Why do we eat out? I think for most people it's because we like being served. I'm not talking about cruising through the drive through. There is something about going to a restaurant, being served, eating, and walking away from all those dishes and mess. There are those times when we have had a tough week or hard day that a visit to a restaurant is just the thing to help us wind down and de-stress. Even if the food is mediocre, but the service is good, then our experience is usually a good one and we will continue to patronize the establishment. I also believe this to be true if the food is exceptional and the service mediocre. But if the food is mediocre and the service bad, well I'm not a happy eater.
Recently the wife and I decided to try The Shrimp Boat, on a Friday night, to celebrate my new job. Now in New Orleans, unless you are Catholic, you do not eat at a seafood restaurant, on a Friday night, during lent, period. The wait will be at least an hour or more. I wait for no man's food. We arrive to find out that there was only a 10 minute wait to our surprise. After being seated, things rapidly went down hill. The hostess seated us and within seconds our waiter arrived and asked if we had eaten with them before. We told him it was our first and he replied, "Seafood or steak?" We hadn't even looked at the menus yet. I responded that I cooked a great steak at home and that we were probably going with seafood, at which time he leaned over and explained the menu to my wife. It's a single sheet of laminated paper not a Faulkner novel. He completely ignored me. He quickly left and returned with two glasses of water and then disappeared again. At this point I was really looking for a cold beer. When he returned he asked if we had made a decision. I said "yes, I want a beer." Since the menu had no drink listing, I asked if they had a wine and beer menu and he said that they had so many he couldn't list them all. I asked what was on draught. He said they only had bottled beer so I asked for an Abita. "We don't have that" he responded. I asked for a Pilsner Urquell, and again he responded in the negative. How about a Sam Adam's and he said yes and Yingling. So we finally made some head way. When we entered the restaurant there was a tonight's specials sign by the front door. At no time did he mention them. When he returned with our drinks, again addressing my wife, he asked if we were ready to order. I told him we wanted to start with the shrimp and crab meat dip served with grilled pita chips at which time he again walked away, hopefully to turn in our order. Upon his next return we were ready to order. I ordered the cup of Gumbo and the wife, the She Crab soup. As entrees, I ordered the fried seafood platter with oysters, which cost $4.75 extra and the wife the stuffed grouper. Our waiter asked if we wanted our soups first and I responded "No we want our appetizer first then the soups." Did he really ask me that? The appetizer arrived and was white cheesy, saucy, combo of small pieces of shrimp and crab meat served in a large bowl surrounded by the pita chips. While this was a tasty dip the grilled pita chips failed to be firm enough to actually scoop or dip. I had to spoon the dip onto the chip with my fork and rush it to it's destination (my mouth) before the chip wilted and spilled it in my lap. The gumbo was adequate and the She Crab seemed to missing the crab meat. She Crab soup is so called because it is supposed to have some pink crab roe in but I have not found any in all the She Crab soup we have tasted about town. Why not call it crab bisque and get it over with. The entrees arrived in a timely manner. The seafood platter which included the ubiquitous stuffed crab was nicely proportioned with shrimp (butterflied to look larger), a piece of fish which was also butterflied to look larger, about six small scallops which were very uniform in size, and the oysters. As far as seafood platters go this is what I expect in Panama City, but cannot hold a candle to the ones I get in New Orleans. The wife's stuffed grouper was covered with a Bearnaise sauce, which is a Hollandaise with Tarragon added. The grouper was cooked well but the stuffing, as in the stuffed crab, was bready.
The most troubling thing to me was, as we were leaving, I stopped at the hostess station and inquired if our waiter was new. You could tell by the tone of my voice something had not gone well. The hostess said no, and I said OK. She let me walk out without asking if there had been something wrong. As stated before I give restaurants at least three visits before I rate them and I will return to the Shrimp Boat to give it another try, but I will make sure I don't get the same waiter. Check back for an update.