Know when to walk away, know when to run
Eating at an unfamiliar restaurant in Salem can sometimes feel like a gamble. I've driven by the Maui Grill on 25th Street, south of McGilchrist across from the airport, and I've always wanted to go. Hawaiian food on a dreary winter afternoon, would hopefully, brighten my family's mood. As we walked through the front door, the smell of the fryer permeated through the dining room. It was as if the ventilation in the kitchen wasn't sucking all the air out like it was supposed to. I can tolerate that, maybe they're getting some food ready for a busy lunch crowd. My family sits down and I head to the bathroom. On the way, just outside the door of the john, is a couple six packs of opened bottles, just sitting on the hallway floor. Maybe an employee was in a hurry and didn't have time to get the bottles into the recycle bin. Not horrible, not great. I wasn't giving up on my Hawaiian dreams that easily. What I needed was bright colors and thoughts of a warm ocean, teaming with life, rushing over a sandy beach. To my amazement, in the bathroom, I found a large plastic bouquet with orchids and birds of paradise atop a table behind the door. It was surrounded with shells and because of the surprise, it brought a smile to my face. The oddity of the location of this arrangement would surely be something I could talk about on the blog. As I headed back to the table, I noticed my family didn't have the same smiles that I had. My wife said "this place is freezing cold." I suggested that she take a look in the women's bathroom, maybe the magic flowers could change her mood. She looked at me like I was crazy. I said "let's get out of here," but the waitress had already brought waters to the table. I quickly glanced at the menu and noticed that we were going to pay $8-$10 a person for lunch in a freezing, smoky, dirty(recyclables on the floor), restaurant. We stood up grabbed the kids and without saying anything more, got the heck out of there. I still think this could be a good restaurant but we were there at a bad time. We wound up going to Flight Deck and had a great experience. This is a good discussion starter for this blog because we've all walked into a restaurant and had a bad feeling right away. Usually we do a scouting mission, where one of us walks in and looks around while the rest of us sit in the car. The scout comes back with a report about cleanliness, atmosphere, prices and kid friendliness. The last thing you want to have happen is you sit down and order, because you feel guilty about leaving, and the meal is terrible. You can't always tell if a restaurant is going to be good in the first couple of minutes, it's kind of like judging a book by it's cover, but when a book is bad, after the first chapter, you can stop reading. At a restaurant, you have to complete the meal after you order. Recently a reader sent me this post about her restaurant nightmare and I thought it was a good example of the conflicting feelings a customer goes through when after they order, they realize they made a mistake. Tell us your restaurant horror stories and what you do to avoid paying for a bad meal.