Notes on La Poste From an Afflicted Diner

November 29, 2010

La Poste, Cincinnati

can you buy clomid in thailand My dinner companion was white knuckling his fork. I was nervous. Would he use it as a dart and send it sailing towards the man at the bar? Or would he simply choose to swallow it –– muffling the blistering comments we both knew to be on the tip of his tongue?

The scene? La Poste, Clifton’s newest restaurant on Telford in a space that was once Tinks and before that –– a post office. The problem? A man, sipping what I can only imagine to be his tenth martini, standing at the bar just four feet away.

He had just finished dropping his phone for the second time, splattering its battery pack and wiring all over the floor. Now he was singing — no particular song, just random notes strung together with slurs and misguided intuition. At the close of his ballad, he turned to an elderly diner and called him “uptight.” It was a fantastic.

Unless of course, you were busy racking up a $200 dinner bill — tasting the 5-course chef’s menu in an effort to get to know the place. Which we were.

As more and more diners pursed their lips and threw nasty stares in the direction of the man at the bar, I focused my attention on the management team. Individually, each of them rolled their eyes. They gave each other knowing looks. Still, they continued to refill his glass. They had lost control of their own room — sacrificing our experience for his.

Having now worked in the front and in the back of the house, I believe that “service” is an equally adequate and inadequate descriptor. It’s not an action, after all. It’s an attitude. Great service is felt not seen. Beyond clearing plates and refilling water glasses, great service is a commitment to taking care of people. It starts at the top and it trickles down into every nuance of dinner.

We finished four of our five courses and had the last one boxed. We left with more thoughts about how to use a fork as a weapon than we did about the restaurant. They may be housed in a former post office building, but when it comes to the true meaning of great service, I’m afraid to tell you, dear friends, that La Poste didn’t get the message.

{ 41 comments }

GoMariaGo November 29, 2010 at 1:38 pm

@Epiventures ugh, what a bad experience.

Wendy November 30, 2010 at 2:43 pm

I don’t know what it more horrible. The fact that I was there the same night this idiot blogger was and SAW the owners ask this drunk to leave. OR all the people on their cell phones talking so loudly. I guess any dingbat can have a blog, but what happened to telling the truth and making sure you have ALL the facts. I don’t know HOW the owners could have made the night better other than to ask a man who SHOWED UP drunk to go because he was so horrible. I’ll never trust this blogger again because I now know she has real journalistic issues.

Courtney November 30, 2010 at 3:06 pm

Woah there. Sorry to see I struck such a nerve with you. Two points you may want to consider:

First, the man wasn’t asked to leave during my entire experience at the restaurant. I was sitting two feet from him. If it occurred, it occurred after I paid the bill. He was in the active process of drinking a martini. I heard him being offered another.

Second, you may want to reconsider your wording. That’s just a request because I like to think of this blog as a conversation — I promise to respond to your concerns with respect if you do the same.

Jens Rosenkrantz Jr December 3, 2010 at 9:14 pm

I was not there that night but after being briefed I am confident that the situation was handled properly. The customer after it became apparent that he was inebriated (and the restaurant did not serve him 10 Martinis as alleged) was cut off and asked to leave. The initial post does not accurately reflect the events of the evening and if the writer wishes to discuss the evening, we are more than happy to oblige. Everyone is entitled to their opinion but making excessive claims when the facts do not support the reality is unfair. Again, if the writer wishes to discuss the claims we are more than happy to respond.

Courtney December 4, 2010 at 7:13 am

Note to readers: As an update, La Poste has contacted me –– apologizing and offering to make things right with another dinner. I appreciate the conscientiousness of their reply.

This particular post was met with a lot of passionate discussion. Thanks for engaging in the conversation, and though I’m closing comments at this time to ensure we can all move forward, I appreciate each one.

Allison November 29, 2010 at 8:13 am

Tragic. I had heard such great things about the food from all of the chefs at Midwest Culinary. And here you are with an opinion, a 5course tasting menu and you don’t even write about the food. That’s says a tremendous amount doesn’t it? Mmmmmm your thoughts weren’t food for thought at all were they. Service will lose you more customers than anything. All chefs who own restaurants should get out of the kitchen and train themselves about service or hire the best in service and treat them well if you want to succeed. I feel empty after reading your words, as I’m sure you did walking out of the place. Disappointment just fuels hunger does it not? ~Allison

Courtney November 29, 2010 at 9:26 am

I left out any discussion of food to make a point. Thanks for sharing my pain!

