Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Starbucks - Shoreview Target

This is almost more just for the one employee, Christina, who always seems to be there when I make my weekly grocery store run (aka "mama time). Christine is hilarious, personable, and wicked good at making coffee be entertaining. It's like the movie Cocktail... but instead of booze it's coffee. She spins bottles, tosses things in the air, and makes an all around "show" of making the coffee. My kids think it's fun to watch and so do I! Great Job Christina!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Taste of India - Maplewood

I recall back in 2008-2009 when my first born was still fairly young having a fantastic experience dining at Taste of India in Maplewood. My son insisted on being carried on his tummy a majority of the day so upon seeing me standing while holding him and trying to eat the owner of the restaurant came to my aid. He stood there rocking my son holding him in the preferred picky position while I was able to sit down and enjoy my meal.

I had spent many a meal standing up until that point and was nearly a pro at it, but it was incredibly refreshing and nice to have a busy restaurant owner take time out of his schedule to give me a little break.


Marianne's Kitchen - Shoreview

Friday October 14th 2011 around noon two mothers, two toddlers (ages 2 & 3) , and two baby's dined at Marianne's Kitchen in Shoreview Minnesota. It is a Subway/Panera Bread/Quiznos style non-chain fast food sandwich shop. We had a splendid meal, boasted about all the wonderful local items in their pantry for sale, and even commented that "this is what heaven smells like" when they took something new out of the oven. 

We ordered about $25 worth of food; 2 subs, 2 bags of chips, 2 pops, yogurt/fruit cup and 1 date pastry dessert. In addition to that we asked for 2 cups for the toddlers to have water. 

There was only one high chair, so I allowed my girlfriends baby to use it as my baby doesn't eat as much solids as hers does. When the food arrived, no additional plates were provided for our children... so we allowed them to eat straight off the table and high chair. This is not something I like to do, but knowing that most of what little food I give my son ends up next to his plate instead of ON it anyway - I let the issue go sometimes. Pick your battles, right?? Food I gave my son was what I call a "1-inch sandwich" - meaning I just broke off the end of my sandwich for him. I also put the majority of the chips from the chip bag into my food basket and then gave him the bag. He likes to get them out of the bag himself. He probably had about 10 chips in there. The second toddler had a similar sized meal, with the addition of a yogurt cup w/fruit. 
The cups provided for our toddlers did not come with lids, nor were the lids provided at the beverage stand the right size. SPOILER ALERT: Our toddlers spilled water while drinking. We asked for a towel and cleaned up the water from the table and chair. 

Towards the end of our meal we buses our baskets leavings, empty chip bags, and napkins to the trash receptacle. I glanced under the table to see if anyone had dropped personal items, I recall seeing maybe 3-4 chips on my sons chair and a few more on the floor. I know there was absolutely no food left on the table, because my friends baby is a bit of a food hog and when she ran out of food from her high chair stand she grunted at us loudly in protest, so as we were clearing the area we were giving her every morsel of food to keep her happy and quiet.  I specifically remember throwing away the two toddler cups and my own cup with ice left in it because I recall questioning if I should dump the water out into the pop stand first, but then I just put the used napkins into the cups to soak up what little water was left and then put them in the trash. My friend believes that she may have accidentally left her cup on the table, because as we were about to leave her baby hurt herself and was crying, and her toddler was attempting to opening the door to leave. 

We walked out to our cars and started putting our children in the carseats when I heard "Excuse me ladies, that was incredibly rude. You left a huge mess and I'd appreciate it if you never returned." I was ABSOLUTELY SHOCKED! I have never had someone call me rude before, and I've most certainly never been banned from an establishment. I drove home and started thinking about how often we have purchased items from their pantry store and how many people I've recommended buy their local products. I looked at my checkbook and assessed what a fantastic customer we've been to them. Thinking that perhaps it was just a bad employee who had been having a bad day, I did not want to punish this little local gem over the act of one bad employee. So, I called to speak with the owner.  This is where things went from bad... to worse. Turns out the woman that yelled at us in the parking lot is the co-owner. It is a mother/daughter team. First I talked to the mother. I inquired about the level of mess and she said something about it being the worst she had seen in 20 years food service. I rattled off how I remembered seeing a few chips and some lettuce on the ground, and she added that there were mayo fingerprints from where the toddlers had eaten. I asked her if she had expected me to kneel on the ground while holding my baby and keeping my toddler away from their glass jars on the shelf to pick up this small amount of food, and her answer was that because I didn't do it... she had to and she is in her 60's with bad knees. So, I guess her answer is that YES, she had expected me to get on the ground and clean her restaurant.  Well, news flash to her... I've had multiple knee surgeries and it is also difficult for me to kneel on the ground despite being half her age. Especially difficult while holding a baby and keeping an eye on my toddler. What I suggest she do in the future is invest about $10 for a broom and long handled dust pan, because it would take about 30 seconds to sweep up the crumbs under a table and would save her knees any pain. Or she could also have her daughter clean the low areas while she wipe off tables. Mayo finger prints? Seriously? Couple extra sprays of cleaning solution and 10 extra seconds of wiping. Done aaaaaaaand done. So many options other than expecting her customers to thoroughly clean up after themselves. If I knew ahead of time that such level of self cleanup was necessary at this establishment we would have saved our $25 and made sandwiches at home instead. 

