Thursday, December 14, 2006
Wednesday night, some friends and I planned to have dinner at a restaurant called Silvertone's. I arrived early. The night was warm and the streets were still wet from the rain a few hours before. It was one of those nights where it would be pleasant just to walk around and observe, take some pictures and soak in the atmosphere.
After taking this shot of the window, I went in to look for my friends, but didn't see them. The place seemed to be more of a bar than a restaurant, really loud and crowded. I went back outside and waited for my friends there. When they arrived, I found out that they were not allowed to make reservations and it was going to be a forty-five minute wait.
We decided not to wait and ended up going to the Elephant & Castle Pub & Restaurant. The food was pretty good overall, but the service was... I don't even want to say. Let me describe the experience and you choose the adjectives.
There were five of us, so we knew it could be a wait. We were pleasantly surprised when were seated immediately. My friends and I have decided to try to get together for a nice meal out once a month. This time we were also doing our Christmas gift exchange, so we had a bunch of packages. We sat in our chairs, were getting settled and comfortable when the waitress came over to us and asked us why we were sitting there. No nice greeting, but asked us why we were there. As if we didn't belong. I hate to think that color is an issue here, but we are all black. We also all happen to be attorneys.
So we are all immediately not feeling so happy. One of my friends replied that we had been seated there. The waitress proceeded to say that our being seated there was a mistake. We couldn't sit there. The table was reserved and we would have to move. No smile. Just an accusing look and tone. Now I would have expected her at least to apologize for the mistake, say she was really sorry, that she would find us another table and maybe give us complimentary drinks for our trouble. We were seated right in the middle of the restaurant and we had to gather up all our things and move to another table. It was rather embarassing. Through the entire evening, she never apologizes for this. Why would an establishment want to treat its customers like that?
We get to our much smaller table and wait, wait, and wait for our waitress to come back. I could go through every detail of this meal, but this post is getting too long; it's late and I'm getting annoyed thinking about it again. Quick summary, she didn't bring us napkins or utensils. We had to ask another waiter. She kept disappearing. It certainly put a damper on our gift exchange and left a bitter taste in my mouth.
The experience was the opposite of one that I am reminded of at Le Petit Robert Bistro. It was a different group of friends and I was the only black one. I hate to think it mattered, but you never know. Anyway, it was a birthday celebration and we had reservations. We ended up having to wait for close to an hour, but the staff was really friendly and joking around with us, so it wasn't so bad. And since we seemed to have a nice rapport, I nicely asked if we could have a complimentary bottle of wine for our trouble. They happily obliged. My friends were embarassed that I asked, but I expect good service along with good food.
And for the rest of the evening the food was outstanding and the service was top-notch. I felt that they more than made up for the wait and I suggested at the end that we still give a 20% tip. I had to make my case for the tip to my friends, but we all agreed in the end.
Now for the most recent evening, the service was so bad, even I who just about always gives a 20% tip agreed that it should be minimal at best. We also wrote a note on our receipt explaining why the tip was so low. All of us discussed the "double-edged sword" that we were dealing with. The service was bad, so we wanted to leave a small tip, but we know the stereotype about black people being bad tippers. We were not trying to perpetuate it, but felt we had no choice. Anyway, that was my Wednesday night.
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