To say that M. Wells 21-17 49th Avenue, Long Island City, NY 11101 has been hyped up is an understatement. Especially living in Long Island City, the narrow diner seems to be what we’ve become famous for. I have many friends that absolutely loved it and shout it from the rooftops (or Twitter). Very few have said that they didn’t love it. It was time we found out for ourselves.

We went for brunch on a weekday to avoid crowds. Lon had taken a week off for a weak stay-cation. (IMHO, stay-cations suck.) It was pretty much empty and the staff was friendly to us and accommodating with the baby. We over-ordered as we always do. I was most let down by the escargot and bone marrow that so many had told me about. I love escargot and I love bone marrow. How could it have gone wrong? My guess (and I can’t be sure) is that something in there had gone bad. There was an off-putting smell and we both felt ill that afternoon. Again, I’m not sure what happened there. Maybe I never tasted the “real” thing.

Luckily, our waitress had recommended the gravlax pie, which we adored. I didn’t know what to expect, so it’s good that I often trust staff to recommend dishes; after all, they should know what customers are coming back for. It looked a bit like a knish: potato-filled, wrapped with something like pie dough. It’s topped with generous slices of house-cured gravlax, a wallop of creme fraiche, ornamented with salmon roe, and dressed with fresh dill. It sits on a plate of nicely herbed oil. The flavors came together wonderfully.

Not all recommendations worked out as well, our waitress also recommended the Cuban sandwich and that fell flat. The pickles were so unevenly distributed that we thought they had forgotten them until we got to the other half of the sandwich.

Overall, the meal felt incredibly heavy so we took dessert to-go. At home, we hit the coffee cake, oatmeal cookie, graceland cupcake, and corn muffin. The first two were better than the second two, nothing memorable as a whole.

With all the hype around M. Wells, I decided to give dinner a shot. This time without Lon, I went with friends Andrea and Jeff plus their friend Roger. Andrea was running late, stuck at work. When we entered, I started to explain to the hostess that one of our party was going to join us later and that we’d order first. Without letting me finish, she snapped at me, “Be specific.” As we were seated, our hostess muttered something about not worrying about the time restraint, “just enjoy.” (When Andrea made the reservation, they said we had to be out by a certain time.) Fast forward into our meal: loved the duck heart salad yet the rest was good or mediocre. Our waiter was great and friendly, but the hostess continued to shock us with her obnoxious attitude.

During the meal Andrea called Jeff and told him she was on her way, so we asked our waiter if it’s ok to order more food at that time — again the time constraint was on our mind even though we were told not to worry about it. The waiter replies, “it’s no problem.” Later the hostess returned to our table and just starts what I can only describe as whining… “See I just knew this was going to happen… we’ll let you stay, but I just want to say that I told you this was going to happen…” on and on we endured her useless and annoying complaining. I explained that our waiter said it would be okay. She rolled her eyes and walked away. Seriously? I’ve never encountered something like this at a restaurant before.

What is the point anyway? If you’re going to let people stay, why make them feel bad about it and unwelcome? Having worked in a restaurant and as a long time NYC-restaurant-go’er, I have no problem with a restaurant setting a time limit on the reservation, if they tell you when you are making the reservation. You have the choice to take that reservation or not. But once the restaurant tells you that there is no rush, it is unacceptable to get all bent out of shape should the guest take up that offer. Customers are not mind readers. Were we supposed to know that M. Wells didn’t really want to let us stay?

Furthermore, it’s not like we were a table full of people hanging out long after we were done while people were waiting. We ordered more food than necessary and the guys were putting away a lot of alcohol. Later, our waiter apologized for the hostess, saying that she was under a lot of stress.

I’ll admit, Alan Richman’s article on M. Wells in GQ (you should read it) pushed me to write up this blog post. I’ve been really slow about posting since Caya was born (as you’ve probably noticed) and have let many restaurants go un-reviewed lately. Notice that I didn’t even get into the food for the second meal because it’s not important. The food there could be great (to me, only a few dishes are) but thinking back to my experience and then reading what Alan Richman wrote, I can’t possibly feel comfortable eating there.

This location of M. Wells closes at the end of the month and I will be one of the few not waiting for them to re-open.

posted by jessica at 04:53 PM Filed under Canadian, Restaurants. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.