My husband and I don't often get to "nice places" because we have 2 little boys and bad luck with sitters. So yesterday eve when the grandparents were in town, we unloaded the boys and went to town. Maybe it's because we don't get out often enough to sit across from each other, knee to knee, nibbling off the same plate and feeling the warmth of wine flushing our cheeks. Maybe it's because the caliber of the food was so much better - the ingredients so much more sophisticated - than the usual casual places we take our kids. But in spite of the really quite poor service, we had a good time.
We tried the marinated white sardines - oh yeah fishy goodness, the blue cheese souffles with dried cherry compote - I'd like this for breakfast weekly please, the salad with duck confit, fried onions and walnuts - McDonald's could do this if they really tried - and they should!, the jamon iberico - really delish, better imo than prosciutto - but $100/lb?, the cheap dates - mmhhmm, and the el diablo - wow! cut the sugar in 1/2 and it would be the perfect dessert. A 1/2 carafe of sangria, and their lovely corn-bread (Tallgrass hominy?) and compound butter finished it off.
So on the service bit - our waiter sat us down, gave us helpful advice about how much to order, praised our choices, flattered me a bit about knowing what bacalao was - etc, all the things a good waiter should do. We got our bread and sangria. And then sat. And sat. And sat. We sat and watches tables finish and leave, new parties be seated, order, and get served, and we sat. We sat while our waiter hustled around our area for a good 40 minutes and studiously avoided eye contact. When we were finally ready to say something, another waiter came by and said our food would be just a minute. So we sat again, for about 10 minutes. Then he came back, apologized again for the delay, said he'd spoken to the kitchen, and that he'd make sure we got our food with plenty of free stuff. Unsolicited. When we grumbled about our own waiter, he said the place had gotten busy and the first guy had been assigned away from us. This is the first we'd heard. But the 2nd waiter was a breath of fresh air. He did bring our food quickly, he did continue to check up to make sure the food was good and that we were cared for. And he comped 1/2 the bill. He got a nice tip, which I hope he doesn't have to share with the first guy.
Had the situation been different - if we were starving, if we were on the paid sitter clock - it would have been a bad evening. But, for us, without those particular stressors, the food and the service in the second half saved the experience. For the record, we were the only ones in our section of the restaurant who were thumb twiddling. Service seemed to be just fine all around us. So for those of you fortunate to get out often and test the fine dining waters all around Seattle - I envy you. And for those tired parents who like the idea of a knee touching plate sharing wine warming leisurely evening, Tango together.