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Second City Bistro - Can Their Food overcome their bad service?


Restaurants & Bars Los Angeles Area

Second City Bistro - Can Their Food overcome their bad service?

kealoha | | Aug 5, 2007 05:04 PM

Last night we had our first try of Second City Bistro in El Segundo, which has a pretty loyal following, given some of the other reviews on and But I have to agree with those who said that the food was good but not spectacular, and the service being mediocre. I made the reservations a week in advance because all reviews said that SCB was packed on a Saturday night, however by primetime (7:30 to 9:30) there were only about 8 tables being served inside, and many open tables on the patio. When we checked in, I told the host that it was our first time at SCB, and he gave us a wonderful booth. However, our server (don't know her name because she never told us her name), was almost non-existent, and a bit snooty (especially for a place that advertises that it's a family-run, small-knit, local establishment). First she told my husband the specials while I was in the bathroom (big server no-no, always wait until all the guests are seated). Second, she was not at all helpful with recommendations of the food or of the wine when I asked. Third, we saw and interacted much more with the busgirl (who was outstanding, by the way) than with the server. Fourth, she never came by after we got our entrees (the busgirl dropped them off) to ask the obligatory: "So how is everthing?". Fifth, after giving us dessert menus (that WE had to ask for), we stacked the menus and put them at the front of the table (a signal that we had indeed decided), and we watched her pass by 4 times, she even glanced at the menus on the table! It was then that I had had enough, and although my mouth was all already for their warm apple pie with berry compote and vanilla bean ice cream (groan!!), I told my husband that we should just have dessert at home. With regard to the food, however, our seared tuna appetizer was incredible! About 6 beautiful dark red slices of tuna, seared on the outside with some kind of wonderful seasoning and two kinds of sesame seeds. I ordered the grill filet mignon with black berry reduction, steamed spinach, and mashed potatoes. The steak was cooked perfectly, and the berry reduction had the right amount of sweetness, to offset the filet savoryness. It was a truly a beautiful dish, visually and taste-wise. My husband got the oven baked filet mignon stuffed with lobster and cambonzolla cheese. We both commented on the same issues: It smelled funny (not really bad, just different), and the cherry reduction sauce did nothing for the dish at all. He ate most of it, but was not impressed (and my husband is EASILY impressed). Also, we ordered the Taz Fiddlestix Pinot Noir (on the recommendatin of another Chower), and it was truly incredible, very smooth. I looked around at what other patrons were having, and it seemed like the rack of lamb, or the seafood pasta was the big winner of the night. There was an oven baked chicken with an apricot, pistacio, and brie stuffing, that I wish that I had ordered, or the oven-baked salmon in a cranberry-thyme crust, or the center cut pork chop in a cranberry port orange sauce . Alas, I will never get to try these other dishes because we will never be going back to Second City Bistro, nor will we endorse it to any of our other "foodie" friends. Yes, most of our displeasure was the poor service, and yes, we realize that everyone has a bad day, and yes, our server could very well have been having one-of-those-days, but like the old saying goes: "You only get one chance to make a first impression", right? And, after reading some of the other reviews on Chow and Yelp, I believe the patrons that had a negative experience at SCB had the same server! Unfortunately for SCB, the food was not impressive enough to overcome the service issue, and I think all you Chowers out there would agree, it's about the whole "experience" that can make or break your enjoyment of a meal. And after being teased by the prospectus of warm apple pie with berry compote and vanilla bean ice cream, and then leaving without having had it, is just a serious, serious buzz kill!

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