Thursday, December 15, 2016

When a Favorite Starts to Go South

Certain changes in this land are like watching a friend commit suicide. Perhaps we all have our favorite restaurant, where like on Cheers, everyone knows your name...or at least your face and what you drink (in my case a coke). It isn't necessarily because they serve the best food. It is a combination of other things. You fell comfortable there, somewhat protected and cozy. It is the ambiance, the friendliness, the romantic dimness of the lights, the murmering around a bar and the feeling of welcome.

We've had several eateries like that over the years. Once upon the time we were very fond of Hennessy's, a bar restaurant in Aston, Pa. Joe the owner would greet you enthusiastically and with a smile. He knew our preference for a booth. The service tended toward the slow side, but was still attentive, warm and friendly. The food was pretty good, especially the filet mignon. It was only $19, but was more tasty than many I had in the upscale white tablecloth establishments.

We went there quite often, even though there was usually a line to get in and one might have to wait a
bit. We attended their 15 year anniversary celebration, wished them another 15 years of success, but then something changed. Since there prices were a little more than other bar restaurants in the area the downturn in the economy might have hurt them. Perhaps they didn't change the menu enough. The lines shrunk and then disappeared and you didn't have to wait. Joe had changed as well. I wondered if he had lost his interest in the place, he seemed listless and looked sad. We stopped going.

We came back after a period of time and knew it was dying. The wait staff was more interested in talking with themselves than serving. Our waitress came over to take our order and she sat down on the bench next to me. I felt very uncomfortable about that it was not proper restaurant etiquette. Again we stopped going and a few months later the for sale signs went up and the building became dark and deserted.

In the meantime we found a new favorite, Duffer's Pub on Route 1 and Brinton Lake. Duffer's has two other locations, The Tavern and The Mill. The Mill is located about two miles from us, but we really liked The Pub even though it is more of a drive. We like the atmosphere and the high back booths which gave a feeling of privacy. We traveled there quite often.

But suddenly this year something changed and we are not sure why. The change began when the manager's wife became more prominate and we wonder if her influence was behind what is happening. She is somewhat intrusive, stopping by to chat. Her husband used to stop and talk sometimes too, but his was more banner and short. She seems more shrill. She also appears harsher on the staff. In fact, we were use to the staff made mostly of waitresses, but we noticed the turnover had been getting more frequent and now almost all the waitresses we had known have gone. The wait staff now is mostly male and they are less attentive than the females had been, not all of them, but often they linger about joking among themselves rather than serving the clientele.

One of the big startling changes was in the menu, not the offerings, but the prices. All the items jumped up in price. The Caprise Salad had been one of the cheaper salad previously, under $10, suddenly jumped to $13. Why, all that it contains is a sliced tomato, some basil leaves, mozzarella cheese and balsonic vinegar? The Cobb Salad jumped from $10 to $13 and the Salmon platter from $13 to nearly $18. Every item went up. On top of that sandwiches use to come with a side of fries or a couple other choices. Now you must pay an extra dollar if you want those sides and $2 for vertain other sides. I was asked if I wanted my coke refilled, as I usually did. There was no charge for refills, but I was shocked to get the check and find the coke and the refill each cost me $2.50.

The quality of the food did not change accordingly, and in some cases seems to have slipped a notch. We haven't totally stopped going there, but we have greatly reduced our visits. This is with great regret for it had been our favorite place, but it seems on the verge of suicide to us.

1 comment:

  1. A very interesting post Lar. I too have noticed the changes in certain restaurants over a period of time. You can almost always predict when a restaurant will die. I stopped going to restaurants in the Lewes and Rehoboth Beach area. Most of them are charging New York City prices. $14 for a hamburger? And the hamburger isn't even that good. Sorry, I don't go. Apparently, there are enough diners in this area (many of them with those generous, indexed government pensions) who place socializing with their friends over the quality and price (and service) of food at the local restaurants down here. I for one will forgo going to them. I would rather spend my dining bucks on restaurants in Philadelphia, Toronto and Los Angeles. It's a shame that some of your favorite restaurants have gone by the wayside.