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February 21, 2010

There’s no other title for this post.  Tonight, my brother, his fiancee, my hubby and I, went out for a nice dinner as our Christmas gift to each other.  They drove up from Westchester to spend the day with us, and we made reservations at The Ginger Man in Albany.

We actually tried to make reservations at 677 Prime, one of the best steakhouses (if not THE best) in Albany.  But we called too late, and the earliest time they had was 8:30pm.  So K and I decided to go back to The Ginger Man.

K and I have been to The Ginger Man one other time before, to celebrate our wedding anniversary last year.  We like the food, and like that the restaurant buys its ingredients from locally-owned and independent operated businesses.  It’s a nice restaurant, which means, not altogether cheap.  We’d only been there one time before; it’s a “special occasion” outing.

The four of us got to the restaurant, which was cozy and brightly lit, right on time for our reservation.  Right away, we ordered a large fresh fruit and cheese platter.  The three cheeses we chose? Coach Farms Fresh Goat Cheese (local!), Manchego (imported from Spain) (this is a sheep cheese) and Old Chatham Sheepherding Co. (another local farm) Camembert.  These cheeses were delicious.

The fruit was all right, but not exactly what I think of when they boast of “fresh seasonal fruit.” There was apple, pear, pineapple, melon, strawberry, and blackberry. Perhaps they mean seasonal in Mexico?  But I’m not complaining so much about that.  After all, what did I expect in upstate NY in February?

Our waiter then rang off some specials, among which was a 40 oz. Porterhouse steak for two.  40 ounces, people – that’s 2 1/2 lbs!! Awesome. My husband and brother decided to split it, and my future SIL ordered the lobster mac and cheese. I ordered paella.

It was all DELICIOUS.  The service was good and we were very happy.

Until we got the check.  Now, remember, it’s a fairly nice restaurant.  My entree was $21, and my future SIL’s was $22.  The most expensive meal on menu was the strip steak at $28 for 16 oz.  So we were under no illusion that the 40 oz. Porterhouse steak would be cheap.

But then we got the bill.  And on the bill, that steak was not called a 40 oz. Porterhouse.  It was itemized as the 95 Porterhouse.  Wanna know why?  Because that steak cost us $95.

Ninety-five dollars?!?!

There was NO mention of this price when the server read out the specials to us.  And while we figured it would be obviously more expensive than anything else, we were shocked at something almost 4 TIMES the price of the next most expensive thing on the menu, and MORE than 4 times any other special they had.

Ninety-five dollars?  Are you kidding me?  Don’t you think that’s something you should mention to your customers, especially since it’s so much more expensive than anything else there?

So we called the waiter over to ask him.  We didn’t want anything. We weren’t expecting him to comp us or to give us half price – nothing at all.  We just wanted him to know we were upset that he didn’t let us know of the extravagant price.

If he had apologized, if he had said, “You’re right. I will make sure I let people know this in the future,” all would have been fine.  But he didn’t.  He got defensive, he said, “The price was on the board,” as if we should have been able to see a board that was never pointed out to us before and was 20 feet behind us and practically impossible to see from where we had sat. None of us had even seen the board.  He starts talking about how this steak was grassfed beef, blah blah blah, what did we expect?

Hold up there, Bucky.  In his explanation of the special at the beginning of the meal, there was no mention of grassfed anything.  It wasn’t even called the 95 Porterhouse.  Perhaps if he had told us the true name we would have known!

Because, yes, the steak was delicious. But there was no way in hell it was worth $95.  No one would have ordered a $95 steak if we had known.

So we ask to speak the manager.  Because the server had an attitude.  And we weren’t doing anything but making our displeasure known.  We were polite, we weren’t yelling at him, we were just upset at them not informing us of this in advance.  We were going to pay, we just wanted them to know that’s not how you do business.  Perhaps you do it that way if it’s a $100/plate restaurant, but not when your average meal is $20.

