The year end to 2011 was busy and the beginning of 2012 has been very busy as well. It has not left much time for creative thought and writing for my blog here. It’s time to get back into the swing of things nonetheless.
As you may know, I like doing uncomfortable self-experiments, among them right now is long term fasting. I have just started another fast and I figured it was a good idea to go ahead and get this post done before I get days into my fast.
If you know me, you know I like good food and I like to share when I find good things. As a result I wanted to share the experience that my wife and I had at Pappas Bros Steakhouse. I hope you read on through, because this isn’t just a review about food or the restaurant.
YOU GOT TO HAVE FOOD
If you want to have a celebration or enjoy good company, I think it is a moral imperative to have good food, good drink and the right atmosphere. This is why I am very big on hospitality. I feel it is important to make my guests comfortable with good hospitality and develop a bond with them. Part of this is food and drink. If you break bread with me, I consider it to be very special moments in time.
After days of comparing restaurants via menus, reviews, and internet scuttlebutt- I made my decision. It took a while to narrow things down because I like to do things for my wife with class, but there is a plethora of places in Dallas to sort through.
CUSTOMER SERVICE NEEDS TO BE REDISCOVERED
If there is something that I lament about most businesses today, it is the lost art of customer service. Or more precisely, the lack of care and sincerity through good customer service. Today we have people in third world countries reading tightly worded scripts, as a result they come off sounding unnatural and uncaring as if they have no brain, personality or personal warmth.
Many large and small businesses have lost touch with their customers by not giving their personal touch with each person they interact with. Many businesses have resorted to hiring the cheapest labor they can find, and do nothing to instill or encourage true customer service and care about people.
Its a shame that customer service is what it is today because real and sincere customer service creates the experience that can make a customer loyal for life. I have no problem paying a little extra to do business with someone who believes in customer service and going the extra mile. It isn’t just the product or service, it is the experience.
With that in mind, it is refreshing to hear a bright and pleasant voice on the line when I called to make a reservation. The hostess taking my reservation was interested to know why I was coming and if I had any preferences or requests with seating. I let her know what I wanted in seating and that it was my wife’s birthday. Her interest and courtesy left me with a confident feeling that the experience I wanted to deliver for my wife’s birthday was going to happen.
I decided early on to surprise my wife for her birthday. She was not aware of any arrangements I had made or where we were going. So it was even more important that she gets “wowed” from start to finish. I will state upfront that I think the staff at Pappas Bros Steakhouse successfully “wowed” my wife.
We pulled up to Pappas Bros Steakhouse and were promptly greeted by the valet who helped my wife out and took care of business efficiently. As we walk inside, we are greeted by a hostess who looks up our reservation and wishes my wife a happy birthday.
A note here, usually making reservations at a Dallas area restaurant is an exercise in futility, even with top-end restaurants. My wife and I have waited anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes with reservations to be seated. It’s happened enough times that I had stopped making reservations for the most part, virtually no difference between showing up and waiting for the first available table.
Not this time.
In about a minute or two we were shown to our table. When I spoke to the person taking my reservation, I asked for something quiet with easy lighting- romantic is what I wanted.
The room we were seated in was dimly lit with a large stone fireplace. The decor used warm colors and was very relaxing. They showed us to a table in the back corner of the room.
Perfect with one exception, our table was under a TV mounted on the wall almost hanging over our heads.
The TV was muted, but it was flashing and flickering all over our table. Since there were a few people that seemed to be looking at the TV, it also caused my wife to feel like people were staring at us.
In my mind I am wondering how someone overlooks a TV overhead for a couple that wants quiet and romantic, but this was an opportunity to see what would be done. I am used to most waiters and managers being resistant or unwilling to turning off the TV.
This has always boggled my mind.
We asked our waiter Bo about turning off the TV, which he did promptly after touching base with his manager.
A few points about this…
Kudos to Bo for acting quickly, it made all the difference for us. Next, I think placing any TV in a restaurant of this caliber is a faux paux in of itself. It does not fit with creating a relaxed, romantic mood. In fact I would say the TVs mar the formality they want to convey to their guests.
Interestingly, there was a couple near us who were miffed when the TV was turned off and asked their waiter why it was switched off. I was pleasantly surprised and very appreciative that none of the staff went back to turn on the TV or asked me if I would mind having the TV turned back on because of other patrons who might have disapproved.
With the TV off, the couple next to us started to pay more attention to each other. I think getting the TV off was a favor to everyone in the room. It’s the little things like no TV that make a big difference with people.
