Today New York Times restaurant critic Frank Bruni published his review of Lower East Site hot spot Freemas. While he seemed to enjoy a lot of the food, it was the inconsistent service he kept returning to. Coincidentally, Freemans is the restaurant I wrote about yesterday where I had poor service while dining with some friends. His review captured the experience we had at Freemans on Monday night.
Mr. Bruni reports there was "dismissive service." A "bossy, brittle man" wouldn't let his party order the artichoke dip while they read the menu–at least our server allowed us that! He describes a hostess who "had all the cuddly charisma of Cujo." Ouch. In the end Mr. Bruni gave it no stars, simply "Satisfactory."
Yesterday, Eater ran a two-part (Part I, Part II) interview yesterday with William Tigertt, Freemans' owner. As I read it, I was struck by how much Mr. Tigertt was concerned with getting the food just right for Mr. Bruni's visit. He changed things on the menu and worried about what Bruni and his party ordered. It was as if running a restaurant were only about the food.
But in my experience, and as Mr. Bruni's review demonstrates, a great restaurant is more than just its food. It's a welcoming environment that sets you at ease. It's a place that treats each and every guest with respect, whether they're a big-time restaurant critic or a few friends stopping in for an early dinner with babies in tow. Perhaps the New York Times review will spur Freemans to improve their service. I hope so, because I enjoyed their food, and I'd like to go back there again someday.
Update: Eater has a final update from the Freemans owner. Even after reading the review, they're still concerned about the food. My hopes for a service improvement are dashed already.