by Chrysa Smith

My husband is very complimentary–especially where my cooking is concerned. And it is why he believes, it’s harder and harder for us to find a restaurant where we can enjoy a meal more than we do at home. So when two of our favorites recently disappointed (not on food but on service and a bad experience), what to do? Is my apron forever tied to my oven door? Do we drive further to find some new favorite places? Or do we get up to bat again? Give it another try?
A little over a month ago, I was ravenously eating a salad that was oh so good—well, at least through the point where I bit into something unusually hard and felt a sensation, unusually strange. If I didn’t know better, it felt like one of my choppers was damaged. I spit out the offender and there it was: an olive pit. And in my mouth? A broken tooth. Not only broken, but dangling, nerve exposed and painful. Thank God for cell phones and a very accomodating dentist who whisked me into her chair at 8pm, picked up her drill and began the regal process of preparing me for a crown. Now I’m no olive eater, but surely, it should have been pitted. What it did teach me was to fish underneath the top ingredients in a dish. You never know what you’ll find: a pit, a fly, a strand of chef hair. Have we gone back? Yes. Did we tell the matre’d of my experience? Yes. Did we get anything beyond a ‘sorry’? No.
Now just this past weekend, we dined at a very beautiful location. Top of a hill, overlooking the valley below. Two couples: three filets and one rack of lamb. Everyone’s meal came out looking lovely, but mine. I was told it would be just a few more minutes. As everyone enjoyed their meal, I sat with no plate, waiting hungrily for my filet to appear. Another encouraging ‘few minutes more’ from a different waitress and the manager appeared with my plate, offering the meal at no cost for the wait. Ok. Great. At least until I cut into the steak and found it rather raw. Off it went for a bit more cooking and the manager came back with more apologies and an offer for free desserts for the table. Ok. Great. Then the bill came, and instead of deducting the price of one steak, one was added. Ok. We called the manager and she took care of it—without any after dinner drinks on the house. Will we return? Maybe in the winter.
Everyone has bad days. And in the end, it’s the display of hospitality that will make customers give it another try, rather than write it off their list. I liken it to baseball. If a restaurant disappoints after three tries, they’re out.
Do you write off a bad experience immediately–or are you willing to give it another try?