Monday, January 21, 2008

Restaurant review: El Greco

Admittedly, Doug and I are foodies and Greek/Middle Eastern is one of our favorite cuisines. Until the last few years, good Greek/Middle Eastern restaurants in Austin have been few and far between, so when we hear about a new one, we're there.

A few weeks ago we heard about El Greco, a new Greek restaurant on Guadalupe, so we tried it out--twice. The service was so bad that I doubt we'll go back.

Our first trip was two weeks ago, Saturday night. It's small, but was packed. You order at the counter and they bring your food. Doug ordered the Chicken Souvlaki, which he thought was okay. I ordered the Beeftekee, chopped steak stuffed with feta. It had a lot of flavor. Doug liked his potatoes, but my sides were a bit bland. Compared to other similar types of restaurants, I thought the portion sizes were small for the price. It was like $3 for about three tablespoons of hummus and the hummus wasn't that special.

The thing that got me, however, was the service. It was 15 minutes after we ordered that I got my wine. We asked the server about it when he brought the hummus and the reply was, "I can't serve that to you." I understand being under age, but he could have responded better. It took another 5 minutes after I got my wine for Doug to get his beer. They were out of water at the drink station and I had to get the server to fill it up. And it wasn't just us, the table next to us got their appetizers after their entrees. You could just look around and tell everyone was getting frustrated at the service.

Still, it's a new restaurant and it has to work out its kinks. We decided to give it a few months before we went back for dinner. However, they do serve breakfast. Saturday I was in the mood to try one of their feta breakfast pockets, so I convinced Doug to go. They open at 10; we got there 5 minutes early so we walked across the street to Wheatsville Co-op to kill time. By the time we got back to the restaurant, it was 10:10.

We walk in and we're not even sure if it's open. The kitchen is open to the restaurant and one of the guys in the kitchen was singing something about bitches at the top of his lungs. Not a great first impression. The owner was at the cash register and Doug asked if they were open. The owner said they were running late and it would be another 20 minutes. Then he said something about not having all the breakfast items and what would we want. We got the feeling that us just being there was an annoyance to the owner. Doug politely said we would come back another time.

Of course, Doug was lying. He vowed never to go back. It wasn't that they weren't ready, it was the whole attitude. It's one thing not to have the flow down. And I know it wasn't just us, I've read other comments about El Greco's service. But that could be forgiven, assuming that it gets better. It won't get better, however, if the owner doesn't care, lets his staff sing about bitches, and comes across rude himself.

Thank goodness, there is Sarah's Market, which I'll have to tell you about another time.

1 comment:

apthorpe said...

Two weeks later the problems with El Greco persist, and had I thought to look for early reviews I might have avoided tonight's expensive trainwreck of a dinner.

Some of the problems are teething issues but probably should have been addressed by now. The lack of basic customer focus, the inflated prices, and the chaos that started the minute we walked in the door and didn't stop until we left do not bode well, especially since there are three great restaurants within a few hundred feet of the place and a passable Mediterranean place a couple blocks down.

My personal bias is for lamb gyros so even if they fix the root cause of the problems (management), I doubt I'd go back. Don't get me wrong - I love pork, and El Greco's was very tasty - but had I known the gyro plate choices did not include lamb, I wouldn't have bothered.

Honestly - given that the vast, vast majority of Greek restaurants serve lamb or beef on their gyros, you'd think El Greco would have made it clear they were different. Like I said, I love pork but I don't like being surprised by it. It's like the Carvel Ice Cream store on South Lamar, the one that doesn't make ice cream cakes - What? Then why do you even bother?

We like Sarah's - it's close to home and has better parking and ambiance than Phoenicia, though you really can't beat Phoenicia's chicken sandwich. Friends swear it contains crack and I tend to agree, plus their muffaletta is one of the best I've had in or out of Louisiana. Both Kismet and Gyros Plus on Burnet deliver a very solid gyro for a reasonable price so for my money (and time!) there's no excuse for wasting time at El Greco.

I hate to be a bitch about it but the whole experience was sad-making.