Review: Simpatica Dining Hall

As the nation roiled in torment over the Vietnam War, Vortex, the only state-sponsored rock concert ever, was envisioned in an old Portland building at the corner of Southeast 9th and Pine. After the war and Richard Nixon’s subsequent Watergate Waterloo–the time when later baby boomers were coming of age–the same building hosted the Pine Street Theater. There were no theatrical productions that took place as far as I know, only loud electric music. Beer, herbal refreshment and better-living-through-chemistry prevailed and cares melted away during full dance and sweat summer nights. The Pine Street passed away with my youth, but was reincarnated as La Luna for the next generation. It too faded away.

The building remains. New owners have extensively remodeled it and have broken up the large theater into a warren of smaller spaces. Only two are occupied so far, but the occupant should command the interest of local food enthusiasts. The ghosts of the Pine Street have welcomed Simpatica Dining Hall to their midst. The proprietors–John Gorham, Ben Dyer and Jason Owens–should soon become familiar names if they are not already. The boys–two transplanted from points east and one from the 50th state–already operate one of Portland’s premier meat counters, Viande at City Market. Their other major operation, Simpatica Catering, booms. As if to prove sleep is not a priority, Jason, Ben and John have also operated a weekly booth at the Saturday Portland Farmers Market; served Sunday brunch at Pix Patisserie; and managed occasional dinners at City Market.

Initially, the Pine Street space gave the boys a little more kitchen space from which to stage popular catering productions. But the idea of consolidating their scattered dining operations quickly moved from the back burner to the fore. A wall went down, tables, chairs and artwork went in and the Dining Hall was born.

The Hall hosted its first Sunday brunch and fixed course dinner on December 11, 2005. I missed the brunch. This was a shame since this is the meal where Jason really shines. As for dinner, with assistance from clarklewis alum, Jason McHugh, the boys presented a five-course extravaganza centered on the Alsatian classic, choucroute. With their expertise in meat, this was a natural. This choucroute featured lamb ribs in addition to sausage, lardons and duck confit in champagne-braised sauerkraut. Other courses included half shell oysters as an appetizer and orange curd crepes for dessert. All the food was delicious and the crowd of about 40, which is at the Dining Hall’s capacity, seemed to be having a dandy time. Among the celebrants were Vitaly and Kim Paley, out with a group of their friends and restaurant regulars; Roger Porter, dean of Portland restaurant reviewers; and a young couple who graciously agreed to switch seats so my group could sit together. The only criticism of the space is that it was so ear-splittingly loud that conversation had to be conducted at a shout. Ben promised prompt modifications. I hope they have been accomplished.

One winning element of the dinner was its family focus. By this, I am referring to the delightful servers at the event, namely John’s wife, Courtney, and Jason’s wife, Kelly. (Ben’s wife, Meghan was home with their kids.) I mean no gratuitous criticism of others here, but the Simpatica group strikes me as the operation that in both form and function deserves the label, family supper. The family focus obtains outside of work too, with the three couples and their young children socializing together those rare times when kitchen demands can be set aside.

Now that the holidays have passed, the Simpatica Dining Hall moves into high gear, with
weekly Saturday dinners at 7 pm, Sunday brunch available from 9 am to 2 pm and Sunday dinners at 6:30 (a half hour later than the December dinners). According to a recent announcement, greater effort will be made to cater to vegetarians. In addition to unspecified vegetarian alternatives, the first 2006 Saturday dinner will feature a lamb shanks entree plus four other courses for $35. Sunday night is three courses, themed “Nona’s Night,” with Italian home-style dishes front and center for $20. One of the entrees is an eggplant Parmesan, the others involve meatier choices. Beer and wine are available for purchase at the dinners.

Although it is too early to say just how high the Simpatica Dining Hall arc will climb, if
the enterprise is anything like its proprietors’ other efforts, chances are it is going to be a winner. To that I say, “far out.”

Simpatica Dining Hall on Urbanspoon

Your thoughts are welcome

  1. Apollo says

    I’ve been out of town since they started their dinners, but I definately want to make one when I get back. I had Simpatica cater one of my parties and they were absolutely awesome. I can’t reccomend them enough.

