Saturday, January 17, 2009

Hey, Mr. Tangerine Man!

Friday night is date night at our house. Since it was getting pretty darn cold (18 degrees F!) and dropping, we opted just for a quick dinner out. I was absolutely starving, since I had forgotten to eat lunch, and my bowl of cereal had long since worn off. After the usual debate about where to go, DC said, "Let's go to the Tangerine Cafe! It was great when I went there with Dan and Marie." Tangerine cafe is sort of Asian fusion (Korean/Thai) cuisine, and sounded intriguing, so off we went. The restaurant is located in a shopping plaza off Cary Parkway, whether Kroger or Food Lion, I can't remember. I always get lost in that part of Cary.

As we pulled up, DC looked in and remarked that it looked pretty crowded, but there were still tables. Well, the Tangerine Cafe is a tiny, tiny, very cute little storefront restaurant with about 10 tables. We stepped inside and the very nice host greeted us and started to show us to a table. One problem: it was directly in front of the door-- well, I think there was a potted banana tree or something between it and the door, aesthetically pleasing but not much use as a windbreak.

I'm just getting over a nasty cold and did not think sitting in front of an icy draft would be exactly salubrious, and DC has had a worrisome cough for the past few weeks. The tail-end of the cold has settled in my chest, making me sound exactly like a frog, which lent some authenticity to my query, "I'm just getting over a cold, is there anyplace warmer we could sit?"

Well, I should mention that aside from our little 2-top in front of the door, there were only 3 empty tables, all of them 4-tops. One was right next to our table, so equally freezing, and the other 2 had little signs that said "RESERVED" on them. The host said, "Let me ask Joe if I can switch you to that table over there," pointing to one of the reserved 4-tops farthest from the door. I think his plan was to move the "reserved" sign to the 4-top next to our table.

The host went up to the front of the restaurant to talk to "Joe," evidently the owner/manager, who was rushing around serving food, and looking harried. Although we couldn't hear the conversation, it wasn't hard to understand the emphatic (and apparently irritated, if not downright angry) head-shaking on the part of "Joe." The poor host came back, looking extremely crest-fallen, and told us our only option was the drafty 2-top in front of the door

Not wanting to make a scene, I resigned myself to quietly sitting in the cold, when DC said politely to the host, "Thank you, but no. We will take our business elsewhere." (My hero!! heart, heart! ) Whereupon we walked out, (in view of everyone in the restaurant, I might add) got in our car, and went to Biaggi's. Where we had a nice, lavish (draft-free) dinner, complete with appetizers and dessert, and excellent service.

I'm really not sure I understand "Joe's" exact reasoning for not allowing us to use one of the other empty tables. Whether he didn't want to "waste" a whole 4-top on just the 2 of us, or if he felt those who had reservations were less deserving of freezing to death than we were, is a mystery.

Hey, "Joe,"-- Guess what: you just lost a pile of money on us, the riff-raff who didn't want to sit in the cold. Biaggi's was more than happy to accept our $$.

There is nothing that makes me madder than bad service from a business that is, well, only there to serve! Honestly, I work in the not-for-profit sector, and if I delivered the kind of customer service I all-too-often get from restaurants, I would be FIRED instantly.

Of course I understand the need to reserve tables-- one of my pet peeves is, in fact, restaurants that refuse to take reservations and then expect you to wait in line for 2 hrs. to get a table. But it was pretty early on a Friday night, and the parties with reservations were obviously not there. Would it really have caused such a problem to let the sick people sit at one of the warmer tables, while you, Mr. Tangerine Man, moved the "reserved" table to another spot? We weren't asking you not to honor your reservations, after all. Chances are, DC and I probably would have been finished with our dinner before the reservation people ever even got there.

Here's what I don't understand: we were THERE, in your restaurant, eager to give you our hard-earned cash, and you turned us away in preference to customers who had not (and might never) even arrived yet.

Pretty stupid!

And also, instead of giving us that warm, satisfied feeling in our hearts that comes along with receiving extra-good customer service, you created ill will.

We are really not interested in EVER returning to your restaurant, Mr. Tangerine Man. Which is a shame, as we eat out often, and like to reward locally-owned business with our loyal patronage.

All right, Mr. Tangerine Man: you brought this on yourself: you just lost yourself 2 customers.

And we promise, we'll tell all our restaurant-loving friends about the kind of service we received at The Tangerine Cafe.


  1. Biaggi's sounded better :) I can't believe Tangerine Cafe did that, that is just awful, especially considering all the empty reserved tables.

    I really enjoy "Porto's Bakery" a very busy crowded Cuban bakery, though in recent years it is slowly feeling "franchised" like the quality going down, or it's becoming "Americanized" I understand them though, they need to stay in business and some Cuban stuff just doesn't appeal to masses.

    I was dissappointed when I asked for mojo with my extra order of Mariquitas (Plantain chips) the mojo was very weak, didn't sense any citrus must have been water with vinegar and not fresh garlic some preserved already mashed one, it was WEAK. Also dissappointed when I asked for "Cafe Cubano" I said it in both english and spanish (CUban coffee) and got blank stares WHAT A DISGRACE they had it labeled as espresso! Hehe, they got rid of the "Cuban coffee" name a couple years back lol. geeez.

    But we always stick to the good stuff the Cuban bread, medianoches, cuban sandwich, and Bastelitos de Guayaba.

    I still love it though only place I can get REAL Cuban bread.

  2. Thanks,Nathan, for commiserating about our bad experience. Oh, what a shame to see your favorite Cuban sinking into mediocrity. Mojo is such a staple in Cuban cooking, they should be ashamed for serving such a flavorless imitation of the real thing. I agree, it is a disgrace to call the Cuban coffee "espresso!" At least there are some things they haven't messed up, like the bread!

    I was just reading about making Cuban bread and will probably try baking my own soon (can't get it around here, except at Carmen's!). And I just love guava! My uncle, who used to live in Coral Gables, FL, used to always send us a big box of the guava paste candy at Christmas.


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