Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The One About W.A. Frost

As promised, here is the rundown.

W.A. Frost has long been on my list of restaurants to visit. This, in spite of increasingly mixed (restaurants never really get bad) reviews over the last several years. The owners have the good fortune of occupying a beautiful space with a fantastic patio and, well, I wanted a piece of that.

As it happens, Frost has been promoting its new happy hour somewhat relentlessly. Add that to a beautiful day (last Thursday) and a beautiful patio and, well, I am game. So I met some former colleagues at W.A. Frost. I got a piece of that.

And how.

Thanks to an almost comical series of encounters with miscellaneous road construction, I arrived to find my companions seated, bar menus in hand. This is to say, they had the happy hour menu.

I ordered a happy hour chardonnay, which was predictably awful, but served chilled. Even crappy wine is pretty good on a pretty patio. My wine was served with the ominous warning that happy hour was reserved for the other side of the patio. Our waiter assured us, however, that this has been a constant source of confusion, and that his admonishment referred to future visits only.

After about 45 minutes, our waiter asked if we could cash out. I find this practice tacky, generally. I'll cop to it at an Applebees, where teenager waiters get their egos involved over $6. But can't a place like W.A. Frost work something out internally? Guess not. We played along.

For the next 20 minutes, we were summarily, aggressively ignored by the waitstaff. We finally flagged down a waitress, and asked if we could order food. She responded by saying "oh, you came for lunch, but you're staying for dinner?".

We had arrived at 4pm.

We then tried to order off the happy hour menu, and were re-informed of the geographical happy hour distinctions. I protested. The waiter made promises, after all, prior to his bush league cashout, and the happy side of the patio was full.

No dice, the waitress who had been intentionally ignoring us apologized and impolitely refused our informally negotiated request. She even pulled out the old chain restaurant standby "I don't make the rules."

No, lady, you conspire to selectively enforce them, in accordance with their impact on the tip-line.

Irate, I asked to speak with the manager. This is what you are supposed to do when you are irate, instead of, say, stiffing your server or "making a scene". The manager knows all, and will listen to you. It is he who makes the rules.

The manager wouldn't speak with us. Instead, he nodded to the waitress to accommodate our request. I know this because he was standing four feet away. But, hey, we had the opportunity to spend $5 on reduced-size portions of averagish food. What am I kvetching about?

Let's revisit this entire scenario, as it raises some interesting questions.

First, why were we given bar menus when we weren't in the bar? That's like putting napkins in a bathroom stall in lieu of tissue.

Second, why, exactly, does W.A. Frost cares so greatly which side of the patio you are on? By my observation, the happy hour side of the patio was sunnier and more comfortable. Otherwise, I could not hazard a distinction.

Third, why is the waitstaff not permitted to make reasonable accommodations in the midst of a largely empty dining space?

I'll answer those questions. Waiters are given substantial latitude to honor diner requests. That's why they call them waiters. Our first waiter did not re-seat us because he wanted our tip money. Our second waitress wanted someone else's tip money, and so encouraged us out the door. The manager is accustomed to these pedantic squabbles, is biding his time until he can work at a better restaurant, and chose the path of least resistance.

W.A. Frost inhabits a beautiful space. I'll return when/if a restaurant takes over that isn't staffed by jerks.


Blogger Sarah said...

I say if you're going to have a happy hour and promote it, make sure it applies to whomever is seated within your entire premises.

Pretty patio + Petty service = muddy and mediocre. So I can agree with you there.

And BTW: Saint Paul had for some reason decided to tear up every road within it's boundaries. It's been exceedingly frustrating to visit my parents who live on a cul-de-sac with every (I mean EVERY) road to the cul-de-sac torn up.
Glad my Saturn's willing to endure being an ATV for now.

Avoid St. Paul -and every freeway system from Friday to Sunday. Last Saturday it took me over an hour to get to Minneapolis at 9am!

1:08 PM  
Anonymous schmidty said...

It's true!! It's crazy getting around there. And I'm with Kevin on the WA Frost analysis. It's too bad that the staff can be so jerky.

10:38 PM  

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