Joan November 29, 2010 at 8:33 am

I’ve been there. Once while working as a server at a Cinti. dining restaurant I had a male customer who was so drunk he actually peed on the floor. Why did my management tolerate this behavior? I suppose they didn’t want to offend the drunk. Never mind everyone else he offended. I’ll never forget it.

Courtney November 29, 2010 at 9:28 am

Wow! Joan, I’m sorry to hear that! And now I’ll never forget it.

Wendy November 30, 2010 at 2:45 pm

This management DID react and did the right thing. Too bad you aren’t getting the truth in this piece of garbage story.

Sara November 29, 2010 at 9:35 am

Agree completely – service, when good, can make an good meal seem extraordinary. Service, when bad, can make fantastic food seem mediocre. That’s a pity that such a new place as La Poste would get this so wrong, but hopefully they will see your feedback and reconsider their approach.

An interesting and peripherally related commentary was just offered by David Leibovitz, following a recent visit to Lausanne. He remarks extensively about how students at Ecole Hoteliere Lausanne are so vastly differently educated about service as a career – and one to be taken quite seriously. I also found his comment about knowing the difference between genuine hospitality and affected hospitality having been in the industry so long (he was speaking about a hotel, not a restaurant, but I would imagine he would apply it to both). An interesting, if different, experience, if you haven’t already read it: http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2010/11/lausanne-switzerland/#more-2827

Think you’ll give La Poste another try?
Sara

geekjames November 29, 2010 at 4:46 pm

@Epiventures At least when we went to La Poste our service wasn’t that bad. We were disappointed in the menu, boring.

geekjames November 29, 2010 at 4:52 pm

@Epiventures They had such a good chance for greatness, but sadly, the menu’s just more of the same.

Sophiaz123 November 29, 2010 at 5:12 pm

@Epiventures your blog? Nobody concerned drunk cont 2B over served at EXPENSE of those around him dining? I would’ve complained to manager

5chw4r7z November 29, 2010 at 10:28 am

I can’t even imagine that happening, I guess I’ve been living a sheltered life lately.

CliftonResident November 29, 2010 at 10:46 am

I know what you mean. I’m a resident of the neighborhood, and that’s not the first stroke of controversy La Poste has entrenched themselves in. It doesn’t bode well when you start a business in a closely-knit neighborhood, then fight with other business owners because you feel that you have a right to valet the entire street. Perhaps that style of service is a trend of standout restaurants on Ludlow; if you don’t believe me, take a trip to Olives at Ludlow Garage around the corner. On any given weekend night, you’ll find half the bar occupied by the waitstaff, chef and bartender that’s either not on duty or weren’t working at all, getting toasted with the owner while people try to enjoy their dining experience(which I’m convinced is impossible at this point). The bottom line is that both restaurants are supposed to be places of respectable business – not a clubhouse with a “locals only” sign posted outside that gives rowdy regulars a free pass to treat it like their living room.

Courtney November 29, 2010 at 4:25 pm

Never been to Olives — doesn’t sound like a great review. The locals only thing — I suspected perhaps that was the issue here. Maybe he was a VIP of some sorts. Still not a great excuse though.

emefem November 29, 2010 at 11:02 am

In all fairness, we probably picked a too-busy Saturday night to try La Poste for the first time.
The restaurant interior is charming and the menu was fine so we’ll try it again on a week-day night and hope for a better experience. The food was not the problem.
Our complaint?
Too much hiney in our faces all night! There was a large party next to us and the servers and sommelier were extra attentive to them…which meant a lot of bending over with their behinds into our table space. We even had a server’s blue towel which was tucked into her back waistband go sweeping across our table. My husband’s quick action saved a wine glass from spilling over. When the party on the other side of us arrived one of them decided to take off his leather jacket completely over our table’s air space. Again, we had to duck our heads and grab our water glasses.
Half way through the meal I said to my husband that I had never had so many rear ends in my face during a meal in my life. We laughed but we won’t go back there again on a busy night.
We’ve been to dozens of crowded European restaurants but the waiters there usually rush to pull out the tables when you’re arriving and again when you’re leaving. If each table is set with it’s own cloth it’s easier to pull it out.
Our wish is to strongly support local businesses and really want them to succeed. I don’t want to pile on but hope they’ll take note of this problem. Also, they might keep a caring eye out for their small parties as well as their large ones.
Thank you for your post, Courtney.

