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bink's midtown

Adding an update to report on a dinner that three of us had a few weeks ago:

On a Monday night, the place was almost deserted. Most people were eating outside, but I thought it was too cold (ok, I am a wimp, but it was November after all...), so asked for a table inside mentioning chill. Table was fine, but right under a very active AC vent. Took some persuading to get them to turn down the AC even though the room was empty. Other than the temp, the room had a cozy feel.

Service was sort of hit and miss: friendly, but sometimes long waits for food, and things brought out inconsistently.

Between the three of us we tried:

good cocktails: both my Port Old Fashioned and my friend's Dirty Greyhound Margarita got a thumbs up (though my Old Fashioned was a bit small for $12...)

Grilled dates: recommended highly by the server: good, but then it is dates and prosciutto, hard to go too wrong. Not the be-all, end-all that the server's description promised.

house bread: some type of biscuit, forget the description but I think it was blue corn (based on the color), and quite undercooked.

White bean soup: I didn't taste it, but hubby enjoyed it quite a bit. Looked very, very hearty, probably heartier than I would have wanted for an appetizer.

Kale cold plate, which was really a salad: my friend's choice. Again, I didn't try it but she raved and polished off every bite of a huge serving. Looked delicious.

Little Gems salad: my salad was meh: the lettuce seemed a bit tough for a little gem and it was a bit overdressed. Oven dried tomatoes were nice.

Tortilla Soup Meatballs: I find it hard to pass up meatballs when on a menu, these were again, somewhat meh and over salted. Liked the idea but think it missed on execution. I was wavering between these and the duck breast and the server recommended the duck, saying that the meatballs would not be enough food as a main. Actually, it was plenty of food, but I probably still should have listened to the hidden message.

corn pasta: friend's choice, this I tasted and did like. Nicely cooked, and again, it was polished off.

sand dabs: yes, Phoenix is landlocked but hubby couldn't resist. I thought they were the hit of the night along with the ice cream for dessert. Buttery, perfectly cooked, delicious.

roasted sweet potatoes: delicious.

none of the desserts appealed but the ice cream that accompanied one of them, mint, did, so we just had mint ice cream for dessert. That was the highlight of the meal. Best mint ice cream I've had in well, forever. Espresso was also good.

Total for the three of us with tax, all of above and a glass of wine was about $160 before tip. The restaurant is very close to my friends house and I am glad to have tried it, but not in a rush to go back.

Nov 22, 2014
susancinsf in Phoenix

Thanksgiving Guests! What are you bringing?

Perhaps next year you'd like to come to Thanksgiving dinner at my home? :-)

Kid-friendly restaurant in SF?

I see kids at La Ciccia all the time, especially when dining early. Sadly they are not open for lunch. There as a young girl behind us when I dined there a bit over a week ago who couldn't have been older than three.....

Monstera, Big Island

glad you enjoyed it and thanks for the report back. I've been back more recently (in May of this year) and as I think I mentioned in another post: food was still great although service (with hubby, we were seated at a table) was a little off that night. I suspect that sitting at the bar is the way to go, but I definitely would and will be back regardless of where we are seated. Going to try the mai tai next time!

Nov 15, 2014
susancinsf in Hawaii

Panaderia Guadalajara Merced

Wanted to bump this post to add: agreed on the baked goods: yes, it is still one of the best Mexican bakeries in Merced (actually, it is the best I've found)...and one of the best bakeries period. But I find myself going back repeatedly not only for the baked goods: they have a small but interesting selection of Mexican groceries, a fairly large selection of helados (which I haven't yet tried: next trip for those), are known for their custom special occasion cakes, AND have some take out savory dishes. In the latter category: I really like their tamales.

Stopped by yesterday to pick up some tamales for the office Halloween potluck yesterday, which ended up with a Mexican theme just because of the participants food preferences :-) I ended up buying out their remaining supply for the day: a dozen green corn and a dozen pork. Bought a small container of house made salsa to go with: the counter guy told me it was tomatillo, but when I got it back to the office it turned out to be an incendiary and absolutely delicious habanero salsa. Not sure why or how this 'mistake' was made, but I was happy and will be back to order more.

