I've had a couple of experiences recently, which challenge the notion if you offer good service, you can get away with serving mediocre food.

While recently traveling through a small town, I walked into a biscuits and gravy joint where the tables hadn't been cleaned off and the server kept forgetting to bring items we requested.

He was friendly enough, don't get me wrong, with a bright disposition and genuinely personable. But operating with no sense of urgency.

While I was quick to write the slowness off as a small-town thing, what with my inherent "city-girl attitude," as people have referred to it in the past, what made the experience worthwhile—even to the point of my craving to return to the restaurant again—was when I ate the gravy.

Rich, creamy with no lard and chunky pieces of pork and ample fresh crushed black pepper, the gravy had me instantly satisfied. All the while with the following thought running through my mind:

"The slow service was worth it."

Some days, I really do just want good food.

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Tags: biscuits, food, gravy, quality, service

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Comment by Judy "the foodie" Asman on July 31, 2008 at 12:03pm
Hi, Andy, interesting as on a down-home personal note, I do find I'm loyal to similar establishments. Some places even carry the cache of being slow but the food is so good, people will line up out the door.

Back in the days when I lived in SF, there was (and I think there still is) an adored breakfast eatery on Haight. There was always a crowd with narry a complaint.

They're tagline: "The most popular breakfast joint on Haight. And worth the wait."

Boy was it!
Comment by Andy Swingley on July 31, 2008 at 2:51am
I agree with you Judy. There have been times when I was underwhelmed by the service or look of the restaurant and have been pleasantly suprised by the food quality. My mind remembers those situations mostly as breakfast places (don't know why that is). I have extreme patience with restaurants as I always "want" my experience to be be great. I know, not the norm but it is what it is.....I do return to those places
Comment by Judy "the foodie" Asman on July 27, 2008 at 9:46am
I agree the there's no competing with the all-in-one experience. And I agree with Doug that a typical experience is lacking in at least one area.

To add to the story, my friend and I were commenting on the shoddy service, especially after having just done a podcast on 5 weaknesses in restaurant service. A couple of women sitting near us (obviously regulars) must have mentioned something to the waiter because he became more attentive.

This is one of the reasons I like to go into restaurants anonymously. It's true what people say about preferential treatment if they know you write about food and restaurants.

Operator
Comment by Doug Bond on July 26, 2008 at 7:25pm
I find that great gravy covers a multitude of sins. I love the instantaneous comfort fix that great gravy provides. There is a hotel in New Jersey that I pay entirely too much to stay at just because of the perfect Creamed Chipped Beef Gravy (aka “SOS”) that they serve for breakfast. I even tolerate the rude and cranky cook that makes it and the slow as molasses service staff just to get some of that creamy goodness smothered on a biscuit.
I do however also concur with the previous two posts. Wouldn’t it be grand to get cleanliness, gracious and efficient service, and excellent food all in the same restaurant experience? Unfortunately, most of the time one or more of the aforementioned criteria is lacking in most restaurants.
Comment by Junglefrog on July 26, 2008 at 1:17am
Like Debra I am not sure if the service level would have justified the good food. At least you did get good food at the end of the waiting but I feel that it is the combined package that in the end makes me return to a restaurant. No matter how good the food; in the end I will not come back if if the service is that slow and lacking in response!

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