Friday, February 4, 2011

Let Us Review: Butter NYC

It's Restaurant Week here in New York City and I took advantage of it. Restaurant Week is something that gets customers to go out to eat even though there are ice storms, frigid temperatures and old man winter is all up in our ass cracks. Restaurants create a special prix fixe menu and for $35 a person, you can get three courses at places that are usually much much more expensive than that. I ate at Butter. The executive chef of Butter is Alex Guarnaschelli who is always popping up on the Food Network. I wanted to go there because she seems cool on TV, the menu looked good and with a name like "Butter" how could it be anything but rich and delicious? It was rich and delicious. Since I am not a food expert but I am a service expert, I have decided to review my service and only briefly mention my food:

Butternut squash soup: warm, silky, sweet, filling, creamy, perfect.
Seared pork loin with skillet potatoes, roasted garlic and red mustard: the pork was so damn good and whatever that sauce was needed a straw so I could drink it. The skillet potato was good but it looked and tasted like a hash brown from McDonald's. (That is not a complaint.) The greens were greens. I didn't eat them.
Side of mashed potatoes: the most buttery smooth mashed potatoes I have ever had. They reminded me of the mashed potatoes in a Swanson frozen dinner. (And that is not a complaint.)
Dark chocolate torte with whipped sour cream: of course it was good. Chocolate torte. Duh.

And now the service. First the hostesses. They were all like really pretty, like oh my god, like do you have a reservation, like, we will be with you in a minute, like thank you for coming in. The usual restaurant hostesses. Whatever.

At the bar, the bartender was also gorgeous so she probably had sent in a photo with her resume. But she made a delicious Butter martini of citron, pomegranate liqueur, Cointreau and a splash of pineapple. She made them perfectly and at one point I saw her with two cocktail shakers in her hands and she was going to town with them. It looked like she was having a really good time.

My waiter left a lot to be desired. I don't need a lot of service when I go out. I really don't. But when eating at a highly rated place like Butter, I guess I expected a more attentive server who did the basic things that I learned back at Bennigan's. When the soup came out, I asked the runner for more bread. It never came. I assumed I would just ask the server when he came in for his two-minute check back. But he never came over. C'mon. Even at Pizzeria Uno I had to go back within two minutes to make sure the pizza skins were alright. But at this high falutin' place, the waiter doesn't do two-minute check back? He finally made an appearance and the bread request was made again. It eventually came. After the soup bowl was cleared, I expected a crumber at the table. It never came. Again, it's not like I crumb my table at home, but when I see waiters, runners, back waiters and managers walking around, I sorta thought someone would come and wipe up the fucking cornbread crumbs. No biggie. Whatever. Order another martini. The entree was great. He checked in on the table and I was all good. By now, martini number two was getting hold of me. Coffee was ordered and it took forever to get there. I saw the waiter talking in the sidestand so I knew that there must be a coffee person making it in exchange for a tip out. The dessert came and the plates were placed on the table with care. And then they stayed there. Once the plates were empty, he asked how everything was. "So good, thank you," I responded. He smiled and then walked away-without the plates. I assumed he'd tell a busser to clear the table. I asked for the check. The plates stayed. I paid the check. The plates stayed. He returned the credit card and the plates stayed. I was really surprised that no one took those damn fucking plates. I signed the card while holding the check presenter in my lap because the table had dirty fucking plates on it. He returned to pick up the credit voucher and still ignored the plates. What the hell? If I was eating at TGIFriday's sure, but Butter?

I figured the rules would be all strict here but based on the things I saw, it's pretty relaxed. For instance:

  • the bartender texting on her phone.
  • the waiter leaning against the sidestand and talking with a friend.
  • placing my dessert spoon on the left side of the table. (minor, I know, but I have worked at places that we were not allowed to do that.)
  • pouring water after picking up the glass with the rim. Really? Really? Is this a fucking diner on Eighth Avenue?
  • the two hostesses sitting on a banquette as I left, each of them texting on their phones. (Maybe they were texting the bartender.)
  • having to ask for the water to be filled two different times. (again not a big deal, but if there are a dozen people on the floor, that shouldn't happen, right?)
Overall, I completely enjoyed my meal. Maybe the service was sub par because they were not giving 100% for all of us losers who came in for Restaurant Week, but I was disappointed with that. We have all heard it before: we go to a restaurant the first time for the food only but the second time we go it's for the food and the service. If the service isn't where it should be, then it detracts from the food. Does anyone else agree with me on that? I feel like when you pay a lot of money for a meal, you are paying for the overall experience. With tip, the meal was $169 for two people. That's a lot of money. If I am going to spend that much on one meal, I don't want to have to be looking around for more water and lay my arm in cornbread crumbs. Of course I left a 20% tip. I just couldn't do less, but my waiter didn't go above and beyond. Would I go back? Maybe someday. But if the service was better it would be much more likely.

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WaffleJockey said...

It's nice to know I'm not a picky ass when I go out, I'm not the only waiter to notice these things!

TracyX said...

I live in Australia and the only reason I know what Butter is, is because it's on Gossip Girl(I know, I can't help it). This is such a disappointment. Hopefully they are just doing it because of 'restaurant week'. We're not allowed to accept tips in Perth :/
They should be lucky to get something, let alone work at Butter, in New York. Jeez

Practical Parsimony said...

In this small town there is one local, high end restaurant. Then, there is Ruby Tuesday and Cracker Barrel. I know, I know! However, even at Ruby Tuesday, I expect bread WITH the meal and water refills. Not getting those two needs filled can ruin my meal. Everyone knows the food quality (excellent imho) and price (not a lot). But, just get my bread and water in a timely manner.

Travelin' Mike said...

Wow! What a disappointment. No matter how great the food if the service sucks the entire meal is a failure. At least in my opinion.

