Thursday, July 24, 2008

An Awesomly Horrible Dining Experience

This week is "Downtown Atlanta Restaurant Week". It's a yearly thing (in other cities too) where people can dine at "fancier" restaurants for a flat fee of (this year) $25 per person to try and encourage people to come back after a great experience. For $25 you get an appetizer, a main course and dessert. Looking back, I've now done this four times. Three times were, uhhhh, bad. A couple of years ago, some friends and I went to Ruth's Crap, errrr Chris Steakhouse. Not only did they barely cook my "medium well" steak, but there was more butter than steak I think. Two years ago, we went to a place called Trader Vic's. I can't really remember anything bad to say about that experience. Last year we went to a place called "O’Terrill’s". As soon as we got close to the place I realized that this ain't no fancy place! It's like a dinky sports bar, which I'd been to once after a Thrashers game. I wanna say the "fancy" menu included chicken fingers. Awesome. So much for trying new restaurants!

But this year topped any and all bad experiences. Me and some Sweetwater friends (Erica + 2 friends, Peter, Rochelle, Stevens, Alaina) had reservations at place called Fandangles (which I thought was a website to go to buy movie tickets?). It is in the Sheraton Hotel on Courtland St. Our reservations were at 7:30. Due some really bad weather we got there a little early to try and beat the storms and got into the restaurant about 15 minutes early. We hung out by the bar, Erica thought I asked for a Shirley Temple...and made me drink it. After that, due to manhood issues, I ordered a $7 (ughhh) pint of Guinness. They had a pool table set up in a terrible location by the bar, there was a wall on three sides of the table, without enough room to actually play pool, with a flat screen TV on one of em. As the Guinness commercial guys say...BRILLIANT!

By about 8:30 we finally got seated at a table next to another table who looked completely miserable. Within a few minutes we heard them complaining, ask for the manager who eventually took 50% off their check. I leaned over and asked them if we should even bother staying! We'd been seated for about 20 minutes by then without anyone coming to say hi. We all already knew what we wanted, hell, we found a pen and half the table needed a smoke break, so they circled on the (paper) menu what they wanted.

When we finally did get our waitress to come by, we ordered a couple of drinks with the idea that she could also handle taking our orders too. Uhhhhh, no. She took drink orders for 2 people...and left. We assume to get those drinks, but it took about 15 minutes or so before she came back. Repeat that process about 2 more times. They're lucky we're a laid back, fun loving group!

By about 9:30 or so, a different waitress came by to FINALLY take our order. The smokers of the group were on cigarette break #2 by now, so we were able to order for them. Progress!!!!! A few minutes later, our new waitress came back out to inform us that one of the appetizers - "Friend Calamari with Spicy Remoulade Sauce" - was not available, but they had some kind of shrimp something or other to offer in its place, which the waitress said was "awesome" (With her middle-eastern sounding accent, it made it sound even funnier)

It was about 10pm when the waitress came back with some good news! The manager has decided to buy our table a round of drinks (not quite 50% off, but he knew how to keep us happy!). The waitress was talking Erica into trying some type of wine that she kept describing as "awesome". The manager also explained to us the reason for the problems all night is that they had a "random fire inspector" come by to test the sprinklers in the kitchen. And, uhhhh, they failed. He said there was white powder all over the kitchen and that they had to use a kitchen somewhere else. WTF????? I don't think any of us believed a word of that, but, whatever, he was creative with the story.

Finally, around 10:15 they served the appetizers. I ordered "Jack & Coke BBQ’d Babyback Ribs w/ Fried Sweet Onion Petals" (really only because it included the words "Jack & Coke"). But at that point any food was gonna taste great...and they did.

For the main course, you got to choose from 3 dishes, time for some bullets...
  • Peach & Habanera BBQ’d Salmon over black-eyed peas and mustard greens ragout
  • Blackened Ribeye Steak over Roasted Garlic Mashed Red Skin Potatoes with grilled asparagus
  • Porcini Dusted and Grilled Airline Breast with wild mushroom & crawfish grits, sautéed spinach and onions and topped with a sage glace

(WTF is Grilled Airline Breast?) Anyone who knows me already knows I ordered the steak, and was daring enough to substitute the spinach for asparagus. By the time the main course did get to us, by about 10:45, I wasn't even that hungry anymore. The food was actually VERY good, but the fact that we had been there for over 3 hours kinda made that point...moot. (I don't use that word enough).

For dessert, I get to use even more bullets!

  • Southern Style Bourbon Pecan Pie with Caramel
  • Carrot Cake (how boring!)
  • Chocolate Chocolate Cake

I got the Pecan Pie, but told them to put it right in a box. It was Erica's friend Jamie's birthday, and they actually took VERY good care of her. Erica supplied the trick candles and they brought out her dessert with a bunch of candles and sang to her. They also brought her a present - a small brown fancy lookin box with a few wrapped also fancy lookin chocolates inside. The waitress actually asked for the box back, but then said just kidding. So that was funny. They also gave Jamie all three desserts in to-go boxes. Where's mine??????????

Finally at about 11:30 we were ready for the check, we gave one of the guys a few cards and some cash and he proceeded to count it in front of us, which seemed odd. Rochelle made a comment about it, then I asked her...did you just get here??? Are you really surprised by anything at this point?

In the end, we were there for over 4 hours, no one was leaving hungry or angry. We had fun, mostly laughing about the restaurant, but the food was excellent. Can't deny that. I've still got leftovers to look forward to in my fridge!


EDIT: On Friday afternoon I got an email from someone offering us an opportunity to give Fandangles another chance, "complimentary of course". I'll be sure to report back how our 2nd try goes!

EDIT #2:

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