Monday, July 5, 2010


I haven't posted here in ages. I don't know when I'll do another "I Paid for That" post. I'm going to try to stop the spammers. I'm setting some very strict standards for posting. If you don't like it, email me at imawurdibitsch...yanno... at.... aol or yahoo... dot com (kinda ridiculous that I have to be so weird about the address but the spammer thing is really frustrating). If you have a good comment and can't get past the security detail, I'll post your comment. Arrgh.

Friday, February 29, 2008

That Item Has Been Backordered

I'm behind on updating this. The reason I finally posted about LyingHorn was because it was a prelude to a post about a decent, moderately priced steak without butter that also came with a side of fantastic service.

After that, I'm looking forward to telling you about Joshua and Monty and how they turned what could have been a less than stellar evening into an excellent example of how to make your customer feel appreciated. Customer service at its finest, courtesy of 801 Franklin.

Monday, February 25, 2008

They Tell 'Em Big at LyingHorn

This is a recurring topic here at I Paid For That but I’m finally posting a long overdue rant about butter sauce on my steak. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate butter. I just don’t want it on my steak. I’ll choose and apply my condiments myself, thank you very much.

A good steak doesn’t need butter. I’d rather save those calories/points for other things. If I can cut the extra and unneeded points and calories in some foods, I can use them for dessert or wine. I thought I’d solved my steak and butter issue at one restaurant.

As I’m a packrat in real life and electronically, I still had the following exchange in my email (edits to protect my privacy and save you some time reading). I left Mr. Livrieri's name in it, though, because an executive of this steakhouse can and should be able to Google himself and find out there's a big problem. It’s an account of my first run-in with the butter sauce and, I thought, resolution of that problem.

-----Original Message-----
From: Ima Wurdibitsch
Sent: Wednesday, October 01, 2003 10:49 PM
Subject: Our dinner at Longhorn tonight

Dear Longhorn,

First of all, I'd like to say that Longhorn is one of my favorite steakhouses. Great service, great food. I've asked to speak to the manager on several occasions to either praise a server or just thank them for a consistent job well done. I wish now that I had also written to you all about the wonderful meals I've had in your Huntsville, Alabama restaurant. I wish that because I hate the fact that the first letter I'm writing to you is a complaint.

My mother, daughter and I are all watching our weight so we order carefully (dressings and such on the side, lower calorie steak and side choices). As usual, the service was good and the salads excellent. However, when my steak came, I thought I got the wrong steak. There was a pale sauce that looked kind of like melted cheese on it. I asked the waitress what was on my steak and she told me it was a butter sauce that they always put on all the steaks and seasonal vegetables. I quickly scraped it off my steak to stop it from seeping further into it. I'm used to (and enjoy) the prairie dust that your chefs use but had never seen this butter sauce before. Your steaks are excellent! They don't need the butter sauce. My waistline certainly doesn't need it.

There was so much butter on my place when I finished my steak that I estimated it at somewhere between a quarter and a third of a cup! My dad found a manager and we asked him if that was normal and did they usually put all that stuff on the steaks. He verified what the waitress had said and told us that they've always put the butter sauce on their steaks and if I'd ever had a steak there any other way, someone in the kitchen had prepared it incorrectly.

The manager offered a free cheesecake dessert for our trouble. Ehm... I'm watching my weight! I didn't want compensation or a dessert or anything else. I just wanted to find out if that was normal and, if so, I'd know to order my food without the sauce.

So, to the point of my letter... What's the story? Is that policy? Butter sauce on the steaks? Or, did I get a manager who was merely backing up the waitress? Please let me know. And, aside from tonight, keep up the good work!!


Longhorn quickly responded.

On Thu, 2 Oct 2003 11:25:58 -0400 , Nina wrote :

Dear Ms. Wurdibitsch,

Thank you very much for contacting us regarding your visit to our Huntsville, AL., location. On behalf of LongHorn, I would like to apologize for your very disappointing experience. I have forwarded your e-mail to our Regional Vice President of Operations, Paul Livrieri, who would like to contact you personally to apologize and discuss your concerns. Is there a phone number where you can be contacted, at your convenience?

Again, our sincerest apologies and thank you for giving us the opportunity to respond.

Nina Lastname
Executive Assistant to the President/LongHorn Steakhouse

I responded as follows:

Dear Ms. Lastname,

Thank you for your quick reply to my comment. I'd like to re-emphasize that I usually have excellent dining experiences at LongHorn. Last night's meal was unusual. If Mr. Livrieri would like to speak to me, I should be in my office for most of the afternoon. He can reach me here by dialing XXX-XXX-XXXX.


Mr. Livrieri did indeed contact me and informed me that Longhorn does put “love” (aka a butter sauce) on all of their steaks. However, he assured me that all I needed to do was request that my steak be prepared without it. He sent a gift certificate nice enough for our entire family to eat again at Longhorn.