  2. eli bishop says

    I reeeeeeaaaallllly want them to update their website, which still lists brunch at Pix and gives no address for the dining hall. :(

  3. Jill-O says

    Had one of the best Sunday breakfasts ever today at Simpatica. Awesome tasso ham and sweet potato hash with perfect poached eggs and the best waffle ever with a cranberry vanilla compote and chantilly cream…washed down with a perfect cup o’ Stumptown.

    Great food, great service, really nice people…ya gotta go folks!!

  4. says

    Had the hash too as well as the Cubano sammich..both were so damn good..Man these guys know food! My favorite place for breakfast by far…yes everyone must go.

    kim @apizza

  5. Marshall Manning says

    We’ve been two Sundays in a row for brunch, and have had excellent meals both times. For traditional breakfast fare, the waffles are heavenly, as are the eggs benedict. The only lunch item I’ve tried, the cheesesteak sandwich, is also excellent, although it could have been just a bit cheesier.

    Highly recommended, although they do need something to cut the noise…I imagine it’s even worse with a full crowd at dinner.

  6. Marshall Manning says

    We went to dinner at Simpatica for their Valentine’s Day dinner last night. Although I’m not an “oyster guy”, the oysters with Champagne mignonette were nice, small oysters, with good ocean flavor and not much bitterness when served with the mignonette.

    The spiedini di bianco (basically a skewer of cheese and prosciutto) on arugula was a solid appetizer, but didn’t seem as exciting as the chef made it out to be in his pre-dinner presentation.

    One of our favorite courses was the soupe du Poisson, with a delicious broth served with chopped veggies, a few clams, a perfectly-cooked scallop, a slice of toasted bread and a creamy garlic aioli.

    Because they’re known for their meat dishes, I was excited about trying the Cattail Creek lamb entree with truffle-roasted risotto. Unfortunately, they served the lamb cooked medium, which is a huge mistake, as the texture was grainy, and while not totally dry, it didn’t have the juicy quality of lamb cooked properly, either. The truffled risotto had excellent flavor, but wasn’t cooked long enough, as it was a bit too grainy and hadn’t quite reached that perfect creamy state.

    Along with the soup, the boca negra (a low flour or flourless dark chocolate cake) with blood oranges and ice cream was one of our favorite dishes. The blood oranges didn’t quite accent the dessert, as we found that the best combo was the cake with the ice cream, but that was an excellent match, and was a good finish to the meal.

    Overall, I was a bit disappointed, with only two of the five dishes being really excellent, and the lamb being overcooked. If this is representative of their dinner performance, I’d suggest going to dinner somewhere else and hitting their Sunday brunch instead.

  7. mczlaw says

    BREAKING NEWS. . .

    Congrats to the Simpatica Dining Hall boys for being named one of the Top 10 hot new restaurants in the US for 2006.

    The honor could not have gone to a nicer bunch of guys who happen to serve fine food. Of course, now this means we will all have to be fending off rampaging hoards of tourists to secure reservations for weekend dinners.

    Regardless, best to Jason, Ben, John; spouses; Dave and Jason; and anyone else I surely forgot. Way to go.

    –mcz

  8. Jill-O says

    Rumor is that it is Bon Appetit…but I cannot confirm it.

    Anyone have any other info on it?

    Congrats to those fabulous folks at Simpatica!

  9. Patrick says

    Went to the new Sunday dinner 10 Sandwiches, and was very impressed. The food was excellent as was the price. $33.00 for 2 made an great Sunday date for the wife and I.

    Fresh Cesar with chovies’
    Chilled Pea Soup with fried shallots
    I opted for a Cubano Sandwhich Pork, grilled like a pannini with a pickle. Interesting and tasty.

    My new favorite however may just be the gnochi fries, didn’t even need sauce with them they are perfect. Gnochi fries could become the rave!!!

    Good prices, great fresh food, good service, what more can you ask for??

