28 September 2009

restaurant review

This past weekend was Family Weekend at the University of Wyoming, so Heather's friend, Amy, Ted, and I went up to do all things Family Weekend related.  Come to find out there really weren't any events that 1) we were interested in or 2) didn't involve handing over wads of cash.  I figure they're getting enough of our money as it is; I'm not going to pay extra for the joy of climbing rocks or learning how to read a map.  Huh?  Yeah.  Those were some of the choices.

In any event, we got to spend time with Heather and the weather was gorgeous and the town was deserted because everything pretty much closes for football games.  Who knew?  Obviously, not me.

We did go out to eat on Saturday night, and I must say it was the biggest cluster *$%# I think I have ever experienced in a restaurant setting.  The first indication of trouble was the whole reservations process.  Knowing it was Family Weekend and also knowing the restaurant selection in Laramie, I thought it smart to make a reservation.  I found this place called The Cavalryman Supper Club that had some mixed reviews, but for the most part they were positive.  The few negative reviews seemed to be from "city folk" who really didn't understand the whole small town, down home concept.  I wasn't expecting fine dining Denver style so much as something a step above Chilis.  I digress.

Last Wednesday I made a reservation through the restaurant website and got a message letting me know the reservation wouldn't be confirmed until I got a phone call or e-mail.  I waited patiently for either.  Nada.  Zip.  Zilch.  Friday evening while waiting an hour for our 30 minute wait for a table at Chilis I rang the Cavalryman Supper Club to check on our reservation.  Much to my surprise we did indeed have a reservation but no explanation on why it wasn't confirmed.

Saturday we show up at the restaurant about 10 or 15 minutes before our now confirmed reservation time.  Little did I know this was really going to throw the operations of the entire restaurant off for the entire evening.  Now, having worked in the restaurant business, I know there are a few options for when a party arrives prior to their confirmed reservation time.  We could easily have been seated at the next available table or we could have been asked to wait until our reservation time to avoid over seating a station.  Either of those would have been perfectly acceptable.  Instead the two hostesses had an intense discussion on what to do in this situation.  I'm guessing we are the first guests in the history of the restaurant to actually show up early.  It took several minutes of looking at the empty tables and the empty sheet of paper and conversing in a whisper for them to decide that it would be OK to seat us.

We are shown to our table and I get my first good look at the place.  Now again, I wasn't expecting the Flagstaff House or Tavern On The Green, but the place appeared to have been decorated by someone who had a preconceived notion of how a "fine" restaurant should be decorated, yet while trying to maintain the "cowboy" feel.  Crystal chandeliers combined with recycled fence post frames around photos of cowboys in various poses on their horses.   The line of potted plants that separated the dining room from the hostess station was draped in black table cloths.  I suppose that was more attractive than the pots, but not by much.  I'm still not sure about the tomato plant seedlings in a trough as you come in the front door.  Future fruits for their salads maybe?

So, we are seated and I've taken in the ambiance.  Southfork meets The Ponderosa.

We wait.

And wait.

And wait.

There is one server shuttling among the other tables in our area, but he refuses to make eye contact with anyone at our table.  Maybe he's thinking we're aliens with laser shooting eyes and were going to incinerate him if he looked our way.  After waiting 10 minutes I finally say, "Excuse me?"  The horror of it all.  He actually had to acknowledge us!  I asked if he would mind finding us a server and he apologized and said he'd get one ASAP.  A girl comes rushing up to our table and starts to apologize profusely for ignoring us, but "nobody told" her that we were her table.  Nobody told you?  You don't know what station you're working?

Whatever, we finally have a person to bring us food and drink.

Or so we thought.

She takes our drink order and leaves and we wait.

And wait.

And wait.

I notice the bartender on his hands and knees in front of the wine rack and I say, "I bet she comes back and tells me they're out of the wine I ordered."

Yep.  They ran out last night.  She tells me the bartender had offered up another suggestion, of which I'm not particularly fond of, so I choose another.

So, now we have our drinks and we proceed to order some starters.  I can't wait for the baked brie and roasted garlic!  Heather, Ted, and Amy ordered spinach, artichoke, and king crab dip and are anxiously waiting for that to appear.

We wait.

And wait.

And wait.

Seeing a pattern here?

Finally, our food comes and we dig in.  I'm thinking I had better order another glass of wine because by the time I actually get it, I'll be ready.  Alas, our server has disappeared.  Again.

After our appetizers have been pretty much devoured, Becca (that's her name - you have been warned should you choose to dine at this place) returns to take our dinner order.  Heather and Amy order bacon wrapped filets and Ted and I order bison ribeyes.

In the meantime other people have come in and other tables are being served.  I'm hearing lots of "I'm sorry they ..." or "I'm sorry you had to wait" or "I'm sorry this isn't what you ordered but thought you might want it rather than wait."  What?!?!

