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Brunch at Griffintown Café: A Practical Lesson in How Not to Turn Tables

It's sad to bid adieu to a restaurant where you've been a regular for close to five years. Sadly, in the case of Griffintown Café, I feel I no longer have a choice. I'll be taking my brunch business elsewhere from now on.

The Notre-Dame Ouest spot has been an integral part of my brunch repertoire since at least 2007. When Dylan and Clara - now of Blackstrap BBQ - ran the show, the place clicked on all cylinders, no matter how full the room got. That was consistently the case in my experience.

The new (well, no longer new exactly) management has completely lost the room. I can't find fault with the servers or kitchen staff either - this is all on the gentleman who runs the floor. I hate to say it but after three visits over the course of the last five months, it seems he's completely out of his depth. He paces the room with a glossy, deer-in-the-headlights stare and has no control/command over his staff (I believe he hampers them from doing their jobs effectively) or, more importantly, the lingering diners and hordes who inevitably gather in the entrance.

It's oddly fascinating to watch him in action (or inaction, as it were). Botched reservations, botched orders, botched seatings ... I've seen it all. The servers are clearly frustrated (they, and the cooks, bear the brunt of his incompetence) and tensions among faithful customers are brewing in a way I've never seen at the restaurant.

Just one example from this morning. As I sat at the bar with a coffee and watched the room descend past a chaotic point of no return, a young couple with a patient and quiet two or three-year-old entered. They were told to hang out at the back, away from the entrance, and to expect a ten minute wait. Fine.

Fast-forward twenty-five minutes. Empty tables sit idle. Diners who have paid their tab linger in conversation (as is their right) without those diplomatic, gentle nudges from the manager ("can I get you another coffee?", "how was your brunch?" etc.) that help move things along in a busy dining room. Finally, the family is told that while a table is technically free by the entrance, the staff doesn't want to subject the little one to the cold by the door. Considerate.

Unfortunately, a further ten minutes later, by the door is exactly where they're seated. In the almost forty-five minutes from their arrival to the point when their order was taken, nobody offered them a coffee or beverage. Again, not the fault of the servers on the floor, who were harriedly catering to seated diners left and right. No, this one was on the inert host once more, who, upon very close inspection seems too scared/nervous/anxious to manage the queues at the door (how hard is it to offer a coffee to people waiting at the bar?).

I got lucky today. I was alone, came relatively early and sat at the bar in the corner. But the snafu with the young family was just one of several I observed. One party had called to confirm a reservation the day before and promptly had to wait close to half an hour. My last visit I was asked by a waiter whether myself and my friend wanted our bill. My reply: "We haven't received our food yet." Hilariously, our order had never been placed. A twenty-minute wait for our meals instantly doubled. While people continued to pile in the entrance of course.

Turning tables in a busy restaurant is an art. It requires a sharp mind and terrific people skills. Griffintown Café is currently bereft in those departments. This place needs someone like an Allison at Joe Beef, a Gaëlle (formerly of Au Pied de Cochon, now at Grumman 78), or, heck, a Clara (Blackstrap BBQ).

Buh-bye Griffintown. Forever. Your food is decent enough but I've had it with your service missteps.

Dinner Coin Flip - 400 Coups v. Bouillon Bilk v. ?

400 Coups sans hesitation.

Vices Versa in La Malbaie is extraordinary. Don't miss it - seriously.

Grapenuts cereal in Montreal

I second Ezekiel (way better product imho) but my wife loves Grapenuts and constantly laments that it isn't available in Mtl. We did a day trip to Burlington, Vt last week and she stocked up at the Co-op.

2 people, less than a week, (at least) 93 suggestions

Nora Gray needs another shout out - ate there tonight and it was easily the best meal I've had in the city in the last two years. This includes most of the usual suspects on this thread.

The staff - kitchen, front of house - is at the top of their game. Everything was spot on - food, wine, ambiance, service - all elegant but unfussy. So gratifying to see a place click on all cylinders with visibly happy customers to boot!

They are off for the next two weeks however, just fyi.

BBQ joint to open very soon! Dinette triple crown 6704 Clark.

Whoa, calm down.

