Here is a question I will ask and return to at the end of this posting. In a red hot affluent neighborhood where a dozen restaurants have a 45 minute wait for a table, how bad do you have to be to fail?
On Thursday I tried a new spot in the Clarendon neighborhood of Arlington. It’s called the Mad Rose Tavern. Train Wreck! What was horrible was the experience, not the food. I wouldn’t know how the food is because we weren’t able to get any!
Although the Mad Rose Tavern has a prime location, a great beer selection, over 40 Scotches, and an extensive menu including a section of Small Plates, they do not have a website!
Nonetheless, 5 minutes of online research would have told me all I needed to know. This restaurant opened in mid-February hoping to become an upscale Scotch bar. Apparently, the clientele rejected that image, insisting that as customers they would decide what the place was. In its first 60 days the owner has already replaced the management and the chef.
My first red flag was the near empty dining room. It was 8:00 on a Thursday night and Thursday is the new Friday, right? This was immediately followed by the second red flag which was an over-eager (albeit lovely) hostess who seemed genuinely surprised that we wanted to eat there. We would soon find out why.
The one successful part of the experience was that I got a beer. Things went downhill from there. When the waiter came over we told him we had decided to split three items from the small plates section of their menu.
Before I could tell him which ones, the waiter said, “Don’t you want a full-sized entrée? You should get the Fish and Chips. Yeah, why don’t I get you the Fish and Chips!”
I said, thanks but we didn’t want fried fish and we were pretty excited about the selection of small plates. I said first we wanted the BBQ Duck Flatbread. The menu said it had wild cherries, blue cheese, it sounded great.
He cut me off and said, “What about the Sausage Flatbread. You should get that instead” I said thanks again but we wanted the Duck Flatbread. He said, “here’s the thing…it’s not good. In fact it’s quite bad.”
Whaaaat??? I didn’t know what to do with this guy. I really was ready to just leave. My friend and I had a brief conference and said, OK, just bring us the Tuna Sliders and the Deviled Eggs and we’ll figure out the flatbreads later.
He came back about 10 minutes later and said, “We don’t have the Tuna Sliders.” At this point I’m looking around for a camera, like maybe this is an elaborate practical joke!
Trying to control the fact that I’m getting pissed, I said, in as even a tone as possible, “OK, why don’t you bring us the deviled eggs and the check.” Here I might have expected a GOOD waiter to go to the manager and let them know they have a situation going on at one of the two parties in the dining room, but this guy just said, OK.
I looked at my friend and said let’s just get the hell out of this god-awful place but she felt like there was still an opportunity to turn this into a good experience. That’s when he came out and said, “We don’t have the eggs.” My friend lost what patience she had left.
She went over to the manager and hostess and 2 or 3 parties waiting to be seated and asked why the hell nothing on the menu was available. One party left. The manager said they were about to change over to a new menu and in fact the very next day, Friday they would be unveiling a completely new menu.
Another party left. She asked if we could see the new menu. No. Nothing on the new menu was available. He had considered closing the dining room and just opening the bar this evening but apparently smoke and mirrors looked like the better option.
Well what DO you have we asked. Fish and Chips and Sausage Flatbread.
She said she wanted the chef to come out and tell us what he could make for us.
I was so ready to leave but she said we should wait for the chef. He came out and apologized, saying he was really trying to get things ready for the launch of the new menu. We said, well what do you have? He said, what sort of things do you like? It was just too obvious. I said we like Tuna Sliders, BBQ Duck Flatbread, and Deviled Eggs!
He suggested he could take care of my tab for the beer and hoped we would try again when the new menu was available. Thus, I did get a free beer out of the experience, but next to that the only thing I liked about this place was the exit.
It did make me appreciate what great service and atmosphere I have become used to in my little corner of the world. We walked down to another new place, Circa and they had a 45 minute wait for a table. The place was vibrant and bustling. Athis point however, we were really hungry and so we went across the Street to Pete’s Pizza and it too was filled to capacity but for one available table. The pizza was great!
How bad do you have to be to fail in a neighborhood like Clarendon? A good start is not actually having any food to serve. I wish the folks at Mad Rose luck, and I hope they figure things out quickly