I'm curious to hear others' opinion on Stone's new restaurant...
We went about a month after it opened, a couple times after that for lunch on weekends, and then last night for dinner to celebrate a birthday. I think they've changed their Priority Seating to something more along the lines of real reservations, but not quite. In general, I can tell that some of their dishes have improved since opening (like the Spud Buds, but still not outstanding) while others I'm still to scared to try again (the bread pudding that used to resemble fried bread cubes in a sugar sauce - no pudding anywhere and no warning from our server - the menu now calls it Crispy/Chewy bread pudding). However, I feel that the service is still highly lacking. If the food wasn't so good, I'd never go back.
I'll just recap how last night went:
I made reservations for our party of 8 people for 7:30pm. We got there a little early because I wanted to make sure they were setting up a table for us and not waiting until 7:30, waiting for people to leave, THEN start setting up a table. To start off a great night, when I told the hostess we had a reservation at 7:30 for a party of 8, she looked distrssed and surprised. I'm sorry... I thought the purpose of making a reservation for a large party was so that you'd know ahead of time we would have a "large party". Then, she told me to come back at 7:30 to check in. So, we sat at the bar (scored some seats there, too!) where it was packed (as always) and waited for someone to take our beer order. And waited. And tried to flag someone down. And waited. And then some girl came by to ask if we've been taken care of, which we answered in the negative. Yay for her, she took our beer order AND our appetizer order (I knew I was in for a long wait for dinner) and everything came out fairly promptly.
By this time, it was close enough to 7::30, I went back to the hostess and she finally gave me a pager. So I could wait for our table that was not ready at 7:30. More waiting, spud buds are eaten, beer is had, and the pager goes off! I head back up, to find out that, oh, actually, our table isn't ready yet (so why buzz the pager??).
We sit, we know what we're ordering (due to our long wait at the bar), and we order everything all at once - more spud buds for the table, beer cheese (not actually on the app. menu, but it's on the dessert menu), entrees all around.
Water arrives. More beer is ordered. Water is emptied. No bread and butter, because that will cost you $1 since it is a "side" listed on the menu (lame). Our server comes back and says, "Where are your appetizers, ha ha?" I don't know... isn't that your job? So we ask her, "I don't know, where are they?" Her reply? "I don't really know, ha ha!" Right here, we decide we don't like her and are not impressed (again) with the service at Stone. Finally the beer cheese comes out and one guy's soup. Where are the spud buds? "Oh, I found out they're making a new batch of batter, which is why it's taking for-EVER." It takes me 2 minutes to whip up pancake batter. You're telling me it takes 20 minutes to make spud bud batter?
Appetizers are finished, plates are stacked, beer cheese was yummy! More waiting and then present opening (yay!). More waiting. "Are you doing okay? Do you need anything?" How about an update on where our food is? "It'll be 15 more minutes, but I don't know why." And then the food comes out.
The mac 'n cheese there is rich but not too cheesy but filling with all the sausage. It's a good dish. The garlic chicken wasn't as garlicky as we expected, but it was moist and flavorful. Their sweet potato mash is the best side dish ever. I had the braised short ribs and they were so tender and tasty I was very happy. Every time we go, eventually we get our food, and the food is wonderful. We skipped dessert because I didn't want to be there another hour waiting for that to arrive.
I know I should just expect lousy service and long waits when we go and not be annoyed by it, but I can't help it. Each time we comment how busy it is, how packed the bar is, the hostess or server replies "I know, we can't believe it, we weren't expecting it" - but it's ALWAYS packed. Start expecting it and planning accordingly! I suppose I'm more lenient if the servers seemed more competent and not as bewildered as we are when we've been waiting 20 minutes for a scoop of beer cheese. I'm more likely to smile if you come up professionally, not ditzy, apologize for the wait and give me a reason (any reason) why we're still waiting. Don't act surprised and then not know why our table has only non-edible flowers and a salt shaker.
One more gripe: with $20+ entrees, you seriously can't give us a free basket of bread to keep us sane while we're waiting for something to eat?
Is it just me? Do you go and get good service and are happy with how things are managed there? Do you not go at all because you're smarter than I am and just don't put yourself in such annoying situations?