Saturday, 1 June 2013

Great Place Having Off Day

I call myself a restaurant cheerleader because that's what I love to do. From my working career beginning as a 16 year old snack bar girl at a golf course, through many stints as cook, waitress, dietary aide, caterer and kitchen supervisor, to my recent adventure leading culinary tours through downtown Barrie, I know how hard it is to work in food service. The last thing I want to do is bring down the good, hard working people of any eatery.

The other side of the coin is the equally hard working people of Barrie and Simcoe County, out for a meal and faced with a ton of great but mind boggling choices concerning where to eat. They too deserve a fair accounting of the good, bad and the ugly of local dining establishments. No where are you guaranteed a perfect dining experience, but it is useful to know where the odds are in your favour.

In betwixt these two camps, sits the lonely food critic. My job is easy when I sit down at a table and am greeted with wonderful service in a swanky atmosphere and my food comes to me quickly, exactly as ordered and maybe even exceeding my expectations. "Ah what a perfect job." you'll say. "Not so fast." I'll say. The difficulty comes when I am disappointed in my dining experience and my sadness is compounded by the fact that there's a keyboard and a blank page at home awaiting my review of this restaurant.

You should know two things about me. I dread hurting anyone's feelings or causing anyone unhappiness. I am also honest almost to a fault. Perhaps you can see my dilemma. Today I am doubly (or is it triply) pained, as the place I chose to review is a restaurant I have eaten at many times before and I know it's a great place. That's why I keep going back, and I will do so again. Unfortunately, they had an off day today.

When my family and I go out for breakfast, no one ever asks where we're going. We always end up at the Flashback Diner at 309 Bayfield St. in Barrie. Sometimes it is lined up almost out the back door with customers, but we always wait. It's that good. It was lined up today, a Saturday morning, but not too bad. We might have waited 10 minutes. The servers were good at reminding us that they hadn't forgotten us and it wouldn't be long before we got a table. My husband and teen son and I joked that they should install ejection seats in the dining room to hurry the excessive lingerers on their way!

We were seated and quickly served drinks. As she gathered our menus, our super friendly waitress took our orders and stored the information not on a notepad, but in her head. I'm always amazed by servers who can do that! This what we ordered ...
1) Greek omelette with extra veg (green peppers, onion), home fries, rye toast.
2) 3 eggs over easy, bacon, home fries, whole wheat toast.
3) 3 eggs over hard, bacon, home fries, white toast.
And wow did our food ever arrive fast! I commented on the lightning speed of the kitchen staff's cooking, but as soon as our waitress left our table, we realized that a few things were amiss. My husband can live with rye toast (instead of whole wheat) but my teen son cannot tolerate runny eggs. Admittedly neither can I, that's why I usually go low risk and choose an omelette. Our server cheerfully took the eggs away to be cooked further, and just before she did, I asked her when a good time would be to order another meal to go ... now or closer to bill time. She said she would take that order when we were half way through our meal. Unfortunately, she did not remember until we were finished. Luckily, we had no pressing engagements after breakfast, so we were not stressed in the least to wait a few more minutes. My meal was as ordered and they didn't charge me extra for the small hair on the edge of my plate either.

So I left the Flashback Diner today with a full stomach and a big  bag of mixed emotions. I knew I had a review to write, but I wished I had chosen another day to cover the Flashback, any of the other many days when I had eaten a perfect meal there. Any place can have an off day, it was Saturday after all and they were training a new server, I noted. I think what saved the day, and would save the day at any other restaurant too, was the friendly service. Our complaints were made respectfully and the server was as positive and upbeat as you can imagine about it. If she had been snarly or outwardly disgruntled, the experience would have been much worse and I would have mentally checked the 'do not return' box in my brain.

Bottom line: Excellent all day breakfast eatery, cool 50's decor and vibe, friendly staff, quick service. Run by human beings so expect an off day once in a while.

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