The salsa and the tamales were a hit, especially the green corn tamales (though hubby, who also came to the potluck, felt that the salsa should have had a XXX warning on it for heat level. :-)). Others at the potluck fell into two categories: those who knew of Guadalajara and were already fans, and those who had no idea it was one of the better places in town to get tamales, but were very happy with the heads up.

Nov 01, 2014
susancinsf in California
1

Guest Calling the Shots

"said employee is ordering not just what he wants to eat, but more, and is ordering for others who may not want the same appetizers"

On the one hand, I get this from an etiquette standpoint. OTOH, let's be honest: assuming it is a good restaurant (which is probably a safe assumption if the OP really is a Chowhound), how many of us Chowhounds would be tempted to order for the table because we wanted to get a taste of every appetizer? (OP did say the appetizers ordered were to share).

If I really meant it when I told employees to order whatever, and one of them ordered apps for the table, I'd be secretly thrilled that I managed to find a sister/brother CH to work in my group! :-)

Ordering the shots is a bigger problem to me, because while I'd like to see my staff enjoy themselves at the holiday party, I'd be concerned about both liability and some folks feeling pressure to drink more than they ordinarily would. Besides, at my office the shots would come out of my own pocket since I work for a public employer and policy really restricts when alcohol can be purchased. For all of these reasons, if I were in a similar situation I'd grin and let the employee in question get the apps for the table (In fact I'd probably encourage them), but limit alcohol consumption to a few beer and wine selections to be ordered with the meal (and would tell both the group and the servers, something along the lines of 'I have ordered a few bottles of white and red for the table; but if you'd prefer a bottle of beer with your meal instead please let your server know, and s/he will tell you the available options.' Servers could also be instructed not to allow an order of more than one beer at a time per person (and that all wine would be ordered by the bottle by me).

Lelenita's Cakes (Bernal Heights, San Francisco)

Seeing your first photo brought a wave of nostalgia and homesickness for the old 'hood (which I always claimed was Outer Mission to everyone but real estate agents :-) ) Lelenita's was almost just around the corner from my house when I lived in the City; I've driven by that sign hundreds of times and it was always my marker that I was almost 'home' when coming from the south.

We bought a few good birthday cakes there. Service was always helpful and friendly, although in my experience closing early was not unusual. Glad to know it is still around.

Retire where?

oh, I know about sunbathing and beaches: I lived for years in San Francisco :-) Indeed, I think one of the reasons that Oregon came up in my quiz answers was that I agreed strongly with the statement about loving rain.

help. Peppers (green and yellow) giant Zucchini, giant cukes

I freeze peppers also, just as you say, without blanching. Use them year round in stews, soups, chili. Along with the zucchini I shredded around the same time of year. Or, as you say, make a soup now, and freeze that.

Oct 24, 2014
susancinsf in Home Cooking

Retire where?

I decided to take the tests under my spot.com that someone mentioned earlier in this thread: anyway, of the top twelve options I got back, 11 were in Oregon! :-) (including Portland, Salem, Eugene, Ashland and several small towns I'v never heard of). Portland would be high on my list for food, walking, and bikes, definitely.

Oct 23, 2014
susancinsf in Not About Food

Organic Fresno [Hwy 99]

Just ran across this report that Organic Fresno is closing next week:

http://www.thebusinessjournal.com/new...

Oct 20, 2014
susancinsf in California

Retire where?

no, I don't think so (to Santa Rosa or Windsor): I just did a quick search and the cheapest thing I could find was $175K: for a vacant lot. The cheapest condo I could find was over $200K. and i have a feeling those aren't in the areas where you can walk to shops, etc. (there are a lot of suburban areas and not a lot of public transit, plus traffic can be remarkably bad in the Santa Rosa corridor.)

I have been considering Paso Robles for my own retirement in the not-as-distant-as-it used -to-be future, and I am not sure it fits either, largely due to rising housing prices. honestly, my dream location (Big Island of Hawaii) would be cheaper for housing, assuming one doesn't want to be on the beach....sadly for me, Volcano (HI) has a nice farmer's market, but it is a 40 or so minute drive to the nearest decent grocery store....(I may do it anyway).