John Bryson said...

You said "falutin" much respect....

Wanton Redhead Writing said...

Not picking up the plates pisses me off! I refuse to pay the check until they do. I will stack them and push them to the edge of the table if I have to. BUT pick up the fucking plates. I don't eat at diners, but I'm pretty sure they pick up the plates. I wouldn't go back, well maybe, if the food was as good as you said, I'd probably go back.
And I'm a sucker too, I leave 20% even for bad service, don't want to look cheap.

Kelly said...

Working in restaurants really ruins eating in them.

dohhead said...

Great post , as usual Bitchy. Too bad you service was as subpar as it was. The experience could have been a memorable one. Thanks for the laugh, amidst the complaining...It always makes me smile. Cheers mate!

J.J. said...

Holy canolie! I have never spent that much at a restaurant (more the diner type... welcome to middle America, where you have to drive 2 hours to any place that would ever be called "falutin'."

It's frustrating no matter where you are if there are service staff standing around and you've got a dirty table. I have almost always received excellent service at little diners. The service starts to get shitty when I go to chains :(

Yakkety yak. Your complaints are legit.

Margaret said...

Restaurant week or not, it's to make you want to come back again when the prices are back to normal. No excuse for that kind of service. I would have at least talked to a manager. Not to get something for free, but to inform her/him of what's going on.

Anonymous said...

I understand the dilemma with the plates. I hate not having my table pre-bussed. I really do. I did, however, find one that iced the cake.

The server came over to give me my check, put someone else's plates down on my table to hand me the check. I was appalled. The rest of the service had been poor (asking multiple times for refills and finally walking to the bar and asking the bar tender if she would be kind enough to finally give me something to friggin drink), food was messed up, and had to wait twenty minutes to even find someone to get the food started to be fixed), etc. I saw the waitress literally twice. When she took our order, and brought the drinks back. Someone else brought us our food, someone else fixed the messed up food order, and we had to get the check from the manager, because the girl never showed up again. That was the only time in my life that I have left no tip whatsoever.The bartender, however, got five bucks for filling my drink.

Anonymous said...

I too have waited so many tables that I notice good service. Just ate at Adrienne's Pizza Bar in the Financial District the other night and the water was never lower than half before it was refilled by a specific water guy, the waiter refilled our wine from the bottle we ordered, and services was all around perfect. I felt compelled to tip $15 on a $50 check. Too bad about Butter, bitchy. Hopefully they will shape up!

sally said...

Terrible service. When this happens to me I will bus my own table by putting the dirty plates on an empty table near by. Or stack them precariously and leave them teetering on the edge of my table. (I'm helpful that way)

Also, I would not have left more than 10%.

Mark W said...

The greens were greens. I didn't eat them.

A man after my own heart.

So, dinner was $35. I assume there were two of you, which means $70 on dinner. You said the total, incliding tip, was $169. That would mean you spent about $70 on drinks.

Again, a man after my own heart!

corina 1.0 said...

I completely agree with ya Bitchy! You'd expect better manners at a fancy schmancy place!

Noelle said...

Bitchy SHAME on you! Why did you leave 20% Why couldn't your talented paw stop at 15 even 18. I was at 19.5 until the dirty plates. NOT gonna work. Principles darling how will they ever learn if you keep paying them for substandard service. I might have stayed at 20 but quipped of a REAL bitchy comment that would have embarrassed yet not surprised my guest. I would have felt like I paid for it.
PLEASE come to our restaurant and give us the business. See how our service stands up. I LOVE the attention to every detail. Yes, some no biggy but still NOTICED. I think it will be fun for all of us. You might be over served (cocktails we have cabs) but no dirty plates. yuck. You will like the food too.
Reservations recommended. :)

Eden said...

Ok, no - that is unacceptable service. Maybe its cuz I'm from the south where a crumber is well - I've never heard of it, but I can tell you this. Our drinks never run dry so we never have to ask for refills - let alone 2xs, plates are taken so we can talk/study/order more later, and When I ask the randon busboy who speaks no english if he can run some more creamer for my coffee by the table on his way back - the server brings it to me immediately in a big bowl - all this at IHOP Tuesday at 11:30pm.

If IHOP can get it right then a wtf is wrong with the people at Butter. Maybe they do get paid real wages or something so they don't think they have to work.

Anonymous said...

sounds like you got the $35 prix fix special. restaurant week is for suckers, did you order anything else??

u know the last time i checked most restaurants offer the same $35 prix fix menu at lunch or pre theater

Unknown said...

i love that i have only read a few of your posts, and here i was thinking you were all "pro-server." not to say you aren't, but i couldn't help but wonder what sorts of frenzied, off-color, commentary your post might provoke. and here it is.

"why would you leave 20%? they will never learn if you continue to tip them.." "i can't stand to have my own dirty plates sit in front of me - so i move them to another table.." gross! tipping should never be seen as a voluntary/charitable contribution, no matter the service. people get busy - people cannot always perform the job at max standards, but when you are standing in line at the gap getting frustrated that service is slow you do not refuse to pay for the goods. at a restaurant, service is part of the goods.

as a seasoned server, i know what to expect and when i am being short changed, but i also know how it feels to be so fucking frantic that i cannot give my best to a table. i expect the general public to play the dumb, "everything should always be 100% perfect when i go out to eat" card (despite the fact that every single one of these people also performs a job in society for wages and ALSO makes mistakes but does not have clients deduct money from their services because they had to ask for something (water)) but this is not a card servers should play. 20% should be the minimum, and that 20% should be given with the benefit of the doubt.

FoodPimp said...

Love the post, Bitchy! I work at a freaking TGIFridays, and *I* would have picked up those plates. He walked by them, what, 3 or 4 times and LEFT them there? :-O