And now, a short rant....
Restaurants of Chicago: train your hostesses! They're often your first point of contact, and therefore your first line of defense, between your restaurant and your customer. If your hostess sucks, the (now one time) customer’s entire dining experience can be tainted.
All that effort you put into developing your menu? Gone. All that money you spent attracting the perfect executive chef? Wasted. All that time expended painstakingly training your wait staff? Worthless.
While it seems obvious that few diners actually enjoy interacting with a twenty-something-year-old hostess who thinks she’s the hottest/coolest/most hipster-est of all hostesses, there seems to be a pandemic of hostess issues in Chicago. Fact is, when we decide to spend our hard earned money eating out, we actually expect to be treated better than if we were at home. But it seems this truism time and again falls on deaf ears.
Even worse than a d-bag hostess, however, is one who simply fails at her job. Unfortunately, this was the case on a random weeknight at Farmhouse in River North. I had 6:30 reservations, so when my friends and I walked in (on time), there were plenty of empty tables to spare. Despite this, our easily distractible hostess, who had no one else waiting for a table, awkwardly left us waiting for an extended time before seating us. When she finally had us follow her to our table, she took us upstairs, past more empty tables, and back, back, back to the very last four top right next to the bathroom. And while being hidden in the back of the restaurant was certainly less than desirable, the real issue was that the table happened to be next to an extremely loud, large group of people, and we could not hear a thing.
We tracked down a waitress and asked to be moved. She immediately ran downstairs to speak with the hostess, and upon returning told us to wait upstairs, promising the hostess would be right with us. So we took ourselves to the upstairs bar (where we were never offered a drink from the "attending" bar tender), and we wait. And wait. And wait. Finally, now somewhat miffed, I go downstairs to speak (nicely, I promise) to our harried hostess.
"We're just having a hard time getting you in," she tells me.
I gesture to the empty tables surrounding us, "I don't quite understand, considering half the tables here are empty."
"Well, those are all reserved, and we expect the reservations soon."
Really? Was this chick serious? "We have reservations," I remind her, "and we are waiting right here."
"I guess you could sit here," she huffed, exasperated, pointing to a nearby downstairs booth. Which was perfect. Or at least it would have been 15 minutes ago.
The rest of our experience at Farmhouse was very nice. We could hear one another, I had draft wine for the first time, our waiter was delightful, there was a large craft beer and gin selection, and I thought my pan-roasted whitefish served with lushy lava beans was quite good. But this, and the all-so-important farm to table concept of the restaurant, was all overshadowed by the hostess experience.
Hopefully, it was our hostess's first night on the job and she was still getting her sea legs. If that were the case, I would actually feel bad about this rant complaining of a newbie. After all, it is no secret that working in the service industry is difficult (in fact, it’s why I use my law and not culinary arts degree in “real” life). But the fact remains that being a hostess is an incredibly important position, one that I’m afraid Farmhouse (and other Chicago restaurants) has definitely overlooked.
Try Farmhouse at 228 W. Chicago Ave.