GRRRR!! School may be back in session, but that does not mean that I need an education on how things taste from an aggressive restaurant owner. I am very hesitant to send ANYTHING back, and very rarely complain about a dish, but sometimes, when asked, I will give my honest feedback if I didn’t like something. To be fair, I often give compliments unprompted. Besides the customer always being right and the basic principles of hospitality and graciousness, my palette is sophisticated enough to know when something is not right, and even if it weren’t, a customer should be able to say that they don’t like something without fear of retribution.
This is what happened: I celebrated getting out of jury duty early with a lovely walk through Tribeca and eventually up Hudson. Since Gari was not opened yet and I wasn’t sure I could eat something like Kutcher’s, I set my sights and appetite on Westville. I settled into the bar and ordered a turkey burger (with greens no fries), and a serving of the artichokes. I love these artichokes- they are always the right balance of crispiness and softness, with some saltiness added through sprinkled parm and of course lemon, lemon on eveyrthing for me. I was impressed with my turkey burger and having a lovely enough time, but for some reason the artichokes tasted dry and a little rubbery today. A lot of them were almost burnt, but the portion is big enough to maneuver around the brown ones and still have ample options. I was pretty full from my burger and not so into the artichokes, so it was obvious that I barely made a dent in them; the bartender asked if I wanted to bring my artichokes home- and I said no- and he ASKED if they were okay- at which point I said they were a little dry today. That was all.
Next thing I know, the owner comes over with my check, sighs, and says: “Listen, I am going to take the artichokes off the check, but just so you know, that is how they are supposed to taste. They are the same beautfiul artichokes that we are always make.” I said, ” Thank you, I am sorry, they were just a little dry today, I eat them all the time.” He said ” This is how they are supposed to taste, we have been making them for ten years, but okay, I will take them off the menu, but just so you know there was nothing wrong with them.” He was in my face, leaning over the bar. Taken aback I said, ” I don’t really need a lecture, I didn’t ask to have them removed from the bill, I am sorry I didn’t like them.” Him: ” I am not lecturing you, I am just talking to you as an adult and a concerned owner so you know that I care and that you know that is what the artichokes should taste like.”
First off- I know what fucking artichokes should taste like, and I know what they should taste like at Westville. Second of all- that is not concern that you are demonstrating, that is aggression. A more gracious exchange would have been the following ” Hi, I am the owner, I am sorry that you did not like the artichokes today, I am happy to take them off of the bill, I appreciate your feedback.” I was not asking for a free ride, I was more than happy to pay $14.70 for a turkey burger- don’t do me any favors then lay into me. Patrons should be allowed to give feedback without fear of meanness; its not like I ordered a steak well done and then complained that it was dry or burnt; I ordered a dish with a reasonable, educated expecatation of how it should taste and was disappointed. Maybe homeboy was having a bad day or didn’t realize how he came across, but this exchange left me rattled and not so jazzed to ever return to Westville. I was just really surprised about how the whole non-event was handled, and how someone could approach this situation and think that his actions were the most respectful way of dealing with a customer; basic hospitality and the desire to please the customer, not try to teach them a lesson of some kind, was clearly over-looked. Arti-CHOKE on that!