Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Why can't Americans do Lebanese?

I'm new into the Lebanese food thing.  My wife is 50% Lebanese, her dad is from Beirut and two years ago we went to Lebanon for Christmas and plans are being made to go there for this year's Christmas.  I like the food, which sometimes mixes meat and rice in the same dish, which is something I get yelled at by friends for doing myself with other foods and cuisines.  In Lebanon, the food is all fresh and made with care.  The food in a restaurant though, isn't what grades the establishment.  The service is what counts.  The service is near the best I have ever experienced at any location and when people in America want to make Lebanese restaurants, they fail to bring that same level of service to their place.
  In Lebanon, even the smallest two person restaurant has better service than the Lebanese restaurant I went to, a week ago, in St. Louis, on Grand.  The restaurant is called "The Vine" and they made their selves out to be a restaurant with a small store next door.  We called ahead for reservations, for 8 people and while only my wife and two kids had arrived first, they sat us in a small table and told us that the rest of our table is over there, as the waitress pointed to a table that currently had people sitting at it.  You know, I learned the hard way, that relying on customers to leave their table at a restaurant so you can use it for another customer doesn't work.  You have no idea how long those customers will stay and you can't kick them out nor even suggest to them that they leave.

Our seat, near the door, as it opens and closes each time bringing in the cold air, wasn't the best spot either.  What is sad also, is that the restaurant had an open 4 top next to two open 2 tops, so they could have put my party together right when we came in, but insisted that they put us against the window and make us wait for our table to get completed.  When all of our party was finally there....let's stop right here.  This place has horrible service, they forgot drinks, they forgot straws, they didn't take all the orders at the same time, they forgot things that we ordered and they made us box up our own leftovers.  There was only a single toilet, single person bathroom for both the store next door and the restaurant to share as well.
 The only savings grace of this restaurant is the food, which is done in a traditional manner but not using traditional techniques.  The food received good marks from my father-in-law, who is Lebanese, while commenting that most Lebanese would not patronize this restaurant because they would have expected better service.  The restaurant food is good, like a 3 out of 5, but the service is like a 1 out of 5.  My mother-in-law, actually had to stand up with an empty glass and bring it to the waitress to ask for a refill.  I just don't see how hard it is to run a restaurant because so many people can do it and even do it poorly.

While near the mountains of Southern Lebanon, my family stopped at a small building on the side of the road.  The building held a small wood fire oven and a table out on the front porch.  This was a restaurant, run by a husband and wife team.  Now, the husband stayed inside and made food for us while the wife did the customer service part.  Those two people, did a better job on food and service than this whole restaurant did.  This is why American restaurants cannot do Lebanese.

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