Thursday, November 17, 2011

A complete waste of time...

Nestled in historic Kimswick, in the middle of nowhere off of 55 South in Missouri, is a little house turned restaurant called The Blue Owl.  Known internationally for their huge and towering apple and caramel pies, this home-style restaurant is loved by the likes of everyone from Oprah to Paula Dean.  However, I have no idea why.

It was my mother's birthday and she has a likening to home-style foods so my brother suggested this restaurant.  There was 9 of us in our group and we called ahead and made reservations, at least 24 hours ahead.  We figured that even though they may be busy, a 2:00 reservation may mean that we get sat about 2:15, if they are really busy and running late like they would at the local IHOP.  We didn't expect that the most time of our dining experience would be us waiting.

So, we drive 30 minutes to get there, don't find a parking spot in the 40 car lot across the street and park about 2 blocks away.  We then walk in, stand in line like sardines, smashed and pushed by a plathora of older people thinking that we are trying to get ahead of them in line and will be sat before them, and then tell the hostess that we have reservations.  It is just 2:00pm when we tell her that we are the 2:00 party of 9 whom called yesterday.  "Great" she says and then she asks if we are all here.  I tell her yes and we are all waiting.  She tells me that they will get the table together and it will be a couple of minutes.  I also overhear her and another woman talk about a large table in which all they had to do was bus it and it could be ready as it was 2 tables pushed together.  So, while we may not have been the next group and there may have been other groups before us, we did make a reservation.  And like the Seinfeld episode, a reservation means that they reserve a spot for us so when we get there, we can sit down immediately.

This restaurant had not seen that episode.  My family waited, and waited and waited.  Forty-five minutes later, after I asked them again, they took us to a table way in the corner.  It was a large circle table for 10 people.  What gets my head turning, is that it appears that they couldn't push two tables together for us and we could only sit at a table that was made for a group of 9-10 people.  What I mean is; during that 45 minutes that we waited for our reserved table to be ready, they sat so many other groups.  You have no idea how many people I hear being announced that their spot was ready: "Walley party of 4, Johnson party of 2, Frank party of 7," and so on and on.  Tons of people, likely 50 people sat down at tables while we were waiting for our reservation.  I motioned to my brother, from across the waiting area, that we should drive back North 55 and could get a seat faster at the Cracker Barrel.  Since the idea of this reservation was such a joke, we could have been sat sooner if we had just showed up at 1 or 1:30 and then just waited.

So, 45 minutes later, we are sat in the farthest reaches of the universe: a spot in the far back corner of a side room and we have had plenty of time to study the menu and we decide to order.  About 10 minutes after we sit, a waitress comes over to us to get our drink orders.  Since we have had time, we thought that if we ordered our food at the same time as our drinks, the food would come out sooner.  Buy, we were dumb.  We told the waitress our drinks, then told her our order selection and the food picks for the kids and we waited.  As we and the other hundred people were waiting near the entrance for our seats, we had tons of servers walk through us with large round trays full of food, perhaps every 2-3 minutes, so we thought that the kitchen was moving quickly.  Well, about 15 minutes after we had ordered our food and drinks, our drinks came to us.  About 20 minutes later, we had our salads and then 20 minutes after that, we got our food.  So, if you do the math, that means that our food came about an hour after we had ordered it.  Yep, about 55 minutes.  The night before we watched some Restaurant Impossible and the restaurant where Chef Robert Irvine was, was being reamed for taking 47 minutes to bring food out and we waited 55 minutes!?!?!?!?!?

It took so long for the food to arrive that the kids, all three of them, had already filled up on the crackers and the lemonade they had.  So, when their food arrived, it was a fight to get them to eat.  One was sleepy and the others wanted to run around, because they had already been seated for about an hour, waiting.

