I’m sorry it’s been a while since you’ve heard from me, but it takes time to sharpen a leaden pen. Or keyboard. I have to work myself up to saying bad things about people. Contrary to popular belief, I’m really a pretty easy-going guy. Just don’t stomp on any of my clearly-labeled-and-in-fisher-price-colors hot buttons and you’ll be okay.
Which brings me to my eating experience in Carrollton, Georgia about a week ago now. I had run down there to see my friend “G” play the lead in a community theater production of “Peter Pan,” so I was a stranger in a strange town. I had had the long drive from Tennessee the day before, a late night with alcohol, and then a short day, followed by the show. After about ninety minutes, Peter had lured the Darling children, Peter rescued Tiger Lily, Tiger Lily rescued Peter, pirates were appropriately fought, and the Darling children went home. It was time for beer and margaritas. I was invited to dine with the cast at a Brazilian steakhouse within walking distance from the theater called Samba Loca. I was a stranger in an intimate group that had been working together for months, so I wasn’t in a position to rock the boat, and besides, what did I know from food in Carrollton? So away I went.
Table for thirteen please. Okay – I’ll be the first person to admit that we were a large party showing up without reservations at eight thirty on a Saturday night. This is going to present a challenge to any restaurateur. But that said up front: they sign said “open for business.” They seated us. And they took our money.
To begin, a party of eight had recently vacated the corner booth, so a space was almost pre-set for us. I got to look at that dirty table for twenty-five minutes before someone could be bothered to wipe it down and seat us. It took almost a half an hour to put seats under our butts when there was a table clearly available and right in front of us. Once seated, we got no menus, and it took another half hour to get our drink orders. Don’t bother to watch the clock; I did it for you. It has now been an hour since I set foot in the door, I still had no menu, and my drink order had just been taken. Still no menus. Ah, Mr. Darling was seated within earshot of what I suspect is a passing manager. Menus were now supplied.
Thirty minutes later, I realized that a man actually CAN die of thirst at Samba Loca. Again, I realize that thirteen drinks is a tall order for one bartender, but a half-hour to fill a drink order? About fifteen minutes later, the drinks arrived, and I was served what I suspect was a teaspoon of Jose Cuervo in a cup and a half of concentrated, reconstituted commercial lime juice. I don’t know what that green liquid was, but it was not a margarita, by any measure I know. After another fifteen minutes of drink shuffling the waiter was at last ready to take our order. I wanted the soup and a salad. They were out of the soup. I tried for an appetizer. They were out of that, too. Twp hours into my eating experience, and you note, I didn’t say, “dining,” I was able to place my order. It’s now ten-thirty at night. I think it was at this point that they began to jack up the audio system. I know that if it was as loud when I walked in as when I walked out, I never would have gone in, dinner guest or no.
After about forty more minutes, our entrees came out. I got mine last. I shouldn’t complain. Somebody’s got to be last. After my first two choices had been sold out, I ordered a garlic and mushroom sauce on pasta dish. I had to break out the salt and pepper, but it was okay. I just couldn’t face the steaks. They were too large. I’m a big guy, but the smallest steak on the menu was over a pound, and I just didn’t want that much food. By the time we were done eating, the sound had been boosted to Dance Dance Revolution levels and we called for the checks. It was now after eleven o’clock at night and I had been trapped in this box for almost three and a half hours, unable to converse and with next to nothing to drink.
Son of a . . . after that kind of treatment, they had the gall to put a gratuity on the check. It was 10%. I normally tip 15% – 20%, and was trying to figure out how much of this gustatorial disaster was the direct fault of the waiter when I saw that. Ok, fine. You calculated my gratuity for me – that’s all you’re gonna get.
To sum up, I give Samba Loca
One Pint of five for service. They did eventually get me my food.
Two pints of five for cuisine. They didn’t mess up the pasta dish.
One pint of five for atmosphere. It had all the ambiance of a high-school cafeteria, with the added benefit of playing dance music loud enough to drown out conversation.
I don’t often say “don’t eat here.” After all, other people might have an entirely different experience. But I also don’t often get treated like my arrival is an interruption of something more important. Don’t eat at Samba Loca.
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