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Friday, January 09, 2009
The Great 2009 New Year's Eve Beer Trek through New York City, Part 3
Previously in the series...Day turns into Night in the West Village A Little Rain Must Fall It was lightly snowing and blowing like old man winter, but it sure felt like it was about time for someone, something to rain on our extraordinarily great day thusfar. I'm going to name this little session here the Nobody's Perfect, and Some Don't Even Try edition. The first entry in this session comes from Café de Bruxelles. Now, to be fair, this was an overall satisfactory, maybe even slightly above average visit. I don't want to come across as being too much of a jerk here (remember, I'm the really nice beer guy ;-) but when poor service leaves a mark on the visit, well... The bar and restaurant were crowded. We'd come in the front door off of Greenwich Avenue, spied no open seats at the bar, and were immediately asked if we wanted a table. Figured, sure!, it would beat standing at this point. The crowd wasn't too surprising considering the lengthy history and reputation of this Belgian restaurant, one of New York's originals. So, as quickly as we were greeted, we were sat at a dining room table. Though, we didn't plan to have dinner here, we thought it was a good idea to mix in a little food with the Ommegang Abbey Dubbel bottle that we ordered. Do you remember how I raved about my Christmas Eve run-in with an aged bottle of this beauty? Then it shouldn't surprise you that it took all of 30 seconds to select it from amongst a bunch of other nice looking bottles and drafts on the list.
(The mussels, fries, soup, and beer were the highlights of an odd visit to Café de Bruxelles)
We ordered some soup and a large (emphasis added once again!) bowl of mussels with bacon, mushrooms, and leeks. Okay, our tab wasn't going to be $100 or more, but did we deserve to never be checked in on again? Never asked how were doing, if we wanted more beer, dessert, or anything? Our table was cleared and we sat...and sat.
So, when our check never came, we got up to leave. I really believe we could have walked clear out the door without being recognized. I wondered for a second whether our dinner might have, in fact, been free! Bizarre, to be sure. Especially considering that in the tight dining room, our dining neighbors on the left and right of us were both attended to multiple times during our stay.
But, near the door, we were asked (by the owner, I'm fairly certain) how things were. Let's just say I didn't mince words. Politely, but firmly and without too much volume that would draw attention. The multiple apologies came across as lukewarm and faintly sincere. I believe his attitude was partly borne out of frustration of needing to move as many customers through the doors as possible on this busy night. But, still...
Anyway, should have I shared this with you? Eh, maybe...maybe not. The mussels were great, the beer selection very pleasing, and the crowd had a New Year's electricity about it. The service, or I should at least qualify and say the service that we received was extremely lacking. We got apologies from the owner, but we really didn't care at that point. We were ready to write it off as a fluke experience. But, by all means go and check them out for yourself.
In any case, by the time we took our short cab ride across town toward the East Village and plopped ourselves down on the next set of barstools, trust me, our experience at Café de Bruxelles was a distant memory. Let's see if I can paint this picture properly for you. We walk into Burp Castle and the place is fairly empty, like less than ten customers. We were there for less than an hour and they never doubled their customer count. (Mind you, this is New Year's Eve and the time was somewhere in the ballpark of nine o'clock or so.)
We sit down at the end of the bar to give us a full view of the room. Tap handles are all around us, but we can't see them all. The chalkboard menu is behind the bar; I can see part of it, Patty can't see any of it from her angle. We're both taking a look at tap handles deciding what we want. The tap list at Burp Castle has always been pretty good, almost stellar at times. The atmosphere is a hushed low murmur, that appears to be the way they prefer it...okay.
(The darkness represents our recent experience at Burp Castle)
We lost track of how many minutes we waited for the bartender to come on over and even acknowledge us. Picture this, though. The bar is only, I don't know, twenty feet long or so. The bartender is prepping meats, cheeses, crudite and whatnot that were being offered on New Year's Eve to all customers. Terribly important when there are newly-arriving and waiting customers, I'm sure.
Then, when we began to put on our distressed faces, he finally meandered over and asked what we wanted. Patty had a couple of questions about taps (what's that one?, etc.) and his ultimate response was something to the tune of "It would just be easier if you came over here and looked at the tap list yourself." Alrighty then...
So we got our beers and needless to say it would be the only one. The bartender was so enraptured with a friend of his, that getting the tab was alone a trying enough task...forget if we had even wanted a second beer, which was totally plausible when we walked in the door.
I'm going to end this installment of my New Year's Eve story a bit earlier than the last two (I can hear the sighs of relief). This is an attempt to keep all of the negativity in one posting. The message should be clear here. Café de Bruxelles we're chalking up to an accidental occurrence of careless service and we'll look to return anytime we're in the area. Burp Castle? Once it may have even been in my top 10 on the island. Now, it's dropped like a concrete boot in the East River; even if the service was an aberration, it left a bad enough taste in my mouth to say this. The outwardly ambivalent service leads me to believe that I don't know when I'll return. There's plenty of good beer on the island with better service.
Oh, and if you'd like a happier review of Burp Castle, check out what I said three years ago about them.
Next up in this series...Midnight approaches in the East Village