2 people, less than a week, (at least) 93 suggestions

My 2 cents: Eyewitness Travel is not a credible source. I wouldn't place any of those restaurants (even when they were open) in my Montreal top 50.

Fintastic's list is pretty solid, as are the suggestions of the other chowhounders here. I'll add Nora Gray to the pile as well and reiterate Magpie's fun neighbourhood vibe and excellent pizza.

BBQ joint to open very soon! Dinette triple crown 6704 Clark.

Yeah, seriously, what was I thinking ;) (actually going to Nora Gray tonight for the "official" celebration).

I have a restaurant background too and yeah, similar experience re: quiet/prep days versus money days. One well-known place I worked at for a year is closed Sunday/Monday ... Wednesday was a decent night for business.

BBQ joint to open very soon! Dinette triple crown 6704 Clark.

Thank you causeimhungry - exactly my point :)

Park on Victoria wonderful

LC gave it 3.5 stars in the Gazette (July 28) but my experience at Park didn't mirror hers at all. The food was just ok for me - sashimi was the highlight - and the room is borderline dull and cold. Can personally think of a dozen other places I'd rather go at a similar pricepoint. Maybe good if you live in the area and don't want to schlep around but not a destination restaurant in my opinion.

BBQ joint to open very soon! Dinette triple crown 6704 Clark.

For the record though, I find Nick Hodge's other place, Kitchenette, to be quite expensive for what you get. Good food but on the pricey end of the spectrum.

BBQ joint to open very soon! Dinette triple crown 6704 Clark.

Let's bring it back to the original point. Why is Triple Crown closed on Wednesdays? And why isn't it clearer on their Facebook page? Moreover, why don't they have a website yet - heck, even a "business card" site with vitals would be nice.

It just sucked to all show up there and then be denied ... on a Wednesday - and on my birthday (I know, I know, woe is me).

Still excited to try it though ... don't get me wrong.

BBQ joint to open very soon! Dinette triple crown 6704 Clark.

Our total bill, tip included, was $240 for 7 people. We had a big bucket of fried chicken, big bucket of ribs, each comes with three sides, and two pitchers of bourbon lemonade. Totally enough food. I don't really consider that outrageous. I hate waiting in line too but the grub was quality and we had a blast. There's a hipster/moneyed/too-cool-for-school vibe to the place that I don't love either but hey, we were there so I guess you can lump us in with that crowd too ;)

BBQ joint to open very soon! Dinette triple crown 6704 Clark.

No, it's not BYOB/W but the drinks are great (get a pitcher of bourbon lemonade) and they have Creemore on tap.

BBQ joint to open very soon! Dinette triple crown 6704 Clark.

Wanting something casual and fun for my birthday, I spontaneously planned a dinner at Triple Crown last night along with my wife and 5 friends. We figured we'd get a bit of everything to go and truck it over to the park acoss the street. Regulars will have figured out by now what happened.

We all met up around 7:00 p.m. only to discover that Triple Crown is in fact closed on Wednesdays. Wtf, was the general reaction. Yes, we should have checked the website (erm, I mean Facebook page, since they don't have a website) but still, c'mon, what restaurant is closed on Wednesday and only Wednesday. It was very frustrating.

Needless to say, after a very long wait in line, we had a lovely time at Icehouse.

EcollegeyOrganic delivery - new, anyone tried it?

I've been getting my groceries delivered from ecollegey's NDG location for over a year now. I personally love it. Yes, some items can be procured for slightly less at Marché Bleuet et al but initial kinks aside, the customer service is top-notch (can't vouch for Plateau outlet). As are the selection of products, imho.

I would just advise anyone ordering delivery to take advantage of the comments section online to instruct staff to substitute items in case they're out of stock. A couple of times I was left in the lurch for dinner provisions when an important ingredient didn't arrive at my door. Now I know better (typical comment: "If you're out of super-smooth tofu please send a block of tofu instead." etc.).

As someone who lives in an area (the Point) without a lot of decent food options, ecollegey has been a godsend.

Anyone try Dolla- Ramen?

The artist in question is a personal friend and although she had mixed feelings about duping what ended being a fair amount of people, on the whole she considers it an honour to have inspired a chowhound thread!