  10. PeeNoNoir says

    Lest anyone missed it, the Simpatica boys are collaberating on a potential PBS television show that may air in ’07. Here’s the blurb. Best of luck to a deserving crew:

    John, Jason & I have teamed up with Film Garden Entertainment to produce a show that will hopefully air on PBS in early 2007. Our role on the show, titled “the Endless Feast”, is to act as hosts at a series of Farmer-Chef dinners throughout the Northwest, beginning with the Plate and Pitchfork dinner that we did with Scott Dolich of Park Kitchen last Sunday on Sauvie’s Island. Film crew in tow, we have been interviewing local farmers and chefs, finding out what makes them tick, and allowing them to explain and share their passion for what they do. Along with Emily and Erica from Plate & Pitchfork, we will be hosting the first four episodes of the show, with the possibility of more episodes down the road. It’s really been a lot of fun, and an incredible experience so far. I will fill you in with more over the next few weeks, giving you an inside look at what we’re doing and the places we will go. Wish us luck as we depart on our new journeys.

  11. Maureen Wale says

    Hi,
    I was at Sturdy’s Farm, aka Northarm Farm, Pemberton, BC Canada for fresh farm food. I saw a vechicle pulling The Endless Feast white van. Is this your’s?

    Welcome to Pemberton. There is lots to see and do in this beautiful area.

    If you’d like any information, I could direct you in “a” direction.

    take good care,
    Maureen

  12. Cogbos2000 says

    Dining partner and I have been to Simpatica Dining Hall for dinner twice in the last two weeks. Both meals were very good. This past week’s meail was inspired by the boys’ road tripping for the TV series. We went to the New England dinner. The lobster rolls were simply amazing. And the bib lettuce they were served with were prefectly dressing and perfect leafs. The clam chowder was very good with whole manila clams, though I could have done without the corn. In my years in New England, it was either corn chowder or clam chowder not both. The main course withs the oatmeal stout braised pot roast with root veggies. Good but a little to salty. The dessert was apple fritters the way they should be made rings dipped in a bit of batter, fried, cinnamon sugared, and served with homemade, high butterfat content, maple ice cream.

    The weekend before we went for the chicken dinner and the au jus with the chantrelles for the chicken were unbelievably good. The chicken was so well done and moist. The celeraic soup that night was good. And I hate to admit that I cannot remember the rest of the meal but I was very happy with it.

  13. Becca says

    My group of ten had breakfast at Simpatica yesterday. I had, of course, made a reservation, and I made it for 9:00 in part to make it as convenient as possible for the staff. I didn’t even know that the line would be out the door by the time we left!

    I ordered the traditional benny, of course; I maintain that Mother’s hollandaise is still my favorite in town, but Simpatica’s is also very good, classic and light and lemony. The muffin was especially texturally satisfying and tasty, and the ham was a knockout!! The potatoes passed muster, too. The only other thing I tasted was the gravy that came on the biscuits, and though I’m not much of a gravy person, I will definitely give it credit for being well-seasoned and chock full of sausage. I loved the fact that they had fried chicken and waffles on the menu, and the mimosa was generous.

    My only complaint was the lack of ventilation. I loved being able to look into the kitchen, and I liked the coziness of the dining room, but I did not like smelling like breakfast for the rest of the day because my clothes were permeated with the odor of meat and smoke. They could stand to open a window in there.

    The service was more than adequate and the prices were surprisingly reasonable. I would go back for breakfast, but would show up at 8:30 if I didn’t have reservations to make sure I didn’t spend all morning waiting on line (some people enjoy this weekend ritual, but I hate standing still and would rather get up early and beat the crowds). I am going to have to check out one of the Friday or Saturday night dinners some time soon.

  14. Jill-O says

    We did both the “Perfect Fall Dinner” a week ago Friday and the Northeast Dinner this past Saturday. (Won’t get to go to brunch for another couple of weeks, so we made up for it with dinners. ;o)

    Both were really delicious and well worth the $30 or $35 for the four courses. I’m not much of a soup person, but I always love their soups. A week ago it was an apple/celeriac soup with toasted almonds and fried parsely, Saturday it was one of the better clam chowders I have ever had. The lobster roll they served on Sat. was definitely the best I have ever had. We also had great company in the folks we sat next to this past Saturday, who were having their first Simpatica experience.

