Saturday, December 31, 2011

Meat & Potatoes

Yesterday, SP & I had another 'Date Day.' All these extra company holidays = lots more fun for us! Normally our weekends are packed with errands and chores and all that homeowner/being a responsible adult kind of stuff so when we have these extra days to indulge in fun, well, I get kind of excited!

This date day was a trip to the Carnegie Museum to see the Teenie Harris exhibit (highly reccommend this exhibit) and the Madeleine Albright Pin exhibit (also very interesting). We spent nealy all of our 3 hours at the museum on those 2 exhibits and shortly before closing time, we left to head out for dinner.

We decided to try a new to us place, one that it seems every other Pittsburgh food blogger has already visited and one that was just named Best New Restaurant in Pittsburgh: Meat & Potatoes in the Cultural District. I was a little apprehensive given all the rave reviews - usually when a place garners so much attention and so much praise, I start to get a little... uninterested because of all the hype. That's why I have yet to try Salt of the Earth, Smoke, or Burgatory.

We arrived at 5:03 pm. The restaurant opens for dinner at 5 pm. Knowing that, I didn't see the need for reservations. In my mind, although I knew it is a very popular place, I didn't think it was a reservations necessary place like Eleven, Casbah, the Mt. Washington places with a view, etc. I thought of it along the same lines of Point Brugges, Park Bruges, E2, Piccolo Forno - places that are popular, always busy, but no reservations, although they do take reservations and with a large group I would definitely make reservations. But if you get there early, there's not a super long wait.

As we walked down the street to the restaurant, we saw that there were some people around the bar and maybe 2-3 tables occupied. Lots of empty tables. But when we entered, we were asked if we had reservations, we said no, and we were told they could not seat us. What? One of about 10 tables for two occupied and they cannot seat us? Reservations recommended/possible but not required and it's 5:03 pm, just minutes after opening, and they cannot seat us? I even mentioned this and the hostess shook her head sadly at me, like I was a moron. The she said we could eat at the bar, but the chairs are high and I am in a wheelchair. She totally did not want to deal with us and the bar stool/wheelchair issue.

This is where I started to feel like exploding on her. Sure, great, the bar area is open for those who are stupid enough to go at 5 pm without a reservation but I am in a wheelchair and a bar is ABOVE MY HEAD. She made NO EFFORT to find another accommodation. NONE. Every other restaurant we have gone to in Pittsburgh (and other places), if they have only high tables/stools available, has made an effort to find us a wheelchair accessible seat. SHE MADE NO EFFORT. Apparently she didn't want our business and she was practically telling us to leave. NONE of the other hostesses at the front intervened or tried to help or apologize or anything. It was like, you dared to come here without a reservation and even though we have lots of free tables, due to some restaurant business seating system (that of course as people who have never worked in restaurant you do not know/understand), you must turn around and leave because we are not going to try to accommodate you and don't want/need your business.

SP & I were not at all happy. We had already parked in a garage, so we were going to have to pay the night parking fee whether we left or stayed. We were hungry. So we decided to try it. That's right. We went to the bar, SP  lifted me up onto a stool, and we dined at the bar. BUT we should not have to lift me up onto a stool.

So at this point my impression is not good. At all. Snotty, unhelpful hostess.

And to make things even worse - we watched. Oh yes dear hostess. If you tell a customer that you cannot seat them in your nearly empty restaurant and your only option is to be physically lifted into a bar stool at the bar, those people will watch the empty seats. And guess what? None of those tables for 2 started to fill until 6-6:15 pm. When we were paying our check, there were 2 tables for 2 STILL EMPTY. And at 6:30 pm as we were leaving, a couple at the bar was told their table was now ready - and then they were seated at a table that had been empty the entire time we were there.

So many negative points for front desk hostess customer service.

Fortunately, things were much better at the bar. There were several very friendly bartenders who knew their stuff. It's a very nice bar with a granite countertop. We studied our menus for a while (it was pretty dark in the restaurant, and the menu seemed kind of darkish, too, so I really had to squint and concentrate to read it!). Here's what we ended up ordering:
Dark & Smokey (rum, root liqueur, ginger, lime) for me, Gin Richard (gin, lime, lemon, soda, rosemary) for SP. Both were very good. Mine was a bit too spicy/gingery for me at first, but once some ice melted, it was better. SP loved both beverages.

Yukon Skins - pork belly pastrami, cheese, scallions. Very tasty, though the potato was not as soft as I expected. It was cooked, just still firm. Yummy sour cream, too.

Bolognese Pasta - gnocchi, short rib, pancetta, pork shoulder, parmesan. Good gnocchi, not gummy or hard. Tasty sauce and meats. I would have liked a bit more pancetta, there didn't seem to be much there. SP had a couple bites and I ate the rest. All of it.

Braised lamb shank with polenta, raisins, and other stuff I can't remember nor do I see it on the online menu. Very tasty, but then again we both love braised lamb. I had more than  a few bites and we ate it all.

Chocolate Pot de Creme - served in a jelly jar. Very good - rich and chocolaty without being too sweet or too dense or too rich. A nice portion for us to share since we were pretty full.
My final thoughts? Borderline rude and definitely unhelpful hostess who basically told us to turn around and leave. Terrific, friendly, knowledgeable bartenders. Tasty, unique drinks. Food that we enjoyed a lot. A nice atmosphere - I read one review that called it a modern day speakeasy. Bare light bulbs hanging. The chairs were a soft, velvety looking brown. Mirrors. Concrete floor (which a bartender told us people have slipped on and he warned us to be very careful since my stool was missing the rubber stoppers on the bottoms of the legs so it scooted quite easily). Mounted cow heads on the walls. Our service was fine, we didn't wait too long for our food but neither did it arrive too quickly.

We would go back, we want to go back, but I won't dare go without a reservation even if it's a 5 pm reservation. This is not a spur of the moment, let's go check it out place.

Meat & Potatoes on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

  1. Oh HECK no! Seriously?!
    I cannot *believe* the hostess acted that way - even if there is some sort of strange reservations-only seating process, they should have been much more accommodating of your wheelchair. As someone who works in the service industry, I can only hope that such "service" will not go unnoticed for long - either the hostess will be reprimanded and forced to change her attitude, or people will catch on to it and the place will lose business. Plus, not only is it HER JOB to find you get a satisfactory seat; it's also COMMON COURTESY.
    I don't go Downtown super often, but this makes me want to steer clear of this place. The last thing I want when spending my hard-earned money is to be rudely treated like a moron, and with all the restaurant options opening in the area I'm sure I can find a more pleasant place to enjoy a meal.