It could be the signs of the times, it could be that our awareness has been forever heightened to the fact that we are living in a world where we pay more and get less, where the consumer is no longer always right, and basic should be praised as if it is great. Long phrase short, we are living in a time where everyone gets a trophy, even if you are in 12th place.
With the world suffering from the 12th place syndrome, have we forgotten how to identify what is fundamentally basic? What is good, versus what is extraordinary? Patrons in every capacity are so used to only getting the fundamentally basic service, sometimes I wonder if we’ll ever be able to behold exceptional service ever again. Or it can be that the exceptional is slowly dying, because there is no incentive for being great, because you can still share in the bounty even if you are slipshod.
This weekend I visited Grain H2O in Bear, Delaware and in all of my eating experiences I had never encountered this question from a server, and that blatant question was, “why didn’t you tip me more?” Now I guess in retrospect I could have looked at this question in a multitude of ways, two of which was: she wanted feedback to improve her skills as she proceeded in this chosen vocation or she was being a person who had an entitled grievance who opted to take it out on me and my crew, unfortunately I choose the latter.
I had been wanting to try Grain H2O having passed it several times during my journey’s and each time I would read the sign I automatically assumed that it was a healthy restaurant, full of nuts, berries, and farro, not real food. I had no idea that it was actually a craft and bar restaurant, basically a place you went when you were tired of eating the nuts, berries, and farro. To commemorate summer my crew and I opted to sit outdoors where the sun was beaming and the music was bumping, and although this is a craft bar we opted not to make this dining experience full of gluttony, so we settled on appetizers only.
First up was the Fried Goat Cheese balls, and because I love goat cheese, I loved that they were perfectly fried and altogether creamy, altogether salty, and altogether balanced with the sweet sriracha honey drizzle, which made these goat balls altogether lovely.
Next up was the fried pickles; each time I go to a restaurant that has fried pickles I always feel compelled to try them, especially when the menu calls out that they are not just pickles, but they are house made pickles.
I know from home experience that cooking fried pickles is easier said than executed, and that is because it must always be in the forefront of your mind that you are only cooking the batter not the pickle. When you forget the last-mentioned you may end up with some dark looking crust and that was the case with some of these pickles. The slightly dark coloring fortunately didn’t hinder the taste, I didn’t lose any of the brininess, the crunchiness was not abandoned, but the kitchen did try to catch me with the okie doke by placing the house-made cilantro aioli on the particularly dark ones to cover it up as opposed to deeming those few not worthy to be served, and create some new ones just to ensure the patron that they are concerned with presentation.
Last up, the Crab Nachos, with crispy wontons chips, with buttery lump crab meat, a warm cheese sauce, and a fresh pico de gallo. SItting near the water and so close to Maryland, this dish was everything my palate craved for. Fresh crab meat, no claws, and the perfect amount of flare beyond you run of the mill nachos and salsa.
So a fairly light menu, but one that I have deemed very good, even leaning toward will repeat, but the service, well by no means will I call it non-tippable, because we certainly did tip, but it certainly was fundamentally basic service. So basic in fact, if it had not been for that bold question of hers, I don’t think I would call it memorable at all, which means it wasn’t bad, it was great, but it stood in the middle and landed as neutral.
You see, I don’t know where you live, but where I live gas is almost $6.00/gallon, the supermarket is running out of M&M peanut constantly, and even when I think I am in the 10 items or less line at the grocery store, I am still paying over $60.00 and I have to weigh my own produce, and bring my own bags from home, and bag my own groceries. So yeah, my meter for fundamentally basic service versus extraordinary service meter is on all the time.
Nowadays when dining out everyone gets a check with the calculation for a 20% tip and so on, and so the concept of tipping is forever lost and most of these servers are operating under the everyone gets a trophy philosophy. It is a basic fundamentals to bring me my food with a smile, it’s absolutely basic to ask how what you brought to the table is tasting, and it is basic to see that when I am sitting out in the hot sun I may need more water when you see mine is gone, these are not extraordinary territories. What defines extraordinary service is really incumbent upon the server, it is really a predetermined mindset that they have settled on that says that they will go above basic, that their intention is to land on extraordinary experience each and every time.
I know you are asking yourself as you read this, what did I say to that question the server gave me, which was “why didn’t we tip more?” to be my most authentic self, I have to say, I stared at her with mouth open and mind stunned, and in the end delighted that I would have this opportunity to blog.
You see Grain H2O, I don’t know where you get your money, but I don’t have a money tree growing outside of my residence and I don’t know where you get your gas, but where I get my gas, it isn’t $.99/gallon. So yes, I am looking for the beyond basic, I am looking for the better than good, and I for darn sure aint looking for a server to question my tipping methods.
Grain H20 I am fair person, I am a wise enough foodie to know that the server I have next time, may not be the server I had this time, but I will give you a tip, teach your servers to be human, and to give the patrons the extraordinary service they themselves would want if they were sitting at the table, especially if they want a bigger tip. There is work to do Grain H2O, work to do🍽