We continued going to Longhorn for years. It worked out for family occasions because it is somewhat family friendly and everyone can find something they like. I also liked their quick response and what seemed to be a real dedication to customer care and service.

We don’t go there anymore.

There were a few times that I noticed butter sauce on my steak and I did send it back but that wasn’t it. It’s what happened the last time we ate there.

MrWurdi and I went for what I thought was a Weight Watcher (and Core plan) friendly meal. My steak arrived with a pool of butter sauce. The waitress apologized and said she told the kitchen “no love.” The manager arrived at our table a few minutes later. In a far too long and drawn out speech full of blame-shifting and excuses, he finally got to the point. He told me “The Longhorn Secret.” Most of their steaks aren’t cooked on a grill. All but two of the steaks are cooked on a hot griddle-like surface. The cook ladles a big scoop of butter sauce onto the griddle, cooks the steak, ladles more butter sauce, flips the steak and then after plating it, puts more butter sauce on it. According to this manager, that’s what makes their steaks so good. Bullshit.

“So, what you’re telling me is that all these years that I’ve been asking for my steak with no butter, I may not have gotten the extra ladle-full after cooking but they’ve been prepared with the butter?” I asked.

“Well, the steak would stick to the griddle if we didn’t use the sauce! And don’t we have wonderful steaks?” He wasn’t getting it. I think he could sense my annoyance by this point. He finally said that I could ask to have my steak cooked on the grill in the future.

I don’t think so. Basically, I’d been lied to for years. They no longer get my business.

Butter sauce. I paid for that but not anymore.

Monday, February 18, 2008

I Have A Bone To Pick...

We’re such rebels. We celebrated Valentine’s Day on Saturday instead of last Thursday. My parents had given us a gift card to one of their favorite restaurants, Bonefish. We’d taken them there for their anniversary and the food was excellent so we were looking forward to it.

We’d made a reservation for 8:30 but ended up getting there a little bit early so we had to wait. The joint was hopping. We overheard the gal at the door tell those arriving without a reservation that the wait was an hour and a half.

Our table was, in my opinion, one of the best in the house. It was in a corner; it was quiet. Perfect for the romantic, date night dinner we were anticipating.

Chris, our waiter, made his appearance. He seemed to be a nice fellow and took our drink orders (tea for MrWurdi; a Hendricks martini – stirred and water with no ice for me). In a reasonable amount of time, considering how busy the restaurant was, he returned with the tea and water, chock full of ice. They were busy. I didn’t say anything. I fished my ice out of my glass with a fork and put it in MrWurdi’s tea.

When Chris returned later, much later, with our bread and my martini, I was impressed. Chris could have been an actor. He was smooth. There was no monotone recital of the ingredients in the olive oil (Italian butter, by his reckoning). He had this description down to an art form. It was interesting. Seriously. I am not at all being sarcastic. It was a great description of the oil. He probably could have recited the menu and it would have been entertaining. He was an actor and Bonefish his stage.

Since this isn’t one of our regular eating destinations, I was unfamiliar with the available sauces. I had to ask what was in the sauces before making a decision on which I’d prefer with my scallops and shrimp. Then, after I found out what was in them, I wanted to decide which of the available wines would best go with my dinner. I wanted to know if the steamed vegetables were simply steamed or if they were also buttered. Since they were buttered, I wanted to know if it was possible to get them without butter. You see, if they’re only available buttered, I’ll get one of the other sides and manage my portions.

Fortunately, the crowd had eased up at this point and it wasn’t all that busy anymore. Unfortunately for us, Chris, the handsome and entertaining actor/waiter, did not really want nor did he appreciate audience participation. This is where I began to feel like I was ordering my dinner from my car through a clown’s mouth. If you’re going to use the drive-through, it’s good to know what you’re going to order before you get to the clown’s mouth. You and the people behind you expect speed at a fast food restaurant. I don’t want to be rushed through my meal at a place with candlelight, linen napkins and a decent wine list. Chris rushed us through the ordering process and seemed rather impatient with my questions about the food. The audience isn’t supposed to care how the set was made.

When our meals arrived, our beverage glasses were empty and had been for a while. The wine was nowhere in sight. My steamed veggies were coated in buttery badness. The manager, Mr. Don Driscoll, had been working the room. He chose this moment to come and ask about our Bonefish experience. Err. When we, tactfully, told him, he not only asked what he could do to turn things around, he did it. He took both of our meals back to the kitchen (so we could both have hot meals at the same time) to get my veggies minus butter. Within a few moments, Chris was there with water and tea. Mr. Driscoll, himself, returned with our meals and my wine. Chris came back with more bread and was friendly and interacted with us. I’d made no mention of actor/audience, so this was a nice change.

