Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Chez Piggy

Chez Piggy Restaurant & Bar
68R Princess St.
Kingston, ON K7L 1A5

Oh Chez Piggy, what happened to us? We used to have a great thing going, but then you did something that I may never forgive. It’s not me, it’s you. There, I said it.

We decided to go to Kingston for the day while on our Canadian vacation. I couldn’t tell everyone enough how much I loved this place. I mean, I have a t-shirt from there, and I am not the ‘restaurant t-shirt (including Hard Rock Café) wearing’ kind of guy. So, I tell everyone how great it is, etc. We make a reservation for 5:30, and head into town to do some shopping. When we walk by, I tell everyone to check out the menu, and we make the unanimous decision that the lunch menu sounds better to us, given how early we will be eating. I go inside specifically to ask until what time they serve the lunch menu on the patio. The lady then lets me know that it is served until 5:30, but if we want to order off of it, we should come at 5:15. No sweat. I have worked in a number of restaurants, and I understand how it works. The server wants to leave, the kitchen is trying to transition into dinner mode, etc. I GET it. We proceed to go shopping for a couple of hours, and in order to solidify the fact that we were going to make the lunch menu, we showed up at five o’clock.

When we got there, the server was aloof, and insisted on pushing the dinner menu on us. This is after he admonished our friend for bringing in an almost empty plastic cup of iced coffee. Who cares? I mean seriously, we were out walking the streets and enjoying your city and you make a big deal about a near-empty clear plastic cup? How about you speak to the people whose dog is throwing up two tables over? Oh, not a word to them, while the rest of your diners are repulsed? Good deal. He also pushed the dinner menu on every freshly seated table around us. Look, I know that you want to go home and it’s the end of your Friday lunch shift, but truth be told, (and here’s the real kicker) you are a SERVER. Yes, you may strike it big someday with your comedy improv group out of Kingston, Ontario (or whatever pipe dream you may be chasing), but I wouldn’t hold my breath if I were you. SO he then tells us we should order off of the dinner menu AGAIN, and then says we should get some drinks and wait for the evening staff, for DINNER. Every diner around us that sat at the same time (or even shortly after us), was spoken to politely, had their order off of the lunch menu taken with a smile & some cordial joking, and promptly had their dishes served to them. He then OBVIOUSLY did not take our orders on purpose, even though we explained to him at five-o-five that we were specifically interested in the sandwiches they offered (I am a sandwich fanatic) – only available on their lunch menu. He proceeded to prance around the restaurant, never looking our way, for the entire half hour, without so much as checking on us or even attempting to look interested in taking our order. I seriously thought they were going to come out of the kitchen with hidden video cameras to tell me I was being “Punk’d”. I was ready to leave without ordering any food, because his service and attitude were that bad. My dining companions assured me that they were hungry and really wanted to try the food. So I calmed down and thought of the meals past, and relented. This was where things got way off of track.

I know that when kitchens are moving from one menu to another, things are hectic, and in most places you are going to get less than consistent food. I was rolling the dice by ordering a sandwich AFTER the 5:30 deadline, but Chez Piggy is the best place I have eaten in Canada, and I’m thinking, “THEY will deliver.” Keeping in mind, our order was only placed after he made us sit and wait for half an hour without checking on us.

He made the introduction of the night server at every table around us, and she had some kind words for everyone. When he came to our table, he bluntly introduced her and walked away. SHE on the other hand stood there, looking as though there were a million other things she could be doing, as though she was thinking, “why am I standing here in front of this group?” Her fake-polite façade was so thick, it was like she would be the star player in aforementioned jerk’s comedy troupe. I had to ask everyone at the table if I was just crazy, or was I really seeing this. They assured me I am indeed crazy, but this was all too real. She then, before even greeting us, immediately, in the most condescending tone, asked if we were splitting our tab 6 ways. Seriously? We were going to put it all together to ease her job, but after that, we said to split it. She then proceeded to walk 15 ft (12 meters) away from us, where she met her male-server counterpart, and they turned, scowled, and laughed at us, as they were obviously talking about and mocking us. We still hadn’t been asked for our order. A four top that sat down after us (we had 6) already had their food (ordered off of the lunch menu). So now I am about to lose it. The woman could not have been less kind. She was passively aggressively going about everything, and jerk was still wandering around, now with fanny pack in tow. We had to literally wave at her after she attentively stood and talked to every table around us just to get another drink. Here’s a tip hun, more beers = more tip.

