Saturday, June 02, 2007

Mean words for Presidio Social Club

I can't help but point out a recurring theme in the reviews of Presidio Social Club: The service sort of really sucks!

And it sucks in the friendliest, nicest, most warm-spirited possible way, which goes a hell of a long way, as the consistently positive overall reviews of Presidio Social Club attest.

Listen to Josh Sens in San Francisco magazine:

Where the Social Club suffers is in its atrocious service, as bad as any I've encountered in a restaurant more ambitious than a Jack in the Box. To call the waiters AWOL would be too kind. On both occasions when I was at their mercy, they seemed to synchronize their passes by my table not to military time but to the travel patterns of rare comets. On their infrequent appearances, they were friendly but forgetful. Oh right, your cocktail. Ah yes, your sauteed spinach. Questions about the menu? The fish special, say, or the stock in the veal stew? Don't ask, because they won't tell.
That paragraph sure caught my attention, and stuck in my head even as Sens went on to give an overall "very good," two-of-four star review, apparently on the strength of the cocktails, desserts, and the staff's overall niceness.

So I decided to check around. Apparently Michael Bauer raised a similar, if more muted, critique of the service. He wrote that the staff were "seemingly inexperienced," failed to bring utensils and brought the wrong drinks.

But like Sens, Bauer was eventually won over by friendliness and desserts and cocktails, plus some fine (though uneven) entrees and apps.

Then there's KQED's food blog, where food writer Catherine Nash wrote, "Our waiter had the wink and swagger of a good ole boy, and I had to wonder if he was flirting or stealing nips from the bar since we rarely saw him." Bus boys and food runners were better than the waiter, plus desserts and cocktails were to die for -- you get the idea by now.

Not surprisingly, you can find similar critiques of the service at Presidio Social Club on the Web, if you look for them.

Funny me, but I can't imagine having worse-than-AWOL waiters on two different visits to the same restaurant, as Sens at SF magazine described, and then giving the place anything better than "good," at best. Especially if, like Sens, my review is published two and a half months after similar criticisms were aired in the Chronicle and a month after they were aired on the KQED food blog, giving the restaurant plenty of time to fix things, even taking into account long magazine lead times.

But then, I've never actually been to Presidio Social Club, which seems to have a Reality Distortion Field strong enough to impress Steve Jobs himself. As Nash put it, "the critic in me may have shrugged, but the rest of me had fallen in love."

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