By David Minsky
By Jen Mangham
By Bill Wisser
By Laine Doss
By Bill Wisser
By Dana De Greff
By Laine Doss
By Zachary Fagenson
A good way to measure the health of our economy is by the number of high-end restaurants that have opened or are scheduled to open around town. We're not slumping. Already here are Baleen, Soyka, Ortanique, Coco Pazzo, Beatlenut, the News Room, and a second Grillfish; on the way should be Bambu, the new Strand, and Mayya in the Albion, just to name a few.
But more classy eateries doesn't mean more better service. In Manhattan, for instance, good waiters don't multiply, they just trade places. According to a recent New York Times article, "New York is in the throes of what people in the business describe as an escalating skilled-labor crisis. The dearth has led not only to headhunting but also to outright poaching. Luring waiters to work in new luxury eating places, managers are resorting to sweeteners ranging from fully paid health benefits and paid vacations to 401(k) retirement plans and free vouchers for meals in other top restaurants."
In Miami the pickings are slimmer. Even at the finest establishments, service can be spotty. The only solution I can think of (and I think of it often) would be to set up a school for would-be waitstaff. A place where naifs could be turned into savvy servers. Perhaps if there were a standard by which all were judged, the profession would gain more respect and would attract more qualified people.
60 Merrick Way (just off Douglas Road and Miracle Mile), Coral Gables; 3057741883.
www.miamiblues.com. Open daily 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m.
4 Grove Isle Drive
Coconut Grove, FL 33133
Region: Coconut Grove
278 Miracle Mile
Coral Gables, FL 33134
Region: South Dade
Satchmo burger $7.95
Blackened dolphin $11.95
Koko's Oriental chicken salad $9.95
Apple strudel $5.95
I digress, for any amount of training would have helped on a recent Saturday night at Satchmo Blues Bar & Grill, a new restaurant in the Gables named after Louis Armstrong (whose nickname, Satchmo, was short for satchel mouth).
After finding parking in an illegal spot across the street from the hopping scene on Merrick Way, my husband and I approached the sleek, rounded building where we ran into some acquaintances sipping drinks at one of Satchmo's outside tables. They warned us that the wait to get inside, where Joey Gilmore, a ripping blues bard was playing, would be long. We glanced inside and saw that throngs of patrons stood vulturelike over the packed tables waiting to swoop in for a seat. We weren't up for the competition; we were hungry. So we decided to join our friends at the quiet and comfortable (if a bit warm) table alfresco.
After ten minutes or so the waitress came by to take our drink orders (we found out later, when we tried to track her down to get our bill, that her name was Maria). The conversation went something like this.
Maria: "Hello. Would you like to drink something?"
Me: "What kinds of wine do you have by the glass?"
Maria: "Wines? Uuhmm. Red or white?"
Maria: "Okay," and, turning to my husband, "for you, sir?" After explaining that I wanted to choose a type of red and asked for the wine list, she scurried away and returned a few minutes later with a one-page photocopied sheet featuring five generic reds by the glass. My husband was as successful.
My husband: "Do you have any nonalcoholic beer?"
Maria: "Oh, yes," and she pointed to the appetizer section of the menu. "The calamari is really good."
My husband: "No, no. I want beer. Without alcohol?"
Maria: "Oh, no, we don't have that."
Me: "Actually I think you do. I ordered it the last time I was here."
Maria: "We do? Really? I don't think so."
I'll spare the details of ordering food.
One entrée came out before the appetizers and then, when the starters had arrived, the second entrée showed up, with no space left on the table. I sent it back to the kitchen, unsure if I would ever see it again. It did come back but the rest of the night was just as frustrating despite the decent food and great music inside. So I won't go into how, after the meal, we were brusquely stopped at the door with a grunt that sounded something like "five dollars," (apparently even diners have to pay the weekend cover charge); how my husband was left waiting outside for our dinner check for more than fifteen minutes, and then barked at by two people when he came to join me inside to hear the music; how our coffee was burnt and how our dessert arrived with no fork.
The truth is, despite the rude treatment we received on a busy Saturday night, we would go back again to catch a band, maybe even to eat.
The casual menu offers a good lineup of salads and the requisite finger food such as chicken wings, fried calamari, and conch fritters. Salads were especially good. The Koko's Oriental chicken salad was crisp and refreshing, perfect for the steamy evening. Served in a large bowl, the mixed baby greens and herbs were layered with thin, crunchy noodles and large chunks of tender, grilled chicken breast. The beautifully composed dish was dressed delicately with a subtle mixture of ginger, sesame, and lemon grass. On the less healthy side of the menu were Cajun chicken wings, which were meaty and peppery. We ordered six but received (and were charged for) twelve. Aargh! The moist and crunchy wings and legs were tasty, and though they were large, we managed to finish most of them, dunked into the standard blue cheese dressing.