Big Town Hero - not local, and not a hero, either.

Big Town Hero is hardly local, with locations in WA, OR, NV and TX. But it started in 1981 by one guy in a locale somewhere, and each location is owned by someone, often local. As it is a chain I try not to go, but the other day I was really jonesing for the Italian panini for lunch. It's a quick walk from work, so I enjoyed the nice-ish weather and took a stroll downtown.

The decor of the location downtown is sorely lacking. What it has is a bit dingy, not well suited for the space it's in. It could be a cool college-like hangout, but it doesn't have enough unique personality to score that. And, oh, did I mention dingy? Regardless, I'm thinking of hot Italian meats and pepperccini via take-out, so what do I care?

One would think that counter service at a sandwich shop isn't very taxing and thus a really easy task to master, but you wouldn't know it thanks to the attitude of the woman behind the counter. How hard is it to look up from the cash register, maybe even smile a little, and say, "Hello?" Apparently too hard for this woman. But it didn't matter, because right behind her was a poster for their panini sandwiches, as if there to welcome me itself. Once I deduced that her zombie like stance behind the counter was in, in fact, her way of waiting to take my order, I placed the simple order and then sat down to wait.

And wait.

And wait.

Two staff were finding it very hard to keep up with the staggering flow of customers, which I counted to be three tables (two already eating) and two other people waiting for take out. Not what you would call a lunch rush by any means.

Finally my bagged sandwich is handed over and I skip back to my office, already savoring the soft bread with it's crisp outside grilled crust. When I unwrap my sandwich, I kind of pause for a minute because I can't quite make sense of what I am seeing. My friend Thomas comes up behind me and says, "What's that? It looks like someone sat on it."

Indeed, it does. Instead of being sliced, grilled bread like I expected on a panini, what I'd HAD on a panini there before, and what was on the very poster behind the counter, what I had was a sub roll cut cross ways, smashed into what had to have been a cold panini press because there was no toasting. Just... squishening.

I'm hungry and pressed for time so I bitch a little more but then dig in. The insides are as I had dreamed, and I made do.

But I'll not go back, for this place struck out in customer service, ambiance, and quality. Things happen and sometimes substitutions or adjustments have to be made. But if a key element of an offering isn't available or has to be changed, you should tell the customer, and give them an opportunity to make an alternate choice. If your panini maker is broken, don't serve paninis until it's fixed. If you are out of panini bread, offer an option. But for goodness sake, if you've got BOTH problems going on... just take the paninis off the menu until further notice!

I knew I should have just gone to Croissant and Company for a tuna salad croissant with provolone and olives.


jeff said...

When you are pinging on a chain, you probably ought to clearly identify which member of the chain you are reviewing. Since you describe the location as "downtown" I believe you mean the one on Court St. around Liberty (last time I looked it was in that area), but there are several others in the local area that might not share that store's problems.

Anonymous said...

that's messed up! sorry about your sandwich. croissant and co would be a good second choice, and just around the corner from your once-beloved big town is the allan bros Beanery. and they serve fantastic paninis. i ordered one once a couple years ago on a whim, and have been loving them ever since. and it will be toasty hot :)

Anonymous said...

I am thankful for restaurant reviews either good, mediocre, or bad. I enjoy eating out and want the most for my hard earned money. There is NO excuse for bad food or bad service. Managers of restaurants have people begging to work in this economy and shouldn't settle for mediocre employees who make their establishment unfavorable examples.

Salem Man said...

I've never been to a Big Town Hero.

Dsperin said...

When I was a teenager (10 years ago!) I rememeber that everyone I knew loved this place. It used to have a better location down town.. it was where the jewelry store is now, just two doors down. It was a location that made you notice it... not like where it is now. And yeah, it's all creepy and weird.

I stopped going there because, frankly, I think that they're being stingy with their sandwich toppings. The Turkey Bacon Avacado was the best, but they skimp so much now that I don't think it's worth the wait, attitude of the staff, or the price. It's really too bad.

The S. Commercial location is the last one I ate at (a few months ago), and it was just as bad. Long....UNCOMFORTABLE....wait. There's nothing to do while you wait, and you feel weird sitting at a table without food.


Anonymous said...

I agree with you about THAT particular BTH location; however, the other ones in Salem are MUCH better!!!

Anonymous said...

Well, I like the Big Town Hero in Monmouth. Nothing fancy, just good sandwiches, and I have my favorites that I stick to. They have a couple of great turkey sans, esp. on their great onion bread. The turk, avocado and bacon is nummy, and I also like the turk w/ cranberry sauce. Never had a problem with service...good price...nice quick lunch.


Anonymous said...

Campus hero in Corvallis if you wan't the original!