Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Dining at Applebee's in Taos, New Mexico

Took my two kids to Applebee's in Taos. We were promptly seated but took a little bit to get waited on just for our drink order. We were 1 of 3 tables...1 person at 1 tbl, 2 at another, and 3 at our table...Dalena was working at the time. I heard her tell a coworker she was swamped. The 1 person was almost done with his meal. The 2 people had already ordered and we only had our drinks. I've worked as a waiter and that in no way is called SWAMPED! Dalena was very nice and apologetic though. I just don't think waiting is for her as it requires multitasking and she didn't seem to have that skill.

Anyway, we ordered a full rack of baby back ribs with fries, the grilled garlic sirloin (medium rare) with a cream spinach filled portabello(sp?) mushroom cap topped with parmesan cheese, and the classic wings with honey bbq flavor. She read back our order correctly as well.

About 5-10 minutes later, a "chef" (I assume) came to me and said that they are out of the cream spinach. I was actually looking forward to it and joked with him about leaving. I asked if he had or recommended anything else to fill the mushroom cap. He um-ed and uh-ed and said "Well...?" I finally said how about creamy mashed potatoes. He said, "Ok."

About 10 minutes later, we get our food. The ribs looked fine but how can you mess them up? My sirloin looked good but the portabello cap was nowhere to be seen. I did have a huge portion of mashed potatoes and it seems that the meal already came with potato chunks which I must have missed. The classic wings looked good too. We started to dig in.

My youngest loved the ribs and fries. Again, how can you mess these up?

I found the portabello cap under the generous serving of mashed potatoes. I ate it and the mashed potatoes but not the potato chunks...not because they were bad but because I just wanted the mashed potatoes. The sirloin was cooked half right. Somehow they were able to cook half the sirloin at medium rare and the other half at medium. That's new for me as I've only experienced the entire steak under or over cooked. It was still flavorful so I did not complain.

My oldest bit into the classic wings to find that 1) they were boneless and 2) they were original/classic flavor. I waived over Dalena and told her the order was for the classic bone-in wing with honey bbq flavoring. She proceeded to tell me that I ordered it wrong. She said she heard boneless classic wing and classic meant the typical buffalo spice flavor. I told her that boneless or bone-in is not the problem but we wanted honey bbq. I said she even read back our order stating bone-in with honey bbq. So, this time I clearly stated AGAIN we wanted bone-in with honey bbq flavoring. She was prompt with putting in the correct order and we got it within 10 minutes.

I judge a waitperson's tip partly on how effective they are with refilling my drink. I drink soda like some people chug beer. If I have to wait for my next sip too long, the tip goes down. Dalena was very good with all our refills...especially mine.

Finally, it came time to pay the check. When she brought the check, she explained how she had to add then remove the wings to get it to the kitchen and blah, blah, blah. All I cared is that I wasn't double-charge because we would have had major issues if it was.

By this time the two other tables had left (-3 ppl) and she gained two other tables (a family of 3 on each of the two). She had barely taken the drink order of the table behind us. Again, she felt overwhelmed. She passed our table and grabbed our payment so quickly that I didn't get a chance to ask her for a to-go box BUT she also never asked even though half a rack of ribs were left as well as half the wings. So, I get up and walk toward the men's room which happens to be right next to the register where she's putting in the order for the table behind us. As I approach, I hear her tell a coworker that the guy (at table behind us) wants a Miller Lite but "there isn't even a Miller Lite choice on the register." I reach the register and I ask her for one to-go box while I think to myself that the restaurant probably wouln't sell a beer that isn't in the register/computer. I don't know that for a fact but it was just curious how frazzled she was.

I returned to the table and write out my check with the tip. The tab was $51.21. I almost always start out the tip percentage at 20% for true waitstaff—not those buffet restaurants where someone clears your used plate and refills your cup like at Golden Corral or China Super Buffet. Because Dalena messed up the wings and tried to blame it on me, I had to go below the 20%. I almost just did 15% which I typically don't go below because I've been there as a waitperson and know how it sucks. However, I decided she did make it right and after fixing the order, she apologized for the error. I decided to go with 17%.

My overall experience with this Applebee's is that I will not be stopping in again when I'm in Taos nor will I be recommending it to anyone I know who may be visiting Taos. With the lack of having the actual food items to serve that are listed in the menu and the just-acceptable service, I cannot say it was a good experience for us. I have been to Applebee's in Dallas, Texas without any issues quite a few times so maybe it's just a Taos thing.

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