I am gathering restaurant horror stories in the next few weeks. Here's what just happened to me:
Yesterday I met my brother, his wife, and four of their friends at Cafe D'Alsace for lunch or brunch or whatever it is you call a meal eaten at 1:15 on a Sunday afternoon. Needless to say, I suggested the restaurant, which was reasonably convenient to the group's next planned activity, a visit to the Guggenheim to see an exhibition of Jackson Pollack drawings. I must have been feeling lightheaded from all the heat. Why else would I agree to go a museum instead of watching the Yankee game?
The first sign of trouble was the response from the woman that answered the phone when I inquired if they took reservations for brunch. She said that they don't take reservations, that it wasn't crowded the moment I called, and she couldn't say if it would be crowded when we got there. In other words, she made no effort to be accommodating or helpful in any way.
Seven of us (I know, I know, it's a large party. But that's exactly why even restaurants with a no reservations policy make exceptions for large parties) walked into the restaurant at 1:15, and we were told it would be about fifteen minutes before we could be seated. Fifteen minutes went by, and though no large tables became available, there were at least ten tables seating four or less standing empty. The natives (my brother and his friends) were getting restless, and I felt their restlessness keenly, as I had suggested the restaurant.
I kept going over to the podium and suggesting ways they could accommodate us by being just a little creative with their seating plan.
The officious jerks at the restaurant would have none of it. They kept telling us, "No, we can't do that." I felt like a character in that David Spade credit card commercial.
Finally, after 25 minutes they sat us at a table directly across from the swinging kitchen door. And the food was actually really, really good.
Excellent burgers, homemade pork sausage with delicious sauerkraut, even the dreaded quiche was excellent. But all we were left with was the sour taste of having been strung along by the turkeys at the podium.
Adam Platt's take on Cafe D'Alsace in NYM
Frank Bruni's take in the Times
I actually like the food at Cafe D'Alsace more than Platt or Bruni does. Which makes it even more of a pity that the folks working the front of the house behaved so badly yesterday.