pricey places and he expected more — ANYONE who got treated so poorly by Orchid would complain, prince or pauper, no?

    Bottom line: you’ve read about the fancy restaurants, the cruise, the fam, the runs to Whole Foods, the book deal, trip to Paris, blah blah…and NOW you’re complaining? Get a life and stop reading AG if it’s not to your taste. Bon appetit — and rock on with your bad “spoiled” self, AG!! :)

  11. This happened to me at Buona Sera on University Place, which I consider one of the worst restaurants in New York. It was New Year’s Day brunch, and we were the only customers. The bread in the basket was frozen in the middle, as was the English muffin under my eggs Benedict. I sent my dish back, and it was more than twenty minutes before it came back out. Of course everyone else was already finished, since they were eating eggs. I don’t know how places like that and like Orchid stay in business. Why does anyone put up with it?

    As for Cathy: Get a life. If someone doesn’t like his job as a waiter, he should quit.

  12. It’s nice to see a bad review. I wish (if you had the time) You’d mention the “eh” places, too. I read reviews, for information as well as entertainment.

    As far as bashing him…of course he’s not gonna write about every dirty-water hot dog he eats off a cart, or every egg McMuffin he devours on the subway… I’m sure the man eats SOMETHING between Babbo and Jean Georges, it’s just not worth writing about…

    It seems as though Cathy (kudos for posting a name, by the way, normally blasts like this are done anonymously) has a lot of bitterness towards Adam’s state of being (fancy resturaunts, NYU, blah blah blah). I say, yeah, he probably lives different than a lot of us, but I read blogs to read about different views of the world.

    Cathy should take her dream, her struggling, and her bitterness and start her own blog, it might be an interesting read. Cathy should not take her dream, her struggling, and her bitterness out on Adam, who’s just a guy (who doesn’t seem to have a mean bone in his body), who writes about food.

  13. Nothing makes me madder than a bad dining experience, and take great delight in calling the manager over and calmly talking to him/her.

    By the way, does anyone else think that your friend in the photo looks like Angelina Jolie’s ex, Jenny Shimizu?

  14. I don’t mean to add injury to insult AG, but having lived my whole life in the Deep South, I’m pretty sure your collards and yams came from a can.

  15. Hey Cathy, maybe you were having a bad day and I commend you for caring about waiters – and maybe the waiter was having a gawdawful day but I’m pretty sure Adam has given us a blog that blends altruism and egalitarianism along with his reviews, recipes and sense of humor. I just recently got turned onto food blogs a few months ago when someone pointed out one to me that involved the restaurant scene in Buenos Aires. Knowing that I was going to be there for less than 10 days, having an idea of different cuisines, prices, and attitudes was really helpful.

    I live in South Florida and Adam’s reviews have helped me in making some decisions where to or not to go and if I head back to NYC anytime soon (it’s been too long!), I’ll take his insights into careful consideration. I don’t read Adam or anybody else’s blogs to determine their rights of entitlement – I read it for the information – and to be entertained – the writing is very good. If a young artistic, dare I say cute young man can entertain us and also dine out – more power to him – he does it with distinct savoir faire and with enough panache that I feel sometimes like I am sitting tableside with him and his guests – in that sense I view reading his and other food blogs as a privilege and not a burden – no Orchid for any of us, but if it does survive as an eating establishment, perhaps that waiter and other employees will stumble across these words and change things for the better for everyone. That’s my ten cents. . .

  16. Bravo Roberto. Very well said.

    I love this site and am quite happy to get taken out to dinner to places I may never be able to see. I consider it both a priviledge and a pleasure.

    So if someone doesn’t like this site, I would suggest going to another. Personally, I save my snarky comments for political blogs. This just doesn’t seem the place for them.

  17. I feel Hell’s Kitchen has a lot of places like Orchid. Anyway, that’s what happens when you “experiment”.

  18. Well, trying something new is taking a chance. There’s always that chance of a rotten apple, or underpar experiences. We’d probably just like to think that those won’t happen to us.

  19. Hey Cathy: GROW UP! I waitressed my way through school, and let me tell you: it’s a job, and one that must be done and you don’t ignore customers. You are complaining that you don’t get to go to “posh” restaurants?? Maybe you should’ve picked another career path. Everyone needs to do the job they are being paid to do. If I am paying good money for a service, then I should get what I am paying for. Problems do arise, mistakes are made, but that said, they can be rectified. Get your head out of the communistic clouds!!!

  20. This is several months old now, but I’d like to be a voice of dissent, or at least of giving Orchid a 2nd chance. I have only been once, but I found the food (curry chicken roti, jerk pork), to be very tasty, large portions, and affordable, and the service to be kind and accommodating and very helpful. Perhaps the waiter who helped you is no longer there, I don’t know, but I would go back some time if you’re in the neighborhood and in the mood.

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