Sunday, February 24, 2013

I'll meet you half-way, but better off no way

After a recent "meal" at The Half-Way Cafe, I felt compelled to write them.  I really have too much time on my hands, but I also appreciate their thoughtful response, posted below.

Dear Sir or Madam: 

I am writing about an utterly awful dining experience at your Marlborough location this past Saturday night. 

We were a party of 8 people, and we called ahead at 6:50pm to find out the length of the wait.  We were told “20 minutes” and also told that if we gave our names, they would put us down and hold the table for us, especially when we told them we would be there in 15 minutes.  We arrived as we said we would, and then we waited…and waited…and waited, until 7:55pm; in reality, that 20-minute wait was an hour and five minutes.  Not fun at all, especially with hungry teenagers.  We told the hostess that we could be split four and four, since the kids are teenagers, but she chose to seat other parties that arrived after us, and held us until the only large table was available. 

I wish I could say the meal got better once we were seated; unfortunately, that was not the case.  We started our meal with an order of onion rings and a double order of chicken wings…the “double order” of chicken wings was an embarrassment; these were pigmy wings, with almost no meat, fried to oblivion.  It was immediately apparent to the waitress, who must have been considering what she was going to say when she delivered them, because when she got to the table, before we could say anything, she was chagrined to the point of saying “I’m going to have the chef make you some more, because there aren’t very many”.  A few minutes later, the “manager” came out with a bread plate with four more tiny wings. He said he was bringing them out because the earlier order “was a little chintzy”.  The only expression that popped in to my head at that time was “why bother?”

Given all your marketing, and publicity, surrounding your steak tips, I ordered them, but ordered them plain because I did not want any of the sweet “Café” sauce.  The waitress asked if wanted the broccoli and mashed potatoes, and I told her I would take the broccoli, but would prefer a side of onion rings, and her only response was “fine” (important note for later).  My wife has several food allergies (dairy, peanuts and shellfish).  She identified these allergies to the waitress, who went and got the manager.  My wife wanted to order the chicken kabab salad, but the manager told my wife that the marinade has milk in it (ugh!), but that the chef could grill the chicken separately, put some olive oil on it, and maybe some spices…so far, it sounded ok to my wife. 

When the food was delivered, most came out correctly, except for mine…and my wife’s dinner was missing in action.  I was shocked at skimpy size of the steak tips.  I ordered the regular full-sized meal.  Your menu describes the dish as “our huge 10-oz size…”, but on the plate were 5 small “tips”, and they were smothered in pink “café” sauce.  In light of the manager’s acknowledgment about the pathetic portion of wings, I suggest that your kitchen in Marlborough does not know how to properly portion the meals, because this dish looked like the size of a kid’s order.  Of course, since they were smothered in sweet pink sauce, I sent them back.  At this point, my wife’s meal still had not arrived.

After my dish is taken away, the manager arrived with my wife’s salad.  The minute it hit the table, there was a collective “yuk” from all the adults.  Without a doubt, one of the most unappetizing meals we’ve ever seen anywhere.  We understand that allergies can be difficult to manage, but this salad bore no resemblance to what the manager had described as “grilled with some olive oil and spices”.  While he was standing there, we asked what happened to the salad, and he said “well, the chef just put the chicken and vegetables in a foil pouch and steamed it instead”.  Words cannot do justice to how awful this looked, and while my wife did take a bite of the chicken, she immediately told the manager to take it away…it was inedible. 

The manager apologized, and sent the waitress back with a menu, and offered to bring my wife something else.  My wife then ordered a hummus wrap with steamed broccoli. While this was going on, my measly steak tips came back, with nothing else…what happened to the broccoli?  Believe me, if the portion is going to be so small, serving it alone on a large dinner plate makes it look even more paltry.  Since everyone else was pretty much done eating at this point, when the waitress brought my broccoli, I gave it to my wife, so she could at least eat something.  The kitchen staff made the hummus wrap pretty quick and got it to our table…unfortunately too quick, because while it had the vegetables, they didn’t put any hummus in it!  Seriously?!  Can the kitchen staff do anything right?  My wife sent that back too, and that was the end of her dinner.  Great experience, eh?  Go out to dinner with friends and family, and watch everyone else eat.

Because it had taken so long, because the experience was so lacking, and because we had to retrieve another teenager elsewhere, I left my wife to resolve the bill, but we had quite a conversation when she got home.  After I left, I thought that the steak tip order was perhaps the “half-way” size, because it was anything but “huge”.  I texted my wife, and asked her to check with the waitress.  The bill showed “$13.99” for the tips, and the waitress told my wife that it was a full order.  Wow…Equally disturbing was that there was a charge on the check for $3.99 for the onion rings that were a side to the steak tips, so that stingy meal costs $17.98!  You think the waitress would have mentioned that you could not replace the mashed potatoes, but have to pay the full price for the onion rings as a side?  In that case, shouldn’t I have gotten my two sides with the steak tips, since I was paying full price for the rings?  This makes no sense.  I didn’t want the mashed potatoes, but would have gotten something else.  Instead of saying “fine” when I placed my order, at a minimum, she should have told me that you can’t substitute in the rings unless you pay for them, in which case perhaps I would have kept the broccoli but gotten some other side.  Maybe I would have also kept the order of onion rings, but at a minimum, that’s information the consumer deserves to know; nowhere was this mentioned on the menu.  Instead, I can’t help feeling more than a little ripped off by this meal given the small portion, a single side (broccoli that I gave to my wife since she had nothing else to eat) and the high price. 

While the manager offered my wife a $15 gift card given the utter failure for her meal, there’s really no need for me to continue this…my wife and friends summed it up perfectly when they got home…”Half-way Café…off our list”.  With all the other dining options available in the MetroWest area, I see no reason to patronize your restaurant any longer.

If you feel it would be helpful to speak about this, I may be reached at 508-XXX-XXXX.


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