I usually don't waste my time posting about bad food and restaurant experiences on SPF. Instead, I prefer to focus my energy on writing about the many delicious places I've discovered. However, while my dinner last night was not abysmal, I still feel the need to speak out about my mediocre dining experience.
Gene's Coffee Shop, located on 60th St. between Park and Madison, was recommended to me by co-worker. I was meeting my friend L. for dinner before we headed to a movie theater on 64th Street and Second Avenue, and we both love diner food. This place was in an ideal location, seemed to charge reasonable prices, and boasted raves and high ratings on many different restaurant Web sites, so we gave it a shot with high expectations.
When I arrived there were a few crotchety diners already chowing down, and the man at the register was welcoming and friendly. He told me to sit wherever I liked (again, an underrated detail of a good dining experience), and I was immediately plied with a glass of cold water.
Unfortunately, this is where the good service ended. My father once told me about a (supremely snobbish) woman he had once met who traveled extensively and had dined all over the world. When she and her husband were seated at a restaurant, they would count backward from 60. If someone hadn't arrived to greet them, give them drinks, or take their order by the time they finished counting, they would get up and leave.
Now, I certainly don't have standards this high, but the service at Gene's was pretty inattentive. It took at least 10-15 minutes for the waiter to take our orders, and he didn't seem to be busy at all. In addition, we had put down our menus and folded them, an indication that we were ready to order. I don't think I'm a prima donna, but part of good service is paying attention to customers. Normally I wouldn't have been so agitated about it (I am a brunch girl, after all, which means I like to linger), but we had pre-ordered our movie tickets and needed to get to the theater on time.
When my order, an Italian panini (with grilled chicken, mozzarella, mushrooms, tomatos and greens), arrived, it was the appropriate temperature and at least looked delicious. However, the bread was soggy to the point of deterioration, the tomatos looked a little past their prime, and the mushrooms reminded me of what you might find on a Pizza Hut pizza back in the heartland. I would hypothesize that they were straight from a can. They were a bit of an odd color, chewy, and a reminder of why I didn't like mushrooms until I reached adulthood and tasted them as they were meant to be served.
Two bright spots were my fries (crisped to perfection and delicious with and without ketchup, an important criterion) and L.'s French Onion soup (slightly greasy, but still yummy and topped with cheese). L. also seemed to enjoy her meal, although I imagine it's difficult to ruin grilled cheese.
The waiter took his sweet time clearing our plates, and he brought me a very inappropriately-sized box in which to transport my leftovers (yes, I understand the irony of not enjoying my dinner and then taking it home anyway...it's a recession, people!). The box also promptly broke, and we were forced to take our own check to the counter because we were running so late.
The final straw was the fact that the jelly mints were (gasp) a bit stale. L. and anyone else who has ever accompanied me to a diner knows that I LIVE for the jelly mints on the way out the door. Otherwise, what's the point of going? A combination of stale jelly mints and unimpressive mushrooms, even when paired with good fries, do not make for a pleasant dining experience.
The conclusion here, folks, is that my meal was merely passable. It wasn't horrible, but it also wasn't worth $12. I probably could have gotten something more satisfying at McDonald's, truth be told. I'm not trying to harp on this or nitpick, but I thought it was important to note that not every eating experience in New York is mind-blowing. Would I go back to Gene's? Perhaps. I don't like to judge based on one experience, and it's possible their breakfasts are better. Still, the beauty of this city is that I never have to settle for anything less than MMMMMM.