Art Basel is No Excuse to Screw the Locals: Joey's Gives Us the Cold Shoulder
Joey's rigatoni with radicchio in a "4-formaggi" sauce.
I feel like restaurant roadkill after a sad experience Tuesday night when I attempted to eat at one of my favorite neighborhood spots, Joey's in Wynwood. I was ousted from a table by people who were identified as "the owner's friends" just prior to being seated. Now, I completely understand that Joey's and WKB had a pretty full plate business-wise due to the opening of Wynwood Walls, and I truly admire the Goldmans' longstanding efforts on behalf of Wynwood's evolution.
Nevertheless, it's not good to alienate locals during Art Basel. In fact, it's even more important when juggling big names and small ones, to ensure that everyone dining in your restaurant receives fair treatment. So how do I know that my party got shoved aside? Well, we were the only ones waiting when these "friends" walked in the door without a reservation, seeking a table, which owner Joey Goldman, who was at the restaurant, facilitated for them.
We had literally JUST been informed by the hostess that our table was ready, they were resetting, and it would "be one minute." As these "friends" were standing right next to us, we had the joy of hearing the words, "Don't worry, don't worry, it's all taken care of." Then they were quickly ushered onto the last available seating in the place, out on the terrace. It was the exact table promised to us.
I think that perhaps when
seating snafus like this occur, staff is eager to look the other way
rather than deal with a pissed off patron. The reality is that my party
could have easily been placated with an apology, a glass of wine, and the
promise of the next open seats in the house, or even a reservation next door. Unfortunately, we were completely ignored after this occurred. One member of my group finally decided to chase down the hostess to find out what was up. At this point, we had been waiting a long time.
The mortified hostess said that she was "so very sorry, but the owner's friends were seated at that table." She looked genuinely upset, pointed out a two-top and said that
she was going to seat us there, but that the manager said "they
are not allowed to," which made sense. The additional chairs would have made it difficult to walk in that corner of the restaurant. There was nothing else available.
The Goldmans are highly respected pioneers in the Wynwood restaurant movement and I consider them to be the most committed to making their local clientele happy. Joey and Jessica Goldman were quite upset to hear when I called yesterday, and explained that the manager Yuri Tuma, who was bussing
tables because they were so busy, wasn't at the front
working the door.
"We would never want to offend our bread and butter crowd, especially
during the busy season, whether she is a journalist or not, the last
thing I would want to do is turn away my regular customer. My business
thrives on repeat customers, we feel terrible,
whether she was from the Miami New Times or Joe-somebody from Miami
Beach, we treat people equally."
They did say that the hostess was "not
equipped to handle what was going on in the restaurant" and that there was a miscommunication because she had been very confused. I do believe that maybe she didn't effectively explain to the manager that she had a party waiting who had been told that they were being seated imminently. I do not believe that she was at all confused about the situation and just had no clue how to handle things, I think she covered because she knew we had seen the table being given away. My most sincere hope is that she doesn't get in trouble.
Bottom line? Power plays do happen, and apparently, they happen at Joey's. Basel does get tricky, but I'll bet everyone will be getting top notch service at Joey's from here on out. No one likes an unhappy customer who feels the need to rant about it (least of all, me, no really).
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