So, food arrives as I said and this is what we had.  We were not a small group as we had about 5 adult meals and 4 kid meals.  So, there should have been everything we needed.  So, we had my wife who ordered the cob salad and a diet coke, which totaled $12.95 without a drink for a total of $15.20, (which is comparable to a cost of a main course and drink at a place like Chevy's), my kids each had a kids lemonade and a hot-dog meal, about $4.95 each for a total of $9.90, not including the two $2.25 drinks..  Then my niece had a similar meal for $4.95 and on top of that, my 80 something year old grandmother ordered a kid's meal as well for $4.95 with a regular drink for $2.25.  My sister-in-law ordered a half order of the quiche with the you pick 3 meal and a drink for $2.25 so she added to about $12.20.  My mom ordered a full size of the quiche which was $12.95 plus $2.25 for the drink totaling $15.20.  My brother ordered the Chicken Salad Croissant which was $10.95 plus drink for $2.25 totaling $13.20.   I was the big spender as I ordered the special of the day, which was Chicken Fried Steak with Country Gravy.  My special of the day was $13.95 plus $2.25 which totaled $16.20.

So, if we did the math, this came to about $100.80.  So, while I can't really speak for anyone else, I can say that my $13.95 plate of food was the smallest portion I have ever seen for that cost.  For like under $10 at IHOP, I can get twice as much food.  So, my Chicken Fried Steak was a bit tough, the large roll in came with was dry and didn't taste like a fresh roll at all, it didn't have that fresh made bread yeast flavor, which I know about from when I bake bread at home, each week. The scoop of mashed potatoes was bland and tasted like the instant mashed potatoes.  The country gravy was nasty.  It tasted like someone had made normal white country gravy and then added sugar to the mix.  It was sweet, almost as sweet as a desert sauce.  So, going with my dish, it failed miserably.  My dish, is what a 2 out of 5 looked like.  From discussion around the table, no one seemed to really enjoy their food either, so it wasn't just me.

So, finally as we make it through our meals, or just push them aside, we ordered dessert.  This restaurant is supposed to be known for the dessert or its pies so that is what was ordered.  My wife and I thought that if the food was bad, the desserts must be awesome. There were two cookies ordered, a pumpkin cake slice, a slice of French silk pie, a slice of peach pie and a slice of strawberry/rhubarb pie.  Best I could tell from the menu, the slices of cake and pie were about $7.95 each.  The cookies were listed at about 89 cents each, so two of them makes $1.78.  So, if we were to assume that the cost of each slice was $7.95 and there were two, which did not come with a special meal, then all together dessert was $17.68.  Let me get this point out, my grandmother, whom has over 60 years of baking experience, and is most known for her strawberry and rhubarb pie thought that the strawberry and rhubarb pie she had ordered was awful.  It was solid, as was all the pies.  It was as if the pies were made with gelatin and were like cutting through a frozen cake, as nothing fell away or crumbed away from the cakes.  It was as if they made the pie filling with copious amounts of corn starch to make a very thick pudding-like pie filling.  If they did use a starch to act as a thickening agent, they used too much because the pies didn't taste right.  The strawberry and rhubarb pie didn't taste like rhubarb at all.  The peach pie was almost bland.  The French Silk pie didn't taste at all like chocolate, but of a grainy starch.  And overall, the pie crust was not flaky or even easily breakable, but acted as if the crust was in fact recently frozen.  It was almost chewy and like rubber.

Now, I don't mean to be rude or mean, but a bad experience at a restaurant will cause anyone to feel angry, especially when the bill came.  All of this food, came to a total cost of about $120.26.  The bill, because we had more than 6 people, had the gratuity included already and the total then was $148.48.  That was a $28.22 tip!!!  The server was awful, she was rude, she would push her way between people to reach all of the table and she even dropped a fork full of food on my 4 year old niece as the server was taking the plates away.  There was no sorry, just an off comment like "everything's falling today".  She didn't have to be rude or incompitent, but could be because she already knew that her tip was accounted for.  Unlike people who may have their tips adjusted depending on how good the service was, she didn't care because even if she was the worst server in history, she was still going to get her tip. That was about 24% of so.  Now, there may be a + or - error as this was all off of memory and looking at their online menu.  After I had given the server my credit card to pay and she ran it and returned, she took the regular receipt, allowing me to only have the "customer copy".

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