I follow Advice to Writers on Twitter. Last night wasn't a great night for dining in Belltown. I remembered a tweet from a couple days ago that simply quoted Allen Ginsberg. "First thought, best thought."
We planned to visit Marjorie last night (I'd had it on the schedule for a couple weeks), but the temperatures in the area are between 7-17 degrees, so we still weren't feeling great about the road conditions given that there is at least one decent hill between us and Marjorie. We were also eating quite late tonight since there was a UK basketball game on tv. We changed our plans and decided instead to visit La Vita e Bella. This is one of our favorite restaurants in the summer. They have a fanstastic patio. The service has always been a little hit or miss, but their food is wonderful.
The same very nice man is usually working. He seats customers and brings water and a bread basket. He also clears the tables, wraps up food to take home. It seems like he does a little of everything. He's always friendly, but last night he was the highlight of our very brief visit. We sat at the table for about 15 minutes completely ignored after he left us with our bread and water. A man behind the bar who I believe is one of the owners (based on the picture on the website) was on the phone for the majority of the time before disappearing. We waited another few minutes before it became obvious that no one was going to come to the table. It was almost 9:30 at this point and we were starving, so we just put our coats back on and left.
On the way out, the nice man from earlier asked us if "he had helped us yet," gesturing to where the man behind the bar was previously standing. I told him he had not and we would go elsewhere. He seemed very nervous and flustered. I really hope he didn't get any trouble for the whole situation because he really was the only good part of the experience. We were the only table in the immediate area (though there were a couple larger parties around the corner). Especially given we normally love La Vita e Bella, it was quite disappointing to be completely ignored.
This isn't the longest I've ever waited for ackowledgement at a restaurant. Last year on my birthday, we waited 45 minutes at Spring Hill before anyone came to our table. The only reason we waited so long was because we we were out of our element in West Seattle and didn't know where else to go. We've lived in Belltown long enough not to put up with that in our own neighborhood.
Bundled up again, we headed a couple blocks to Belltown Pub. They don't appear to have a website (nor do they appear on Urban Spoon), so I've linked to their Facebook page. We visited Belltown Pub on one other occasion a couple months ago and had a really nice time. The food is definitely of the bar food variety, so we weren't expecting an amazing meal and pretty much got what we expected, but especially for the price, it was good.
Last night, we were seated right away by a friendly guy who appeared to be the bartender. He let us know that our server, Lisa, would be right over. Apparently, last night was not the night for decent (or any) service in Belltown. Again, we waited and waited. No Lisa. We waited some more. No Lisa. We finally decided to just go home if we had to wait much longer. Our stomachs had basically just given up.
Eventually, the nice man who seated us came over and asked if he could at least get some drinks started for us. I ordered a glass of wine and B a beer. Just as he was walking away, she walked over to the table. He told her he'd taken our drink order. He brought our drinks and again we waited... and waited. He came back and told us Lisa was a little bit busy and asked if we wanted to order food. He took our order and walked away. A few minutes later, Lisa made her first official appearance and asked if we were planning to order food. We told her our order had already been taken. She told us she'd go find out what she was waiting for. More time passed... a lot more time. Eventually the guy came back (I really wish I'd gotten his name) and brought us our food and B another beer. The only time Lisa actually helped us was when she cleared our plates and brought the check. I was disappointed to see her name on the check since she did nothing to help. She seemed friendly enough, just not particularly interested in us. On our way out, she thanked us as she smoked her cigarette next to the gate to their small patio.
As for the food, B had Thee Ted Smith (a roast beef sandwich with cheese and two fried eggs on top) and I had the Steak Frites. B loves that sandwich (he had the same last time). My steak was good. The photos are pretty terrible. I think I was a little crabby and starving by then, so I just wanted to eat my food!
I totally understand that, at least at Belltown Pub, they were likely short handed due to the weather. Either they sent people home because they didn't expect to be busy or some of their staff couldn't make it in. It just would have been nice to hear a little bit of an explanation or an apology from our server. The friendly bartender/host/server saved the meal, though.
The moral of the story is "First though, best thought." Marjorie was our instinct, the roads probably weren't that bad. We could have at least tested them out. I have a feeling we'll try to make up for it tonight.