Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Vine American Kitchen and Charlotte's Dearth Of Quality Restaurant Wait Staff

Date night, should in Charlotte be fun and not a torturous journey through the bowels of the restaurant industry.

But the more I dine out in Ballantyne the more I notice that there is a severe dearth of quality wait staff in Charlotte.  This seems to be the case at nearly every mid priced establishment in South Charlotte.

Last weekend Mrs. Cedar and I along with my brother-in-law and his wife headed out to Vine (American Kitchen) 13735 Conlan Circle in Ballantyne for dinner. Mrs. Cedar even went to the effort to make reservations the night before.

I can't say that we enjoyed the evening. The food for the most part, was good. But the service was so embarrassing that I am still shocked.

It started with Vine's hostess who is less than enthusiastic, and told us that there would be a wait. When I asked how long she just shrugged and walked away.

We eventually were seated.

Vine of course suffers from the "location curse", now the 3rd or 4th name to grace the building fa├žade located in the Ballantyne area. But from the appearance both in and outside, you would expect they would hire competent wait staff, after all have the look of say Houston's in Ft. Lauderdale solid four star feel, black napkins, slate floors and busy staff.

It took our waiter "Sam" more than ten minutes to get around to say hello, another five before he was ready to take our order. Sam was polite enough and apologized throughout our meal, but whatever was going on behind the scenes was killing our evening from the start.

Our drinks showed up piecemeal, one then another, then finally my beer (a really cold IPA), but we had to ask about my brother's mixed drink, twice!

We placed our order, four entrees, two appetizers, one salad. The salad showed up immediately, the appetizers never showed up.  We did ask about the appetizers and Sam apologized, shortly after that a woman stopped by and offered her apology as well. 

Our main course arrived and the woman stopped by again to say the appetizers would be up shortly. At this point we asked if we could cancel the appetizers.  Again the classic Vine "shrug" but no verbal reply.

The water glasses became empty, the wine was refilled after two requests and dinner dragged on with hit and miss attempts at service befitting the menu prices.

Even the process of settling up was painful and disjointed. The bill came including the appetizers that never showed up. Sitting with a half cleared table we waited another ten minutes just to pay our bill.

No offer of coffee, or suggestion of dessert. I'm not sure if they even have dessert. At one point a random server stopped by started to take my plate, but seeing as I held a knife in one hand and a fork in the other she stated more than asked "I guess you're still working on that?".

"Yep I'm still working" I replied.

My brother in-law is a restaurant snob, but I'm pretty easy to please. So when I say horrid it has to be really bad. It was horrid.

Vine was Mrs. Cedar's attempt to introduce my brother-in-law and his wife to some place new, sadly ended up being a new disaster. Superseding the time in Cancun when he got food poisoning. It was so bad that Mrs. Cedar broke down in tears after we left. 

Our total tab just shy of $200.

The bottom line get the food to go, because it is better than Applebee's even if the table service isn't.

Note: I'm not a food critic, I didn't take notes about the texture or portion size. I however like you expect a little respect when I dine out. After all if I wanted to serve myself I'd go to Sonic or the hot bar at Harris Teeter.

I even went as far as to email Vine twice telling them I really was concerned for their business. In return nothing but crickets.



Anonymous said...

I've been to Vine twice, both slow nights and the food was served cold. When I complained, (and it was truly cold not even slightly warm)I got the same "Shrug" reaction. At least you got an apology. I'll never go back.

Anonymous said...

We hit Vine a couple of weeks ago and had the same experience ok food really sloooooooowwwww service. It will be something else this time next year.

Anonymous said...

I hear you Cedar service at much of Charlotte restaurants sucks!

Anonymous said...

We went there about a month after they opened and the service was terrible then. Bad enough that we didn't go back yet. Sounds like we shouldn't

Cedar Posts said...

I need to add that I emailed Vine twice and called once to have either the owners or even the evening shift manager offer their thoughts, nothing but crickets. Which to me means they really don't care.

The food is pretty good, so it is too bad the service is so lousy.

Jeff A. Taylor said...

Sounds like Vine is almost certainly a contract menu joint. Meaning, some very skilled CLT chef was hired to design a menu and spend a few hours training line cooks on prep and then cut loose. This happens a LOT in CLT where chef-run spots are few and far between and the network of restaurant operators is very deep and totally bottom-line oriented. The upshot is that no actual pro is concerned with the dining experience. If someone is the kitchen busting their hump on their sig dish -- they damn sure don't want Sam to blow it. The lack of coffee/dessert options is another telling sign -- not particularly high-margin items for joints who do not make from scratch in-house (and maybe not even then) while adding 20-30min to table turnover for spaces who ONLY care about table turnover and revenue.