    I highly recommend the dinners there. Get on the e-mail list and keep watching to see what appeals to ya.

  15. apatron says

    I was really looking forward to experiencing Sympatica after reading several reviews and we finally went for dinner on Thurs Jan 18th (their first weeknight serving). I love the family supper concept. I really liked the ambience of the place and the people we sat next to and talked with all night. The service was very good. The place was LOUD. I knew that going in, so was prepared. I definitly missed 3/4 of the conversation though, it is true – you have to shout to talk.

    The meal was in part fantastic and worrisome. The poultry was undercooked. I should have said something at the time but didn’t. I think it must be difficult to figure out how to cook it properly (I am not a chef) without either drying it out or undercooking when you are planning to serve it all at once to 90 (?) people. It was sitting on the kitchen table when we arrived – and being undercooked – I assume that means bacteria flourishing? Question: Do they have to meet the same health requirements as other restaurants?

    Other than that one worrisime thing – every thing else was delicious. Veggies, lentils, and an fantastic creme broule.

    I must admit I am wary of returning because of the poultry, even though I did love the place and the concept. Did anyone else eat there that night and have a similar experience?

  16. Food Dude says

    apatron: it’s not difficult to cook chicken correctly. However, things happen in restaurants. If I thought I was getting it undercooked, I’d bring it to the attention of the staff.

  17. Jill-O says

    I was not there that night, apatron, but I have been served chicken and other poultry at several of their dinners and have not had that problem at all. Don’t you let poultry rest a bit after you take it out of the oven at home? I do get your concerns and don’t want to make light of them, but if you felt that the chicken was undercooked, you should have sent it back. I do believe that they have to meet the same health requirements as other kitchens and restaurants. Do not be wary about returning – go and enjoy! ;o)

    I was there last night for dinner. It was a great meal, with Eric Bechard from the Alberta Street Oyster Bar and Grill as the guest chef.

    The first course was:
    Baked Oysters with Pernod Cream
    Bloody Mary Oyster Shooters
    Oyster Fritters with Spicy Remoulade

    It was really delicious – a trio of treats. The oysters were super fresh and awesome. I especially liked the shooter, but then, I adore raw oysters.

    The second course was:
    Grilled Quail, Brown Butter Potato Salad & Grain Mustard Vinaigrette

    It was served family style with a well dressed frisee along with the potato salad. Everyone got a whole (well, two halves) quail which was a nice portion of tasty little bird and the mustard dressing on the greens and potato salad was a great tangy accompaniment.

    The third course:
    Cane Sugar-Glazed Pork Belly, Smoked Ham Hock & Black Eyed Pea Stew

    This was just amazing. Rich meaty pork belly with a sweet lacquered glaze atop a substantial pile of black eyed peas cooked with ham hock. The pork belly was excellent and the black eyed pea stew was thick and rich and satisfying with plenty of ham. This was also served family style. This and the oysters were my favorite two courses overall.

    The fourth course:
    Pan Roasted Sturgeon, Sweet & Sour Greens & Chicken Liver Sauce

    This was just OK for me. The sturgeon was very good and perfectly cooked, but the chicken liver sauce just didn’t do it for me. I like chicken livers, but I did not care for the pairing of flavors with the fish and the greens. The greens were beet greens, and I liked the sweet/sour flavor notes, but overall I wish they had chosen another green.

    Dessert was lemon curd crepes. The lemon curd was delicious and tart. The crepes were crispy, but I did not mind. I liked this little sweet and tart ending to a great meal.

    The only truly bad thing about the meal was the noise level. It was deafeningly loud. I could not hear my partner across the table and when we left, it was actually a relief to be outside of the space. That’s not how I want to feel after having a great meal, which again, it really was. They need some sound dampening stuff on the ceiling and elsewhere around the room.

