Friday, October 25, 2013

The Weekly Open Thread: Where Is Nashville's Best Restaurant Service?

Posted By on Fri, Oct 25, 2013 at 5:45 AM

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I've been thinking a fair bit about restaurant service lately — how I like (and don't like) to be treated when I'm dining out. As for what makes up bad service, there are certain criteria we can probably all agree on — for instance, inattentiveness, rudeness, slowness.

But assuming the restaurant staff is attentive, polite and timely, what are the other elements that please (or perhaps annoy) you? For instance, can waitstaff be overly attentive?

Among my favorite restaurants, service-wise: City House, Rolf and Daughters, Marché, Lockeland Table. Those are just the places that immediately come to mind. Here's what I like about the service at those restaurants: Everyone seems professional, they are attentive without being pushy, and there's a relaxed, casual vibe. It's service that says, "We know you're here to eat and have fun, and we want to treat you well without being intrusive."

I like the food at Husk, and am really glad Sean Brock has planted a flag at Nashville. I had an OK lunch there in June, but had an excellent dinner in mid-July. The staff was attentive, but there's something about the service there that rubs me the wrong way. Both times, the waitstaff delivered a spiel that felt very rehearsed, as if they are given a speech about the menu they are required to recite word for word. (Perhaps they are, for all I know.) Something like, "The pea tendrils in the heritage pork were picked at 8 a.m. this morning at a farm in Goodlettsville, and have been braised in a reduction using 18-year bourbon from Joe Shmoe's distillery, just outside Fayetteville." I'm making that up, but you get the idea. It feels stiff, awkward and a tad contrived.

Frankly, there's no need to convince Nashvillians that Husk is great and uses only the freshest ingredients. We get it — the restaurant is packed every night. There's no need to toot the horn. Let the food do the talking — which it does quite well.

What are your benchmarks for good service? Pet peeves? What Nashville restaurant really nails it when it comes to service? And what else is new?

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