Sunday, July 23, 2006

I Take It Back

A while ago, I gushed about Slickety Jim's Chat 'n Chew. And I swear I had a great experience that day. But I don't want to lead Nancylanders astray. I went back this week, and had an awful time. I was disappointed in both the food and the service, and left feeling awful about having recommended the place. The thing about having a food diary online, is that it can look an awful lot like a food critic column, and while I love eating and writing about it afterwards, unfortunately, I don't have the luxury of an expense account, and can't usually visit restaurants repeatedly like I would like to before publishing a post. This means that occassionally I'll get lucky, and hit a restaurant's really good day, and write glowingly about an inconsistant restaurant, and alternately, sometimes I'll hit a restaurant's really bad day, and wind up dismissing that restaurant. However, this happens to all of us who dine out (food blog or not), and there are just too many restaurants in Vancouver to try to waste time giving everybody second and third chances with our hard-earned money. The truly successful restaurants will be those that impress customers over and over again consistantly, even on their rough days. On top of that, restaurants can change. They can slip, and they can improve over time. Anyhow, I went to Slickety Jim's on a Friday morning, the place wasn't very busy, and my "eggs revolution" was almost unpleasant to eat. It's a dish of scrambled eggs with tomatoes and asiago cheese, served over black forest ham and cornbread, and also served with their potatoes and a bit of salad on the side. The eggs were underseasoned, rubbery and overcooked (and needed more cheese), the ham overcooked and dried out, the cornbread was greasy and tough and not tasty, the salad was a small pile of limp mesclun, with a hidden dab of uninteresting dressing underneath, and the potatoes were just there. Our server might have been the owner (my clue being the severe-looking, oil paint portrait of her, as a dictator in her younger years hanging on the wall), and she was fairly condescending and surly, served me coffee in a dirty mug, refilled my dining partner's water without refilling mine, and as we were paying, said something about being very tired, and we'll all just try to get through this morning together. She didn't stop to consider that maybe we were having a great morning (eating breakfast out, on a day off for me), up until encountering her cheery self. The thing is, I spent my other post going on and on about how friendly and wonderful the waitress was. Oh where oh where was she that morning? The menu's still amusing, and the room is still kitcshy, but it just wasn't worth it. Cheese Boy's eggs benny was fine. But we both noticed the service issues. I can't believe it's the same place where last time the waitress asked me whether I wanted the poached eggs in my benny to be soft or medium. This time, it was almost like she was holding a grudge against me for eating in her establishment. Not quite as bad as the waitress at Aphrodite's Cafe who literally scowled at us upon seeing us walk through the door (during their regular operating hours, when there were still some other customers in the restaurant). Maybe a little meat would cheer her up. I'd rather have slow, yet friendly service from someone in the weeds, than the grumpy, attitude-laden service we received in that half empty room. A great example of friendly service is Salt Tasting Room, another place we went to this week. It's a great place, packed on my second visit, and maybe running a bit slow that evening. It was only their second week of operation. But the staff and owners are so hospitable, it didn't matter at all. The small delays had no negative impact on our experience whatsoever. Cheeseboy and I both left very happy. Anyhow, just a couple of notes. Don't order the "eggs revolution" at Slickety's, that is, if you go at all. And secondly, always look at the date of a food review. I always say that they have a shelf-life of three months or less, as restaurants can fluctuate in quality wildly from time to time.


filmgoerjuan said...

Funnily enough, I was going to give Slickety Jim's another try based on your review. When I was there (a couple of years ago), the food and the service were both mediocre -- one of my dining companions sent back his burger *twice* as it wasn't cooked properly...eventually he gave up.

Now I'm going to stick with my original assessment :)

SaabKen said...

Sorry to hear your bad experience, Nancy. That really disappoints.

I was gonna give SJC&C at their Main St location a try but now reading yours and FGJ's reviews I'll re-prioritize my list of yet-been-to restaurants.

Generally, I find much of Vancouver's retail/service attitudes to be indifferent and lacking quality training. I have *never* had a bad experience in a restaurant in the U.S. where upon my noting of dissatisfaction/complaint, staff did not proceed to rectify the problem with courtesy and enthusiasm. In contrast, in Vancouver retail or restaurant staff give you the feeling that the problem lies with you (the customer) !

But your consolation may be that in Vancouver with all the eating establishments we have, bad service/food (and reviews) can quickly lead to a business going under. Let's hope SJC&C will eventually notice its weak points.

Funny when they were back on Powell Street near Victoria eons ago they were pretty ok (but as a more low-rent greasy spoon diner).

Dumpling_Girl said...

Thanks filmgoerjuan and Saabken! I suspect SJ's depends largely on who's working that day, front and back. And it doesn't really surprise me that an owner (if it was the owner) would act more grumpy than an employee, because an employee's job depends on their performance and are hired for their particular people skills, whereas owners can be more stressed out, and more prone to feeling like it's their perogative to act any way they want since it's their place. However, this isn't a good tactic, as it can come back to bite you in the butt later, with the speed of negative word-of-mouth advertising. To their credit though, we were not, even this time, rushed out the door after our meal, which is what they are known for. We left anyway when we were done, and most people won't hog a table when they see people waiting for a table, but if you go at a quiet time and like that feeling of freedom to stay, the place does offer that.

SaabKen said...

In meantime, I've got way many other restaurants to go to than SJ's. Inconsistent service due to (bad mood or not) by staff or owner is not tolerable by me. Hey I have bad moods all the time [wink] but I don't take it out on my colleagues or clients at work.

If you want some "real" abuse at a restaurant, go to The Elbow Room on Davie, hehehe. You'll come out with your eyes wide open in surprise (but their unusual style of service is their schtick so it's not meant personally to customers).

Jill said...

The owner of Slickty Jim's is a guy named Mike who you might see in the kitchen cooking or behind the counter.

From my experience, they tend to hire out of work actors and starving artists.

Sorry it was a bad day at SJ.