  18. FoodGroupie says

    Just got this as part of the weekly email from Simpatica:

    “We’ve been having some issues recently regarding specialty dietary requests, and I just wanted to talk about them a little bit and set some guidelines. First of all, we are dedicated to providing an enjoyable dining experience to all of our guests, and try to facilitate everyone’s needs; however, because we do one menu for everyone, it is really difficult to satisfy everyone who wants something different, whether they are vegetarian, ovo-lacto vegetarian, fishatarian, vegan, wheat-free, macrobiotic or just plain don’t like to eat their vegetables. Here’s the new rules; if you follow them, everyone can be happy. If you don’t like them, then maybe we’re not the place for you (I realize we’re not the place for everyone). We cook what we cook out of a passion for that food. Luckily, enough people seem to like what we do. But that’s what we do. We’re not a restaurant, we’re a supper club. So here’s the rules. If you have special dietary needs, you must let us know at least 24 hours in advance. We will provide either the menu as listed, or a vegetarian alternative. We will not cook a vegan menu, and we will not cook a special dish for you just because you don’t like a certain ingredients (mushrooms seems to be a particular dislike… but we love them so too bad). I hope I’m not being too harsh, but we’ve had way too many people walking in and saying they want a completely different menu, giving us no forewarning and really not coming for the food we do. Thank you, I hope we can all still be friends.”

    I’m glad he’s telling it to the people who waltz into the place, demanding special meals. They send their menus out a few days in advance, how do they not know what they’ll be serving?

    I hope they serve foie gras soon.

  19. Lizzie says

    Having read the quote from Sympatica in “Foodgroupie’s” post above, I post this tale:
    My family met from far points for a much anticipated dinner on March 17. We had made the reservations 2 months in advance, especially to let staff know that we had 2 vegetarians (non-meat eaters). We called to check on the reservation a week in advance and discussed the table of 8 having 2 vegetarians. At NO time did we receive the impression that there was any problem with providing 2 vegetarian meals.

    The Hawaiians, Southerners, and Portlanders arrived on time and met outside the restaurant. When we entered and identified our party, the greeter said “Oh you’re the ones with the vegetarians”. One member of the party (not a vegetarian) wanted to leave then, but others’ convinced her to stay, after all had we not been waiting for this experience for months.

    Well, suffice it to say that the greeters’ comment was a harbinger of things to come. The two vegetarians were served an extra side dish, and a taste-free bean soup (everyone at the table agreed to the tasteless evaluation). Not even a plate of lettuce for a ‘main’ course was offered.

    The evening was further marred by the lack of service to our end of the table, the attitude of the servers, the deafening sound level and the uninspired food. When this writer and another member of the party stopped at the table where the chef du jour was sitting to let him know that we were upset at the cavalier way our table had been treated and by the lack of atlernative meals for the vegetarians, explaining that we had reserved well in advance and notified the staff several times of the vegetarian meals, the chef ordered this writer to leave! No discssion or answer to her question “Why didn’t the staff simply let us know that vegetarians could not be accomodated?” We certainly communicated frequently enough with Sympatica; had they let us know, it would have been simple for us to have eaten at one of the multitude of fabulous Portland eateries we subsequently discovered.

    Needless to say, the members of our party have been busy letting the world know about our un-sympatica experience at Sympatica.

  20. Lizzie says

    One last comment. In reply to foodgroupie and the idea of the menu being posted ahead of time… we checked the website and the only menu posted was from two weeks previously.

  21. Darrell says

    I was one of the party mentioned by Lizzie. We both read about it in Bon Appetite and made plans months in advance to attend when we were in Portland. This whole uncomfortable situation could have been avoided if, when they were informed of the fact that our party included children and vegetarians, they recommend a different restaurant. I appreciate the concept of a supper club. I only wish that they had been more forthcoming about the difficulties in accomodating our group. The attitude of staff and management made us all feel uncomfortable as we tried to make the best of things by sharing with the vegetarians the portions of our meals that fit their needs.

    I grew up in the Restaurant business and my family ran a successful restaurant for over 40 years. We could not make everyone happy, but we never treated a customer with disrespect. The customer is always right, but any one restaurant is not always right for the customer. It is too late for us to have a favorable impression of Simpatica, but given the supper club style, they need to be very clear about the inability to accomodate changes to course offerings. They did try to shift things around on the fly, but it was obvious that it was a bother and that it was a last minute fix. They have no trouble filling their seats with people who love their vision of food. A little more clarity on the fact that “what you see is what you get”, would make sure that people would not get a mistaken opinion of what the experience was going to be.

