Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Bracco: WTF*

Bracco on Urbanspoon

WTF = What The Fork??!! I know what you thought it meant, but decorum demands otherwise. For the purposes of this blog, WTF is going to denote some unexpected screw up that I feel a need to air.

So, on a Tuesday evening in the not-so-distant past a friend and I head to Bracco for a little dinner. Tuesday is "Neighborhood Night" at Bracco which means burgers and some other sandwich are half-price. Actually, anyone who knows anything about dining in Sioux Falls should know that Tuesday night half-price burgers is almost a mandatory feature at most eateries around town. The place is busy. Dining room full, people standing around waiting for tables full. We're told the wait is like 40 minutes- that's a long time, but they serve alcohol at Bracco, so this is only a 2 to 3 beer wait in reality. Off to the bar with the little remote control buzzer in hand.

All tables in the bar are full. Fortunately, there are three barstools available. Unfortunately, they are randomly dispersed. Come on, people, when a bar is busy you don't need an empty seat buffer zone. Squeeze together so other people can sit down. We finally get some barstools rounded up. That was nice. What wasn't so nice was a wait of about 10 minutes to place a drink order. I am pretty understanding about brief delays in getting a drink when a place is busy, but I cannot abide a lack of acknowledgement. I also won't yell at wait staff to serve me. I prefer to look desparate in an effort to make them feel guilty- which usually works.

With the drink order, we ordered a flat bread, figuring we were going to be waitng another 30 minutes for a table. The flat bread rocketed out of the kitchen and was good- as expected. We decide to go ahead and eat at the bar and relinquish our spot in line for a table. No problem there. Because the bar at Bracco is so nice and because the place is smoke free, I actually prefer the bar to a table in the dining room. Bracco is an interesting place in that respect. In my opinion, Bracco is not a restaurant that happens to have a nifty bar area- vis a vis Spezia or Minervas. Bracco is a phenomenal bar that just happens to have a dining area.

We placed an order- burgers. Why not? It was Tuesday and those are the special. What wasn't special was the wait and what eventually arrived. My burger seemed fine. My friend ordered a Mushroom Cheddar burger. That's something relatively new to the menu. It consists of a burger served open-faced on what appeared to be a slice of wheat bread straight out of a plastic sack from the grocery store and covered in mushroom gravy. Underneath that gravy was a cold burger. Hardly worth the long wait. The bartender graciously took it back and offered to bring out a fresh one. I was thinking: You betcha. That sucker is going into the jukebox (microwave oven) because it took 30 minutes to get out here.

The new burger came out pretty fast though and it didn't appear to be the old one freshened up by the miracles of radio wave energy. I could tell that for sure because the musrooms in the gravy appeared to be barely cooked.

Granted my burger seemed fine- I got one that came on a bun and with fries. No gravy. But I got to thinking, "Hey, you don't suppose those meatheads in the kitchen have a bunch of pre-cooked burgers laying around that they are slapping together for the special." That shouldn't have been the case because it took too long to get them out in the first place.

Curiously, in the time we were there- maybe about an hour, the crowd had subsided substantially. The dining room was starting to empty out and the crowd in the bar was disappating. Considering it was a Tuesday, people probably mob the place for dinner and then rush back home. Weenies. Tuesday is as good a night as any to sit around and drink beer.

This recent trip to Bracco highlighted several things about what a dining experience at any decent place should be and what it should not be.

  • If a restaurant cannot manage decent service at a peak time, it probably needs to re-think its operation. People don't open a place to be constantly half-ass busy. Snappy service turns tables and that sells covers. Get it moving.
  • Get the food right for crying out loud. Those burgers should be great and spot on. Hot. Fresh. Juicy. You're slipping. Get on it.
  • Don't copy other place's food. That mushroom cheddar burger is a failed copy cat of similar burgers at Tinner's, Spezia and Minerva's. You really cannot put an "island twist" on the Tinner's pub burger mainly because you cannot really screw with a hot burger under a mound of hot gravy and mashed potatoes- so why try?

Don't get me wrong. Bracco is a great joint and I will definitely be back, but probably not on a Tuesday.

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