Saturday, July 27, 2013

Garman's Irish Flub

Last night, Dr Desert Flower got home at 5pm, unusually early for a week-day night, so I suggested we go out to happy hour and get a bite to eat.  I wanted to surprise her, so I took her to a place we'd never been before - Garman's Irish Pub, in Mission Viejo.  It's about 5 miles from our house, a short drive, and it had outdoor seating, good yelp reviews, and appeared to be a nice "neighborhood place", not a chain, local.  Let's try it, why not?

So we drive Celeste up to Mission Viejo, found Garman's, and as we approached the door, it was opened by a hostess and greeted (good so far).  The hostess also had to double as our waitress... (oh...) since they were short staffed (strike 2).  We asked if we could be seated outside - it was 75F and a pleasant evening.  No, the outside dining area was closed for a private function - a fashionable ensemble of perfectly dressed and quaffed young high school and college aged boys (the OC young men's choral group, perhaps?), they were fabulous!  Ok, we'll sit inside... that's fine.  Our hostess/waitress assured us that she'll be right back to take our drink order.  Sure.

She arrived a few minutes later with ice waters, and took our drink & appetizer order.  Ok.  20 minutes later, after talking our our work days, we noticed we still were nursing ice waters.  Hostess/waitress returned, apologized for the lack of drinks, assured us they'd be right there, and came back 5 minutes later with drinks.  We should have just paid for them, and left to get dinner somewhere else, but we thought we'd give dinner a try, so we ordered, thinking the appetizer would come sometime soon.  We each order a soup and salad combo, but in different configurations.  Pleasantly, the hostess took the order, and we sipped our drinks, though the lime on the edge of DDF's glass looked more like a sad, wilted lemon, but OK, we'll give them the benefit of the doubt.

There's no silverware on the table, so I ask if we can get some. "Yes, right away" hostess replies with a smile, and returns with 2 forks, one dirty butter knife and one clean one, and a stack of bar napkins.  I examine the knife, try to clean it with one of the bar napkins as DDF comments "Just keeps going downhill".  I used to work as a bus boy in high school and college, so serving unclean silverware is a pet-peeve of mine. Easily avoidable, if the staff is paying attention, from dishwasher to bus boy to server.  But that's fine, I am not eating anything that requires the use of a knife.

Another 15 minutes pass, and my soup arrives.  No soup for you DDF!  It's soup... it's already prepared...  just ladle it into a bowl...  but ok.  I asked the hostess (as she brought the soup) "so we're not going to get the appetizer?" and she blankly looks at us and asks "you ordered an appetizer?" "Don't worry about it, that's fine."I tell her "We don't need it".  She apologizes profusely, looking at her ordering tablet.  "We're really busy with the private party, I'm so sorry!"  "It's fine, don't worry about it".  2 minutes later, a cook hurriedly brings us a plate of 7 cold stuffed mushrooms. I eat 2 of them, and DDF eats the rest (we're hungry) as I finish my soup.

My tomato bisque gone, DDF's potato cheddar soup arrives, and two very small (dessert plate sized) arugula salads are placed on the table, one on a small plate, and one in a small bowl (maybe the kitchen ran out of same sized serving dishes?).  They have no dressing on either of them.  I finish my Tullamore Dew Irish whiskey.  DDF's drink has no discernible alcohol content in it.  We wait for the dressing to arrive as DDF finishes her soup.  Other waitresses, and the t-shirt & jeans clad owner, are actively avoiding our table.  The owner is glad handing and greeting all of his regulars - a group we will decidedly never be - patting them on the back, shaking hands, greeting them by name.  I try for a solid 5 minutes to flag down a waitress, a bus boy, anybody to bring us some salad dressing for our dry salads.  I am invisible, despite our table being adjacent to 2 large (20+ person) family gather group tables, and the busy out door seating area.  I finally catch the hostess as she is seating a newly arrived couple at the booth behind us, and ask her if we can get some salad dressing as neither salad has any.  "Do you want one, or two portions of salad dressing?" she inquisitively implores.  "Two salads, two portions of dressing, please" I politely reply.  A few minutes later, vinaigrette dressing arrives, and she asks if we'd like to refresh our alcoholic beverages.  "No thanks, just the check".

$35 for 2 soups and salads, cold stuffed mushrooms (that were barely the diameter of a US quarter), one finger of whiskey ($7), and one weak vodka mixed drink.  I tipped our beleaguered and stressed out hostess/waitress 16% out of pity.  It wasn't her fault that the kitchen was slow & incompetent, that the bar was short staffed, or that her boss didn't help her out.  She was pleasant and apologetic - but usually when the service is that slow & forgetful, management steps in to knock something off the bill or offer a free desert or something...  but we were not regulars, and now, we won't be back.  It was interesting to try a new place...  but after the first 30 minutes of waiting for food, the experience started to become a tragic comedy.

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