Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Taste of Thailand Downtown Minneapolis

Who's got two thumbs and likes to party? This guy!
(Notice, how every picture I have of him involves a beverage.)

My occasional drinking buddy and often time cancel-er of the fun plans ditched out on me for drinks tonight. He's got to go watch his nieces dance in their recital. What single, bass fishin', basketball playin', Financial type dude does that? Well, he has been with his lovely girlfriend Heidi for quite some time now. She keeps him honest and was the one who helpfully reminded him that he'd committed to being in two places at one time.

To make up for it, he offered to bribe me with free lunch. I should have suggested Vincent, but instead offered up Taste of Thailand. I've been there a few times for lunch before and the food was always yummy. The problem is the service is so bad, it's kind of comical. This visit was no exception.

We arrived at about the same time and were promptly seated. I ordered a Thai iced coffee and he a Diet Coke. We hadn't seen each other for a while and had a lot of catching up to do (and I was mercilessly teasing him about canceling the happy hour.) The waitress came back three times to take our order, but we were too busy gabbing to decide. She brought me back a Thai Iced tea, which was not what I wanted, but I figured - coffee/tea, not a big difference. Suck it up and drink it. It was really watered down and soupy. Not as good as the times I've ordered it previously. Oh, well.

Kro ordered a simple stir fry, veggies and chicken. I ordered number 44, the shrimp in curry sauce on a bed of lettuce. About 10 minutes later Jim's Diet Coke finally showed up. This is when the two server girls seemed to completely lose control of the room. A plate of food came out and was placed at the large table next to us. Then, another. Then they both disappeared into the kitchen. The entire time we were there, I only saw these two young, punkish girls working the entire place, which was pretty full for lunch. Eventually, another plate came out to the big table. I noticed that what they were bringing out to the big table were not appetizers, but entrees.

By now, I'm about ready to gnaw my arm off. I hadn't had much for breakfast and our catching up time had really screwed up our ordering. I need to remember - order first, talk later! When our food did show up, I couldn't believe what I got. It was, in all fairness, exactly what I ordered. 7 shrimps, in curry sauce, on four pieces of wilted iceberg lettuce. I don't know what I was expecting. I guess, for the $12.90 the dish was priced out at, I thought that there'd at least be a bell pepper or something to punch up the food factor. They set down one small ramekin of rice and practically ran away. Jim looked from me to the rice to my plate to the rice again. "Is that supposed to be for you or for me? Because... I could really use more rice than that."

The one girl came out and put down another plate of food at the big table, while I was waving at her. The guy at the end of the table looked at her mournfully. He was the only person who had yet to get any food. About half the people were already done with their lunches. I felt bad for him as the waitress promised she'd get his food and disappeared again.

I went back to eating my shrimps. The stomach growled and rolled over. Jim skewered a broccoli floret and tried not to watch. His abundant bowl just sat there, mocking me.

Eventually, I was able to get us another little bowl of rice and had enough rice to make the growling stop. The tab had been brought to us shortly after our food was laid down, but we'd again been talking too much and missed our opportunity to pay.

When we approached the front of the restaurant, I was wondering why this large group of people was staring at the blank plasma TV on the wall. It was actually that they were mobbing the one poor waitress trying to work the credit card machine. It was like something out of a George Romero movie. I'd already seen one guy just walk out of the restaurant. Another angry customer was waving his bill around, "Could you please just take this? We really have to go. Wait - here's cash."

"That probably won't be any faster. We don't have any change." She took his bill and credit card.

I nudged Jimbo, "You know... We could probably just go..." Honest Abe looked at me. My heart rate picked up. "They'd never know.... We could be at Cold Stone Creamery drowning our despair..." He scowled at me, but I could tell he was considering it. I have only once in my life dined and ditched and it took me about 3 years to get over the guilt. Still, the thrill trickled down the back of my neck. Just then, the other girl popped out of the kitchen and took his card. Dammit!

