Friday, January 6, 2012

Whiskey Tango

I don’t know why I decided to walk into this place. I’m not a big fan of sports or sports bars. I feel out of place somewhere surrounded by beer advertisements. I don’t drink whiskey and know nothing about tango. (You’ll be pleased to know that your visit will require neither of these things, by the way).

Maybe I just liked the name of the place. Sometimes, that’s all you need.
The time was about 5pm on a Thursday. The dining room was nearly empty, with maybe one group of people and a jukebox filling up the space. I was seated at one of the tall tables in the middle of the room, and when I asked for a booth or lower table, I was told that all of them were reserved for a party later in the evening. Fine with me.

Again, I waited a rather long time for a server to even show up. There’s a pattern here. I’m not sure if it’s the time of day, if perhaps the servers aren’t yet in a frame of mind to show a sense of urgency, or the fact that I’m alone makes them apathetic. When the waiter arrived at my table, this exchange occurred:

“So… anything to drink?”

“Coke, please.”

“And… are you ready to order?”

“Not yet.”

“Okay then.”

There was no greeting or anything. It seems that I’ve become accustomed to a certain script that a lot of servers more or less follow: “Hi, I’m ___ and I’ll be your server. Can I get you something to drink?” Even if it’s fake, I like to feel that the server is at least making the attempt to be courteous instead of an exasperated “I finally showed up, now let me get your drink and leave.”

Again, I had to wait. I looked around and saw almost no staff in the room. Nobody was behind the bar, despite a couple of people sitting there. While waiting, I looked at the flip-through menu (the actual name for that thing escapes me, but you find them on the tables in a lot of casual restaurants) and saw something for an In The Biz club for people in restaurants, bars, or law enforcement. I’d have to fill out something, show them a pay stub, and get discounts on drinks. It sounded like a nice idea, but I eventually decided to pass, deciding that I likely wouldn’t be back often enough to take advantage of it.

Thankfully, the service did get better. My server returned with an apology for the speed and an explanation that they were understaffed for the moment. It didn’t seem too busy for two people to manage, but I let it go and ordered my food.

A camera phone and low lighting are not a good combination, but I ordered the chicken breast with a side of macaroni and cheese. Compared to the lunch menu, the dinner menu seemed surprisingly limited. This time the food came out reasonably quickly, though I immediately saw the reason why.

It was a very simple and bland-looking dish. Despite my expectations, the chicken breast turned out to be great – very juicy and tasty, simply seasoned with salt and pepper. If only the macaroni and cheese were as good. Mac and cheese happens to be my favorite food, so I jumped at the chance to order it as a side. What I got was a dish of pasta in a grainy cream sauce topped with crushed goldfish crackers. The sauce was clearly undercooked, as I could still feel the flour used to thicken it, and I didn’t taste any cheese in it. I was disappointed and did not finish.

I finished my meal with a rum and coke. It turned out to be happy hour, and I could get 2 for 1. Fine with me. The drinks were great, though it is pretty hard to screw up rum and coke. Again, I had to wait forever for an absent bartender to come back and make the damn things. When the chance came, I took my check in a hurry, lest I be stuck there until midnight.
The good news was that I wasn’t charged for the rum and cokes. I’m not sure if that intentional on the ghost bartender’s part or an oversight, but I didn’t say a word. I left the server a 10% tip as he was friendly enough, and he seemed to have his act together after one early speed bump. Unfortunately, the initial exchange followed by the slowness of the rest of the staff bumped the tip percentage down.

Almost as soon as I was ready to leave, it seemed that staff started to pour in. Perhaps this was the start of the late shift. The party that reserved all of the booths had yet to show up.

I’d go back for drinks only, provided I was with friends. I’d get a seat at the bar and get something to eat elsewhere. I would also come by later in the night, when more staff is on board and motivated to move faster.

Whiskey Tango on Urbanspoon

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