By this point, we are all pretty much over this place and just want to eat and leave.  If only our food would show up.

We wait.

And wait.

And wait.

Becca comes out with a tray of food and we all eagerly lean forward, poised and ready.  Except it's not our food.  In fact, Becca has no clue whose food this is.  She's standing there lost.  She gets it sorted out in her brain and takes it to wherever it's supposed to go - or maybe not; we'll never know.  As she walks by she apologizes again and says they are starting to work on our order.  Starting?!  Are you kidding me??

By this point, I'm getting quite agitated about the whole situation.  A manager type person seems to have finally arrived on scene and comes over to apologize, and because it has some bearing that none of us are savvy enough to comprehend, tells us his name is Tim and he came from Colorado and is late.  He then says for all our trouble he is going to comp two of the meals.  Yay.  I'm so very happy.  I'm overjoyed.  Thrilled.

Completely and utterly unimpressed.

You mean we're actually going to get to eat?  What a concept.  In a restaurant, no less.

He asks me if I would like another glass of wine, and I'm tempted to tell him to just bring me the whole damn bottle.  Off he goes to get my wine.

Becca *finally* comes out with our dinners and asks us to cut into your steaks to make sure they are done correctly.  They all appear to be done perfectly.  Dinners come with seasonal vegetable, which on this past Saturday was four - yes, FOUR - small stalks of asparagus and choice of "starch."  (Who wrote their menu?  Choice of "starch"??)  I opted for the roasted red potatoes with garlic (I overheard another server describe them as "poached."  Huh?)  The number for the night apparently was four.  I got four quarter sized red potatoes to go along with the four spears of asparagus.  OK, I realize I'm not paying for the side dishes; I'm paying for the meat, but seriously folks.  Other tables were getting baskets of bread but apparently we had been seated at the "no service, no wine, no bread table."  After delivering our dinners, Becca disappears again.  I'm thinking I really want that other glass of wine, but manager man has disappeared.

Let me take a moment here to describe "manager man."  Tall, stocky, greasy ringlet mullet.  Smarmy is the word that came to mind when I first saw him.  Kinda scary actually.  GREASY RINGLET MULLET! 

Finally greasy haired manager (GHM) shows up with a glass of wine.  He tells me that due to the delay in our dinner, he is going to not only comp two meals but I will get to taste three of their "best" wines.  GHM explains what this particular vintage is all about and how it has spicy undertones, and I'm thinking, "No dude, that's all the hair grease running down your face."  GHM will personally make sure I get the wine in a timely fashion and will bring the second freebie when my glass gets "down to here."  Imagine 3/4 down a wine glass.  Yeah.  Right.  Sure I will.

We are eating and I look over at Ted's steak and I look at mine.  Look at Ted's.  Look at mine.  Guess who didn't get the bison ribeye?  Got a ribeye, but it ain't bison.  Is there nothing this restaurant can do correctly?!  Rather than risk starvation, I choose to just eat what's been put in front of me and deal with the price issue when the check arrives.  We finish and decide it's just too much bother to even try for dessert.  We just want to leave.

My wine glass has long been empty, and GHM hasn't "personally" noticed. In fact he's leaning against the bar chatting up the hostesses.

So we wait for Becca to come back.

And we wait.

And wait.

And wait.

Finally, I've had it.  I get up and Ted asks me where I'm going, and I tell him I'm going to get our check.  I walk up to GHM and say, "Excuse me, but would it be possible to get our check now?  We're kinda tired of being here."

*blink*  *blink*

More apologies that by now I know are hollow and have no meaning whatsoever.

Back at the table we wait for the check to appear.

And wait.

And wait.

GHM slinks up to our table and apologizes AGAIN, and tells us our entire dinner is comped.  They can't find our check.  GHM keeps going on and on about how it's an off night and how they were busier than they expected it being family weekend and all.  Frankly, I have no sympathy, and tell him, "I've worked management in the restaurant industry.  I've worked management in the retail industry.  As a manager it's your responsibility to plan for busy times and to make sure you have enough staff and food and drink.  Family weekend happens every year, just like Christmas.  The crowds weren't unexpected, YOU were unprepared."  And we leave.

We know at some point this is going to be funny, but it wasn't yet.

Driving down the highway back into town, a car comes speeding up behind us, and Ted being quick on the thinking says, "Oh shit!  It's Greasy Haired Manager and he found our check!"

At least we got a laugh out of that.


  1. I will avoid this place should I ever find myself looking to dine in Laramie. Somehow I doubt that will ever happen... :)

  2. God, I agree GHM was CREEEEPPPPYYYYY. And disgusting. And so many other words that I'll jsut stop here.

    It was a great weekend though, good to see Heather, and all that. She and I have decided we are Electrinically attached at the hip. Just got another text from here just now :P

  3. GHM was ... smarmy, there's really no other word. That was a mess, oh well, You live... You learn. Glad you came up! It was fun!


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