Oct 20, 2014
susancinsf in Not About Food

"We don't take reservations for less than 6." Restaurant Owners Listen Up! [moved from Seattle board]

my point in reflecting on how time might change their perspective was quite simple: they may not realize how uncomfortable waiting can be until it becomes uncomfortable for them (which would likely be as they age). I know that I didn't realize what it really meant to be in a wheelchair until I was confined to one for several months, even though I thought I was quite empathetic to the needs, issues and concerns faced by the disabled prior to my time in a chair.

If that is 'existence proceeds essence' reasoning, whatever. It doesn't change my point, and my opinion, that there are many, many people in this world who really don't understand things that they don't experience personally. This applies particularly to the young for the obvious reason that the young have had fewer experiences than the old.

Oct 20, 2014
susancinsf in Not About Food

looking for a place in central valley tat sells portuguese blood sausage

Have you checked Wolfsen's in Gustine?

Oct 20, 2014
susancinsf in California

Hayes Valley Seriesously [San Francisco]

I could swear that a critical Giants game was on the TV in the bar at Absinthe when I walked by relatively recently during the regular season (the game was going poorly and I was trying to ignore it, so I could be confused about that)...so you might want to call Absinthe and ask (although if so, grabbing a seat in the bar might be quite difficult especially pre-opera).

Bar Jules might also be a possibility (?).

Go Giants!

"We don't take reservations for less than 6." Restaurant Owners Listen Up! [moved from Seattle board]

Good for you, and yeah, I've seen customers like that. My own former MIL was like that. Going out to breakfast or any meal with her was unpleasant.

But it isn't a comparable situation. This isn't a one on one with a difficult customer:This is an opinion forum for discussion.

and the statement wasn't, 'Frankly, if you complain we don't want you'. The statement was 'and if you can do it better we don't want you. '

Sets the bar sort of low, don't you think?: "We aren't proud enough of our food to offer it to those who know good food and know how to make it. And we certainly wouldn't want those who know how to cook to feel welcome in our establishment".

But the poster probably didn't mean it that way, I know. It was just an overly sensitive reaction, probably based on years of trying to deal with difficult customers.

It appears to me that some posters on this thread equate discussion and expressing one's opinion in a thread in a forum devoted to discussion as a affront or a complaint. It isn't. This is a forum designed for these discussions. It is a pity that if restaurant owners, managers and staff are going to participate in these discussion that they don't use them as an opportunity to learn from and educate potential customers (for example, I am hoping that the restaurant in question reads my posts and takes a moment to consider and evaluate whether the waiting options are comfortable if customers do have a wait. If they are, great, and if they aren't perhaps they will be motivated to at least consider some possible changes or work-arounds).

But unfortunately, even in a more or less anonymous forum, it seems that any discussion that is critical is a complaint, and therefore something to react against rather than to consider.

Oct 19, 2014
susancinsf in Not About Food

"We don't take reservations for less than 6." Restaurant Owners Listen Up! [moved from Seattle board]

my point was about the physical aspects of aging and how they influence my lack of comfort in waiting. And I still don't get how any amount of change as you describe applies to that context, sorry. (and by the way, being a person who cares about sustainability in a severely drought stricken community: I have absolutely no grass on my yard. So, no need to yell at the kids about stepping on it :-)).

The point I was trying to make was not a philosophical or existential one. It was simply this: waiting for a table is harder when one has physical disabilities. Those disabilities tend to increase with age (although obviously, they aren't only associated with age). Many of these places that say the wait 'rarely is more than twenty minutes' don't get that even that long of a wait can be uncomfortable. and in my experience very few establishments actually offer the option of leaving a cell phone and going elsewhere (at least in my neck of the woods). part of my dislike of waiting reflects the circumstances under which restaurants (some of which claim it is all about customer experience and service) expect me as a customer to wait.

Oct 19, 2014
susancinsf in Not About Food

"We don't take reservations for less than 6." Restaurant Owners Listen Up! [moved from Seattle board]

"And frankly, if you can cook a better breakfast at home, we prefer that you do so."

Ok then.

Gotta say, sounds a bit grumpy and unwelcoming for a place that prides itself on customer service, and on its food.

Oct 19, 2014
susancinsf in Not About Food

"We don't take reservations for less than 6." Restaurant Owners Listen Up! [moved from Seattle board]

what would that mean in this context?

