Once upon a time, I led the glamorous life of an editor for an “Alternative Newsweekly” paper. I was snide and hilarious and sharp-tongued. However, I made it a kind of policy to not write negative or bad reviews about things. Far be it for me to crap on someone else’s work, I thought. Also, mother taught me that if I’ve nothing nice to say, I’d best say nothing.
You know what, though? Fuck that. With a rake.
Blackstone Steakhouse was terrible. The food was mediocre, the service was atrocious, the “by the glass” wine was from the Ocean Spray vineyard and if they insist on charging the prices that they charge for all of this, they should be wearing little Lone Ranger masks.
“But James,” you say, “you’re a hyper-critical guy who likes super-expensive food and likes to pretend that you know more about the culinary arts than you actually do and also you’re kind of a prick.. Was it really THAT bad?”
First of all, thank you. Second of all, yes. It almost pains me to have to recount the whole experience but I really think that the valet parking was the best part. Seriously.
We had a 5:30 reservation and were essentially the only ones in the restaurant when we showed up, aside from one other couple. We were directed to a table right in the middle of the dining room. Now I know my wife. I know where she likes to sit. She doesn’t like aisles, she doesn’t like to be where people are going to be constantly breezing behind her, etc. etc. etc. I can’t blame her. So, I asked if it wouldn’t be too much trouble if we might, perhaps, sit at one of the tables against the far wall. Rather away from the center of the room. With a giant sigh, the waiter huffed, “I guess so…. This table is smaller but if that’s what you want….”
Excuse me? Are you FUCKING ARGUING with me? I just asked you if we might, possibly have a different table in a restaurant so god-damned empty that my question echoed and you’re going to argue with me? Well, no matter, maybe this guy was just having a bad night. Let’s sit down and start fresh, eh?
We’ve barely gotten our jackets off and are rushed into a drink order with, “Whatta you want to drink?” Ummm. Ok, I’ll have a Campari and soda, she’ll have some Pellegrino. Great. Thanks.
The drinks come and menus are thrust into our hands. All too quickly, Mr. Sunshine reappears and asks us what we want.
Us: “Can you tell us about the specials?”
Him: “We have Surf and Turf with filet and a lobster tail. Soup is french onion.”
Sounds special, doesn’t it? I order the strip steak with blue cheese gratine, medium rare. She orders the Surf and Turf, medium rare. We also order garlic mashed and asparagus with hollandaise. Also, oysters to start.
Sunshine disappears. The dining room is empty except for the other couple. Crickets. Now is a good time to remark that they hold cigar dinners at this place and do not have the proper air filtration systems to get the stink out of everything when the cigars are gone. Ask me how I know.
Hey, you know what might be nice? Friggin’ wine list! Where is this clown? Mr. Sunshine reappears with our oysters and tries to escape before we can ask him for anything else. But, I’m quicker and louder than he is sullen and sneaky. “Hey, can we check out a wine list?” Soon, it appears.
So, we eat our oysters while looking at the wine list. Expectedly, it’s unremarkable. It’s your usual $18 Sterling selections marked at $60. Which is fine but there was nothing on it that I had to have. Not a whole bottle of, anyway. So, when the guy re-appears to bus our oyster plate, he asks if we want any wine. My wife tells him that we’re not going to get a bottle of wine but asks what, if anything, they have “by the glass.” Turns out they have, “Cab, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Grigio and Chianti.” She orders a Chianti. A different guy brought her the wine. He was actually pretty pleasant and even made eye contact with us.
The food took too long to come out. I’m not a clock watcher in a restaurant. I’m not interested in getting it “quick.” I want it done right. Don’t bring me a steak that is firstly, slightly overcooked and secondly, cold. That means you fucked it up at every step in the process. First, you cooked the damn thing too long then, not happy with that, you rested it too damn long. Who cares, though, right? What the hell do these people know? Throw the steak in front of them and scurry away. Which is exactly what happened. (And judging by their opentable reviews, they’re right to assume that their usual clientele either doesn’t know or doesn’t care.)
Both of our steaks were just, “eh…” Certainly not Prime graded and DEFINITELY not aged in any fashion. My wife’s lobster tail was of the frozen variety and just so-so. The sides were weak. The garlic mashed was actually not the worst I’ve ever had. They were reasonably warm and I will give bonus points for them being Yukons. The asparagus was grey and over-steamed there was very little tooth to it and it was just this side of slimy, actually. The hollandaise for the asparagus was fake.
The food was edible and we ate it. We weren’t checked on once. The whole time. This wasn’t a case of the servers being unobtrusively just out of your line of sight but ready to attend to you if the case need be. These guys were simply ignoring everyone.
I had to flag the guy down and just about beg for the check. And what was the damage? How much did we get charged for this? $165 with the tip (which was a purposeful 15%)
Here’s the thing. “Classic Steakhouse” ain’t tough. Matter of fact, it’s probably one of the easiest restaurants to do. You don’t have to come up with a unique or challenging menu. Everyone likes bloody filet mignon with a bearnaise. Throw in a jocular waiter with a god-damned bowtie who makes you feel like you might be a mob boss during prohibition and you can basically charge whatever you like. It’s pretty hard to fuck up a steak if you have any idea what you’re doing in the kitchen, at all. And you know what? If it’s your first go-round with steaks, here’s a hint… Better to undercook it and have to whack it in the oven again real quick than to overcook it. Amateur bullshit.
But don’t whack me $165 for a dinner of steaks that I promise you, were $5.00 a pound USDA Choice from Costco, frozen lobster tails and half-assed sides. Not when I can go down the street to Outback in Wilton and have basically the same thing for half the price. We went expecting a local Capital Grille quality restaurant and were insulted with a mediocre meal and terrible service. Each element built to make the one before it even worse. It was a comedy of errors. We won’t be back.
As I said to my wife on the way out, “That wasn’t the worst steak I’ve ever had, it was just the worst $40 steak I’ve ever had.”