I just had the great displeasure of eating at Charlotte's for the third time. With a little luck, it will be my last. I was first introduced to Charlotte's about 10 years ago. I was visiting friends who had just purchased a home in Newtown Square and we decided to go out for a late dinner. I believe it was around 8:00pm or maybe a little later. My friend's wife suggested Charlotte's because it was "close by and has great food". I can't recall what I had to eat, I just remember that our party of four waited what seemed an eternity, only to have our food served cold when it finally arrived at the table. Everyone commented on that fact, but no one said anything to the waitress. I wrote it off to going in later in the evening.
My next visit to Charlotte's was just a few months later. I was purchasing a "new" used car and had taken it to a local AAA diagnostic center where they do diagnostic checks for mechanical issues before you buy your car. My mother followed behind to give me a ride home. I was told the wait could be round two hours, so I invited my mom to lunch.
The only place I knew in the area was right down the street-- Charlottes. My mother was impressed with the charm of the place and the ambiance, but we both couldn't help but notice that our waitress was in tears. She would come to the table, fighting them back, take our order or deliver food/drinks, then walk quickly to the back. Twice we heard her exchanging words with someone loudly, then she'd return visibly upset. My mom felt sorry for her and when she came back to the table with tears in her eyes, my mother said very gently, "It'll be alright, hon... Are you ok?". The waitess shot back that she'd be fine if people would just leave her alone". My mom was surprised by her ignorant response and I thought the whole thing was very unprofessional. We ate our lunch and left. I was embarassed for having taken my mother there. At that point, I had a decidedly unfavorable impression of the place.
Recently, my girlfriend and I were at her parents' home on Springton Lake. They asked us to stay for dinner, but as the day progressed, plans changed and we ended up going out to eatt. Of course, her dad chose the restaurant-- and of course, we ended up at Charlotte's.
I hadn't eaten there in a decade. In the interim, my culinary tastes have only improved, so I was hoping things in their kitchen had improved as well. When I cracked their menu, the first thing I thought was that it was "Gordon Ramsey Kitchen Nightmare". There were literally 20 apps, half a dozen salads, 4 soups and more than forty choices for entree. I could hear the English Chef saying "bloody hell" and telling Charlotte's owner that there should be fewer main courses so the chef can do them well. No kitchen can keep up with making dozens of entrees and twenty different starters. Any fan of the show knows with a menu that diverse, quality and freshness are going to suffer.
Nonetheless, one item on the menu immediately caught my eye. I'm a huge fan of Snapper Turtle Soup and when I saw it listed, I got excited. When it arrived, it was darker in color and less red than I had expected. I tasted it and felt immediately nauseated. It was litterally foul tasting and had a strange smell to it. Had I not been someone else's guest, I would certainly have said something-- but that wasn't an option.
For dinner, my girlfriend ordered a potato crusted salmon which was supposed to be in a dill beurre blanc. Unfortunately, the sauce was nowhere to be found. I ordered the Ahi tuna which, although the menu decribed as being served "rare", was completely cooked all the way through. The wasabi sauce was a bit heavy and tasted like it was "fresh" from a supermarket plastic container. Neither of us would have said anything hadn't her father spoken up. I noticed him say something quietly to his wife. In response, I saw her turn her fork over and push it through the crab imperial in front of her as she leaned in slightly and responded in a hushed tone.
Her dad called the waitress over and said, "Hon, this smells-- off." "My wife's not happy with her dish, either-- there's very little crab in it and it's runny." He then pointed over to our plates and told her, "these two are our dinner guests and they're far too polite to say anything, but I can tell their dishes were not prepared properly either... This food should never have been served."
A manager came over and the story was more or less repeated. The manager glanced over at the crab imperial and my overcooked tuna and quickly apologized. He offered to have the kitchen remake our meals at no charge. My g/f's dad declined and said this had caused him a great deal of embarassment. I remember feeling the same way there when I bought my mom lunch at Charlotte's 10+ years earlier.