Protest and Restaurant Re-Review
First off, let me say that someone has been fucking with me. I refuse to believe that someone actually
did a Google search on THIS
without fully expecting to find my blog. I mean really
On with the show.
Last Saturday evening, Girlygirl and I went to the Macaroni Grill. A second visit for me, the first for her. If you're not inclined to read the whole thing, let me just say that my opinion has not changed in the slightest since my first review of the joint a month ago. If you didn't like what I had to say then, you're not likely to want to read this either, so just take a day off. I'll post again in a couple of days, and promise not to rip on your favorite restaurant then.
Still with me? Good. In all, it wasn't a bad trip. The olive oil's still good, the bread's still good, if also still tardy, and the inexplicable pepper shakers are still huge. They've made at least one change to the place since I (and presumably the fire inspector) was last there--they've added another row of tables between the two existing rows. When the hostess led us to our table, we were momentarily stumped as to how we were going to get to our table without climbing over other people. The place is a total firetrap now. I don't even think the staff could get out quickly, even though it appeared that they had the ability to dematerialize their legs and pass through tabletops to get to us.
The other change, and perhaps this just isn't on at lunchtime: a singer. Oy. That's right, some college-age girl with an operatically trained voice going table to table annoying diners. When we first sat down, we had no idea this was happening--we only heard the tortured shriek of a soprano singing fucking Rigoletto
alone.* Sure, it was fun to watch the people at the victimized tables cringe during the performance and jerk their thumbs in her direction and laugh afterward, but it's hard to concentrate on your meal when you're tracking the movements of a harpy to figure out if you're next to be driven to madness. We never did figure out what to do if she came to our table, but we'll have to work out a plan, in case it happens some other time.** Luckily she took a break to rest her pipes or something before she got to us, so our eardrums and dignity remain intact. We asked the waiter about it, and he said it definitely seemed weird to him to have a singer, and volunteered also that, "sometimes she scares me." We couldn't get any more detail from him on that, though. I think he realized that he'd already been get-himself-fired candid with us, so he clammed up and we didn't want to press.
The food was totally acceptable--variations on the big six ingredients. Strange treatments of some things--huge, and I mean HUGE slabs of romano cheese on top of the bruschetta? Finely grated blue cheese on the salad? Isn't that like bass-ackward? It was weird, but totally edible. This time around, we opted for pasta dishes, and as I predicted on the lunch trip, they were gigantic portions. We both managed to get a second meal off them, bringing the price down from $$ to $***, which wasn't too bad. Certainly not out of proportion to the quality of the food. Word of warning: If you ask to take the remainders home, be prepared to be presented with a take-out box right there at the table. They expect you to shovel it from plate to foil tray yourself. I'm hardly a service nazi, but this is totally unacceptable. At least our waiter was on-the-ball enough to pick up on Girlygirl's "what the fuck" reaction (I think it was when she said, "what the fuck" out loud) and offered to do it for us. Most of the waitstaff I saw pulling this trick just handed the box over to a confused patron and scampered off.
We once again passed on the weird honor-system bottle of crappy chianti. I drank beer, but I have to say the wine list was pretty good, and very reasonably priced. For fun, Girlygirl got a wine sampler--they have several--that consisted of three small portions of italian wines (in three separate glasses, natch). It was fun, and was delivered in this weird custom carry rack (for the benefit of the server) and on a little sheet that said what each wine was, complete with simulated wine glass stains. The wines were OK, if not great, and it was kind of a nifty way to do business.
So did I change my opinion of the place? As I said before: No. It's still mostly a factory for turning suburban livers into forcemeats, but the food is acceptable. Service is still weird--you almost have to know how to work the place to keep things normal--and that carry-out tray thing is just awful, especially since they serve portions so huge that fully 80% of all patrons must either take some home or just abandon half their meal. All in all, it's not particularly good, but if we have midwestern guests or can't get in anywhere else, it'll do. The singer thing puts this place on a risk level that's almost on a par with our favorite Mexican/Salvadoran place in the neighborhood, though, so if that's an every night thing, it's dodgy****.
*OK. I don't know what the hell she was singing most of the time. I've been to a couple of operas--if you can catch one at the Met in NYC, do go. It's a hell of a show--but I'm hardly an opera maven. She appeared to be taking requests, so we did get one Ave Maria, and I think a song from The Abduction From the Seraglio (thanks Amadeus!), but mostly it was obscure to me, as you'd expect. Also, sopranos should never sing unaccompanied. Only the shrieking of tenors is more annoying, and both must be drowned out as much as possible with music, lots of music. For crap sake, think of the dogs!
**I'm leaning toward giving her the Mormon treatment: "No thanks. Really. Go away." Unfortunately, restaurants are lacking the requisite door to shut firmly in her face. Maybe standing up abruptly, giving the crazy-man face, and shoving her away, hard, without further explanation would be good. She may get that a lot, though. Or we could just do like we'd undoubtedly want to, and laugh out loud at her every suggestion that we'd enjoy the aural torture and transmortification (vicarious embarassment--Girlygirl's own term, so spread it around) of her performance. Hard to say.
***When we went to Hawaii on our honeymoon, we had a guidebook that listed prices for things in terms of a number of dollar signs. Lots of guidebooks do this, of course, but that's where we first got into the habit of assigning a dollar sign value to any meal, and also lots of other things. McDonalds is definitely $. Many cheaper sit-down places, like local Thai restaurants and such are also $. Most chain restaurants are $$. Citronelle, arguably the best restaurant in DC is $$!$$holyshit!$$. That's actually off the scale. I guess to be strict, it's a strong $$$$. This guidebook was also fun because it was written kind of informally by a person who traveled in Hawaii with kids, so every single restaurant review included whether the teriyaki chicken was good or not.
****You can't go to Tijuana's on Friday or Saturday night unless you're gonna be out of there by 8:30 or so. After that, karaoke starts. In Spanish. We are rude and prone to laugh at other people, especially if we are together--once they had a live singer there, this old guy with a keyboard and drum machine, who comically brutalized old Elvis standards ("Luff me tenters, luff me swit"), and we thought we were going to get thrown out for laughing so hard. So we skip the karaoke.