    I do dinner parties for groups of friends regularly. In my experience, at least one in five people I know is a vegetarian. I would assume that is the case in the general population. Based on that experience, I figured that Simpatica was accustomed to having an offering that fit that segment of the market. In fact I thought that their response to being informed in advance to the vegetarian head count was more for planning purposes. It was the perfect opportunity to let us know that we would be advised to look elsewhere.

    On a more subtile note: This is not the place for people who have difficulty hearing in a noisy environment. I finally just quit trying to have a conversation since I could not understand what was being said. I had to rely on my twelve year old daughter to tell me what the wait staff was asking me. Also, leave the kids home. My daughter was polite, but still famished when we left.

  22. JDG says

    Yeah, Lizzie and Darrell, I’m afraid you aren’t going to get a whole lot of sympathy for this one. I will say nothing about whether Simpatica employees treated you properly or not, but here are the mistakes YOU made:

    * I didn’t read the Bon Appetit article about Simpatica, but I would be VERY surprised if it didn’t mention that the business was started by folks who RUN a MEAT COUNTER and whose primary craft is the CURING of MEATS. So you all made plans to take vegetarians to a dinner run by people who MAKE MEAT for a living. And you expected things to go well?

    * And surely you had to have known that when you dine at Simpatica you are have signed up for the menu THEY have chosen for the evening, and regardless of the amount of advance notification you may have given them, YOU showed incredible hubris for even asking THEM, the MEAT MAKERS, to accommodate your special request.

    So I echo — more verbosely — Daaaaave’s sentiments: less competition for a seat at the table from ignorant, band-wagon-hopping, meat-non-eating, misplaced-expectation-having reservation-making-months-in-advance-before-even-seeing-the-menu chumps like you guys.

  23. Justine says

    I am sorry that you had such an experience at Simpatica – but I find it somewhat odd that you took the time and effort to find food dude’s website to lodge a very loud complaint(s) but you did not take the effort to do this type of research before you went there – I think if you had read food dude’s review and subsequent comments you would have discovered that this was not the place for you and your family. As fdg says these are meat purveyors and they also have a set menu which is difficult to be flexible with.

    The loudness descriptions have also been discussed here so you would have known that as well. It’s unfortunate that for this obviously special meal it didn’t work out for you – but I think trying to go to a dinner club for such a hugely anticipated family meal was not the way to go. Your experience won’t disccourage me from eating at Simpatica but it does tell me to plan really well when doing this type of event so as to avoid disappointment. I do applaud your attempt to do something different food wise with the family – I’m sorry Simpatica was not the place for you.

  24. ckrogstad says

    How would a vegitarian restaurant react to me asking them to accomodate my carnivorous predilection, I wonder? Cound be fun to bring my own lobe of fois gras to Kalga Cafe and ask them to cook it up for me.

  25. amoureuse says

    Hey, Simpatica is a SUPPER CLUB!!! Not an a la carte restaurant. It is a simple concept, we are having x,y,z for dinner, want to come? Really good food at a great price. Served by nice folks who arent even trying to make a living ( or else they would charge more – they should btw – gets rid of the amateurs ) Yeah the space isnt perfect, and the service is tough sometimes. But again ITS CHEAP!! You pay for all the frills of the decor of Paleys, 23 Hoyt, Blue Hour…The Simpatica staff has it figured out….can we get 50 people to come to our dining hall at 7:00 to eat a set menu??? No turning tables, no stress, just one service a night. Good life – beats trying to do 120-175 covers a night . God bless them for getting over. Vegetarians are a pain in the ass. I like the comment of bringing your own foie to a veggie place! That would be funny! Maybe I’ll bring my own bacon? On that note arent the boys from Ten 01 opening a vegan restaurant soon? All us carnivors should go there with Foie, bacon, and salami – that would be funny! PETA ( now stands for ) Please Eat Tasty Animals !

