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Fred's Views

A Dinner Out

Last Friday night my wife and I went out to do a little shopping and get a bite to eat. As we were trying to decide where to eat, we came across a restaurant that we had seen several times before, but never tried. It's part of a small, local chain, but, in the hopes that our experience was unique, I'm not mentioning names just now.

We should have been concerned when we noticed, as we started to walk towards the door, all of the neon beer signs in the windows. I'm not a beer drinker, and I don't frequent "taverns" so, I began to wonder what we were in for. However, inside the door we noticed some "restaurant" seating, so we continued. We asked for the non-smoking section since St. Catharines, where we happened to be, doesn't have an anti-smoking law yet.

The waitress gave us menus which resembled a four-page newspaper and told the history of the chain on the front page. Second warning sign: except for the pizza offerings and chicken wings, the menu was rather sparse. Now I can eat just about anything, and, in fact, can almost always find something interesting. My wife wasn't in the mood for pizza, so we had to find an alternative. We settled on good old fish and chips.

The waiter asked for our drink orders. We both ordered diet cola. Third warning: The waiter came back and told us the diet fountain had just gone "on the fritz". So I ordered coffee and my wife had milk. Then the waiter asked for our food order. Fourth warning: "Sorry, we're out of fish". Back to the menu.

Finding something suitable was getting much more difficult. We seriously considered leaving, but we didn't.

We finally decided: I had a chicken burger with fries while my wife ordered a quarter-pounder from the "kiddie" menu. Great. Now we wait ... and wait ... and wait ... and wait. The waiter dropped by, assured us our order would be ready shortly, and took my cup to get me a coffee refill. We waited ... and waited. The waiter returned telling us he had put on a fresh pot of coffee and it would be ready momentarily. - Oh, and so would our meal. We waited ... and waited. The coffee arrived - but no meal. Not to worry, it would be right out. We waited.

Though we were seated in the "no smoking" section, the smoke was still quite noticeable, and it was starting to get to my wife. Yet another reason why smoking needs to be curtailed. Wait - here comes some food. Is it ours? Finally!

My wife figures we waited at least 35 minutes from the time we placed the order. Now that's not too bad for a fancy restaurant when you've got bread, rolls or some other appetizer to munch on. But this place had only a few other diners - and our meals were quite simple fare.

My chicken burger arrived with a tiny amount of fries. My wife fared a little better with fries. Now, here's the rub, the food presentation was quite nice: large chicken breast on a large "Kaiser" style roll with lettuce, tomato and onion. My wife's was a little simpler, but okay. So we dug in. Everything was, predictably, over cooked. The fries were greasy. But I was hungry. Actually my chicken burger was quite good, but slightly over cooked (much better than slightly under cooked, though). My wife, I guess, wasn't so lucky. Hers also was over cooked. But we ate most of the meal.

The bill came. With it was a questionnaire asking about our experience. Well, my wife went to work and gave them a piece of her mind. She was polite but called it as she saw it. She even included our names and address. So far, we haven't heard anything and probably won't, but you never know.

I paid the bill and left a small tip. Through it all the waitress and waiter were very pleasant, and we really have no way of knowing to what extent our experiences were their fault, if at all. But we don't plan to dine there again anytime soon.

Of course any establishment can have a bad day. Supplies can fail to arrive, the cook can have a bad day, and so on. But to have so many things go wrong for us! That's kind of hard to chalk up to coincidence. The other diners seemed to be satisfied with their meals, although I thought I heard one complain that he didn't get what he ordered, but I'm not sure.

We have dined at several different types of establishments from greasy spoons to fast food to medium fancy right up to fancy fancy. Usually, we've had a pleasant enough experience, but once in a while things don't go as well as expected. At "Kelsey's" once (I believe) we had asked about the spiciness of a dish and been told it was not spicy. However, when it arrived it was too spicy to eat. The manager came over, apologized, and gave us a significant credit (I don't remember the details, but it was a very nice gesture). Needless to say we don't plan to return to the restaurant of horrors anytime soon. But, if we ever do, we'll let you know how it turns out. Should they mess up again, we'll reveal their name for all to see!

Oops another week has passed. I picked my wife up at work tonight and we went out for dinner again. This time we dined at an old favorite: Valentino's in Stoney Creek. We had a soft drink, a delicious small chef's salad and we split a Hawaiian Panzarotti. A delicious meal - and all the smokers were outside. And I could have had change back from my $20 bill if I hadn't left a tip! Sometimes it pays to stick with the tried and true.

Copyright © 2002 by Fred Oldfield. All rights reserved.

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