GOOD EATS: Growing pains should end soon

The Pickle Barrel in Pickering is experiencing growing pains longer than it should.

Lunch recently on a Monday afternoon at about 1:30 pm was disappointing, not for the food but for the service and the ambiance.

The restaurant cleaning staff was not up to their task. The table needing wiping, the floor sweeping. Someone slipped up instead of sweeping up.

At my lunch time, fewer than a half dozen people were in the dining area of the bar, easily manageable. However, it took just over 11 minutes before a wait staff person appeared. Too long. A staff person should be in the service area at all times or very near to that to welcome patrons.

Service staff, the front line of an eatery, must be knowledgeable about their menu, be ready to make suggestions, upsales (!) and be attentive to every customer at all times. Given the sparse crowd at this lunch hour, there is no excuse for bringing the wrong food item to a guest, what looked like tea with milk as I sipped my draft beer, and was just starting to eat my main course. A minor mistake, but one which should not occurred given the small number of guests at this time.

Serving a main dish without the customer having the appropriate setup of a napkin, cutlery is an obvious ‘no, no.’ I had to go to another table to get dining utensils after my main was presented. Nothing more to say on this.

The Caesar salad with chicken was very good, crisp salad, hot chicken, very appetizing. But no less than expected based on the reputation of other Pickle Barrels. Kudos!

But the egg brioche bun, served unappetizingly on a bread/butter plate, cold, alone, abandoned…oh the loneliness of the bun. Is a bread basket possible?

Worse, the service person placed the entree down without noticing that no cutlery was on the table. Hello, is that the norm?

Growing pains
To lament about every little thing is easy but wrong in this case. The Pickle Barrel has been open for just a few months. Growing pains are understandable. However, given that it is in a hotbed of dining competitors, it should be pulling an “Avis” from the past, the new kid on the block has to try even harder. This Pickle Barrel is coasting on the restaurant’s reputation. This is unwarranted and it must try harder in the future.

Speaking with the manager, Calvin H., was surprisingly unengaging. No jocular banter, no light repartee. He didn’t even ask for my name. A bit disappointing.

However, based on visits to other Pickle Barrel restaurants, I will be revisiting this eatery. The Pickle Barrel has too good of a reputation to criticize it on just one visit.

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