  26. atlas says

    Just to play devil’s advocate here, according to Lizzie “At NO time did we receive the impression that there was any problem with providing 2 vegetarian meals.”

    If this is true I can understand their issue, they were led to believe accomodations were possible and not an issue, in anyway whatsoever. Perhaps this whole issue could have been avoided if Simpatica had just stated early on that although they can make allowances for vegetarians they really prefer not to, that is goes against the nature of what they are trying to bring to the table.

    Of course I agree with Justine… do your homework and take some responsibility, but suppose Lizzie did her homework and Simpatica seemed like a possible fit. She calls Simpatica and mentions the veg issue they say it will be fine, so she books the reservation. Then the night comes, and she and her party get the treatment they supposedly received? I understand her grievance. If Simpatica says they can accomodate vegetarians, but hate doing so, make an issue of it, and leave thier guests feeling as Lizzie did… I think they should should just throw in the towel on accomodating vegetarians.

  27. feralcow says

    i’ve been wanting to go to simpatica for some time, but have avoided since i do not eat meat (eat fish). but with that said, i don’t know how many times i have read reviews or interviews with chef’s where they state, that with enough advance notice, they enjoy doing special requests. i know from reviews, and this site that simpatica is probably not for me, but i have had some great meals where the cook accommodated my request for a fish or veggie substitute.

  28. gc says

    The point is that when she called it would have been very simple to say “no we cannot help you” and the party could have gone somewhere else..you guys are making this into a veggie issue and in reality in is just bad business..as far as you people calling other people amatures that is something you dont even deserve a response for but i gotta tell ya that it is silly to judge folks like that you don’t know them….as far as the guy telling lizze to leave that was also just plain rude she voiced her concern and he said get out???? that is the most pompous, arrogant , ridiculous thing i have ever heard..(especially being one of the owners!!) stop making it a meat non meat thing…look at the facts the fact is they are a hot spot and they specifically said they would be happy to help…people were excited ..and they got let down get of your silly ass high horses

  29. sidemeat says

    Pretty much gotta agree w/gc on this. Simpatica is not for veg-heads
    or even for people that have difficulties with organ meats. No-one knows this better than Simpatica. In the guest service biz it’s
    difficult to say ‘no’ but sometimes it is the best answer.
    Simpatica is great, they don’t need to change their menu for anyone,
    just be sure to make that clear up front.

  30. Miss Witt says

    Wow-this conversation is as heated as hot oil in a fondue pot. My little two cents on this issue follows, with a story of course. Years ago we used to dine at Colleen’s (when it was a tiny hole behind the record store on 7th) She hosted theme dinners based on a color. There was a vegetarian and meat option each time. One month we lost a bet with another couple so we took them there as their “prize.” She happened to be a food allergy type or really picky and we thought to bow out gracefully from the “pink” dinner. Colleen was more than eager to provide a meal that basically contained the very few things this gal could eat. The meal was amazing for everyone and Colleen was thrilled with herself to accomodate. Our mortification over the issue was eased and everyone had a great time. Granted this was an isolated event, but the chef did not make anyone feel bad or singled out. Aren’t most chefs happy to accomodate people to give them a great experience? If it is unfeasable to do so, then a gesture of “no can do” should be done to eliminate the negativity. This isn’t a meat/no meat issue as someone mentioned, but a huge miscommunication with an unfortunate outcome. We all get irritated so easily-some are annoyed with vegans, some are annoyed by meat only eaters,etc. I recommend that Lizzie and her group go to the Farm, where meat eaters and vegs can dine without issues.

  31. miss witt says

    oi, no. I pen what I saw….

    “It’s difficult to say no, but sometimes that’s the best answer.”

    Kind of states the obvious and brings it together.

    That is what should have been done. But, what would we have to talk about if they had…..

  32. Pork Cop says

    I guess I’m an Olde School hospitality guy.If this is true… I would never, ever treat any customer that way. That is not what it’s all about. I’d love to hear the other side of the story.

  33. mczlaw says

    Something doesn’t ring right about the LIzzy/Darrell saga. I know the boys pretty well. They are nice and they are pros–supper club or no.

    There are two sides to every story. FD, why don’t you see if Ben or Jason will comment. Or maybe I will.

