Discover the unexpected in Philadelphia. Explore All of Philadelphia
Restaurants & Bars

Ella's American Bistro in Wayne

justdunnit | Apr 26, 2012 09:19 AM

I'm surprised no one has posted about this place yet. I'd be interested to hear other people's experiences at Ella's. Here's mine:
I had dinner at Ella’s on Saturday, April 21. We had reservations for 8 people at 6:30. Let me summarize here in case you don’t want to read this whole thing: food – excellent; service – some of the worst I’ve ever had ANYWHERE. Our experience started with menus only being given to half the table. When the waiter came by to take our order, we pointed out that we weren’t ready because several of us didn’t have menus. Probably ten minutes went by before he finally came back, mentioning that finally, more menus were available. Of course, by this time, we had passed the menus around and were ready to order. They had several daily specials, one of which was a seared tuna that two of us ordered. After a few minutes he came back and said they only had one tuna left, so the person who ordered second (me) would have to choose something different. I had been torn between the tuna and a duck special, so I ordered that instead, no problem. He came back a few minutes later to tell me that they were also out of the duck (this was before 7:00!). So my friend who had ordered the tuna and I decided that one of us would order the tuna, one would order a steak, and we would share. The waiter, without any prodding from us, said he would have the chef split the two entrees and include half of the tuna and half of the steak on each plate, which we thought was great. We ordered appetizers and salads. My friend and I ordered two courses of cheese and an order of speck from the charcuterie menu. We got the cheeses (which were excellent – a manchego and a local Birchrun Hills Farm Fat Cat), but were never served the speck. The waiter seemed so overwhelmed that we didn’t even bother complaining about it (and we weren’t charged for it). While we then waited over fifty minutes for our entrees to be served, we decided to order a bottle of white wine. When the waiter brought the bottle out, he also brought a random assortment of wine glasses (some red, some white) and placed them all on one end of the table. He presented the bottle of wine to the woman who had ordered it, opened the bottle, poured her a whole glass instead of a taste, then put the bottle down and walked away. For anyone else to have wine, one of us had to go to the end of the table where he had put all the glasses, pour the wine, and hand it out. My friend was so appalled that when the waiter finally came back to the table some time later, she very nicely & discreetly (honestly) pointed out to him that customers probably expected him to pour wine for the whole table. When the entrees finally came, of course the tuna and the steak were not split up on two plates. When we pointed out to the waiter that he offered to have the entrees split, he response was simply “The chef wouldn’t do it.” No apologies, which really burned me because A) he was the one who suggested and offered it, and B) do you really think the chef refused, or do you think the waiter forgot to tell him? Also, there were four people at the table who ordered the grilled salmon entrée. He brought three people their salmon entrees, but brought one person a smoked salmon appetizer instead of their entree. To top it off, he had taken all the orders by going around the table in order, so it should have been fairly to keep the orders straight when serving, but when he brought the food out, he stood at one end of the table and basically yelled out “who had the salmon, who had the tuna,” etc. It’s not just me, is it – is it wrong to expect when you go to a restaurant that’s trying to be high-end and charges $27 and up for an entrée, that the very least the waiter can do is know who ordered what? I understand maybe a mixed up plate or two, but to start serving the table by acting like he’s a new waiter in a Ruby Tuesday is, I’m guessing, not the image Ella’s is going for. As I said at the beginning, the food was REALLY good. Everyone enjoyed their entrees. The tuna was seared and served on a bed of white beans and fiddlehead ferns in some kind of garlic sauce or garlic oil. It was to die for (which is too bad, because it’s going to make me give Ella’s a second chance, and the service was definitely not worth even considering a return visit!) The steak was well seasoned and well cooked, served with a smoky bacon jam and delicious whipped potatoes. We then ordered some desserts and decaf. Several people wanted a chocolate and peanut butter pie that was on the menu, but – you guessed it – they were out of it. Four people ordered decaf, and, once again, he had no idea who ordered it, but just kept trying to put a cup of coffee in front of each one of us until he finally found someone who didn’t respond “I didn’t order coffee.” By the time he got to the fourth cup of coffee, he just left it on the end of the table and walked away. After a few minutes, one of my friends noticed she hadn’t got her coffee, and we saw it just sitting there at the end of the table. The other tables around us were also obviously exasperated with their service too – you could see people just trying to get someone’s attention to get another drink or get their bill, etc. I don’t know whether to blame the waiter or not. It seemed like he probably was trying, but was overworked or undertrained or both. A few times a gentleman who was mostly standing at the hostess station (don’t know if he was a manager or an owner) came over and asked how things were, to which we all pretty pointedly said “the food is good” in such a tone that it should have been obvious that we were leaving out something that was not so good. But there was never any follow up from him. For Ella’s to become the hot new spot on the Main Line that it’s trying to be, they will need to vastly improve their wait staff’s training and their customer service. Before we went there, I think all of us in the group had heard that the food was good, the service so-so. So we were prepared for so-so service in trying a new place. But Ella’s has been open for what, 4 months now? They shouldn’t still be working out MAJOR kinks. We weren’t prepared for downright ABYSMAL service. I hope one of you one of these days will check back in and report that they finally found their groove so I can go back again!

Want to stay up to date with this post?

Recommended From Chowhound