In writing this column, I have the opportunity to write reviews about local businesses and restaurants. I love it, because I get to be supportive of and enthusiastic about our businesses and entrepreneurs. But, what is the best thing to do when we have a criticism or negative thing to say?
My folks said, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” I have tried to do this (not always successfully) in my adult life. I guess that they told us kids that so we wouldn’t become complainers.
This week, it was my intention to write a review of a small restaurant that has been one of my family’s favorites for 30 years. That is a long time to patronize anywhere. So many stores and eateries have come and gone in that time. The fact that the place is still there is a good sign, isn’t it?
I will admit that we haven’t frequented the restaurant as much recently. I looked forward to returning. My daughter and I went armed with our appetites and my camera! I was very disappointed. The quality of the food wasn’t the same. Which brings me to this point: What to do if you can’t say something nice?
This is a particularly hot topic in Altadena lately. There have been several instances recently where residents have had complaints and NOT taken them up with the businesses they complained about. Instead the complaints have been made to L.A. County, creating problems for the business owners, a great deal of cost, discord and frustration in the neighborhood.
Have businesses in general created a defensive attitude? Do we as consumers feel unheard? What will happen if we have a concern or complaint?
I don’t want to list the name of the restaurant that I am writing about today. Some of you may guess it. But out of respect for the many happy years we spent there, it will remain nameless. It was my first introduction to authentic Mexican food. My Ohio palate was assaulted with the new tastes and heat of Mexican cuisine there. I was delighted and a lifelong love was born!
The original restaurant was located on the same property of the owner’s house, and was small and charming, and had the best garden to eat on in the summertime. My friends and I went there through the early 70s and as young marrieds we continued to frequent it.
It was the first restaurant that I took my now 31-year-old son to as an infant. We were heartbroken when a fire broke out and shut them down. We were delighted when we learned that they planned to open a small temporary location in Northern Pasadena until the original location was rebuilt. We went to the satellite location as soon as they opened to get our fill of their yummy food.
Years passed, my older daughter was born and I remember that first my son, then my daughter grew big enough to go up to the counter to pay Jose. He would reach down and give them a candy – their heads barely coming above the counter. It was our go-to restaurant. It was also the first restaurant that my youngest daughter went to, and then my granddaughter, and grandson. Lots of years, and so many happy memories!
But on my last visit, the magic was gone. The salsa wasn’t fresh, the chips slightly stale. My chile relleno tasted like it had been frozen and microwaved! The batter tasted freezer burned and had hard spots in it the way that bread gets when nuked in a microwave. I could barely distinguish where the chile was, and the cheese was rubbery. I also ordered a tamale, and it was unremarkable. I was crestfallen!
Coincidentally, minutes after my daughter and I left, my son and his family stopped by there to eat, the same night. They hadn’t been in a long time either, and their report was the same as mine. My son also commented on how he would like to remain loyal, after all the years…..but that the quality and taste wasn’t good, especially for the price!
I used to order their chef’s special and it was always a little more costly at $12.95, but now the same dish is $16.95!!! Inflation is real – but when you can get a meal for two at a couple other local places for the same price – it is time for someone to pay attention!
So what is the best thing to do? Do we bid “adios” to a place we loved so much? Is it time to let go, like with a bad relationship? Or would it be better to contact the management directly?
I would love to hear from you about your opinions, experiences or ideas. When is there a time to say something NOT nice?