had lunch at blend today. i'd been meaning to check it out for sometime.
overall, it was disappointing, although there were some bright spots. but generally it's a place that's not quite got their act together, even after being open for almost 2 years.
the good: there's quite a bit of flavor in the food. the cuban sandwich was tasty, although made with american cheese instead of swiss, simply because they ran out of swiss and were too lazy to go across the street and pick up some swiss at mario's deli on vernon. but the sandwich came with very good fried yuca. and the ropa vieja was quite good, although it came to the table stone cold and with cold plantains. but once they replaced it with a hot dish, it was really good. the deserts, which were comped because of the cold food and botched cubano, were uniformly lame (bread pudding and rice pudding), and unnecessarily topped with canned whipped cream.
the bad: this place is just not ready for prime time. it seems as if no one is at the helm. the absentee owners clearly want it to be a jammin' late night, miami-style club, and have latino house music blasting even at lunch. the bar top is crowded with the beers and wine that they have for sale, instead of the stuff up out of the way on the wall, which means you can't really sit at the bar. the space is inefficiently designed and feels like a cavernous 90's art gallery with exposed brick and bad paintings. but worst of all is the service. no one seems to have bothered to really train the staff, who didn't quite know what to do when we complained that the food was cold. after consulting the manager, the waiter then returned to take the cold plate away, but when the warm food was returned to us, we were also given a narrative of how the kitchen screwed things up and had been reprimanded for their bad cooking. and on numerous occasions, the tension between the front house and kitchen was on display because of the open kitchen. clearly, this place needs someone on duty who knows how to train the staff and set a standard for customer service and food production, because right now it feels like a sloppy free for all, with well meaning but poorly trained waitstaff and a kitchen that has no captain. when the manager did finally come by to check up on us after correcting the problems, he took an overly informal attitude with us and told us that he really yelled at the cooks for "trying to put one over on me, but then i gave them some beer and everything's cool now." way more information than i needed and way more informal than was merited, considering all the mistakes and a 20 minute wait for the comped desserts.
the weird thing was that whoever designed the menu and came up with the recipes actually did a good job. but it just feels that the cat's away and the mice are at play. or worse yet, even the cat doesn't really know how to run a restaurant. or maybe the cat just doesn't care.
these are all flaws that should have been worked out long ago. but my sense was that they'll never be worked out because the owners are almost never on site. also, it really seems like the owners want a night club, not a restaurant. and even if they were on site, it's not clear that they actually care about the customer's experience.
overall, our sense was that this place lacks serious and well meaning management, and has left the fort in the hands of well meaning but untrained staff. it all begs the most obvious pun: change the name from blend to bland.