When we go out to eat dinner, my hubby wants to order steak. Rarely will he order anything else. He tends to want to go eat at Outback Steakhouse because he can get a good steak cooked exactly the way he orders it – medium. I always order my steak medium-rare.
Whenever we order a steak cooked medium, or medium-rare, the waiter explains that the steak will have a warm, pink center for medium, and a pink center for medium-rare. We always agree that is what we want.
We have been ordering our steaks like that for as long as I can remember. I’m not going to divulge our ages here, but let’s just say that we are baby-boomers, so we have not just fallen off of the turnip truck when it comes to restaurant food.
One of our favorite cuts of beef is a prime rib, but we don’t order it very often because when we go to a restaurant and order a prime rib, the piece of meat is so large that it fills up the entire plate, and no one person can finish it.
For the past several months I’ve been trying to get my hubby to try something “new” to us. A restaurant in Bealeton that claims to be “Fine Dining” and “Voted #1 Top Italian Restaurant by the Washington Post.” This restaurant has “Prime Rib, grilled to your pleasure” on their menu. That restaurant is called “Joe’s Italian Restaurant.”
Last night (Friday night) my hubby decided to humor me and take me there to eat dinner. I was pleased that he agreed to try a new restaurant! That is a rare moment, trust me!
Before leaving the house, however, we decided to call the restaurant to verify that it was, in fact, open, and had prime rib available that night. We didn’t want to drive all the way there just to find out that they were “sold out.” So I called the restaurant. A woman with a slight foreign accent (I don’t know what kind of accent) answered the phone, and I asked her to please verify that they have prime rib available to be served tonight. She didn’t seem to understand my query.
I had to repeat the request about four times, and I had to explain to her twice that we did not want to come to the restaurant if they didn’t have any prime rib available. I was starting to get frustrated with her inability to understand what I was saying. I grew up in Northern Virginia, and my accent is commonplace in this part of the state. I started to wonder why the woman was having such a hard time understanding me!
Eventually she put me on hold and went to ask someone. After a few minutes she came back and told me that they had it available. I asked her if we needed to make reservations. She didn’t understand my question, so I repeated it. And repeated it again. And repeated it again “Do………….we……….have…….to……….make………reservations?” with about a twenty-second pause between each slowly pronounced word. Finally she seemed to “catch on” to my question and replied “no, no reservations are required.” So I asked her how late they were open that night (had to repeat that question twice) before she answered that they were open until 11 but their kitchen closes at 10:30.
I thanked her and said goodbye, and we proceeded to get ourselves “presentable” and headed out. Driving from our place to the restaurant was over a twelve-mile drive, and the drive took about twenty minutes.
When we pulled into the parking lot around 7pm I was surprised by how few cars there were, but that didn’t set off any warning bells. In retrospect, they should have! We parked our car and as we approached the building, I noticed two very faded, tattered and torn flags flying above the roof-top. One American Flag, and one Italian. For a moment I wanted to stop and take a photo of the tattered flags, thinking that I would later try to show those photos to the business owner and suggest to him that it was time to replace them. But my cell phone was not “at the ready” to take the photo, and I wanted to get inside quickly before my hubby changed his mind, so I didn’t say anything.
I noticed a banner on the side of the building that in addition to the Italian Restaurant, that the place is a “hookah bar” and mentioned that to my hubby. I wondered how that whole arrangement worked, whether we would be subjected to smelling any smoke from the hookahs.
When we entered the building, we noticed that we had to walk down a hallway to get to the dining room. A few feet into the hallway there was a glass door that led into a darkened room. I could make out the shadows of some idle hookahs on a counter near the door. The room appeared to be void of any human life, and we kept walking down the hallway.
At the end of the hallway, we had to turn left to get to a small foyer where there were chairs and a podium with a cash register. Someone was seated on one of the chairs. I assumed that was a customer waiting for a take-out order.
I couldn’t see any signage advising us whether to seat ourselves, or wait to be seated. We stood there for a moment, and a female employee approached us, looked at us quizzically, and asked us if we wanted a table. I said “yes” and she said “this way” and she walked towards the dining room. We followed her and she directed us (by pointing) to a corner table, and gave us a couple of menus. She removed the two extra place settings from the table and walked away. She did not ask us any questions, or tell us who was going to be our server, or anything. She just walked away.
The small-sized dining room appeared clean and had a nice feeling to it. There were only two other small groups of customers seated at tables. There were two waitresses taking care of the dining room. So far I was thinking that this was going to be a good experience.