A few notes on the menu items and food:
There are fourteen martinis offered on the menu. Not a single one contains gin.

I won’t order the Caesar salad there again. Powdery parmesan cheese is icky.

The bread was not good and I wasn’t interested in wasting Points on it.

MrWurdi’s dinner was Lily’s Chicken. A “fire-roasted chicken topped with creamy Chèvre Goat cheese, sautéed spinach, artichoke hearts and a lemon basil sauce.” It was fantastic. Chicken at a seafood place? I’d have never guessed it would be so good.

The steamed veggies, the veggie of the day (spaghetti squash), and my shrimp and scallops were delicious.

Chris failed to deliver on the requested ice cream with MrWurdi’s dessert. Fortunately, I just wanted a bite or two of my brownie so MrWurdi got my ice cream.

While Mr. Driscoll saved the experience for us, Chris hurt his tip with the first three-quarters of his service and only slightly redeemed himself in the end. We left 15% and a note to read this blog.

Service: I paid for that, just not as much as I normally would.
Management: Mr. Driscoll will be paid in future business.
Food: I paid for that, gladly.*

*Okay, Mom and Dad (with the gift card) and I (covering the balance) paid for that. Gladly.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Right, Left, Rights, Rights, Rights

Kate Hopkins at the Accidental Hedonist posted recently about A Diner’s Bill of Rights and a reciprocal, Restaurateur’s Bill of Rights. I like both and, of course, have comments about them.

Leslie Kelly, a writer for the Seattle Post Intelligencer, compiled the Diner’s Bill of Rights below:
• Diners deserve to be treated courteously, to be greeted warmly at the door and thanked on the way out.
• Diners deserve to be waited on by a properly trained staff working in a properly staffed dining room.
• Diners deserve to hear the list of specials with the price included. Don't make us ask.
• Diners deserve to be addressed as anything other than the generic "guys," as in "What can I bring you guys?" to a table full of women. Ladies and gentlemen is fine. Ma'am and sir may seem retro-stiff, but let's bring it back.
• Diners deserve to be treated as guests, not as if they're burdens. No water glass should go dry, nor dirty dish be left long after the last bite has been taken. No diner's butchered pronunciation of a dish should be corrected. Eyes definitely should not be rolled.
• Single diners deserve a prime table, too, not a spot in Siberia.
• Diners deserve to be satisfied with their meals. When a member of the waitstaff asks "Is everything tasting wonderful?" and it's not, the diner has the right to say so and have that complaint addressed promptly. It's important that a restaurant be given the chance to make it right.
• Diners deserve to determine the pace of the meal. If you'd like to linger over appetizers before ordering entrees, say so. Don't bring the main course while I'm in the middle of my salad. If diners are pressed for time, trying to make a play or a concert and they let the wait staff know in advance, the guests shouldn't have to go hunting for the server to deliver the bill.

The only one I really disagree with is "Diners deserve to be treated as guests, not as if they're burdens. No water glass should go dry, nor dirty dish be left long after the last bite has been taken. No diner's butchered pronunciation of a dish should be corrected. Eyes definitely should not be rolled."

Please, don't take my dish quickly or hover over me waiting for me to be finished. Please, don't take my companion's dish before I'm finished. Both make me feel rushed. Please wait until all the diners at the table are finished with the course and then take our dishes. You may politely, tactfully, correct my mispronunciation. A roll of your eyes will decimate your tip.

Kate, the Accidental Hedonist, responded with the Restaurateur’s Bill of Rights:
• A restaurant has the right to expect that a person who makes a reservation, will be on time for that reservation, and not show up twenty minutes early or twenty minutes late and still expect to be seated.
• A restaurant has the right to expect the customers to not steal napkins, silverware, salt and pepper shakers or anything else that does not belong to the customer.
• A restaurant has the right to expect the customers are respectful of other eaters on the premises.
• A restaurant has the right to question anyone who has eaten over half of a meal and then send it back saying they don't like it and they won't pay for it.
• A restaurant has the right to question anyone who demands a seat on a busy Saturday by claiming they know the chef or owner of the restaurant.
• A restaurant has the right to refuse service to anyone who orders something that is not on the menu. This includes making "chicken fingers" for little Johnny.

I completely agree with Kate's Bill of Rights, especially customers being respectful of other customers. Recently, DO and I ate at a restaurant where we had to raise our voices significantly to hear one another. We were seated rather closely. It was, supposedly, a nicer restaurant.

Kate’s full article can be found at The Accidental Hedonist.

I am behind on several blog posts of my own and hope to have several for you next week, including the two from my Coming Attractions post.

