Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Doug Katz's Katz Club Diner Misses the Mark

When I first moved into my home the infamous Diner Cars on Lee road sat vacant. A few years ago Clyde's Bistro and Barroom [see my post here] -- owned by the eponymous Clyde Mart. It was generally excellent, and Mr. Mart was a fantastic host but closed after a bit more than a year. Immediately succeeding was Favor Bistro -- a concept that Rachel and I tried once (unknowingly -- the sign outside was still of Clyde's) and "never again" (Service was less than stellar, the menu was questionable, and, well I'm a picky eater and to sum it up... alligator was on the menu). Favor deservedly closed after a short run and the space has stood vacant since.

Thus when I learned that restaurateur Doug Katz was taking over the space -- and planning a return to the diner concept I was excited and looking forward to once again having an Americanesque food establishment a short walk down the street from my house. Rachel suggested dining for my birthday about two weeks ago, but they had not yet opened.

Opening date having passed, tonight Rachel and I walked over figuring that we'd try Mr. Katz's new endeavor. The short version: The staff was friendly and competent, the food was reasonably good, but the concept execution was beyond disappointing.

Reservationless, we were met with a 30 minute wait (estimated at 15-20), but with nowhere to really lean, much less sit in the foyer (there was precisely one chair available) to pass the time it felt much longer.

Having been seated, Rachel and I both decided to order sodas -- Diet Coke for her, Coke for me. Under the heading of "Soda Fountain" on the menu, imagine our surprise when a glass bottle of (real sugar) Coke and a can of Diet Coke were brought to our table--decidedly not Fountain, and considering that I'm not a fan of "real sugar" Coke [it tends to give me headaches] had there been any warning I may have tried something else. Imagine our surprise when Rachel's request for a refill on her beverage brought with it an unannounced doubling of the price on the check (really $2.00 per 12oz can? Hotel vending machines don't even stick it to you that badly and they aren't making margin on food). I'm honestly not sure which I'm more surprised by -- that it's labeled as a soda fountain but its not soa from a fountain, or the pricing structure.

Walking back to my place after, Rachel and I discussed the evening and the best conclusion we can come to was a "sit-down restaurant" wrapped in a "diner" theme, with above-market pricing, and adequate food -- but food the didin't deserve the pricing.

Service speed was also severely disappointing -- for a "diner" a 20+ minute wait for food (after the 30+ seating time) is not what either of us expected, and at least one other table was becoming visibly agitated.

I had the "Creamy Mac and Cheese", covered in breading, and served in a mini crock it was good -- but the portion size didn't create value for the menu price. More troubling, Rachel tried the "Diner Cheeseburger and Paprika Onions" -- found under the category of "Sandwiches" with the notation "All sandwiches served with choice of fries or chips and Dr. Katz's pickle".

Well -- the food Rachel was actually served was good ("nice bun, good fries") but tiny ("it looks like a single slider" both of us commented nearly simultaneously). More notable, however, was what Rachel wasn't served:  Both "Dr. Katz's Pickle" and the Paprika Onions explicitly specified on the menu were absent without leave or explanation. Also missing were any semblance of other burger staples -- like tomato, onion (paprika or otherwise) or even lettuce: Essentially a thin 3" diameter patty with American cheese, ketchup, and a bun. Period. For $11. Fundamentally the same thing -- with faster service -- can be found at Wendy's for about $4 including the drink.

The service wasn't worth the price or the wait, the food wasn't worth the price or the wait, and the ambience [including an obnoxiously loud table behind us, seemingly related to Mr. Katz] certainly wasn't worth either.

Maybe Rachel and I will try again in a few weeks but given the premium pricing on mediocre execution, it will probably be a while.


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