While waiting for our burgers to arrive at Maison Harlem, my friend Jason and I decided to we should start with a little green roughage before the beef so we flagged down our server and asked for a garden salad ($9) to split. It was basic and a little underdressed for our taste and, once our burgers arrived with the same salad on the side, not worth spending the extra money. It would have been helpful for our server to mention that when we ordered the salad. Upselling is one thing, reselling is another, and not advising your table of a menu you should be knowledgeable about is bad business.
I enjoyed my burger with cheddar and caramelized onions served on a brioche bun (now $13.50). It was juicy and cooked perfectly to medium as I ordered. The frites were also good but served just a touch too cool. Jason enjoyed his burger though he realized that he is not a fan of the soft French brioche bun, as it becomes too delicate to hold all the ingredients of a hearty burger.
I was enjoying my first visit to Maison Harlem with all of the possibilities it held until the bill came and, more importantly, the subsequent show by and exchange with our inhospitable and patronizing server. Once all was said and done, our Sunday burger brunch came to $36 per person. Might be that “change is a constant” thing, but too much in my book for brunch.
The Bloody Mary that, for me, needed a little extra attention was $12. Bloody Marys, Bellinis and mimosas are the beverage holy brunch trinity and should be offered at a reduced price on Sundays. That is Brunch 101! That said, I took the note and thought I would mention it to our server as a little customer feedback. She didn’t like that and proceeded to walk over to the bar, directly in my vision, and complain to the bartender who was watching me watching him. That turned me into a boiling Bloody Mary, but I took a beat and apologized to her for unknowingly upsetting her. Her reply? “Thank you,” with a smirk and no apology for her display. I asked if one of the owners was around, whom she offered defiantly to call over. I told her not to worry herself any further and still gave a 20 percent tip (not my choice). She then proceeded to have yet another conversation with another server within my vision.
To his credit, when I politely interrupted owner Samuel Thiam in deep conversation, apologizing to his guest (apologies again, Ms. Goldberg) to discuss my experience, he excused himself and met me at the bar to hear me out. He admitted it was not the first time there was an issue with our server, that it would be handled and he welcomed me to return and ask for him should I have any other problems. Thank you. I will remain vigilant when I return.
Attention, new Harlem business owners: The bread and butter of your businesses are the people who live in your area. At least 50 percent of your patrons have been in Harlem far longer than you and are excited not to now have to go downtown for a meal, a drink or to socialize. Their job is to patronize your businesses. Your job is to foster great service and hospitality. Your servers, hosts and bartenders are your first line of offense, not defense, to success. If they are not ready or trained properly to be an extension of you and your philosophies about hospitality, then leave them on the bench or don’t hire them at all. Sometimes you get just one chance at making a loyal customer. Please don’t take Harlem’s excitement for change and something new for granted.
Kysha Harris is a food writer, culinary producer, consultant and owner of SCHOP!, a personalized food service offering weekly and in home entertaining packages. Questions? Comments? Requests? Feedback? Invitations! Email her at kysha@iSCHOP.com, follow her on Twitter @SCHOPgirl or Facebook www.facebook.com/SCHOPnyc or chat with her on Instant Messenger at AskSCHOP, Monday-Friday, 6-8 p.m. For even more recipes, tips and food musings, subscribe to her blog at www.talkingSCHOP.wordpress.com.