I have been a faithful patron of the Cafe at Chez Panisse for more than fifteen years, but I have been very disappointed in the service the last two times I have been there. Just the other night, two friends and I went there to celebrate a 50th birthday. We were looking forward to sitting down, toasting one another with a glass of champagne and discussing the menu. We were seated almost immediately, but waited 25 minutes before our waitress paid us a visit. Instead of apologizing for ignoring us for so long, she simply asked, "Do you have any questions about the menu?" We explained that we wanted to order drinks. She took our drink order, and disappeared again. One of our party spoke to the Maitre d', who apologized and brought olives. Nice gesture, but we really wanted our drinks. Finally they came, a full 35 minutes after we had been seated. By then we were hungry and ready to order, but the pace of the meal felt off kilter after that.
Mistakes happen, but it makes a big difference if people own up to them and apologize. This experience came not long after another CP Cafe meal of missteps and mistiming (salads arrived before wine, entrees arrived before salads were done, and the birthday boy's dessert order was first forgotten, then arrived after a reminder but without the ginger cookies on the side that had been the reason for the order.)
Am I being too picky? I am not inclined to return any time soon, especially for a special occasion.