Within a couple of moments, before we had the chance to look at the menus, a different female employee approached us and asked us what we wanted to drink. She did not tell us her name. She was a young, slender, fairly pretty young lady with dark hair. We didn’t know it at the time, but she apparently was going to be our waitress for the entire night. I asked her if they had ginger ale, and she said “no” so I asked if they had “Sprite.” She said yes, so I asked for Sprite. She asked my hubby what he wanted and he told her he wasn’t sure yet, and asked for a few moments. The waitress did not understand what my husband said, so I had to tell her that he wasn’t sure yet, and would need a few moments. She agreed, went away, and came back with my Sprite a few moments later. I was pleasantly surprised that it actually tasted like Sprite! She asked my husband again what he wanted to drink, and again he said he would order something later.
We looked over the menu, trying to decide what we wanted to order. We hoped to order an appetizer, one prime rib meal with an extra potato on the side, and dessert. We were thinking we would share the prime rib, anticipating a large slab of meat.
When the waitress came back to take our order, I ordered the cheese-sticks for an appetizer, and my husband asked the waitress to talk with him about the salad. According to the menu, a salad comes with the prime rib meal. Essentially he wanted some iceberg lettuce, some cheese, and croutons, nothing else. He explained that he did NOT want onions, or tomatoes on his salad. He wanted iceberg lettuce, shredded carrots, cucumbers, shredded cheese, croutons, and Italian dressing. She did not understand what he was saying, and I had to explain it to her again. She still didn’t understand, and disappeared for a few minutes. When she came back, she explained that their Caesar salad had what he wanted on it, but that it also had shredded carrots and onions. (Side note, Caesar salad costs extra.)
So my husband ordered the Caesar salad, instructing her to hold the onions. Then we ordered the cheese sticks, the prime rib and an extra side of potato. I asked her to bring an extra plate so we could share the prime rib. She looked shocked and told me that the prime rib was only big enough for one person. The menu did not explain how large the prime rib is, only that it was “grilled to your pleasure.”
So I decided to order a “steak turnover” – essentially a hamburger calzone. I figured that we could take that home in a take-out box and let my son eat that later on. And my husband ordered a coke to drink.
The six cheese sticks came out the same time as the salad. The cheese sticks had good flavor, but they were not as warm as most restaurants serve them – the cheese inside was quite solid, not melted and gooey at all, and they cooled off very quickly. The salad did not have any carrots, and the dressing they brought was the wrong kind. I don’t know what it was – it looked like ranch dressing. We had to ask them to bring the right kind of dressing.
Before I had finished three of the cheese sticks, much to my surprise, the “steak turnover” arrived and was put in front of me. The prime rib meal had not arrived, so I moved the turnover to the corner of the table. I didn’t want to start eating that before we had the chance to share that highly anticipated prime rib! I remarked to my husband “What kind of service is this, where only two people are dining and one meal comes out before the other one comes out? This is quite odd!”
A few moments later the waitress noticed that I had put the “turnover” aside and she asked me if there was something wrong with it. I told her that I didn’t want to start eating that before the prime rib arrived. She replied “the prime rib is being prepared, but it takes a while to fix it.” I replied “that’s OK, I’ll wait.”
Half-way through the salad my husband bit into a piece of onion, and became very distressed. He removed it from his mouth and excused himself to go into the restroom to vomit. He was gone for about five minutes.
When he returned to the table, visibly shaken, he pushed his salad aside. Eventually our waitress appeared in sight and I beckoned her over to the table. I explained to her that we had ordered “no onions” on the salad, but that there were onions in the salad. I asked her to take the salad away and to give us credit for the salad. I explained that he did not want another one. She spun around and left the room, returning with another woman, who decided to argue with us that there were no onions in the salad. She said that she prepared the salad herself and that there were no onions in it. She explained that there are no onions in a Caesar Salad! My husband told her that he knows the taste of onions when they enter his mouth, and there was an onion in it! He had even spit it out! He showed it to her on the side of his plate! I explained to the second woman that our the waitress had told us that there ARE onions in the Caesar salad, and that she is telling us that there aren’t. I asked her “which is it? Who is right?”
My husband then said “please just take it away, and don’t bother bringing a new one. I don’t want to take a chance on getting one with onions in it.” The waitress said “Oh my God” as she picked up the salad plate, turned, and left the room.
The employee wanted to continue to argue with us about the salad, protesting that there no onions in it. I told her that I wanted a credit on the tab for no salad, and they said “no.” My husband said “just take it away please” so they took it away.
