City Winery

Sun. December 9, 2012 12:00 AM
by Rick Karlin

Oh, City Winery, how I wanted to enjoy your klezmer brunch. I went the first week you were open and it was a nightmare. It took forever to get our food and then when it arrived the order was all wrong and the items that weren't burnt were undercooked. That was six months ago, you'd just opened, so I held my tongue and gave you time to settle in before I came back for a review.

I thought, "Why not check out the Hanukkah edition of the klezmer brunch? Surely, they've worked out the kinks by now." Imagine my delight when we arrived and saw that it was now a buffet brunch. "At least we won't be subjected to a horrendously long time for our food."

So we found a table near the back of the room (so we could hear ourselves over the WAY TOO LOUD klezmer music), and headed up to the buffet. The first chafing dish advertised latkes, one of my husband's favorites. Guess what? No latkes. So, we moved down to the next item; challah French toast. Okay, things were looking better. Then, the buffet line stopped. The lox and bagel section of the buffet had a nice selection of bagels, and a four-slice toaster. A four-slice toaster for a place that seats 100 people? We figured we'd come back later and moved down to the omelet station. One cook for a place that seats 100 people?!? Some serious planning issues are going on here. I went back for the lox and bagels while my husband waited in line to place his omelets order.

We headed to our seats. The lox is pretty good, the bagels, while not toasted are at least warmed. The challah French toast is tasty, although the syrup is watery. 30 minutes later, still no omelets, so we head up to the buffet again. The latkes have arrived and they are – wait for it -- hash browns cut into circles with a biscuit cutter. The lox platter is filled with scraps and ends and no one seems to be taking notice of what's missing on the buffet. We head back to our table, stopping by the bar to get a couple of drinks. Bloody Mary mix and Tropicna, both served right out of the bottle.

After 45 minutes the omelets finally arrives and it's – wait for it -- scrambled eggs with veggies. We give up and head over to the coffee-dessert bar. Tucked into a small corner so that people who have waited in line and gotten to the back of the corner for their coffee have to climb over those trying to enter so that they can head back to their table. The coffee was tepid, no hot water for tea. At least the rugelah was fresh and flavorful.

In 30+ years reviewing restaurants I have never seen such ineptness and downright stupidity. It ain't rocket science folks; if you look at your dining room and you see no one is sitting at the tables near the stage, your music is too loud. You might want to adjust the sound system to accommodate the different audiences for your concerts and brunches.You invest in a toaster that can handle more than four bagels at a time. Hell, if the folks at Motel 6 can invest in a conveyer toaster so can you. You have platters and chafing dish pans ready to replace the ones on the buffet when they run low. You don't wait until folks are scraping the last remnants from the plate. You don't set up a buffet line that dead-ends in a corner. Oh, and when you remove the dirty plates and silverware from in front of a diner, you replace the silverware, the guests should not have to go to another table and pick up a clean place setting

Any one of these flaws might be able to be overlooked, but not so many, and especially when the place is only operating at about half capacity. The original outpost of City Winery, in New York City, opened about 5 years ago. I hope the people running it there know what they're doing, because these folks don't have a clue.

City Winery
1200 W Randolph