I watched the guy who was the last to get served at the big table. He was standing at the back of their group, holding a large Styrofoam container. I think I saw a tear in the corner of his eye.

She came back with the check. "So, how was everything?"

Jim said, "Fine."

I said, "You know, I think $12.90 for seven shrimp on a piece of iceberg lettuce seems a bit much. I know you don't have anything to do with that but..."

"Yeah, I'd never served served that before... It looked a little deflated." Jim's pen hovered over the tip line as she stared him down.

"You guys sure seemed busy." I offered.

"Yeah, we really need to get someone else in here. Your service was a little... slow?"

"Yeah, we really have to get back." She was intently watching Jim and sort of leaning over toward him. His hand shook as he finally scribbled down a number and ran out the door.

I was laughing as I caught up with him, "You have to appreciate her tipping technique."

He's so far told at least 7 people about this experience. And, with that giant pissed off mob from table 9, I wonder how much longer this place can limp along? I predict that by the end of the year they'll be forced to close. I would like to think they'll get it together, but there have been problems every single time I've dined there. Oh, well, there's always sword wielding Brazilians next door, happy to serve you.

(Up next, I eat at Fogo de Chao. Will I over load at the salad bar and be too comatose to appreciate the mounds of red meat? Will my trademark clumsiness lead me to being impaled by the Prime Rib server? Can I get through the meal without laughing at the puffy pants? Stay tuned...)


At 10:44 AM , Blogger Eve said...

You didn't tell us what he tipped *laughs*. 10% 15% or was the pressure too great and he went for 20%? It's really a moral dilemma. The waitstaff need to pay their bills and it isn't necessarily their fault that everything went wrong but... the tip is for adequate/good service and it might be best to let the waitstaff know sooner rather than later.

At 11:24 AM , Blogger Joy Estelle said...

I couldn't tell! It was like trying to cheat off of someone's S.A.T.
It was hilarious, because it was obvious that she knew the experience sucked and she was defintely going to shame him into a decent tip. I guess that was part of her punk rock style. I liked her in spite of being hungry and late.

At 12:08 PM , Anonymous jimmy K said...

~13%. with look was very longing. i think she winked at me too though after saying, "service today... pretty slow?"

Funny, why would you hang your dirty laundry like that. would be kind of like saying: "I took a dump in my pants... smells bad huh?"

At 2:24 PM , Anonymous dinky said...

you probably need to make a phone call and complain to the manager or the owner of the restaurant. It seems the restaurant is very unorganized and the waiters seems are not trained properly or ,that, the system there sucks!!

At 2:13 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know those 2 girls no longer work there. With the exception of the Bar Manager and the guy working on Sundays, the entirety of the front of house staff has changed. I know this because I am said bar manager. I agree the staff we used to have sucked, but finding good help is difficult. Our staff has improved ten-fold since then, and I can almost guarantee you your expirience will be better should you choose to return.

At 6:07 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...


Even the entire staff has changed, the service is still the same and poor. The previous waiters probably quit due to no experience or they just got really exhausted working there. Either way, the bad, slow service is still unchanging.

Last time I was there, they 'did not have' some of the items in the menu. What kind of restaurant runs out on the ingredients? How do they keep their business up and running? On top of that, we could not change our order when we did not like it and worse, they charged us for it when 98% of the order was uneaten.

For some reasons, I feel they don't do anything to change it. At first, I wanted to blame the waiters for their experience though some of them were very good, however, on a second thought, since, how persistent the bad service is, the blames should be put on the entire management and ownership.

At 4:38 PM , Anonymous Hot Karl said...

I eat at Taste of Thailand every six weeks or so, when I'm downtown for work (I'm marooned up by Bemidji most of the time). I've seen other complaints on the interwebs remarking on slow service at ToT, but it's always been good to me, and the food has always been terrific.

Your mileage may vary.

At 11:37 AM , Blogger HellaBass said...

I just had a great lunch at ToT


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