A few weeks ago, I sought some advice on where to take an out-of-town foodie for one high end dining experience. The visitor had narrowed down the choices to Eugene and Woodfire, and with guidance from this board, we wound up at Eugene. The food was great. I would not out it in my top meals-ever, but it was excellent. However, I had a couple of quibbles with service and presentation and wanted to share these and see if anyone else had the same experience.
We arrived and were greeted less than graciously, made to wait in the bar area with no offer of drinks despite our being one of two minutes past our reservation time. I'm not a stopwatch fascists, and don' mind waiting for a table for a brief while if I have a reservation, but an offer of a drink while you wait should be standard - especially when you are asked to wait at the bar.
We were seated and the table behind us had clearly been recently vacated and was covered in crumbs and disarray, with a chair that backed onto one of our chairs pulled all the way out, The waiter did not tend to this, and we had to push the chairs around ourselves to get into the table. I would expect the vacant table next to us to be bussed and clean when we are seated, or at least some apology to be made and the path to our seats cleared should a bussing oversight have occurred. The fact that we already had to wait while our table was set up made this especially annoying. Oh, and it wasn't exactly heaving busy, so I would expect that the table next to ours would have been immediately bussed, especially given it was not a later reservation (8:30) so others were soon to be seated, as well.
My most irksome gripe is with the service. I felt that we were consistently upsold (or attempted to be upsold) by our waiter. It is possible that the waiter was just a bit awkward and not very smooth at promoting things such as the tasting menu, but the result was that we felt like we were being upsold. I am a true foodie and all for tasting menus, but I am pregnant and there re a lot of foods I need to avoid, and I did not see the point in restricting the chef - goes against the concept of the tasting menu. The waiter was v pushy about this though - over-recommended the tasting menu when we sat down, and then said "No tasting menu?" when we ordered ala carte. He recommended an additional dish "for the table" which, frankly, we only ordered b/c we felt shamed into it. It was great, but too much food.
I am also a big drinker, but ditto on the pregnant - no drinks for me. The waiter's dismay was not well hidden. Our friend is not a big drinker either, and the waiter kept asking us if we wanted more drinks and staring meaningfully at our more than half full glasses.
None of this was by any mans atrocious - the waiter was pleasant enough, the food was excellent, and nothing about the service out Eugene in the Bad Service Hall of Fame. But for the price and reputation, I expect perfection, or pretty close to it.
Has anyone else had this type of experience at Eugene? Was it an off night? New waiter, maybe? I don't want to judge based on one experience - especially one with such tasty food, which erases many woes - but I also prefer not to experiment when such $ is involved and there are so many wonderful dining options in town.
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