Good Juleps = Good Service (& Vice a Versa)

Garibaldi’sI am an ex- waitress and I am sometimes the best and the worst customer to wait on.  I over-tip, blame the kitchen for slow service, and help stack plates.  However, if you are just ill-informed, have bad manners or shamelessly try to up-sell my wine order, watch out. I never walk out without tipping, but I will call a manager over to my table and diplomatically point out the server’s short-comings, then I leave a 14% tip to prove a point.

I had an opportunity a couple of weeks ago to point out the short-comings of an out-of-her-league server at Garibaldi’s. Prior to our 6:00 reservation, my husband and I had a cocktail at the house. I had a Marker’s Mark Mint Julep.Yum. Frosty silver cup, bourbon with a hint of sweetness, and refreshing infusion of mint I had picked from planters on my back porch. We were greeted by Flo, (name is changed to match her service level).  She offered the typical wine or cocktail before dinner option.

“Flo, I had a Mint Julep here a couple of years ago. Do ya’ll have the ingredients tonight?” Flo confidently assured me that yes, they did.

“Well, I would love one, please. And ask the bartender not to make it too sweet. It was a tad too sweet last time.”  Flo scurried off to get the cocktail and upon her return, she placed a lightly colored iced beverage in front of me.

“This isn’t my order,” I said. “This isn’t a julep.”

Flo retorted, “Try it and see what you think. If you don’t like it, we can send it back.”

To some diners, this might not strike them as completely idiotic. To me, it was a bizarre statement. You don’t have to taste something to know it’s wrong. Having a sophisticated palate is not a prerequisite, honey!  The cocktail before me was, number one, too light and number 2, utterly devoid of mint.  Imagine a Manhattan the color of light orange juice with no garnish or even a brown Martini with no olives. So that was the predicament.

I laughed out loud when Flo instructed me to “try it,” which I did.  The taste caused me to laugh even harder. It was a watered down bourbon and soda. Sadly, after my instructions to take it back and ask the bartender to try again, I was presented the same exact drink with one sad, lone mint leaf floating in the mess.  I had blamed the bartender because I am an ex-waitress and I was being easy to serve. Now I was blaming the waitress and things were getting ugly.

I told Flo, “Just bring me a glass of Pinot Grigio.” Flo insisted that they could get it right, julep-wise.  My confidence shaken, I refused, “Just a glass of your house Pinot Grigio, please.”

The episode would have been forgiven and forgotten except at this point Flo tried to up-sell me to the $12 a glass rather than racing off to get the $9 a glass I had ordered.  She justified the push by saying, “I just thought you’d like to try something new.” How she knew what was new to me remains a mystery.  I refused and for the rest of the meal we had surly service.  Entrées plopped in front of us without comment.  Proving a point, she ground pepper over my plate, angrily saying, “Just tell me ‘when.’” She had taken personally my laughing at a poorly made drink.  It was as though she had caught me talking trash about her mother.

I love Garibaldi’s for nice food. It is one of the best, but “fine-dining” experiences in Savannah are inconsistent. Good or bad service is unavoidably linked with the success of the meal. The meal I had that night was adequate; nothing to write home about and nothing to complain about either.  The whole experience was a little pitiful though, all because of a server who was out of her element.  I think Flo would be better at Bennigan’s or Chili’s. Or maybe she would screw that up too.   I can imagine a customer orders a Frozen Margarita, no salt.  Flo arrives with a light blue concoction rimmed with salt, proclaiming “Try It. If you don’t like it we can send it back.” 

I would bet that Flo will not last long as a server and when I return to Garibaldi’s, if by some wild chance she is still there, I won’t sit in her section.

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