Saturday, May 27, 2006

When dining out, I tend to reserve my comments until the second visit to a particular establishment. If my first visit to a restaurant was stellar or even if my server seems to "crash and burn", by making a second visit, I am able to give the establishment a second chance. This was my second visit to BJ's Brewhouse in San Mateo California, located just a few miles from my home. This restaurant is always packed to the brim and on both occasions that I visited, the wait was around 50 minutes. A long wait at a restaurant is usually a pretty good indicator that the food is above average and the service is on par. Oh, how I wish this was the case! My first visit included myself, Carmen and my two-year old daughter, Brooke. We had no complaints about the service on that trip; however, the kitchen failed to get my bacon blue cheese burger order correct. I asked for my burger to be well done, it came to the table medium rare, I also, asked for the bacon to be extra crispy and it was soft and floppy. Our server did bring out crispy bacon when the discrepancy was brought to her attention, she wanted to return the burger, but I just wanted to eat! Our server promptly removed the cost of the burger from the bill, this is what I call "good service, bad kitchen"!
Now, on my second visit to this fine establishment, I was solo and again, the wait was about 55 minutes, so I went to the bar to try out one of the freshly brewed beers that BJ's is so proud of. Since I am really not a beer drinker, I asked the bartender to surprise me with one of their best beers, he chose the Jeremiah Red, a very good beer with rich flavor and a smooth finish, not bad for a microbrew. About 40 minutes later, I was finally seated, I waited for about 5 minutes for my server to appear and she did apologize for the wait. I ordered my meal and although I had finished my beer, the server never asked if I wanted something to drink. I truly believe that she should have waited to apologize about being no being prompt, because she would soon repeat the original "long wait" scenario multiple times before I finished my meal and left the restaurant.
I ordered the full rack of baby back ribs and mashed potatoes, along with a bowl of clam chowder. I waited and waited and waited, finally a second server appeared with a half a rack of baby back ribs and a side of mashed potatoes. I began to second guess myself, "did I accidentally order a half rack"? Was I really not that hungry and only requested a half portion of ribs? Just about the time my stand-in server was ready to take the ribs back, I had a flashback from the last time I was in Burger King and took my onion packed Angus burger back because I had asked for "no onions", the counter person threw the burger in the trash. What a waste of a cow or a pig in this case, so I took the half rack and waited for the remainder of my meal to appear. Now remember this, I had also ordered clam chowder, which in a perfect world would have come as an appetizer before my entree, well, being this is not a perfect world it came last, as though it were a dessert, along with yet another apology.
I hope you are following this story closely, because it only gets better, for a while I lost site of my server and began to work on my ribs, mashed potatoes and my "dessert" soup until I was ready to leave. I made the mistake of asking for a "to go" box and bowl. Quite sometime later, lets say, 10 minutes or so, although it could have been only 5 minutes that seemed like an eternity, my server reappeared again with yet another apology, and a to go box and bowl, according to the server, she had to go on a "search mission" to find a bowl. Now, here is the part that really chaps my hide, remember when I told you I waited for about 5 minutes when I first sat down? Well just about the time I was preparing to leave, two other tables were seated one behind me, and one to the right of me. My server was already taking their drink orders before their "booties" could touch their chairs. Oh well, needless to say, I work way too hard for my money to spend it getting service this poor. I think the next time that I see a BJ's Restaurant, I will probably just keep driving. Oh, and when I signed my bill, I wrote "" on it with a frowning face??? Do you think the server or anyone else at BJ's will get the message?