Monday, February 8, 2010

Bad Timing, Good Meal At The Enchanted Cafe

The only guarantee in the restaurant business is that there are no guarantees. There are very few restaurants that can control every aspect of the diner's experience: front of house, back of house, food and drink. In an ideal world, restaurant patrons would show up in an orderly fashion, giving the service staff and the kitchen enough time to handle each table's order quickly and efficiently. Sadly, for those who have worked in the food industry, this is far from the norm. Typically it's either feast or famine. And once you are "in the weeds," it can be very difficult to recover.

Having read my recent review of the Enchanted Cafe located in Barberton, Ohio, my aunt made an offhand comment that until she had read about my experience, she would never have given the restaurant a second glance, much less gone for a visit. And even though the location isn't difficult to find, the restaurant wasn't all shiny and new and was situated a ways back from the the intersection on which it sits. Since the only day I was now able to get to the cafe was on Saturday, I invited my aunt and uncle to join me for breakfast at 9:30 am.

I got to the restaurant at 9:25 am to discover that my aunt and uncle had already arrived. Apparently they had walked into the restaurant only a few minutes earlier to find a huge line. When I walked into the main part of the restaurant, they had seated everyone with the exception of my breakfast guests. This was quickly rectified and by 9:30, we had been seated at a table around the corner from the main entrance. Our server was very good about bringing our water / coffee / soft drinks and taking our order. Unfortunately, this was all I was to see during the foreseeable future:

The sad thing was that had the restaurant filled up gradually, I think that the kitchen could've handled it with grace. However, having that many tables seated simultaneously, all of whom were placing orders at the same time, no doubt put the cooks in the kitchen completely and totally in the weeds. It's ironic that when I look at my entire experience today, I had about a 90 minute leisurely breakfast with my aunt and uncle. While that may be a little bit unusual for breakfast, I wouldn't consider that too lengthy for a meal. The problem was that it took the kitchen 60 of those 90 minutes to get us our food. And even though the front of house was apologizing to guests and warning people because the kitchen was backed up, several tables got up and left sans breakfast because of their frustration.

Understand that I'm not making an excuse for the Enchanted Cafe. Every restaurant, especially those that don't take reservations, experiences this situation far more often than they would like to admit. In most cases, waits like these would result in complimentary drinks from the bar to ease the diner's wait. However, in a small breakfast and lunch place, the only thing the front of house staff could really do is make sure coffee cups remained full and water glasses topped off.

When our food finally did arrive, it looked nicely prepared. Here was a shot of the corn beef hash with eggs and rye toast that I ordered:

The corn beef hash is actually underneath the two eggs. You can sort of barely see it poking out from the right side. The presentation side of the eggs was a little surprising, as they appeared to be cooked a little more than just "over easy." However, when I cut into the yolk, the rich orange-yellow liquid oozed over the corn beef has below it. The only problem I found with my eggs was that when I went to cut into the second half of my eggs, I found a bit too much uncooked egg white suddenly started appearing along with the yolk.

The corn beef hash itself was decent enough. Mixed with potatoes and then fried crispy on one side, the flavor was good (especially when mixed with that yummy egg yolk). However, I don't know if it was because the corn beef had been chopped too fine, but there didn't seem to be an overabundance of texture to the meat. My assumption going with a corn beef hash was that it would have some of the chewiness you associate with eating a corn beef sandwich. On the whole though, the hash had enough qualities that I liked that I would order it again.

The rye toast was fresh and nicely toasted. It came from the kitchen already buttered, so I only had to add some of the grape jelly from the small dish on our table to complete my breakfast. While I didn't take any pictures of my aunt or uncle's dishes, both said that their respective breakfasts were both hot and prepared to their expectations.

While today's experience might have soured some patrons from returning again, I would have no problem coming back for another meal at the Enchanted Cafe. It's hard for restaurant-goers who may have never had the opportunity to work in the industry to tell the difference between bad front or back of house service and simply bad timing when too many guests arrive too quickly. Based on my previous experience and what I saw today, I have to acknowledge the latter of the two with being the issue with today's meal. I still strongly encourage you to try out this quaint little cafe serving up rather tasty breakfasts and lunches.

1 comment:

Stuart said...

It seems to me that some people think corned beef hash is supposed to be like that. I had it that way at my otherwise much beloved Buckeye Beer Engine. I had it that way at Corky and Lenny's, forgot about it and then had it again. I don't get it. It just seems so obviously wrong. It's not just the texture of the beef that gets lost. It also ruins the texture of the potato and really the flavor, too.

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