Oct 19, 2014
susancinsf in Not About Food

"We don't take reservations for less than 6." Restaurant Owners Listen Up! [moved from Seattle board]

There are many more than do than don't, you've given only a few examples, but I can give many more examples that do. In SF my take on the cultural norm is that for dinner reservations are in fact the norm, and at many places for dim sum, brunch, breakfast and lunch as well.

but even at Nopalito you can call and put your name on a list and get a time to come down so you don't have to stand around and wait (hopefully since they are very specific about the process on their website they manage the process better than the place I mention in a post above...). and both it and Swan offer takeout, so if one wants to sample their crab louie there are ways to get the food without waiting.

Oct 19, 2014
susancinsf in Not About Food

"We don't take reservations for less than 6." Restaurant Owners Listen Up! [moved from Seattle board]

Well, where I actually live (in a small town), there is *no* place worth waiting more than ten minutes with *or* without a reservation...because the caliber of cooking isn't that high (and the few places where it is high are all family owned lunch and breakfast places that almost always have an empty table reservation or not, so no need to wait...)

But that was my point about SF: I can think of several places where a reservation is very tough to get, but they *do* take reservations. I am having a hard time thinking of any place in SF that doesn't take reservations that would be a 'must dine' experience, except perhaps the Tadich Grill if one wants an old SF vibe (one must choose carefully there to get very good food, IMO.). And of the places that take reservations there are lots that are the type of place I like to spend money. Since I can't think of any, I certainly wouldn't say there are 'a number' of very good places in SF with no reservations. Makes me wonder if the practice of not taking reservations becomes a culture of not taking reservations once a few places are able to do it (I am not convinced that most customers prefer the 'no reservations' model but it is possible that the restaurant's bottom line does better with 'no reservations' model, at least in some markets.... )

Then again, last time I was in Sydney (almost fifteen years ago) I didn't make reservations and didn't need them, because every place I went had no wait, and often were half empty, and we dined well. (for the most part: finding a decent burger was like pulling teeth even though I've had great ones with the lot in Cairns and elsewhere.)....Perhaps I need to go back and see what is new. :-))

Oct 18, 2014
susancinsf in Not About Food

"We don't take reservations for less than 6." Restaurant Owners Listen Up! [moved from Seattle board]

I agree that it isn't binary, but to me, the key is that when I am putting out significant $$$ that I want to spend my money for good service in comfort, and good food. I just don't get how 'not being old' translates to 'must listen to loud rock in buzzing restaurants just to get the best food in town after having stood around waiting for a table'...In my experience, you don't *need* to go to those types of places to get great food, and if you do want loud music and a buzz, a lot of those places take reservations anyway! The last time I ate at a restaurant with lots of buzz and loud music was probably at Duende in Oakland, but while they do reserve a fair number of tables for walk ins, they do take reservations and we did have one. If I had wanted decent (it wasn't great) and very loud jazz, we could have sat in the bar without a wait. But I went for the food, which was good but not worth the pain to my ears. IMO, and YMMV to use those internet terms you mention (and if I just wanted jazz, I think there are better places to listen to it. Yoshi's Oakland for starters. But that is obviously just my opinion).

An example from my hometown of SF: Per Open Table, places where I can make a reservation for two right now (just after three pm) and dine tonight (a Saturday night), (in other words, I can do it all online relatively spontaneously without even the hassle of calling) include Kin Khao, The Fly Trap, Coi (not that it excites, me, but some people like it), Perbacco, Radish (highly rated on OT and I've never heard of it; is it any good?), Aziza, Piqueos...just to name a few of many. Couldn't get into La Ciccia tonight (although I suppose I might if I called, as I used to be a regular there when I lived in the City), but that's ok, making a reservation well in advance to get my La Ciccia fix is pretty much a given when I come back into town now that I live a few hours drive away...

So speaking of FOMO, what exactly is this thing I am missing out on by wanting to make a reservation?

Oct 18, 2014
susancinsf in Not About Food

"We don't take reservations for less than 6." Restaurant Owners Listen Up! [moved from Seattle board]

I don't take it as a personal affront if the business chooses to follow a certain model. I just choose not to dine there if it interferes with how I like to dine.