I have to ask though, who comes to a high end restaurant to drop serious cash on good food and romantic ambiance just to end up watching sports on TV?
Go home and do that, it’s cheaper and more suited.
If I ran a restaurant, there would be no TVs anywhere. People need to learn to reconnect with each other and enjoy the experience.
More to the point- be mindful. Be in the moment savoring the food, the conversation, and the company of those with you.
Moments like these are perfect for sharing your deepest feelings and kind words.
TIME FOR WINE
The sommelier arrived shortly after we were settled with napkins, menus and bread. She was very pleasant and knowledgeable. She was passionate about her work, which was invigorating to see. Another thing that I liked about her is there was not a hint of snobbery or pretentiousness for someone who is curating a wine menu with prices reaching into the thousands of dollars per bottle.
She asked what kind of wine we were interested in having with our meal. I answered her questions and let her know that we didn’t want to drink the usual suspects from California. At which she took us directly to a 2009 Arizona Stronghold “Nachise”, a Rhone blend. Both my wife and I felt this wine was one of our most enjoyable wines to date. Very drinkable by itself, and it paired wonderfully with our meal.
The only thing I felt that could have been done better would have been for our waiter to decant or aerate the wine. Regardless, the wine was very good with a little aeration, and got better with each sip.
I have to admit to not giving much of the menu much of a look, I was at a steak house and I intended to enjoy a good steak as did Amy. I ordered a tenderloin, medium rare. Amy ordered a tenderloin as well- done medium instead. We ordered blanched asparagus and potatoes au gratin as sides to our meal.
Before the main entrees were served, my wife and I shared bread and Cesar salad. The bread was crusty on the outside and fresh baked goodness on the inside. The salad was crisp and cold with the right amount of dressing. For some reason this place is getting me inspired to dig deep and do some serious cooking at home.
The steaks were served with perfect doneness, the potatoes au gratin looked wonderful with the cheese done to a golden brown, and the asparagus was bright green and looked appetizing.
The steaks were seasoned with salt and pepper. They were tender with a good crunchy char. I have tried various seasoning combinations on steak at home, but in my experience it is hard to beat the simplicity of salt and pepper.
The potatoes au gratin was creamy and and full of flavor. I personally would have opted to use a little less salt in the recipe, but it was still some of the best I have ever had.
The asparagus was firm and a delight to eat. While I am on it with asparagus… there are a few lessons here.
REVISITING BAD EXPERIENCES
I used to hate asparagus.
I don’t like using the word hate much, but I hated asparagus for the longest time. That is until one day I was introduced to properly prepared asparagus at a couples dinner party a few years back.
I did not like asparagus because my experience with asparagus was based on the canned stuff my parents would serve when I was a kid. The canned stuff is mushy, nasty and tastes nothing like what I have experienced with freshly prepared asparagus. Don’t get me started on what canned asparagus smells like.
I have also had a similar experience with sushi. I didn’t like it because my first experience with sushi was not good. The fact I was eating sushi at a buffet when I first tried it should have been a clue, but I didn’t know better at the time.
Thanks to some friends in Arizona, my wife and I were properly introduced to some very good sushi and we have been hooked since.
There are two lessons to be learned here.
First lesson, do whatever you can to make sure your first experience with something new is the best possible. If it takes a little more money, going to someone who is in the know- whatever it takes.
Second lesson, if your first experience with something new wasn’t good, there maybe value in revisiting it and trying again with a proper introduction.
TACT AND GOOD SERVICE
The staff at Pappas Bros. Steakhouse were tactful in knowing when to approach us. I never felt like they were hovering or interrupting our conversation.
For special times like these where you want to take your time and have close conversation, I prefer to miss the waitstaff a bit instead of them being obsequious.
I’m okay with pouring a little wine for myself, or my tea getting a little low to have some uninterrupted, private conversation.
By accident or by intention, our waiter Bo pulled this off perfectly.
TIME TO GO
The meal ended with us deciding against desert, after all Chocolate Secrets was our next destination for decadent chocolates and soft, live jazz. We were also comfortably full and getting all sorts of good vibes from our midsections.
Out of 100, I could easily score Pappas Bros Steakhouse in the high 90’s. They gave my wife and I a memorable evening together. If I were more affluent, I could easily come back to Pappas Bros Steakhouse many more times.
Then again, maybe not.
It’s good to keep some things special by not doing them too much.
Post by Chris Harris @ Between the Temples.