Courtney November 29, 2010 at 4:23 pm

Woah, what a strange issue. You bring up a good point though. This joint is a tight spot — which means that every action is noticed throughout the room. I admit, it’s a challenge. But not one great service can’t overcome.

Paul November 29, 2010 at 11:13 am

I’ve worked in the restaurant industry for 31 years, and I agree with you completely! However, Liquor laws have changed! Not only should the drunk have been cut off, but the restaurant is legally responsible for getting the man home safely! So, what you may not have realized, is that the management may have cut him off, but they legally could not have thrown him out, or they could have been held responsible for any injury to the drunk, or, God forbid, anyone the drunk may have hurt on his way home.

All restaurant personelle should be trained in alcohol awareness!

Courtney November 29, 2010 at 4:17 pm

Paul, that’s an interesting point. Didn’t think about his inability to drive home — though I think cutting him off would have been a good start.

Sarah Perry November 29, 2010 at 12:27 pm

There are way too many people in this area who simply don’t know how to act in public. And way too many people who have the idea boorish behavior is something that “polite” people quietly tolerate. For this reason, among others, I’m reluctant to invest much money in a restaurant meal anymore.

Courtney November 29, 2010 at 4:19 pm

Hate to hear that, Sarah! Though I’d venture to say there are quite a few spots that get what service means. Still, I understand your frustration.

I try to tell myself that without the bad experiences, I wouldn’t appreciate the good ones. I think there’s truth to that.

G November 29, 2010 at 12:52 pm

Thanks for the write up. I had my own experience with La Poste..that did go from BAD to Great!

In the beginning of October I saw the write up on LaPoste and it state that they were taking reservations. So I called and stated that I would like a rsvp for THIS weekend..well my husband and I showed up for what we thought would be our 10th wedding anniv dinner and the young lady looked at me like I had two heads. We were told that we could not possibily have a rsvp because they were holding a private party and our reservation was the following weekend. Needless to say I cancelled that and walked out.

The following Monday the owner’s wife called to apologize and to invite us back for a meal on the house. I have to say that they were very kind to us, treated us like VIP the whole evening. They took stock of how they initially treated us and really put their best foot forward! The wait staff was very nice and efficient. The food was really good as well as the wine pairing. Overall, they did make up for the first impression.

As for the drunkard…he should have been removed..scene and all. The patrons probably would have cheered instead of geered.

Courtney November 29, 2010 at 4:21 pm

Sounds like a really unfortunate miscommunication. I’m glad they were able to make it up to you — the tenth anniversary is a big one. Thanks for sharing.

JustFollowing November 30, 2010 at 9:32 am

Great post, but proof your article. It has glaring grammar errors.

Courtney November 30, 2010 at 10:29 am

I don’t doubt that you’re right! Ready for the excuse for my grammatical errors?

I try to keep in the spirit of “blogging” and these thoughts are my best attempt at putting forth a composed message without losing the informality of the medium — which, of course, means not hiring a proof reader. That being said, I do understand that errors can be frustrating for the reader. I’ll try to keep it in mind. Thanks for reading!

Rick November 30, 2010 at 3:15 pm

Wendy, how often do you crawl out of your hole?

Ron November 30, 2010 at 4:00 pm

Sounds like “Wendy” might have been friends with that lout. And it does make me wonder why they would continue to offer him another martini when he was in such a state.

e_lohrbach November 30, 2010 at 4:27 pm

I’m sorry you had a bad experience, but one thing keeps bothering me…if so many diners were clearly annoyed with this man, why didn’t any of them speak up? Incidents like this happen all over the place whether it is in a nice restaurant or at a trashy club; if someone is making your experience unsatisfactory, TELL someone immediately. As the customer, you have the right to have a pleasant time, but the management and waitstaff can’t correct issues by reading minds. Instead of diners with “pursed lips” and “nasty stares” that possibly could be unnoticed by those serving you, if one person had taken the initiative to blatantly point out the disruption this man was causing, he may have been asked to leave much sooner leaving the rest of the dining room in peace. Just some food for thought!