She asked if I leave messes like that at grandma's house or friend's houses and expect them to clean up after my children. First off, I don't pay friends or family to dine at their homes and I have asked around to many waitstaff and restaurant owners since this happened and the common theme is that clean up is part of the expense for dining out. It is their job to clean up after customers, and they usually stop customers in the act of cleaning off the floor as it is much easier to get with a broom or mini vacuum than by hand. Secondly, my mother or friends would never expect me to juggle my baby and toddler while trying to kneel and get under a table for a few scraps of food. They would gladly clean it up for me. 

Then came the attacks on our parenting skills and our children's behaviors. Okay, I will freely admit that when we first walked into the establishment my son was excited about the array of pretty glass jars of jellies, syrups, pickles, and honey. He ran over and began to touch anything. Now, had I been my usual supermom self I would have taken the 5 minutes to talk to my son and help him to safely explore this new world and get it out of his system. But ya know what... I was tired and hungry.... so I firmly told him to sit down at the table and not touch anything. Other than that, I can't recall my son doing anything other than sit there and eat. My friends daughter sat down with him and waiting for food without a fuss. Now, towards the end of our visit to the establishment both toddlers were getting a little restless as it was approaching the nap hour and they were just plain ready to go. Does any of this sound like horrible children to you? Sounds pretty normal of you ask me... but I was told by both owners that our children were basically out of control little monsters and that we should be ashamed to be their parents. I was told repeatedly that their children would have never behaved that way. Well... you're right Linda, you raised a daughter that will chase customers out into the parking lot and yell at them. That's a super classy act right there if you ask me. 

Hindsight being 20/20 I wish we would have ran back in there and taken photos, because now it is our word against theirs. But no where have they disputed that this was just a few chips/lettuce on the ground and some finger prints from mayo. They also said something about us not cleaning up all of the water from the spill. The 2 year old probably had about 3-4 oz of water in that cup, and her mother cleaned up what was on the table and chair. If she missed any, it was completely an oversight and honest mistake. And ... uh... it's water... not syrup or something horribly hard for an employee to clean. 

Let's just say that they are right and we had left the worlds largest mess known to man in the last century.... first off... would we be making this big of a stink? Or would we be hanging our heads in shame and crawling in a hole somewhere to die? And secondly, in this economy isn't it more wise just to utter a swear word under your breath, clean up the mess, and be thankful for the dollars flowing into your store? I don't recall seeing any signs that told us to put our garbage away - yet we did anyway, and we certainly could have left all of the water spill for them to clean up. The mess that was left was absolutely a typical, and perhaps even above average one, of two families dining out with young children. 

There are only two possible conclusions... that Marianne's Kitchen owners have unrealistic expectations of their customers or that they have table gnomes who jump out after the customer leaves and vomit garbage. Either way, I will never be bringing my family back there and I want to make sure that no one I know experiences their tactless insults and horrible customer service. 

What We're About...

After having a horrible experience dining out we thought it would be great to have an easy way to communicate good and bad experiences to our local peers so that everyone knows where to go for a great time, and where to not waste your money and time.

Please submit true stories to and provide as much information as possible (location, address, approximate date, what went down.)

I think we can all agree that most places families go to without much hassle, but what we are interested in compiling is a list of the places that went above and beyond the call of duty to make your experience awesome - and then also places that choose to take it completely the other direction.

In these hard economic times dining out is becoming somewhat of a novelty treat, and I don't know about you... but I want to spend my hard earned dollars in a place that will ensure a good time for all of us. Going out and having a horrible time costs so much more than the price of the meal.

We will have a "table of contents" on the top bar where you can access all of our posts alphabetically and sorted by good or bad experiences.