Complaint Desk

KRLD Restaurant Week 2011: One foodbitch's Experience.

Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip... That all went down at Al Biernat's with a lot of big, fake tits.

Ah, KRLD Restaurant Week, a time when those of us who only think we belong on Most Eligible Dallas get to dine where the real stars of that train wreck frequent. This week at Al Biernat's, we arrived and were seated promptly at our table for 10. It was soon after that we began to notice that, as packed as the restaurant was, the noise level was dominated by a booth full of, let's say, "glamorous, Dallasite ladies" at the table just behind ours. As I write this, my neck hurts a little from the number of times I turned around, surprised that so much noise could come from a handful of tiny women. Honestly, it sounded like Sambuca 360 up in there. Or the circus.

Folks often remark that Restaurant Week brings out the not-so-rich, dressed in their church best, ready to be out of their leagues, embarrassed by not knowing which fork to use or how to properly sniff whichever varietal they timidly order with dinner. Well, this experience was quite the opposite. The table of blond Gingers behind us were not dining from the special Restaurant Week menu. They were full-price payers, maybe even regulars. And they were embarrassing themselves. We were simply visitors on their uncharted island. And from the look of them, they'd been out on that island, without a proper sunscreen, for quite a while. There was glitz and glamor, but it had gone very wrong. But the worst part was that the staff at the restaurant were eating it up. They didn't contain, but rather fanned the flames of debauchery.

I know, I know, Restaurant Week is all about the dining. Well, the food at Al Biernat's was good, but far from great. My Central Market fourth course was teeny (two sad little stuffed grape tomatoes and a thin slice of avocado). The spinach, which played a supporting role in two out of the three dishes I ordered, was overcooked. The agnolotti were actually ravioli (a crime, I know). On the other hand, the prime rib was pretty prime. The salmon, though atop a mountain of blueberry chipotle-soaked spinach, was cooked perfectly. Desserts were praised and shared "you've gotta try this"-style all around. When we eventually made it out of there, we were happily full.

But the noise level overwhelmed most of the meal's high points. Everyone in the restaurant, at one time or another, was disturbed by the table full of scene-stealers behind us.

"Someone should tell them that nobody from Bravo is filming this," one of my tablemates remarked. Then the bartender, who was deceptively loud for his size, bounced over with more tequila shots for the ladies. They sang "Happy Birthday." Then they sang "Let's Get It Started." And finally, the bartender stood up on the booth and hollered some more. At that point, another one of my tablemates, the one I'm married to, had enough. He marched toward the manager. All it took was a point and a "Seriously!?" to send the manager running to tug the bartender off the banquette. It was soon after that we were informed our drinks would be comped.

Cheers, bitches.

Even after all the free drinks, I felt our server was a little too casual, overly jovial, and even a little bit diner-like as he raced around the restaurant like his uniform was on fire. We were invited to order drinks without a wine list for the table. It took a reminder to get an iced tea. We were not offered coffee before dessert. He loudly announced our dishes in song as he placed each plate in front of us. Finally, it took a good half-hour to get our check back, which even though we were a large party, was a long time since we were the next-to-last table in the place. Next to the Gingers, of course. We rose to leave at 11:30 p.m., and our dinner had begun a whopping three hours prior.

A three-hour meal. I repeat. A three-hour meal.

Except not in a good way. This dinner at Al Biernat's was far more Gilligan than the millionaire, or his wife. All joking aside, the real point here is that from our vantage point, the top-heavy women at the table behind us seemed to get top billing. They were given far more attention and far too much leniency. Most of all, they were put ahead of the quality experience the other diners deserved, whether discounted or not.

That being said, I'd be interested to see what the Al Biernat's is like on a non-Restaurant Week evening, but I'm worried it might not be all that different.

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