    BTW, where can I post a picture of some organ meat or a whole pig just ready for roasting? Yes, still wandering the back streets of Asia. Current venue Hong Kong. It’s going to be tough coming home and eating all that characterless muscle tissue ;-)

    –mcz

  34. Pork Cop says

    People actually believe that they can sustain themselves without an understanding of hospitality. It’s possible.. but I really hope that it’s not true. But who knows anymore? That makes me sad.

  35. says

    Colleen’s sat, what, 16 people? Certainly it’s easier to do a special request in that situation than it is when you’re feeding 90 all at once.

    For all the research and checking and double-checking Lizzie claims to have done (which for me is the first red flag; she’s already anticipating problems, which tells me, she’s ready to find them), she chooses Simpatica, a supper club with a prix fixe menu, as a place to take children and vegetarians? She’s got to take responsibility here. Darrell posts long but does not help the argument. If you know the restaurant business so well, guys, you need to have chosen better.

  36. Miss WItt says

    She gave them months “warning.” I agree, respect the prix fixe menu, but when you state/ask about an alternative and nothing is said, then isn’t it a go ahead? I am not one to accom. or please all palates, trust me, but with advance warning I would at least make an attempt and not want someone to have bad mojo from me. I don’t want to pick a fight, in fact, I am not sure why this is an argument. Not everyone is going to be happy with a place and not everyplace is going to be happy with customers. Sad, but true. Lucky for my crew, I’ve had a few glasses of wine this evening so if my fresh apple crisp is only liked by me, then so be it.
    BTW, I don’t think Colleens’ place fit 19 people. She had no real oven, either. Okay, maybe a really small one, but not real per se.

  37. Lizzie says

    Hi all, glad there is discussion around the issues raised by my family.

    Actually, to be clear – one needs to read the Bon Appetite article. Simpatica sounded like such a unique experience of hospitality… we didn’t hesitate. Our tradition is that we welcome any kind of folks to our tables and enjoy pleasing, flexing and laughing at our attempts to make everyone happy. Impossible, we know, but the laughter and feelings of inclusivness seem to make up for not getting it right. There was the ‘shellfish allergy’ during the great southern shrimp boil…but that’s another story…

    A little laughter would have gone a looooonnnggg way to easing the situation and discomfort… we laughed – but could never get the servers to stop long enough to include them. Heaven knows, though Jason was all around the restaurant speaking to folks, he didn’t stop at our table.

    Even though there were two vegetarians and a 12 year old, there were also enough meat eaters in the party who enjoyed the food that it would have been worth it…had the hospitality part not been missing.

    The issue for us is two-fold:
    1. if vegetarians could not be accomodated – the answer to our original reservation request should have been “No can do.”
    2. hospitality, which we thought was the hallmark of the Simpatica experience, does not include ignoring, making snide comments to, singeling out or being offended enough to ask a consumer to leave with no discussion of her feedback.

    Thank you for your advice. With people meeting from all over the country – we try to locate and then create the best experience for our diverse food and fun loving group. We will not again reserve at any restaurant before doing thorough due diligence. Though in over 15 years of yearly meetings and reservations we haven’t had an experience like this one…

    One of our diners said that there is no point giving feedback that is not positive without suggesting how to change things in the future, so: We recommend that the Simpatica web site and the staff should indicate that vegetarians cannot be accomodated and that there will be NO substitutions to the menu. It would be nice to have menus up on time or at least posted to folks who take time to make advance reservations – a bennie of this would be increased excitement for diners.

    Appreciate all the posts, really cool to read the range. Lizzie

  38. Jill-O says

    On Feb. 1st I posted about a meal here and indicated that the noise level was deafening and that it made a great meal unpleasant. Well, last night we returned (for a great meal of house smoked salmon, beet carpaccio, baby back ribs, and chocolate panna cotta) and they have taken care of the noise problem. They have cut out openings in the wall opposite the kitchen and now have panels covering that wall that absorb sound like nothing I have ever witnessed.

    It was nice to enjoy a great meal and be able to chat with my partner and our dining companions. Good job guys!

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