He says he’ll go get his head chef, and leaves.  And NEVER COMES BACK.  The chef never comes either, which was fine, because what did the chef have to do with it?  But after about 15 minutes, the poor hostess comes over to us and gives us 4 free drink coupons.  Free drink coupons?  My brother asks where the manager is.  There’s no manager here tonight, she tells us. No manager on a Saturday night? K asks who’s in charge then.  She tells us the bartender.  What the hell?

She tries to give us the drink coupons again. “For the next time you come,” she tells us.  “I don’t think we’ll be back,” says K.  We hand her our credit cards (we split the bill, since it was our Christmas gift to each other).  Poor girl, it’s not her fault.

The server still never comes.  A few minutes later, the hostess comes with the entrees for the table next to us, which our waiter was also serving.  He apparently couldn’t even come do that.  How immature was he? Was he embarrassed?

She brought back our credit cards, and we left a 15% tip.  Honestly, everything to that point had been very good.  Service, food, it all was great. The hostess had stuck the drink coupons in that little black folder thing they put the receipts in, and we left them in there, making our statement that way.  No one came to talk to us, and our server was never seen again.

Wow…was that really worth it, The Ginger Man?  A nice discussion for us to tell our complaint, an apology and assurance that they would not hide the price in the future, and we would have been happy customers.  You know, miscommunications happen, and we were partially at fault as well.  We didn’t ask the price, and we didn’t see the board (which I do think is in a very inconspicuous place).  But to not even come talk to us, paying customers?  I see how well we’re valued.

So now, they’ve lost us as customers.  And not only that, we will spread the word, including on Urbanspoon. And their manager/owner WILL be receiving a letter of complaint.

Utterly ridiculous.  Am I wrong?

5 Comments leave one →
  1. February 21, 2010 10:09 am


    From the sound of things, you handled the situation well. I think the price of the steak absolutely should have been mentioned, since it was so much more expensive.

    Don’t give up on them yet, however. Explain the situation to the OWNER so he/she can correct the procedures.

    Only the OWNER – if you can’t reach that person by phone, or in person, leave a message with your phone number, and suggest a good time to call.

    If you don’t get a reply…………………

  2. February 21, 2010 1:20 pm

    Wow! I definitely think the price should have been mentioned, but I agree that the bigger problem is the way it was handled once you voiced your concerns with the waiter. I cannot imagine any restaurant not having a manager on duty on a Saturday night, and even if that is true, just the way the waiter handed it off to the hostess is unacceptable. If it was the bartender who was in charge, then he should have spoken with you about the situation. I would have been upset, too. I think you handled it well, and I agree that getting in touch with the owner is a good idea. I hope they will do something to make up for such an ordeal. Keep us posted!

  3. February 21, 2010 8:05 pm

    I think you handled it fine. You weren’t looking for compensation you just wanted to be heard. How immature is that server. Definitely inform the owner about the rudeness and lack of professionalism.

  4. February 23, 2010 9:43 am

    But if they told you, you never would have ordered it ;p

    I think you guys handled everything really well. I’d have asked first, but then again I’m one of those people who doesn’t mind busting out the calculator at the table either. Numbers geek, is basically what I’m sayin’. I’d have then left kind of put off by the disparity, with a bad taste in my mouth.

    I think it’s good to voice your opinion, especially in the “hey, just so you know… this is kind of a shock” sort of way.
    One of the major reasons I think dining out here can be so hit-or-miss is the lack of professionalism in the serving field. So many people just see it as quick/good money without any concern for their customers. I feel like a lot of the mentality here is : “Okay, gimmie my 20% and get out”.

    So many things can be fixed with an apology, and one of the frustrating things about living in NY with a bunch of New Yorkers is that we’re all terrible with owning up to something and apologizing. This leads to some very frustrating dining out experiences and can really sour a night.

  5. February 23, 2010 2:18 pm

    Ugh, I’d be so mad too. I agree with the poster above – if they told you the price, you would’ve never ordered it. So part of me thinks it was intentional… :(

    I think you handled it very well. They screwed up big time.

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