For a restaurant to be awesome in my book, it needs to ace at least three requirements :: atmosphere, service and, of course, food. Other factors can affect my opinion, but if a place can’t check those three boxes, it doesn’t deserve my vote.
The atmosphere requirement isn’t one of fanciness necessarily; it just has to have enough character to say something when I walk in the door. Similarly, the service only needs to be attentive enough for me to feel like I matter to the restaurant and anything beyond receives bonus points. Obviously the food is judged on a sliding scale because it’s the bottom line; a restaurant with bad food is still not worth visiting, no matter how awesome the service is.
Last week a group of girlfriends and I went to Virdenes Gourmet Burger House, the new-ish restaurant in the Peery Hotel in downtown Salt Lake City, to try their “gourmet custom burgers.” Long story short, they failed miserably at getting my vote.
Virdenes is nestled on the bottom floor of the Peery Hotel. The restaurant has a fancy vibe to it, including white tablecloths, confusing considering they didn’t even have printed beer or wine lists (or even a cocktail list at all). Our server didn’t know the beer or wine availability and eventually read them off a handwritten sheet of paper. (Side note :: a glass of Jacob’s Creek wine is $7/each, the same price of an entire bottle.)
The menu comes in two forms :: build-your-own burger in check box form or pre-built burger mode, known as Virdene’s Signature Burgers. The Signature Burgers were nothing spectacular, for example, bleu cheese, caramelized onions, Swiss cheese and bacon (Virdene Burger, $10.95) or bison, lettuce, tomato and onions with Virdene’s sauce ($11.95).
Most of us built our own, choosing from various forms of meat (beef/veggie/bison/chicken), bread (brioche/wheat/English muffin/gluten free), cheese, toppings (familiar items like mixed greens, pickles, artichokes, etc.), sauces (everything from salad dressings to aiolis) and premium toppings (bacon, sauteed mushrooms, fried eggs, chili, avocados, etc.; an extra $1.25).
The burgers arrived scattered in 20-minute increments, all cooked way past well-done. Several ladies reported that theirs were cold. Mine was simply flavorless. (The menus have options for cooking temperatures, however, most of us didn’t see it and our server never mentioned it to us or told us that the default was well done. But even those that marked “medium” received well-done burgers.)The service was another disaster in itself. Water glasses were never once refilled, plates never taken away. One woman walked inside to order shots for our entire table and two bartenders refused to help her! It took more than a half hour to get our checks after we finished eating, then another 15 minutes to process each card. One card was inexplicably lost for 25 minutes. We never got an explanation for the food coming out so sporadically and barely received an excuse for the slow checks. And those were just the most memorable problems.
Needless to say, all 11 of us had never experienced such bad service. At that point, the bad food was just an afterthought. Luckily, we had fun with each other. Sometimes the best element of a restaurant is the one you bring with you—your friends.
Go to Virdenes for :: This is the first time I’ve ever written this, but don’t go. There are plenty of other places far more worthy of your time, money and calories in Salt Lake City. Notes :: The general manager of Virdenes apologized to our group (via twitter) and offered us a “re-do” on them, but every person in our group declined.