The exterior of Kincaids... very pretty (via Google Images)
What better restaurant to critique than Kincaids? It's a staple on the Redondo pier, and has fairly decent reviews across the board on Yelp and Urban Spoon. Bobby and I found it while exploring the pier on my first day in town, and were immediately excited about the brunch menu-- crab cake benedict and a bloody mary bar? Plus, the building and the view are gorgeous.
We were sold.
We went with our friends, Johnson and Lauren, Saturday morning shortly after the restaurant opened (around 11:15 AM, and they open at 11). We figured out from a poster up front there was a baby shower going on outside. Not an issue, we thought; the rest of the restaurant was empty, and service should be fine.
The first red flag was the hostess working the phones and "seating people". She did not so much as acknowledge at us for the first five minutes we were standing in the restaurant and the phone was ringing off the hook. She did not answer, and it was loud and irritating. My friends and I were joking that one of us should go ahead and help her out, because she seemed to be either confused, inexperienced, or contemptuous of her customers. I believe it was a combination of the three. She seemed to be tooling around on her computer, as if figuring out were to seat people. There were only 4 parties waiting, and we were the only 4top; the rest were couples.
In my dining experiences, I have never been made to wait more than 3 or so minutes to be seated at a table in an empty restaurant. I understand the need to clear tables or figure out seating areas for each server. But that did not seem to be the case. We had to wait 15 minutes. We probably would have left, except after I asked the hostess how much longer the wait would be. She said "just a few moments", and looked at me as though she was appalled I had the audacity to ask such a question.
We were finally seated, and saw the size of the baby shower seated on the patio. It looked like about 30-40 people. Sure, a large group, but Kincaids is quite a large restaurant, so I didn't imagine it would be an issue.
After a few minutes, our waiter came over to take our drink orders. Bloody mary's all around! He wasn't certain about Bobby's Colorado ID, as he had just gone through the process to get his California ID after the move, so it was hole punched. The server asked his manager, who glanced at our table, and immediately declined.
After a little research on the internet, I couldn't come up with a conclusive answer on whether it was appropriate to deny him the right to drink. His ID was still valid, and the gent is 24 years old. Regardless, I understand a restaurant's liquor license is very important and that they did not want to mess with it. Understandable. He admitted he was new, and didn't want to mess up quite yet. We understood.
After breaking the bad news about Bobby's ID, the waiter took our orders. Bobby and I choose the crab cake benedict, Johnson got the "Monte Cristo", and Lauren asked for an omelette, which was not on the menu. First, the waiter started asking Johnson if he was "sure he wanted the Monte Cristo". It's apparently a fried monolith of a sandwich crusted in cornflakes and powdered sugar, served with a fruit compote. He spent a good minute warning Johnson about the sandwich, and we all laughed about it. He did try very hard to talk Johnson out of it, and Johnson assured him he wanted the sandwich. What was incredibly strange was the waiter wasn't sure if the kitchen could make Lauren's omelette. We thought that was bizarre for a brunch place... an omelette is about as basic as it gets!
It was 10 minutes before the waiter brought us our glasses with vodka and tomato juice to head over to the bloody mary bar. He was dripping sweat-- it looks like they may have been understaffed because of the baby shower. The poor guy was really doing his best. We went over and made our bloody mary's and came back to the table. They had a great variety of hot sauces, olives, pickled veggies, and even salami. It was quite fun to do! After we returned to our table, two gentlemen and a small child came over and were seated behind us (so roughly 25 minutes after we were seated), and a woman and a man were seated on the other side of us.
Both tables' food was brought about 20 minutes later, and ours was still nowhere in sight. The waiter came over to apologize, saying the kitchen was held up with the baby shower party. I mentioned that the baby shower had actually ordered about 30 minutes after we did, and their menus were still out there. He didn't know what to say, but continued to apologize profusely. Both tables on either side of us had eaten, paid, and left long before our food even arrived.
The waiter came back another 15 minutes later (so 1:15 in), and apologized again, asking if we wanted soups or salads. Lauren ordered a salad, which mysteriously came right out. It was served with delicious crispy egg roll things filled with some sort of cream cheese which Bobby and I enjoyed. Our server mentioned the manager would be over to talk to us shortly.
After an hour and 40 minutes, our food arrived, and the server had brought a normal benedict for me instead of the crab cake benedict. After the plate was placed, the manager arrived with the crab cake benedict and offered to leave both on the table for us, and when we politely declined that we just wanted our what we ordered, replied sarcastically "oh, not that hungry?" We stared at him, waiting for him to say anything about the service or tremendous delay. "Is there anything else?" He asked, blank faced. We just shook our heads.
Johnson's sandwich monolith was quite good, actually. Lauren's bacon was undercooked, so she asked for it to return to the kitchen. The crab cake benedict's were surprisingly small, maybe 2.5 inches in diameter. The potatoes were wrinkly and lukewarm. My serving of potatoes was half that of Bobby's It appeared and tasted as though our food had been left standing on the counter for quite some time.
The waiter returned to check on our food, and we told him everything was fine. He continued to apologize, and mentioned they would try to discount our purchase, for the wait was so long. I asked if this sort of experience was normal, and he said no, that it was just the additional pressure on the kitchen from the baby shower. I mentioned that the tables on both sides of us had arrived after us and had been served, eaten, and left before our food had even arrived. He had no response, but seemed quite worried.
We asked for the check, and waited another 15 minutes for that. Our server eventually came over, apologized again, and let us know that "he" would be picking up the bill for our entire meal, food and drinks. We thanked him, left him a tip, and left.
What I cannot comprehend is that Kincaid's has mostly positive reviews across the board online, and we had an absolutely appalling experience. The bloody mary's were good, the food was decent (I bet quite good had it been served fresh), and the decor and atmosphere were lovely. More often than not, restaurants will put their new servers with younger kids who tend to be more forgiving with mistakes. Yet I didn't feel that the errors were on the end of our server, who was very sweet and trying his absolute best. I was appalled at the rudeness of both the hostess, and the coldness of the manager. It was surprising that the manager did not say a word about the service or the wait, and that after all of that time, Lauren's bacon was undercooked and they had brought the wrong meal for me.
I would say it was "nice of them" to have picked up the check for us, but it was simply the right thing to do. I would have been furious to pay $30 for a bloody mary and crab benedict after spending over two hours at Kincaids.
I wonder if there was something we did upon entering the restaurant that rubbed the hostess the wrong way? Perhaps it was vengeful for having asked when we'd been seated? Maybe she overheard us wondering why she was not picking up the ringing phone? In any instance, restaurants are about service and giving someone a culinary experience they cannot create for themselves.
If I wanted to wait for two hours for crappy service, I would have gone to the DMV.