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.

12 comments:

K & N said...

Oh geez, which nightmare to share . . .
Okay, here's the most recent:
Mike's Steakhouse had just closed and N had heard a rumor at work that the cook was now plying his trade at the newly opened Sapphire Lounge. It was my birthday and knowing how much I love a good steak, N decided we'd go give it a try. The hair on the back of my neck began to stir as soon as we entered the undecorated, smoky, dingy, dining area with few and well used banquet style chairs and tables. I noticed a group of rough looking, leather wearing, whiskey loud customers in another area with a pool table. As soon as we sat down one of them went over to the jukebox and selected a screaming acid rock ballad. I wanted to leave NOW, but N talked me into looking at the menu and having a drink. The drink was cheap and strong, but that nor the menu was enough to entice me to spend my birthday dinner there. We drove over to Royal India and had a wonderful, tasty, relaxed meal instead. Later, we learned The Sapphire Lounge was planning on becoming the kind of place we'd never frequent - topless?. I wonder who started that rumor??

Anonymous said...

We decided to give Maui Grill a try, about 2 summers ago. What a mistake. We encountered the same smell. The place was empty, and not particularly pleasing to the eye. Service was too slow when you have a couple of hungry kids on your hands- and what service we did get made me feel like the waiter had somewhere else he'd rather be. I couldn't find anything that looked remotely appetizing on the menu, but eventually decided on a teriyaki chicken and noodle dish. It was disgusting.. the noodles were bland, and every single piece of chicken was fatty. I can't remember what my kids and hubs got, but I do remember them not being thrilled with their food either. To be kind, the only thing I did like was the coleslaw w/ pineapple in it.

Amecameca said...

I've had breakfast at Maui Grill a few times and have always enjoyed it. I don't recall a smell problem and everything was clean and the service was friendly when I was there. The breakfast menu has some authentic Hawaii choices you can't get elsewhere in Salem like kalua pork fried rice with an egg on top. It was yummy as I recall. You might want to give it another try at breakfast. It would be sad if a pretty unique Salem restaurant was harmed by your bad review. You might have just hit them on a bad day at a bad time.

Anonymous said...

After too many lousy meals in dirty establishments, we have a code that we keep.

If the entrance is dirty, the door grimy, cigarette butts outside, trash not picked up. Don't go in.

Because, if what YOU can see is dirty out there, you know the kitchen isn't going to be clean.

guy who loves to eat said...

I tried the Maui Grill last summer with some friends, It was ok. Nothing to rave about. I love "L&L Hawaiian BBQ" which is some of the best you can get. This place was pretty far below that. So I haven't been back if that says anything.

jeff said...

I've known about, and patronized, the Maui Grill since it was out here in Stayton (it was in a location widely regarded as cursed).

The stuff you experienced (other than the prices) isn't really in line with what I've run into when I go there.

But then again, I went to greasy spoons when I was stationed in Hawaii (good, cheap food) so I may have built up a tolerance for them.

Anonymous said...

I've been to Maui Grill a couple of times for lunch and have always been disappointed. On a friends recommendation, I even tried it when it was still in Stayton. My opinion of the place was always pretty much the same; the food is bland, greasy and overpriced. The service is slow and the staff is definitely not spreading the spirit of aloha.

Try House of Dragon on Lancaster. It's across the street from Safeway. It's tucked in between the Chevron and the Asian market. In addition to fantastic Chinese food, they have a great Hawaiian BBQ menu. The owner used to live in Hawaii and his Kalua pork is among the best I've had in Oregon. (transplanted Hawaiian here) The pork chops, Portuegese sausage and chicken long rice are good too. Ocassionally he'll offer a dessert and I recommend you try it. It's always a bit different, but in a good way. Noho's in Portland is always good too.

Oso said...

I've never been in a hurry to eat at the Mau Grill because it's in a location formerly occupied by a VET CLINIC...sorry, just can't get that out of my head...Teriyaki Cat anyone?

Anonymous said...

closed down

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the bad reviews closing down Maui Grill. I like that you gave a bad review without even trying the food. Way to cleanse Salem of any decent non-fast food. Idiots.

tracylee said...

Anonyous (March 20): Maui Grill didn't need help closing down. I tried it long before reading any reviews. I ate the food and it was awful. The service was awful, the atmosphere was awful.

On top of that, it was in a vet's office where I had worked years ago.

Nate said...

My dad was an architect and built that building in the 70's as his office, I'd like to see how it's changed. I think Maui Grill has come and gone now.