Bowery: A rant

“Just so you know for next time….”

I hate hearing that phrase pass through the lips of any waiter or other restaurant employee, because (1) it means they’re about to blame you for their mistakes and (2) they presume you’ll be coming back, the chances of which drop dramatically once they start talking down to you.

Last weekend we heard it not once but twice, from first our server and then the bar manager at Bowery restaurant near the Arclight. I’d been wanting to check it out for a while and had read that the burgers in particular were tasty, so we went there to grab a bite after seeing a movie.

We walked in, digging the sleek New York vibe, courtesy of white subway tiles and a long, dark bar. After we were seated we glanced over the drinks listed on a chalkboard on the wall, only to realize that they offered no beers on tap–not even Stella or Amstel, which for a bar in Hollywood is shocking. Strike one.

D and I ordered the hamburgers we’d read so much about; he asked for medium, I asked for medium-well. The food took a while to arrive, but we were content to munch on sweet potato fries as an appetizer while drinking our (bottled) beer. When the burgers finally arrived, I joked that I shouldn’t have ordered mediuem-well–my burger looked like a charred hockey puck. I took a bite: hmm, curious, the interior of this burger is kinda pink. Like, a hair’s breadth on the medium side of medium rare. About the time I was realizing this I heard an exclamation of consternation from D, who was pulling back from a mouthful of rare ground beef, blood and juices dripping onto his plate.

D did his best to pick out the few cooked bits while we waited for our server to come back. When she did, we explained the situation and she apologized but looked a little pissed off. I don’t think she was angry with us, though–I got a feeling that this had happened before and she was angry with the kitchen for sending out uncooked food, which undoubtedly would lead to a decreased tip. I told her my burger was also undercooked but didn’t need to be sent back; D’s was carried back to the kitchen to be cooked a little longer.

About five minutes later the plate came out again, and I should emphasize that this was the same plate. The same plate covered in blood and uncooked meat, which had been jostled around so much that the juices ran into the accompanying salad, rendering the greens inedible. As she set it down, the waitress said, “Just so you know, the burgers here will always be a little undercooked, because we use such high-quality meat.” Gee, waitress, that would have been good information to have at the front end, when we placed the order and you asked us how we’d like it cooked.

D takes a bite as the table hangs in anticipation: slightly more cooked, but by any definition (except, apparently, Bowery’s) it was still rare! As we debated our next course of action (dare we send it back yet again?) the manager of the restaurant approached our table. “Sorry about that, I wanted you to know that I knocked off half the price of the burger, given that it wasn’t cooked to your liking.” Ah, yes, that’s proper service! “Just so you know for next time,” (uh oh) “we use a really high-quality meat here, so the owners are always telling the cooks not to overcook the meat. I know it might be a little pinker than you’re used to, but it’s really high-quality meat so you don’t have to worry.”

Seriously? You use a “higher-quality meat” and therefore are not subject to all norms and standards for cooking food to order? And we are in the wrong for wanting our meat to be cooked without shouting distance of the doneness we requested? And yet you don’t explain your “high-quality meat” until after you’ve failed to meet a customer’s expectations and put a damper on their dining experience in your restaurant?

So, yeah. We left a far smaller tip than we have in a long time, then dashed down the street to the Cat & Fiddle, where we could get a proper Guinness in the outdoor courtyard. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, I guess, but next time we’re looking for apres-movie dining, we’ll just go straight to the pub grub at Cat & Fiddle.

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