PHOTO: Donuts from Good Company Doughnuts & Cafe (c) Sery Kim
Yesterday, Mike and I went out to not one but two restaurants to "dine in," a phenomenon which before coronavirus would have been just another day but post COVID-19 seems like a rare treat. The first was a brand new donut shop in the Ballston Quarter area of Arlington, VA called Good Company Doughnuts & Cafe. The second was Hank's Oyster Bar in Alexandria, VA. Both had nice food but both had horrible food delivery and service, which it not excused by any pandemic.
Good Company Doughnuts & Cafe
Good Company Doughnuts & Cafe had significantly better quality of food than Hank's Oyster Bar -- where the food arrived cold/middling warm (if at all). The line to get into this tiny donut shop on the Glebe Road side of Ballston Quarter was significant. Mike and I waited in the scalding 90+ degree morning heat for about 20 minutes before we got in, and we were quite excited to try a new donut shop.
The donuts themselves were readily packaged and, upon tasting, all but one (the chocolate cake, with chocolate frosting, and chocolate sprinkles) were perfectly delightful. Good Company Doughnuts & Cafe does stuffed donuts exceptionally well, and we absolutely adored the lemon, with lemon filling; the strawberry, with cream cheese filling; and our ultimate favorite was the blueberry, with blueberry filling. Unfortunately, the aforementioned chocolate donut was terribly overcooked and stupendously dry -- again, made all-the-more-apparent by the perfectly-baked/garnished other five donuts.
As for the service, the donut shop offers a rather large savory menu and Mike ordered garlic bread and pork belly as a supplement to all the sweet food. Unfortunately, both food items took over 30 minutes to deliver. That's right. THIRTY MINUTES. On a Saturday morning at 10:15 am when the average customer was in-and-out in five minutes. We saw multiple food items from people who went in after us get their food yet the garlic bread would not come out.
The service staff, and even the manager, asked the kitchen not once, not twice, but three times about the status of our order yet still the garlic bread did not come out. The service staff excused themselves with a pathetic, "We are so busy," but that is never an excuse in a restaurant nor was that in fact the case. If a restaurant can not handle a menu with over 50 listed items for ordering, then they need to limit it not excuse it. Furthermore, the item which was missing from our order was garlic bread, which is demonstrably easier than (1) pork belly, which we also ordered, (2) a breakfast sandwich, which I ordered, and (3) a slew of various breakfast sandwiches and main plates which came out after us in rapid succession to other people.
Plus, in an even more indictment on the restaurant, they are a baked shop focused on making donuts. Garlic bread is an easy variation of that.
The manager offered me a coffee as 20 minutes dragged by but I was very polite and chill when declining. After reviewing restaurants for seven years, I know how this routine works and I was not mollified. I just wanted my food so I could leave since it was 91 degrees outside in the Friday morning heat. He also offered me a "free lunch," but the coupon clearly showed it was not a free lunch. It was "buy one, get one free." No thank you.
Finally, after 30 minutes dragged by, I requested a refund of my garlic bread and as the refund was being processed, the garlic bread arrived. It was definitely not, in any way, worth the wait as it was a soggy mess of too much butter and too much garlic.
PHOTO: A portion of the donut offering at Good Company Donut & Cafe (c) Sery Kim
Hank's Oyster Bar
As for Hank's Oyster Bar in Alexandria, VA, the people working there could not have been any LESS friendly. The hostess would not talk to us no matter how much we tried to chat. Same for the service staff and the bartender. They were clearly very unhappy to be there. This could all be understood if they made the food the way we wanted, but while my Paloma cocktail was delightful, the kitchen forgot our appetizer entirely. No fried shrimp and calamari. They didn't even apologize for forgetting it and seemed entirely blase about it. I mean, they didn't even offer to take it off our receipt. I had to ask for it to be removed.
For our entree we order Lobster Bisque, Lobster Roll and mac'n'cheese. The mac'n'cheese was not cheesy and would not stick together at all. Furthermore, it was at room temperature, aka meaning it had sat in the kitchen for a while, in a restaurant where there were maybe 8 full tables. My lobster roll was fine but my french fries were a bit cold. Same for Mike's Lobster Bisque.
Plus the entire space was empty, quiet and dull. They didn't play any music or add anything to the ambience so literally our entire conversation was overhead by the waitstaff as well as the next door tables. This is totally unlike how Hank's Oyster Bar used to be in Alexandria: busy, full and FUN.
In fact, the entire day of eating out of restaurants made me realize that I now hate at eating inside a restaurant. It has nothing to do with the pandemic and everything to do with the lazy/indifferent service and the sheer boredom of the entire ordering process. Look, I get the restaurant industry has suffered mightily because of COVID-19 but that should make them more keen to keep our business, aka our dollars. Mike and I have been trying to support as many small businesses as we can, but when it comes down to service (as two people who have worked a long time in the service industry) we have a high threshold for bad service and even for us the service yesterday was PITIFUL.
For us, it has become clear it is so much more fun just eating at home now and, if this pandemic has taught us anything, it is that eating out in restaurants are highly over-rated (clear exception for the magnificent time at Inn at Little Washington a few weeks back). It is too inconvenient to sit inside a restaurant: the service too spotty, the experience not fun.
Of course, we will definitely continue to buy food at a restaurant to support our local, neighborhood restaurants but in a strictly "carry-out" situation. But for those of you seeking a post-pandemic restaurant to "eat in" at then DO NOT eat at either restaurant mentioned above.