This Sunday’s morning episode of “what do you want to eat?” is brought to you by “where can we make a reservation that isn’t a barbecue restaurant?” I was looking for someplace that was billed as farm-to-table and the reviews of Trace seemed to fit that bill. As I was pulling up the address, I realized that it was located in the W hotel, on 14th street, near Piedmont Park. Restaurant hotels don’t usually scream “come here and eat”, but the reviews on OpenTable of this one were good. We arrived, parked with the valet and looked for the entrance to the restaurant (up to the second floor, walk around the entire restaurant and come in what appears to be the back, from the elevator). We were greeted by the hostess and shown to a table in the center of a nearly-empty restaurant.
It was decorated nicely with life-size ceramic statues of farmyard animals on the short wall behind us, lots of pillows on benches and a wall of pots and pans with brightly painted bottoms. As she was seating us, she told us that they had just taken the order for a party of twenty-five and that the food service might be slow. Boy, was that an understatement! Here it was, 12:30 on a Sunday and there are twenty-seven people in the restaurant (there was no one but us, beside this large party) and they were telling us that service might be slow? The place seemed like it would seat 100+ and they have service issues at 25% of capacity?
We started with pimento cheese and black jack jelly, served with toast,
which was very good, especially together. Started with is a misnomer, as the pimento cheese arrived with the basket of parmesan fries that we were going to share with our sandwiches, both less than five minutes ahead of our entrees.
The fries arrived without ketchup, so the next time I saw a waiter (which wasn’t often) I asked for some ketchup. Then the food arrived – my pimento cheese and bacon sandwich, with mixed fruit,
and Jo’s Southeast family farm burger with crispy onions.
I took her ketchup (for the fries) and then asked the next server that came by for ketchup and mustard. For what it’s worth, at least five minutes had passed since I asked the first time. Seven or eight more minutes passed and I was done with waiting. I walked toward the kitchen, looking for anyone who might help. A woman who appeared to be the manager asked me what I needed and I explained that we were waiting on ketchup and mustard. Five minutes later, they arrived. The whole time that we were waiting (mostly) and eating (occasionally) more people arrived – and all I could do was give them a look of pity.
The food was good. The bacon was thick sliced and had been finished on the grill and Jo’s burger was a great mix of short rib and brisket – although my “mixed fruit” was 70% pineapple and 30% melons. But the service was abysmal. Finally, I asked for the check, it eventually showed up and I put my card with it and waited. Ten more minutes passed and no one came by the table. I finally gave up and headed back to the bar, looking for a manager (that was the 51% of my brain decision – the other 49% of me wanted to just leave since they didn’t seem to care about taking my money). I spoke to the manager who apologized for the service issue, but that just doesn’t cut it, sometimes. Bad food, I’ll forgive, but poor (not just poor, but pitiful) service is something that’s so easy to fix. They are extremely lucky that they’re housed in a hotel and don’t rely on local customers for service – if they were in a free-standing space, I can’t imagine that I’d go back. Nor would most, if they had the experience that we did (and the party of twenty-five seemed to have worse service, if that was possible – they were constantly sending stuff back and looking for a server).