I'm a little slow today. I just switched to Sanka. So...have a heart?

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Worst. Service. Evar.

Las Vacas Gordas. It's on 79th Street in Normandy, and it's an Argentine Parrilla.

It used to be a place I'd recommend to my friends.

It is no longer, because, now being a firm believer in the veracity of Yelp (which I never really put a lot of stock in, before), the reviews on which state pretty much unanimously, that Las Vacas Gordas has better-than-average meat, and unequivocally the worst table service in the history of Mankind -- after tonight's experience I can tell you that Yelpers are 100% correct.

If you're in a hurry, that's basically the summary of the following blog post, so... y'know. See you in a month when I find the time to post again. (I'm on the South Beach diet to lose this last pesky 18 pounds standing between me and...not having obtrusively large, strange love handles which stick out like pectoral fins...so since I can't drink tonight, I'm home a bit early (and sober!) and I figured I'd pay some attention to this sadly-neglected blog - which is now faring better than the plants I'm intentionally neglecting to death (seriously) on my balcony.)

Las Vacas Gordas has wonderful staff (bus boys... and bread ladies...) and the wost waiter I've ever encountered.

His first name is the singular last name of a pair of famous tennis-star sisters, and he looks like this! You can find him in the Yelp reviews derisively referred to as "that bald waiter." (I decided not to publish a picture of him because that seems sort of a huge invasion of his privacy), and he doesn't give a SHIT. About some tables. Other tables, he adores and it is with them that he the time that he's not running in a circle around the bar, with no clear purpose, or typing into his iPhone ordering system, which, coincidentally, also looks a lot like he's texting people, while he's supposed to be taking orders and delivering food.

The tables about which the Waiter does not give a shit languish, easily discernible by their occupants, sitting silently and sullenly, arms folded over chests, glaring at him. And their cell phones (in their capacity as a watch) (some people looked at watches. I found that dramatic. Because you don't see that anymore.) heaving occasional sighs of hungry frustration.

Gael and I were seated for no-joke, 15 minutes before anyone brought us menus. Slowly. After the Waiter pointed at us and made the international sign for, "The Hostess hasn't given you menus, yet, has she!!?! What's her problem?!"

Then he sauntered over and informed us that because we had just gotten our menus he was going to give us a couple minutes and also they had porterhouse that was not on the menu.

That was annoying. And here's why. We had been seated for a long time, menuless, and an acknowledgement of "Shucks, sorry" would have gone a long way -- certainly much farther than implying that he was granting us an indulgence by letting us look at the menu to decide what we wanted (we already knew -- the enrollada, clearly) and being entirely unapologetic about the inefficiency of the operation.

The man thereafter ignores us for approximately half an hour. Then, (and here's where things go downhill. Further.) he came over to us to tell us that he was going to tell another table that he was going to take our order, so the other table didn't get antsy.

Whereupon he left our table. To go to another table. With whom he had a conversational exchange, whereupon the conclusion of which, he came back to our table. Whereupon I said, "We'll have the enrollada, medium," and Gael asked, "what are the French Fries Provencal," whereupon he looked at his iPhone, geeked out, said, "I'll be right back," and turned on his heel. Whereupon he went to the bar, and fiddled with something, while Gael and I stared at him agog. Yes, Good Sir (or Ma'am), I said agog. Thereafter he engaged in about four minutes worth of conversation. Whereupon he brought something to another table and came over to us and said, "What are you having?"

Whereupon Gael and I stared up at him, eyebrows raised, for an uncomfortable three seconds, incredulous.

Still no water.

No apology.

No contrition.

No acknowledgement, whatsoever that we had waited FOREVER for menus, and that he started to take our order, ran away for no discernible purpose, had a chat, and came back, having completely forgotten both part of the order and Gael's question.

No acknowledgement that we didn't have a bread plate (we figured out why we weren't getting any hot rolls after we ordered...)

So, we had the exact same exchange as before, again.

And I decided that I was not impressed by the Waiter's tableside demeanor.

Shortly thereafter, a middle-aged well-to-do Colombian (or maybe Argentine) couple sat at the booth next to us, and Gael and I decided it would be fun to see how long it would take them to get their menus. (Answer: About 35 minutes). We thought they'd have their menus in a heartbeat. (They didn't). I'm gonna call these people "Provoloneta," for reasons that will later make sense.

