This past week I was in the lovely city of Fort Collins, Colorado. As I was on the jet flying to Denver, my mouth began watering thinking of an absolutely delightful Brazilian Steakhouse I had been privileged to be introduced to the last time I was here, the Rodizio Grill. Though I had only eaten there once, the experience was one I looked forward to repeating.
I looked forward to this visit with an anxious hunger in my stomach, and I chose to make this a mid-week meal. Each day my taste buds would water just thinking of this coming party for my mouth. The beautiful, tasty salad bar, the wonderful supply of tender, salty meat. Mmmmm!
The night finally arrived, but one of the first things I experienced was not pleasant. The parking lot next to the restaurant takes you right by a dumpster to enter the restaurant, which smelled of something putrid. I picked up the pace to a nice brisk walk and quickly left that behind though. Once I entered the restaurant, I was met with the same world-class service from the hostess that I had experienced the first time, quickly replacing the thoughts of the putrid dumpster.
As I sat down I experienced the problem with the restaurant, though I didn’t fully pick up on it then. It took F-O-R-E-V-E-R for the waiter, Trevor, to come to my table. In fact, I was severely tempted to go on to the salad bar on my own, though I decided to follow protocol. When he arrived, he was quite friendly and did his job well. After he turned to depart, I rose from my table to start the meal at the salad bar.
The salad bar was beautiful, just as it was the previous visit, but after sitting down and eating from it, I didn’t find it as tasty as it was the first time. This is really a minor complaint, as my taste buds could have been off, and quite frankly, it was still quite edible. It just wasn’t WOW good. The salad bar is not the reason I go to a Brazilian Steakhouse though, and as I began to finish the plate of salad, I prepared for the main course. I pushed the plate to the side and flipped the wooden hourglass that was painted half red and half green over, with the green now on top, letting the gauchos know it was time to bring on the main course.
Jimmy was the first gaucho to the table, and I have to give nothing but praises to this young man. He did quite a job telling me of the meats he was carrying, and allowing his great personality to add to the evening. I cannot recall the other gauchos name, and perhaps that should tell you something, he was unmemorable.
The Picanha was the most mouthwatering of the meats during this visit. This beautiful top sirloin was cooked to perfect, and my tongue was literally fighting to leave my mouth in pursuit of this meat each time it came nearby. The Bife Com Alho was also quite good, though not nearly salty enough for my tastes, which was a common thought throughout the evening.
The surprise of the evening was the Assado, a Brazilian beef roast, which was one of the best beef roasts I have had. That is quite a statement, as my wife, Charity, cooks like a grandma, making some of the best meals known to mankind.
Other meats that were memorable were the Picanha Com Parmesão and the Lombo Com Queijo, both with the wonderful coating of Parmesan and even the Presunto. I was disappointed that I never saw the Alcatra come around, as it is a wonderful looking piece of meat. Even so, it was a slow night, so I couldn’t rightfully expect to partake of the full offerings of all meats.
During the meal I periodically saw Trevor, but like the gauchos, he wasn’t present as often as I had wished. Empty water glasses are a real pet peeve of mine, and mine sat empty all-too-often. Even so, I was continuing to look at the meal with rose-colored glasses, even going to far as to tell Jimmy I would be back the next time I was in town with several other folks, as this seemed to be a great place to have a nice meal together.
Sadly, the rose-colored glasses began to fade as the meal ended. I turned the hourglass over, and pushed my plate to the other side of the table, then laying my napkin in front of me. I took my wallet out of my pocket, set it on the table, pulling out my credit card attempting to illustrate I was ready to pay. I sipped the last of my water down, and I waited. And waited. And waited. I could see Trevor talking behind the bar, but it was as if I had become invisible. In fact, another waitress came and took the check and tip from another table, glancing over at me, then turning and walking back to the kitchen.
At this point it became a game to me, to see how long this would take. I would guess it had already been five minutes since I emptied my water, and I glanced at the time to see how long it would be before I was serviced again. Two minutes. Two L-O-N-G minutes. Yes, I know that is not a tremendously long time, but that was on top of the approximate five minutes I had already been waiting. Though Trevor still was behind the bar talking off and on, he never paid attention to the fact that his client needed service. Finally, the aforementioned waitress came back out to her table again, and asked me if I needed something, to which I replied, “Yes, my check please.”
I had decided at this point that I was not going to make a big deal out of this, but it only got worse. It took a considerable amount of time for the check to be delivered to the table, and when it was, it was by a different woman. I was shocked. Where was my waiter? I immediately handed over my card, as I was ready to leave. The waitress then left with my payment, and another long time passed. Finally Trevor brought my card and check back, and I sat there astonished as I had seen three different wait staff come to my table, and not one of them asked how my meal was. It was at this point I shared my frustration with Trevor.
If you know me, you know poor service is a real pet peeve of mine. Trevor effectively erased all good images of this restaurant during the following seconds and minutes. I shared that I was disappointed to feel I had become invisible. Rather than apologize for this, Trevor proceeded to tell me that if I were done, my hourglass should have been laid on its side. I was stunned. What kind of response was this? I apologized for my misunderstanding, but pointed out that my water had been empty for some time, and I was thirsty. Trevor then said a superficial apology, and left the table WITHOUT FILLING MY WATER. I then completed a survey card, sitting there for several more minutes, astonished that my water was never refilled.
During those few moments, my fond memories and delightful satisfaction were erased by a waiter who either was having a bad night, was not well trained, or did not care. As I left the restaurant, I handed the survey card to the friendly hostess, asking that she be sure the manager saw the card. Once again, I was astonished to hear her say, “I sure will. Have a good night.” Having been in the food service business for a number of years, I am well aware that this is the last opportunity a restaurant has to repair damage and ask if everything was okay, but that did not happen. And so I walked out, still in shock as I walked past the putrid dumpster on the way to the car.
The putrid dumpster was a fitting way to end the meal, as that is the odor that was left in my mind. Just moments earlier I had planned on leaving a 20% tip, which did not happen. Just moments earlier I had shared with Jimmy that I would be back with 6-8 others to share this restaurant with them. But the putrid odor of poor service effectively over-shadowed everything that was done right, and now I will likely never visit this restaurant again. Perhaps it was an off night for Trevor. Perhaps the hostess felt I was leaving a compliment and was an exceedingly happy customer. Those things matter little now though, as my once glorious opinion of the Rodizio Grill in Fort Collins, Colorado has been shattered.