So we finally get to give our orders. I had seen another diner’s pork burger, the “Pig Kahuna” so I decided to go with that. It looked incredible. I have been there before for both lunch and dinner, as my family has been going there for a long time. Lunch has always been my favorite, just because that is more my style of food. We sit, and wait. And wait. All we can talk about is this service, because it is like a bad joke. We are all frequent diners at all kinds of restaurants, and we are polite, and quite honestly, a dream table for servers. Mediocre performance will still be handsomely rewarded (as every one of us have worked in the service industry in the past, we get it), but in this case, even that seemed far too much to ask.

While we are waiting for our food (another hour), the waitress makes it a point not to say a word to us, look at us, or ask if we are okay. We literally had to flag her down in order to place another drink order. She doesn’t even stop as she is walking by, and our friend says she would also like another drink (the woman didn’t stop long enough or even ask if anyone else wanted one, just rushed by our table) to which she replied “I will get you later” as she passed through to the kitchen. I was now at my breaking point. I had been wanting to leave prior to this, but when you don’t have the decency to stop for 5 seconds to ask us about drinks, and then tell the CUSTOMER to wait, it is unacceptable. I had been planning on going to the manager after the meal, but I couldn’t wait and now it was go time. I was so thoroughly embarrassed by the way we were treated, after I had recommended this place so highly, that I didn’t know what was going to come out. Half of us got our food, and the same person who STILL didn’t get her drink order taken after another 15 minutes, was now snubbed on being offered fresh-grated parmesan to top her pasta dish. Meanwhile, the same waitress was grating cheese and chatting it up with another customer (who ordered half an hour after us) and didn’t turn to ask our friend if she would like the fresh parmesan, though she was six feet (two meters, for my Canadian friends reading this) away - the straw that broke the camel’s back. I called to the waitress from my seat, and asked why our friend was denied fresh cheese. She snapped back that she thought our friend had already gotten some. I was about to flip my lid. Here’s a CRAZY idea. Why don’t you check? She asked if I would like to see the manager? Oh boy, DID I!!!

I got my burger, and they had apparently made it over an hour before it hit the table in front of me. The bread was so spongy and terrible, it not only fell apart, but the bottom bun was glued to the plate. It was possibly the worst presentation I have encountered in a long time. The salsa was sloppy and spread over the plate, not on the burger. Oh and guess what? It was 6:30. No wonder the cooks didn’t care. The lunch menu was phased out an hour ago. I don’t blame them. It was undoubtedly the work of the wait-staff, and it was absolutely carried out with expertly malicious intent. The waitress then got the manager, as the rest of our food was brought out. She proceeded to OBVIOUSLY complain about us before she brought the manager over to me. I told the manager, who was very polite, that we should walk out of the courtyard, as it might be very embarrassing for them in front of their other customers. I calmly told her, in short form, about the various problems we had run into. She offered to make it right, I told her I couldn’t even eat my burger, it was that bad. I am not the kind of person who asks for free things, nor am I a stranger to fine dining. They comp’d my burger (which I literally would not touch with a ten-foot-pole) and a round of drinks for the table. In all honesty, this was not nearly enough, and I know the manager would have gone above this, but I was so sickened I didn’t want anything to do with that waitress. While I was talking to her manager, she came back over and said to the table, “I am sorry your friend has a problem with the service.” ARE YOU KIDDING ME? My dining mates immediately set her straight, letting her know that we ALL had a problem with the service, but we weren’t going to gang up on her and embarrass her. It’s called class. I wish she had read that entry in the dictionary before meeting us that afternoon. One of the biggest kickers, was how nice the manager turned out to be; another server, who brought out our oysters, was so nice and incredibly sweet. She was nicer to us in 20 seconds than both people who actually waited on us over the course of this (now two hour) travesty.

Beyond all of this, I got to share in some of the others’ food, and it was really good. Not that I could really enjoy anything, what with having been shaken with rage and embarrassment. One specialty drink that was ordered reminded us of a kicked-up Bloody Mary, and those drinking it said it was the best they had ever had.

Needless to say, I had to go up the street to order Buffalo wings later that night; I still hadn’t eaten by the time 8 o’clock rolled around. Bottom line, I really really would like to go back, but I don’t know that I will. At the very most, I will take a solo test run, afraid to entertain there in the future. Until you prove yourself again, Chez Piggy, you are teetering on the brink of extinction in my book.

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