Friday, August 31, 2007

There's Something Fishy About This Place

DO and I planned our trip carefully. We'd be coming through Birmingham on the way home and I'd been telling him about this great place called The Grape since I'd eaten there one year earlier. We decided to stay the night and DO reserved a room at the Tutwiler. After a rather disconcerting welcome at the Tutwiler, we settled in, rested for a while, then took the hotel shuttle down to the 5 Points area.

Much to our disappointment, The Grape was closed for renovations and we didn't want to go to their other location so we strolled around for a while trying to come up with a Plan B. Our favorite pizza place, the Mellow Mushroom, is in the area but neither of us were in the mood for pizza. Our tastebuds had been preparing for something a little different.

The Sekisui Pacific Rim Sushi Bistro and Beyond restaurant looked interesting so we went there. While the decor was rather cool, the temperature of the restaurant was not. It was muggy.

I decided to have cold saki instead of my normal favorite. I'd not yet tried the Sayuri and was pleasantly surprised. It was great. Served in a pink bottle, concern about it remaining cool necessitated a request for a container of ice in which to keep it.

The menu was interesting. None of the sakes were listed and some of the available salads weren't. The conch salad was on the menu but wasn't available. DO ordered a chicken teriyaki for an appetizer and I had the seaweed salad.

I was surprised to see that a sushi place had foie gras on the menu. I love foie gras but even the mango salsa served with it wasn't enough to make me comfortable eating foie at a sushi restaurant. It just didn't seem right, somehow.

The toro sushi wasn't listed on the menu, either, but there was a card on the table that did show it. We asked our server, Randles, if it was available. It was. I was thrilled. As I've mentioned before, we don't exactly live in a culinary mecca. To find toro sushi and foie gras within 100 miles of home was unexpected and delightful. I ordered the toro along with albacore and my standard spicy tuna. DO was thrilled to see they had a volcano roll and hoped that it would be similar to the excellent ones he'd had in Gulfport and Pensacola. California roll, a crunchy shrimp roll, and tamagoyaki (omelet sushi) completed our order.

The seaweed salad was excellent. The combination of flavors and the addition of shrimp and a ponzu sauce made it different than other seaweed salads I've had. There was also a bed of sliced cucumber under the seaweed that added to the already nice mix of textures and flavors. DO's teriyaki chicken was, well, teriyucky. At least in my opinion. If it hadn't been called teriyaki, it probably would have been fine. There was no sweetness to the sauce. All savory and no sweetness does not a teriyaki make.

The sushi arrived some time later. The plate was nice looking but didn't match the artistry we've seen at Phuket. I planned my sushi attack carefully. Light flavors first, stronger flavors later, and a bite of volcano roll at the end was my plan. I decided to have the toro first. I'd never had it before but have been looking forward to it ever since I first read about it at Slashfood and The Delicious Life. Prepared to be amazed, I took a bite. I was apathetic. It wasn't cold. It wasn't even cool. It was kind of room temperature and the room, as I mentioned earlier, was muggy. Muggy sushi, especially muggy raw sushi makes me nervous. Ever adventurous, I moved forward. I tried the albacore. Albawarm. Spicy tuna? Spicy tepid. The volcano roll was tasty but certainly not traditional. As I told DO, it made me think, "Funnel cake sushi."

The service was fair, if a bit slow for the crowd. However, Randles earned her more than 20% when she noticed which sushi had been left on the plate and I told her that warm raw sushi made me nervous. She went over and talked to the sushi chef. I wasn't trying to avoid paying for our food and think I made that clear. If it had been enough of a problem, I would have sent it back.

All in all, while we probably won't go back, I don't mind that I Paid For That.

~I Paid For That Bonus~
After DO and I left the restaurant, we wandered back toward The Grape and called the hotel to request a shuttle. While we waited, we were approached by a rather unkempt fellow who seemed to be struggling with staying upright. He walked right up to DO saying, "You're a tall man... A big guy... I wouldn't want to run up on you in a dark alley."

"You don't worry about a thing when you're with him, do you? He takes good care of you, doesn't he? I bet you take good care of him, too?" This guy was good.

An older fellow, he assured us that he was already quite drunk and was not asking for money for more alcohol but would like to buy a sandwich. Before he actually asked for money, he conversed for a while.

He talked about his interest in history and when on to name several Caesars. He wasn't at all threatening and was actually rather interesting. He finished up his little conversation with us by addressing DO.

"You got a good woman there. You better hang on to her. If you ever let her go, you'll regret it for the rest of your life. It don't matter how many other women you get, not one of them will ever measure up to her."

I gave him a handful of change. DO getting that kind of advice? I don't have the least bit of problem that I Paid for That.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Preview of Coming Attractions

Coming soon to a blog near you....

LyingHorn Steakhouse
The quest for a butter-free steak continues.

There's Something Fishy About This Place!
Don't judge a book by its cover.


It Was the Grille of the Moment
And another moment and another moment and still another moment! How good could it get? Tune in and find out!