Enough time now passes between the time that we ordered, Provoloneta sat down, and they still don't have their menus, where I make eye contact with Provoloneta and say, "The service is horrible!" and they both shake their heads and say, "Horrible!" And Mrs. Provoloneta says, "have you already ordered?!" And I say, "Yeah, but it's been forever..." and she knits her mouth and shakes her head, and I sit, smug, in the knowledge that I've poisoned the well against the Waiter, and there won't be any redeeming himself with THAT table, either.

Provoloneta eventually get their menus and order, the Waiter skips away, and all of us sit, as neglected as the slightly-fishy Caesar Salad present at every office luncheon buffet.

Now another table of well-heeled, middle-aged Uruguayans sits on our other side. (I'm pretty sure they were from there). They get their menus pretty quickly. But are otherwise completely neglected. To the point that they're walking away from the table, to leave the restaurant(!!) when the Waiter finally approaches them. I'm gonna call this table "Crab Salad" because they got the Ensalada Rusa, which looked like Crab salad, and that's all I saw them get during my time in Hell Las Vacas Gordas, and Provoloneta is called that because that was their appetizer. Which was plunked down about 3 minutes before their steak came.

So there we sit, Crab Salad, Provoloneta and Gael and I, staring darkly at the Waiter as time goes by, and we grow ever more hungry, while he lavishes attention on other tables, shaking hands, bumping fists, poppin' corks, showing pictures on his iPhone, sitting at their tables (I HATE THAT), blowing up balloons, rolling on a bed, covered with puppies, and playing a fake saxophone to Huey Lewis and the News during an impromptu kazoo-party (with party hats and confetti) that broke out at one of his other tables.

It is at this point that Gael and I decided to try to figure out how to not tip him at all, and how we can get around the autogratuity that they (with good reason) tack onto your bill. (Flash forward - we fail at this.)

FINALLY, the food comes. It, along with everything else on the table, is brought by someone who is not the Waiter. The only food or table article I saw the Waiter handle was a wine bottle, when he opened the bottle sitting on our table, for Gael when she ordered a glass. I never otherwise saw him handle anything that anyone else ate, or ate with. He handled wine bottles and bills. That's it.

We ate our food, which was fine. We were clearly having such an uneventful time with our food, that the Waiter didn't see the need in asking us whether everything was okay or we needed something.

At one point, we asked him for water refills, as our glasses hadn't been filled in about an hour. He gladly complied, by serving water to Crab Salad. Not us.

Somewhere in here, Mr. Provoloneta stalked off to talk to the "DueƱo" who was his friend. Somewhere during this time, too, Mrs. Provoloneta gets her provoloneta, which she tells the runner to take back, because they're leaving. The provoloneta remains, and, so too does Provoloneta, as Mr. Provoloneta comes back somewhat mollified, and icy peace seems to be restored at that table...

Someone besides the Waiter takes our food off the table and boxes the remainder. We ask someone other than our Waiter for the check but she forgets. Gael and I content ourselves with reading crappy reviews about Las Vacas Gordas on Yelp Mobile. A long time later, the Waiter approaches the table and before he can even raise the specture of another two hours waiting for our "coffee or dessert?" I ask for the check.

Gael and I continue to snicker over negative Yelp reviews, some of them directly referring to our Waiter for the 20 minutes it takes him to bring the check, with which he (accidentally, on purpose) flicks some food on my pants. Mind you, we had been nothing at civil to him, with the exception of our three-second bout of incredulity, so his passive-aggression with us, Provoloneta, and Crab Salad (who by this point had received Crab Salad...the remains of which sat on their table for about the last 40 minutes we were there) was inexplicable.

I pay and we leave -- without a thank you, without an apology, and without an intent to ever go back there.

Look. I get it. I've been a waiter in my life - I know how that gig goes, and that sometimes you've got an off night, and I've lived in Miami long enough to be ambivalent about half-assed, inattentive table service. I always leave extra tip even when tip is included, to round it up to 20% or a little more. (What's with this needing to tip 25% now? That's nuts. But people who tip 18% are cheap.)

I can say without hesitation that tonight, we had the most nonchalantly inattentive (read: BAD) service I've ever experienced in Miami. So, congrats, Vacas Gordas, for receiving that dubious honor.


Blogger Colin said...

In this age of "everyone as food critic," I can't believe people provide such terrible service at so many restaurants. Word gets out immediately and it hurts business. I found that Vacas Gordas got worse after the renovation/expansion. Prices went up, service got worse. Their steaks were mediocre anyway and North Beach blows.

2:35 PM


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