Courtney November 30, 2010 at 4:42 pm

Fair enough. I did debate doing so. But I also wanted to sit back as an observer and experience the restaurant as objectively as possible. Hence the tasting menu. Perhaps the issue would have been corrected sooner if I had interrupted. But then it wouldn’t have been real.

Elyse November 30, 2010 at 4:52 pm

Courtney, I apologize, I couldn’t get the comment to go through and retyped it but couldn’t remember what I said before…feel free to delete the multiple comments that say the same thing! Website was acting all screwy.

Thanks for writing! Love your food adventures!

Sue Meyer November 30, 2010 at 7:49 pm

I did just that at a restaurant in Florida (talk to the manager) during a very disruptive drunken diner experience, and was told that he couldn’t tell one patron that another “didn’t like them”. I even had another party come up to back me up but the manager treated us like we were the problem.

I even wrote the owners a letters with not one response.
I guess my business wasn’t important enough to them to address the issue professionally and with tact.

erinswing December 1, 2010 at 2:02 am

@Epiventures Wow. Catching up on your commenter(s) drama. That’s the main reason I never review restos: I’m a harsh critic w food issues.

Mark November 30, 2010 at 8:40 pm

Great thoughts on a restaurant experience that wasn’t up to par… very thoughtful and articulate. Keep up the good work!

Jerry November 30, 2010 at 8:56 pm

It sounds like the “man of too many martinis” needed to go.

However, it is a difficult situation for someone who is dining to tell the owners what to do with their establishment. I am a big fan of speaking my mind, but I think Epi-ventures was right in this situation, for a number of reasons.

First, it’s not a patron’s job to patrol the dining room for drunkards and delinquents; they are there to simply eat, drink, and be merry.

Secondly, true objectivity in an experience is pretty rare, and is the main reason restaurant critics protect their anonymity with such fervor. We now have a credible, objective experience about one of the new restaurants in the city. This is a plus.

Lastly, If service is truly great, there would be no discussion whether or not to talk to the management in the first place. Truly great restaurants (or businesses in general for that matter) demand excellence in service from themselves and likewise so should we.

Rob December 1, 2010 at 5:50 am

I realize that here I go again being an adult, but it is the man’s responsibility to know when to stop, see I get tired of it being someone elses fault that this man got drunk. It was his fault, now what the staff should of done is tossed him out palin and simple. Personal responsibility matters folks.

Stephanie December 1, 2010 at 6:12 am

I’m sorry to hear that your experience wasn’t lovely. For a small dining room, I’ll bet his voice and actions were carried througout the entire place. I’m glad you spoke about what you feel though and didn’t comment about the food or your personal service…it proves a point.

+emefem: the last time I dined at Senate, my bf and I ended up moving our table over two feet in order to get away from the complete closeness of the other diners and their servers hiney in our face frequently….but, our server and the poutine and dessert certainly made up for this.

Michael December 1, 2010 at 7:18 am

It is ridiculous that you are voicing your review of a restaurant based on a rowdy customer. You should use your forum to address the things that matter when dining out…first and foremost…the food. Secondly, and tragically, this review is typical of the conservative Cincinnati native. Always concerned about what others are doing to ruin their day. Shouldnt the focus be on something more interesting?

Courtney December 1, 2010 at 7:32 am

Service is an integral part of dining. Just as I am passionate about food, I’m passionate about service, ambiance and everything else that combines to create a remarkable (or unremarkable) experience.

Of course, you don’t have to agree –– but in my opinion, the topic is both interesting to analyze and to write about. Hopefully some people enjoy reading about it, too.

I won’t address your comment about Cincinnati natives –– as I’m sure readers of this blog will form their own opinion there.

5chw4r7z December 2, 2010 at 8:11 am

Its ridiculous you based your review off your experience.
LMAO.
Sorry, I tried to stay out of it but that one cracked me up.

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