What a difference! A couple of months ago we went to the Brabo Tasting Room in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. It was amazing. In fact, the experience was so good that when friends suggested we meet for drinks and dinner, we tapped Brabo by Richard Wiedmaier for the rendezvous. We were excited to try the full restaurant version of the tasting room.
We arrived without reservations about 7:15 Friday night, hopeful we would be able to get in. No problem! Surprisingly, the restaurant was only about half full. Despite all the open tables, the maitre’d still took a long look at the computer screen before deciding he could seat us. I should mention we were there for a little over an hour and the restaurant was never full.
That was the first indication the service was a little surly. Our waiter, who never introduced himself, practically scoffed out loud when we ordered starters without ordering entrees. Initially, we weren’t sure if we were staying for drinks and a light repast, or if we would eventually order dinner.
The starters came with a perfectly respectable pause and we were served without comment. The menus had not been collected (presumably to give us time to decide on entrees), and after a couple of bites, our supercilious waiter came back and mentioned there was a special – pan seared scallops. By then we had decided we’d had enough of the terse service. Several times while we waited for the appetizers, we tried to flag down the aforementioned waiter only to be soundly ignored.
He collected the menus, never once asking if everything was OK. We eventually managed to get his attention for another round of drinks, but he took the order from one member of our party (there were three of us) and never even looked in the direction of the others to see if anyone else wanted another drink.
Before I go any further I should point out that the five of us had ordered three different starters (three of us got the same thing) and we were all THRILLED with the food. It was perfectly prepared, perfectly timed and amazingly presented. The busboy who served the food (not the waiter) was so smooth in his delivery I almost didn’t even see him. Another busboy who kept everyone’s glasses of water topped off never missed a beat and was polite and efficient in the best possible way.
Unfortunately for Brabo, the bad outweighed the good and we all decided to take our business elsewhere. When we finally managed to flag down the waiter and ask for the bill it was delivered quickly. The name on the bill was “Mike C” … was that his name or was that who was logged into the computer that spit out the bills?
In any case, “Mike C” got a slightly less than 10% tip for his surly, in fact rude, attitude. Certainly a $230 bill for drinks and starters deserves better service than that.
If you want great food and friendly, delightful service … stick with the Tasting Room or go elsewhere.