This is less of a rant, and more of a recounting of the most bizarre dining experience I have had in a while. What started off as a nice catch-up at a usually reliable, geographically convenient Pants go-to ended in pushing, pictures, and begging. And this was in midtown! Daryl and I were meeting an UES friend for dinner and decided on Avra because we love Greek food, it is easy to eat reasonably healthy (fish) and the location is central to both parities. Oh, wait, I forgot to mention that this was a MONDAY night, and not a full moon. After grabbing our friend at the bar, we told the hostess our party was complete and she began guiding us through the labyrinth of tables, over the East river, past the kitchen, and eventually into a back dining room that I didn’t know existed. It was not immediately clear where we were being seated because upon arriving at our table, we saw that it was surrounded by Asian tourists with cameras and camera phones just clicking away, posing, talking, laughing and generally not paying any notice to the fact that they were spilling over from their extremely large table behind it and into our space. With the hostess standing meekly by, we eventually had to scream and motion that we were intended to sit where they were congregating. When I asked the hostess if we could have the empty table that we passed in the main room, she simply said “it’s reserved.” Now, while it is quite possible that the table was actually reserved for a customer who called and asked for it specifically by number, it would have been more believable had she given any indication that she knew what table I was referring to or even acknowledged the ridiculousness of the expectation that we sit at the table she brought us to. She said that she would see if anything else was available and then disappeared into the ether of her thoughts, never to be seen again.
The table of tourists behind us was about 30 people long, and they seemed to be playing some sort of musical chairs game where only they could hear the music, and taking pictures was part of the fun; we were jostled, pushed, swiped and generally disrupted constantly, and it was even worse when they were all being served their food at the same time. The servers paid no regard to our existense and we wished we were handed helmets rather than cutlery. Finally, we flagged down the singular waiter that was not serving the large group and tried to order a bottle of wine; he returned and said they were out of the wine. We finally ordered another bottle of wine, and our dinners, only to be told that they were out of the fish we ordered at the suggestion of the waiter. Alright, large parties will do that, but…COME ON!!
Finally drinking wine and getting accustomed to the constant back and forth and round and round of the table behind us, ( a bit like being put through the dryer cycle I suppose) we were eventually approached by someone who seemed to take an interest in our presence. Unfortunately, this person was a red-headed bum, who was going around table to table to ask for money, until a parton got a hold of a server and had him escorted out. I don’t mean to sound elitist or cold, but I have lived in NYC a long time and have never been approached for money INSIDE a restaurant, much less so far away from the door. One of the helpful hostesses must have stepped away to check her e-trade account while he mosied past them and through the main dining room and all the way to the back of the restaurant.
The rest of the meal was uneventful, because no one paid any attention to us, except to pour wine; the one thing we could handle ourselves, and they were just so eager to get us to spend more money (which we did.) At the end of the meal they offered to buy us dessert, but we were so over Avra that they could have been offering Kelly bags and we would have refused; no consideration was made to the bill, and that was that.
I understand that large parties are hard for restaurants to deal with; but when other customers have no sense of self-awareness or awareness for others, it makes for a shitty dining experience if the staff is not on top of their game. I can not say that we will ever be back to Avra, this night was just too weird.