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Bad Service at The Civic

Last Friday night, Janet and I had tickets to see Chicago (the musical, not the band&#41 at the Bushnell theater in downtown Hartford. Since Janet works downtown, we decided to meet for dinner and drinks before heading off to the show.

Ok… where to go for a drink after work. The Hartford Brewery? No… we would be too overdressed. The Bar With No Name? No… too empty (and even if it was full, it would be crowded with the sort of just-out-of-college-frat-boys that would just piss us off&#41. Where is there a nice bar where we can have a drink before dinner?

We decided to go to the Civic Cafe. If you haven't read my Observation about the Civic Cafe, I'll summarize: Great food, interesting looking bar and horrible service. However, since we were only going there for a quick drink, we figured that it would be a safe bet.

We entered the empty restaurant (ok, there were three other patrons there&#41 and seated ourselves at the bar. The bartender quickly came over and asked what we wanted to drink. Since we were in a high-class establishment, I figured that they would have well trained bartenders… so I asked what kind of rye whisky they had. I didn't ask this to be obnoxious or snobbish, it's just that the brand of rye would dictate the specific drink I would order. If they had Old Overholt, then I would get an Old Fashioned, as Old Overholt has a nice strong flavor that could cut through the sweetness of the muddled fruit. If they had Jim Beam Yellow Label, I would go for a Bittered Manhattan (that's a proper Manhattan with a few drops of Angotsura Bitters&#41. Wild Turkey Rye would have gone fine with a splash of soda and a couple cubes of ice. If all else failed and the only rye they had available was Canadian (Canadian Whisky is made with a moderate amount of rye&#41, I would simply order something else as I don't really like Canadian Whisky.

The bartender scratched his head and said "What's Rye Whisky? We have Jack Daniels…" Ok. This is a $25-30 per entree type of restaurant and the bartender doesn't even know what Rye Whisky is? I mean, come on here… it's one of the two liquors indigenous to America (the other being bourbon/sour mash whisky&#41. Hell, lie to me and say that you just don't have any Rye… but please don't tell me you don't know what Rye Whisky is.

We decided to order two pints of Murphys Stout.

Well, we ordered pints, but what we got were these fru-fru 13oz pilsner glasses filled with Murphys. You know what kind of glasses I'm talking about… they're about a foot tall, skinny, and completely inappropriate for a stout, because of the head that develops when you pour the beer. The end result is that I got three or four mouthfuls of beer and two mouthfuls of foam. I downed mine and ordered another while Janet worked on her first one.

As we finished our beers (her first and my second&#41, we started to discuss if we should get another round. We were on the fence when I decided to look at the bill. Holy crap! Four dollars each! Forget it, we were out of there. I extracted my credit card and put it down in front of my empty glass.

Time passes.

Time passes.

More time passes.

Five full minutes later, I ask the bartender at the other side of the bar if he could settle up the check. He slowly comes over, gets the credit card and goes to run it through the machine.

There are a number of morals to this story, but two come to mind:

1 – I will never wait more than 3 minutes for service at a bar. Ok, that's not completely true… I mean, if the bar is packed, I'll wait… but if it is empty, I expect attentive service. If I finish my drink and you haven't taken the order for my next round, I'm out of there.

2 – If a bar invests in getting good chefs, spend some money for a bartender who knows how to make more than martinis and vodka & tonics… and if you can attract a good bartender, make sure that you stock the bar with good liquor.

Second strike Civic, one more to go before you're on my gastronomic blacklist.

Oh, and if the maitre'd from the Civic ever reads this: listen, honey, there's a difference between wearing a slip-dress and just wearing a slip. You didn't look trendy, you looked trashy. If you can't afford to pull the look off, don't even try.

Posted in Barflies At Large.

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