Several minutes later a plate with the prime rib arrived, with one potato on it. The waitress brought a bottle of A1 steak sauce and put it down beside me. No steak knives were provided. The extra side potato did not come out right then. No extra plate came out for us to be able to share the prime rib. The plate was put down in between my husband and me. The piece of meat was the sorriest looking excuse for a piece of beef I have ever seen in my life! It was maybe one-half inch thick (at the most.) The meat was about three inches wide and about five inches long.
I took my dinner knife and cut about 1/3 off of the piece of meat. There was no pink inside, it was brownish-gray all the way through. The steak was well-done. Disappointed, I decided to take a taste, thinking that if it was tasty I would go ahead and eat it and not say a word. I took a bite, and it was nasty. My husband looked at the meat and told me that he was very upset that it was over-cooked, and declared it “dog food.”
We waited until the waitress appeared again (it took a few minutes) with the additional baked potato. I told her that the meat was “well done” and we had ordered “medium.” I told her that we wanted a different piece of meat.
She told me that the meat was not “well done” and that it was “medium.” I told her (and showed her) that there was no pink in the meat at all. She argued with me, insisting that it was “medium.” I asked to speak to the manager, and she said OK and left.
Expecting to have the manager come to the table, my husband and I waited at the table for at least ten minutes. We talked about the situation while we waited. We were obviously very displeased with the entire experience by now, and just wanted to leave. We did not eat anything else.
After a few more minutes, the waitress came to our table and gave me the check! Why she didn’t give it to my husband, I don’t understand, but I gave it to my husband, while telling the waitress again that we wanted to speak to the manager. She told us that we would have to wait! I asked her for a take-out box for the “steak turnover” and she said “OK.”
My husband looked at the check and was quite upset to see that we were being charged $50 for a meal that was, by all accounts, horrible! I told him we shouldn’t have to pay for it because we didn’t eat it. He told me that if we didn’t pay for it we could be arrested for theft of services!
After another extended wait, we were asked to come to the podium around the corner. I thought that was very odd – in the past if I have ever asked to speak to a manager in a restaurant, the manager came to the table and would ask “how can I help you?” I asked again for a take-out box for the “steak turnover.” We left the table and went around the corner where saw a very young man standing there.
I advised him we wanted to speak with the manager, and he said that he was the manager. He did not tell us his name. What is it with this place? No one tells us their name, and no one wears name tags either! I told him that our meal was unacceptable and we did not want to pay for it. He asked what the problem was, and I explained it all to him. Every detail that was wrong. He quickly became very defensive, defiant, and argumentative. He claimed that he was the one that had cooked the prime-rib and that it is illegal to serve meat “with blood still in it.” He said that if it is still pink inside then it still “has blood in it.” He insisted that if the meat was well done it would have been blackened to a char.
I explained to him I have never gone to a restaurant and been told that! We have always been able to get a steak with a “pink, warm center” and that was the definition of “medium.” He told me that he had been cooking there for five years and he knew what he was doing and that meat was cooked “medium.” He refused to budge on the definition of “medium.”
I told him that the salad was unacceptable, that the steak turnover was delivered to the table too early, and he blamed all of that on the waitress and refused to take any responsibility other than to say that he would “talk to her about that later.”
I told him that I wanted a discount on the tab because the meal was unacceptable. He looked at the tab and said we had been given half-off of the salad (we shouldn’t have been charged extra for a salad to begin with since it was supposed to be part of the meal!) and that was all the discount we were going to get!
My husband, frustrated and tired, then declared “let’s just pay the tab and get something decent to eat at McDonald’s on our way home” and he stepped up to pay the tab. “Let’s go!” he said.
I told him we still needed to get our untouched steak turnover into a take-out box to bring home with us, so we returned to the table to see if the take-out box arrived yet. A pizza take-out box was sitting on the corner of the table, so we put the turnover, the left-over cheese sticks and untouched baked potatoes into the box. We left the prime-rib sitting on the plate on the table. I did not even want to bring that horrible thing home to give to the dogs!
Leaving the table, I told my husband “don’t leave a tip” and he replied “I don’t plan on it!” As we left the restaurant, the manager called after us “have a good night!” We didn’t respond. We had nothing good to say to him. But I did tell my husband that when we got home, I was going to write a review on Angie’s List and Google Reviews, on my blog, on Facebook, the Yahoo Group that reviews restaurants in Fauquier County, and wherever else I can warn people to stay away from this place! I want to even contact the Washington Post and ask them how and why this place ever got to be rated #1 for Italian Food! Poor service, bad food. We won’t be back. Lesson learned.
The worst part of this all is that now it will be a cold day in Hades before I can ever convince my husband to try a “new to us” restaurant! Maybe we should buy stock in Outback!