Do You Prefer Your Service Warm and Cheeful or Dry and Aloof?

Have you gotten to Alan Richman's scathing back and forth account of M.Wells? The article is making the rounds this week and describes an odd email exchange between critic and restauranteur, involving plenty of bad taste and alleged sexual harassment.

Richman also apologized to his readers for seemingly encouraging bad service, because it seemed the vogue thing to do. New York is funny like that. You can't predict which trend will take off next, and you can't expect that whatever that trend is will suit your liking. Imagine dining in a city where restaurants that purposely mistreated customers were fawned over. Says Richman:

Critics like me deserve some blame for the current proliferation of impossibly low service standards in so many casual New York restaurants. We tend not to censure lackadaisical conduct, thinking this is what customers want and that we would appear out of touch if we disapproved. In fact, the article I was planning to write most likely wouldn't have dwelled on the egregious manners I'd encountered.

I wish I had never been so forgiving in my reviews of New York restaurants. I should long ago have paid attention to this disastrous decline in service. Casualness in restaurants does not automatically make customers feel more relaxed. It often has the opposite effect. Remember how tense my friends became when we received no attention at M. Wells.

I've resisted commenting much on the overall service in Dallas, because I'm still trying to discern if the experiences I have here are regional differences or simply one-off experiences. On the whole I've found service slightly slower than what I'm used to, but warm and pleasant.

The service at Craft, the subject of this week's review, was solid, but the staff didn't know some finer points on the menu. What kind of coffee do you serve? I like it and might want to make some at home. Which vegetables are really local and where do they come from? For an inquisitive diner, answers to these questions layer a restaurant experience with information that's almost as satisfying as the food. They foster an interaction between server and consumer that facilitates trust. Know your mushroom source by name? I'm more likely to take your recommendation for dessert.

I've not indulged too much fine dining yet, but I'm excited to explore more. Lucia in Oak Cliff is on my list, as is Fearing's, Bijoux and Five Sixty. We'll see how their service stacks up. And I promise to say if it sucks.

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