It's hard to be tough on restaurants that just opened. They're brand new and still working out the kinks. So normally, when I encounter less than excellent experiences at brand new restaurants, I find other things to write about.
But when you're a "celebrity" chef like Adam Pechal, the standards are a little higher. Putting your name on a restaurant means that it represents the quality and experience that you're know for.
That's why I've decided to give my initial reaction to a meal I had at Crawads on Friday evening.
I think there are three main aspects to a good dining experience - ambiance, food and service. To be really successful, you need to be great at at least one of those three. But one of them cannot be terrible. Unfortunately, that's what I encountered when I visited Crawdads on the first Friday of Spring and their first Friday open.
The ambiance of the place has really been improved. They new ownership group has totally renovated the interior and removed some of the river-facing wall with a roll-up garage door to open up the space. The use of wood gives the place an upscale feel. Sitting on the patio on the river on a nice sunny afternoon, there was no better place to be. While the restaurant was only half full, it had great energy and made it much easier to have a good time.
The food showed promise. While it's clear Crawdads is charging probably a 25 percent "View Premium," it's not so outrageous that people won't pay it if they want to be out on the river.
Louisiana BBQ Shrimp (8) with Grilled Bread - $14
Beer Steamed Mussels with Andoulle, Lemon, Thyme & grilled bread - $12
The Sleeping Ninja - Tempura Fried Ahi Tuna (9 pieces) with Citrus Ponzu, Radish Salad and Sriracha Aioli - $15
We really enjoyed the shrimp and the mussels. The broth that came with the mussels and the sauce that came with the shrimp left us wishing we had more bread so we could keep eating it. The ninja was a little more disappointing. The fried exterior was soggy and frying tuna seemed to detract from the point of eating raw fish. Maybe that was our fault for ordering poorly. The two of us were later joined by friends who have a boat down on the marina and had eaten there twice that week. Their feedback was similar - it's a little pricey for what they get, but the food shows potential.
But where the restaurant really suffered was their service. While the waitress was very nice, the kitchen was backed up and their bar service was unacceptable. We ordered a Linenkugel Canoe Paddler and a 312 Urban Wheat, both at a reasonable $5.
Our first round of beer probably took 12 minutes. I'll admit I didn't time it since I assumed I'd just get my beer within a reasonable amount of time. Our first round of food -- the shrimp and mussels -- came after we had almost finished our first round of beer. We ordered a second round of beer so we could enjoy the sights as the sun set to go with The Sleeping Ninja. (If you look at the pictures, you can tell that a lot of time has passed by given the different lighting conditions.)
My 312 came relatively quickly, but my wife's Linenkugel never came - despite reminding the waitress that we were waiting for our beer. The first time, she told us the tap was being changed and they only had one bartender working. The second time, she said that their computers were having a problem printing out a ticket for that beer (odd, since we got our first one), but she'd ask the bartender verbally for one. Finally, after the sun had set and we were getting cold, we asked that we get our check and to just cancel the last beer.
On our food order, we had asked for extra bread, but that never came either.
Some might say what's the big deal if you didn't get a beer or extra bread?
My issue is when the basics aren't done adequately, or in this case, at all. Ordering and receiving beer on a restaurant has on tap should be a given. I don't think anybody should have to ask three times for the same beer. And it's ok if they don't have extra bread, but just tell us when we ask for it.
Again, our waitress was very nice. I don't know if it was her fault, the restaurant management's fault for not having enough staff, or the computer's fault for not being programmed correctly. It doesn't really matter. On the day that I went -- the only experience I can write about -- they didn't have their act together.
BTW: Total cost for the three dishes and three beers - $74, including tax and tip.
But this one bad experience doesn't mean I won't go back again. I'll probably wait until the summer, let them hit their stride and them give them another chance. But you won't see me there this weekend or anytime soon.
Crawdad's is located at 1375 Garden Hwy, and can be found online at SacCrawdads.com.
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