I am not sure why someone would think that expressing my opinion on this forum means that I take something as a personal affront. I am not saying someone else is wrong for preferring not to make a reservation; I am trying to express what is right for me and why I don't 'get' the business model if it is justified on the grounds that customers prefer it. I am a customer, and I don't prefer it.

That said, I am not sure why anyone would call me 'old' or 'impatient' just because I express my opinion that when I get dressed up and am ready to go out on the town and spend good money (I mean, we aren't talking about take out places or lunch counters here, are we?) that I'd like to know a nice table is waiting for me without me waiting for it. Just my choice. Have fun at the place that follows a different model, if that is your choice.

Oct 18, 2014
susancinsf in Not About Food

"We don't take reservations for less than 6." Restaurant Owners Listen Up! [moved from Seattle board]

one more comment on this thread: several of the posters on this thread have referred to the gap between those who like no reservations policies vs those who want a reservation as being an age related issue. It seems the young are more spontaneous than the old and therefore just like to go out on a whim, and if reservations are taken that somehow detracts from that spontaneity because apparently one can't go to a popular spot and just take one's chances if others have thought ahead and made a reservation (but I guess waiting in line if reservations aren't taken is part of the sport?)...

Two thoughts about that:

first, CH must be full of old fogeys like me, because there are a seemingly infinite number of posts on all the boards of towns and cities with great food (SF, NY, Paris, Tokyo, Portland just to name a few) asking the locals to critique their itineraries so they can line up their reservations well in advance!

second, yes, age probably plays a factor in a different way: at my age part of the misery of having to wait is that there often isn't a comfortable place to do so. At a small place the wait may be outside on the sidewalk, where my choices are to sit on the curb (not an option with my bad knees; unless the restaurant is willing to pull me up once I manage to sit down that low) or to stand around or in a line (possible, but still not completely comfortable). At a larger place, there may be an option to sit or stand at a bar...which may or may not have seating, but is often noisy and not somewhere I can converse easily. If I wanted to shout while having a beer or a drink, I'd go to a baseball game instead, but what I want generally is a quiet night out with my husband....

So yeah, maybe that makes me old. The comforting aspect of this generation gap is that someday all those posters that see it as a generation gap issue will be my age and older (one hopes they make it at least this far, since I am really not all that old...). I suspect they might view the issue differently then.

"We don't take reservations for less than 6." Restaurant Owners Listen Up! [moved from Seattle board]

"We don't need to take reservations to fill our tables because we cook your meals to order, so we don't require an advance count of which foods to prepare. "

Not sure I understand this... I was thinking more of the *amounts* to order, not the 'which' part... so I guess you are saying that you always assume every table will be filled in doing your ordering....if they are, more power to you; otherwise I don't see how you wouldn't be wasting food (or freezing it, in which case how can you say it is all made fresh to order?)

I suppose if you do order too much food just to be sure you have enough it does some credence to your claim that is about customer service and not the bottom line.

OTOH, you must make a nice chunk on the bloody marys in the bar, whether you push them or not, and I have to admit, I still don't get how could all your tables be always filled all the time if you could seat 26 people even at 3 different tables? Perhaps the other folks who tried to come that day and had to wait longer than usual because of three large groups (26 divided by three still makes for big groups) weren't as happy as you think.

But that's ok, don't try to explain it to me. I do get this: while I do see breakfast as being different than dinner, I still think that if this is all about customer service, clearly you are catering to a different customer than me.

Even (or perhaps especially) at breakfast I am not going to wait more than ten minutes for a table even for good food.

Actually, the following classic (to me) CH post points out that customers are somewhat polarized about going out to breakfast. I'd bet that group of 26 included more than a few who weren't happy about the group's idea to go to a place without reservations even if it turned out ok in the end. Unlike jlafler, I do enjoy going out to breakfast now and then, but NOT with a group, and certainly NOT if I have to wait. I can make a pretty darn good huevos rancheros (my favorite breakfast) at home (better than I've found at any restaurant in my town despite its high Latino population and high number of Mexican restaurants per capita..) and I can enjoy them without a wait on my back patio, with 'my' hummingbirds for company...

http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/678121

Oct 18, 2014
susancinsf in Not About Food

"We don't take reservations for less than 6." Restaurant Owners Listen Up! [moved from Seattle board]

yes, I agree it is about table utilization. and particularly at a breakfast place, it may make a lot of sense. However, I am not sure how they can accurately measure potential customers who are turned off and don't show up because reservations aren't allowed (unless they are constantly jammed, and if they are constantly jammed, they perhaps are stretching the truth when they say they have seated a group of 26 without a reservation.....)

