Tonight I had the most frustrating meal I have ever had as a single diner.
I am alone in SF on a Saturday night so I think of places I have not tried where a single diner can eat at the bar, usually my favorite kind of place. So I choose Citizen Cake.
I love Elizabeth Falkner, I loved her when I was a waiter at Rubicon and she was there, and I will love her forever. However, Citizen Cake I could have done without.
I was excited to hear that John Mark was the bar manager, I loved what he did for Café Rouge in Berkeley and was excited to see what I have been missing all of the years at Citizen Cake.
I called and was placed on hold for a long period and then finally disconnected with. I waited 20 minutes called again and asked if there were concerns for the single diner. I was told the bar is available first come first serve, as expected.
I got to the Cake, realizing it was a theater night and I might have issues getting a seat. I recognized the hostess, who couldn’t care less and seemed put out by my wanting a seat by myself. The theater rush moved fast though and I was at the bar before I knew it. The bar itself is much higher than the stools, which makes it difficult for even the average to taller than average diner to eat comfortably.
The bartender was a young, short dark haired guy. He was busy and it seemed I sat for a long time before he or anyone acknowledged me. I finally was asked what I would like. I order from the white list a glass of the mourvedre. I was surprised to see a white mourvedre and ever more surprised when he poured me a glass of a bright red Lirac. He came back a few minutes later to ask if I liked it, I corrected him on his mistake and he stated that the mourvedre was actually a rose did I still want it. No problem I say, and he poured my taste, I then sat there ignored for 10 minutes while he cleared checks and seats. The rose was OK. I blamed it on brushing my teeth an hour earlier and the slowness on the fact that he was alone during a theater rush exit.
The hostess then sat a couple next to me; of course everyone knew them and fawned all over them. They got the attention that I wanted, 10 times….
By now they too were waiting, but suddenly they were eating and I was still trying to get an order in. I was kind of surprised that the price point was as high as it was for a café, but what the hell, right? I mean if Rachel Ray likes it so should I, please kill me for saying that. The couple is offered a special drink the bartender makes for them, he tells them it is on the house, they actually comment in private that they do not care for it.
I finally got my order in, $10 for an app of a squash salad and $29 for a steak. I also ordered a $35 bottle of a win I love, Hortus, a wine from the Laungdoc. Obviously John Mark’s style. But where was John Mark? The bartender, now part of the stream of fawners over the couple next to me, inform the couple that John Mark is unexpectedly out of town and that he is swamped because of it, well thank god for that, I thought service was always this spotty.
My food arrives; the squash salad is just that, although the fresh mozzarella is amazing! Now I have a family with 4 children sitting next to me ordering root beer floats, hardly what I would expect but more power to them. The couple next to me and I share a laugh over it.
The could has there 1st course cleared and is now offered an intermezzo of cantaloupe aqua fresca, which I love. My first course is cleared and I seem to be waiting a very long time. I am offered an apology from the bartender, but no intermezzo… I see it going out to other tables too, I feel so left out…..
My steak comes and so does the faux Languielle knife, at $29 for a steak in a café, give me the real thing or a wooden handle, thank you very much. The steak is perfectly rare as ordered, it comes with fingerling potatoes, that were obviously made earlier in the day and sat (a bit stale) blue lakes and wax beans float on the potatoes and a crostini slice with a dollop of horseradish ice cream with sea salt flakes on it (something I have made myself and been given a lot of crap for). I like it, not kidding, it was good. My couple next to me is done and is offered a special sorbet before the order dessert.
My plate is cleared; I offer the rest of the wine (more than ½ a bottle to the bartender) asks for a macchiato and then check.
I then drink ½ my coffee and toss a card down $100 for dinner for the single diner. I get up and walk out as I turn into the window from outside the bartender is pouring the couple two glasses from my bottle of Hortus, I feel dirty. I want to be part of the couple, kind of suxed for the single diner tonight! Orson where are you when I need you? Rosebud is not a sled it is a nice word for the way I was treated tonight.