Besides, it seems a tad disingenuous to say that the reason to not have reservations is so that the poor customers who don't have a reservation don't have to look at an empty (reserved) table while they wait. What about the poor customer who knows in advance they want to dine and calls for a (nonexistent reservation)? How would good customer service dictate that you care about one and not the other?

As you say, it is about turning tables, which is all about bottom line, (and not about doing what the customers prefer).

Oct 15, 2014
susancinsf in Not About Food

"We don't take reservations for less than 6." Restaurant Owners Listen Up! [moved from Seattle board]

"very few customers are unwilling/unable to wait the 15 to 30 minutes for a table."...

well, ok, but then they are your customers (who know they don't have a reservation when they show up. If they really cared about waiting, they'd have been much more likely to go somewhere that takes reservations in the first place. Have you ever tried to figure out how many *potential* customers you lose because they know (or learn the hard way) that you don't take reservations? How do you know they wouldn't fill those empty tables you imagine your customers would see as they wait?

OTOH, breakfast. yeah. In my experience people don't expect reservations as much at breakfast as at dinner (and usually the meal is quicker and thus turnover faster). People seem to be more willing to wait at breakfast (although I usually am not, although perhaps that is because I rarely find truly outstanding food at a breakfast place. )

Your system presumably works for you, (perhaps because your food really is memorable?) but nothing you've said tells me anything about whether or not reservations would or would not work equally well.

Only thing I am sure of is that i would NEVER even DREAM of going to a restaurant with a group as large as 26 without a reservation. Sounds like a potential nightmare in the making to me. Indeed, it would distract from my enjoyment of a meal just to see a large party like that seated without a reservation while I was dining: I'd be worried that the restaurant couldn't handle such a crowd and that my food and service would suffer (at least with a reservation they'd be expected and the place could adjust food supplies, staff and seating accordingly). Or unless you are such a huge place that a party of 26 wouldn't make a dent...but if saw 26 at breakfast without a reservation at a place I wanted to eat? shudder. I'd run quickly in the other direction. To each his own.

Oct 15, 2014
susancinsf in Not About Food

Near Convention Center Denver, a place a variety of tastes will love...

Los Chingones definitely would, I don't know their reservation policy but I believe they take them, and no idea how late they are open, but we were there about eight thirty-or so on a weeknight, IIRC. Sugarmill actually has food in addition to desserts (I think) and also is open fairly late. A dessert place, and a good one, more than a bakery. We were five and fit, not sure about ten (it is small). With Aussies in the crowd, Mexican food would definitely be a fit...

Oct 15, 2014
susancinsf in Mountain States

Near Convention Center Denver, a place a variety of tastes will love...

See my other two posts about Denver. Los Chingones isn't too far (but not really walking distance) and I'd consider it; most Mexican places are fairly good for gluten free but you'd have to check the menu.

The Kitchen, where I did eat and reported on in another thread, was excellent and a good bet for vegetarians but may be more upscale than you are looking for, but a friend ate at their affiliated more casual pub/restaurant, Next Door Union Station, and had very good things to stay. However, it isn't really close to the convenion center, although I think you can take the free tram that runs down 16th street and get most of the way there, check out their route.

I didn't see much in the immediate vicinity of the convention center that looked all that interesting (chain central), so I'd consider looking at options in the Larimer district/area (again, you can take the tram down 16th street to get to 16th and Larimer, that puts you in the middle of a number of places).

Oct 14, 2014
susancinsf in Mountain States

A "special" dinner in SFBA -- your thoughts much appreciated

I don't consider Firefly to be a 'special dinner type of place. More like a better than average neighborhood place, keeping in mind that the neighborhood (Noe Valley) isn't the greatest food 'hood in the City (though it does have some places that shine, including Bacco (granted, I haven't been there in a long, long time) around the corner from Firefly, and of course La Ciccia.