dear mr. bates
John Bates, General Manager of 32 East, posted this review on Tripadvisor of the Flaming Buoy Filet Co. in Key West, Florida:
Have our standards dropped so low that this is now considered excellent?
The hype. The hype! All these wonderful reviews. I just had to eat here, so with determination I did. When trying to make a reservation I was told nothing was available. I said we can eat late like 930 or 10 but there was no tables available and u can't sit at the bar because the stools are reserved too! He said he could get me in at 6 so we headed over about quarter till. There was a large easel in front of the doors so I walked around it to enter the building. I was greeted by the manager who stepped out of the door and tried to prevent me from viewing the dining room from the outside of the building. Like a human baracade, I was not to look in the windows. We were told they open at 6 and they do not want people seeing us running around like crazy getting ready. So we went across the street for a beer to wait.
We returned and wanted to eat at the bar, but was told no. The seats were reserved. We took to our table and were promptly greeted by a pleasant waitress who wore a bleach stained tee shirt, a filthy apron with her last shifts debris stuck to it and a skirt covered in animal hair. She was the worst dressed server I have ever seen. Zero pride in her appearance. We orderd a bottle of wine and water. The trio of appetizers and entrees. The trio had watermelon tuna gazpacho, grilled shrimp and lobster mac n cheese. They nailed the mac n cheese. The tuna needed acidity and salt. They tried to introduce acid with the grapefruit but one little cube to the dish left it unbalanced. The shrimp were fine and the sauce lacked any complexity. We were warned about the chilis used to make it yet where was no hint of heat on the palate. Lobster Thermador was the dinner special and the waitress did great job selling it. So we got 2. Unfortunately it was not a Thermador preparation. It was like eating a cheese fondue with lobster chunks in it. Way off the mark. The curry dish was thin almost watery. The sauce did not have the ability to stick to the protien or veggies and lacked any depth. We left at 720 the bar was still empty and the dining room had 3 tables. It is difficult to understand why this place is so highly rated. Save ur money
This Was Our Response:
Dear Mr. Bates,
Thank you for your lively account of your experience at The Flaming Buoy Filet Co. Tripadvisor suggested I respond to you using their management response function - a first for me, so please excuse this freshman effort.
You called twice late that Saturday afternoon, May 26, to secure a reservation. The first time you requested a table for three at 7:30. So had you and everyone else that called in the days and weeks leading up to dinner on a Saturday night on a holiday weekend. I explained to you that I had a 6:00 table available. Unfortunately, there was no way you could make the 6:00 table as you were engrossed with eating oysters.
The second time you called, minutes later - determined as you were to eat at our restaurant, you asked if we had a bar. Yes, in fact, we did, I answered. You said you would come in and park yourselves at the bar. Only, I explained, we had reservations for the bar at 7:00 and 7:30, effectively filling the four seats which make up the bar. After recovering from your seemingly initial indignation that we take reservations for the bar, I asked if you might want to try and come in Sunday night instead. That, I was told, was unacceptable because you were going to Square Grouper Sunday that evening, adding that you would switch plans for the night but you didn't want to drive the 25 miles with all the "f***ing cops" between Key West and Square Grouper. Then, you told me you were a friend of the manager, owner, or of Captain Tony himself (I forget which, as, at this point, I was preoccupied with securing a table for Printh Gometh of Barthelona. Holla!) and could be helping out a local. I politely explained that I was not going to kick someone out to seat you. Finally, in a not entirely desperate entreaty, you asked that I take your number and call you should someone cancel. Something I immediately and sincerely pretended to do.
An Excerpt: You: Number, number, number.
You: Number, number, number.
You: Number, number, number, number, number.
Me. Got it. [Indecipherable mumbling]
Sound familiar? My iPhone has yet to learn this nuanced response as it recorded your phone number with reliable enthusiasm.
Now, having managed to down your oysters in what was surely a sickeningly record time if not an orgiastic display of gastronomic profanity, you claim to have shown up at The Flaming Buoy at 5:45 (actually "headed over about quarter till", TARDIS parked safely out of view) and tried to take an innocent peek in the window. Windows, as a reminder, are those clear things you look through, like the empty bottoms of beer bottles. Doors are those things you open up and breeze through, like, you know, textbooks.
Truth is, you showed up prior to 5:30 (belly full of oysters, in the least), fully aware, I would hope by this time, that we open at 6:00 (Would you go to Kmart and expect to browse the sale rack of tourist shirts a full half an hour before they opened?) and entered the premises while the staff was bustling to prepare for a rather busy evening while I regaled them with a story about the stupid asshole who kept calling and insisting on securing a last minute table at 7:30 because he was friends with the ghost of Captain Tony to whom he was introduced by way of Ernest Hemingway, whom he'd just beaten at arm wrestling. An exaggeration, to be sure, but befitting, I think, the exaggerated sense of self from whence I was inspired.
And now for some math! For the sake of argument, you claim you arrived at The Flaming Buoy at 5:45. Which means you made a reservation with the other co-owner (the manager you refer to in your review) who took your name and phone number for a 6:00 table to eat appetizers (and eat them quickly!), walked the two blocks to Don's Place (which is not across the street), ordered beers, drank said beers, walked the two blocks back to The Flaming Buoy (still not across the street, but, perhaps, mysteriously, just a little bit farther away) and were sat at your table at what our fancy iPad reservation program registered as 6:02 PM. Quite the miracle given the lithe gait of your more, shall we say, corporeal companion. It doesn't take Stevie Wonder to see that something doesn't add up.
I could go on: tuna and watermelon ceviche, not gazpacho, which has zero grapefruit (Perhaps those oysters were overwhelming your taste buds and dulling the heat receptive nerves of your tongue? Personally, I know my tongue can be quite affected by acid.); the bar was sat at 7:01 and 7:27, respectively; there were 5 tables occupied in the restaurant (out of the 10 we have inside) and 2 tables occupied outside when you left an hour, 14 minutes, and 35 seconds later (We have concluded already, I think, that time keeping and math are not your strengths. Frankly, I'm surprised you didn't count everyone twice. Let's just say you have a hard time with numbers, shall we? Many people find numbers difficult. They're called toddlers.)...
Not once during the course of dinner did you make any intimation you were displeased with your service or dinner. Had you, we could have corrected and rectified any myriad of problems.
I must ask, finally, were you planning on returning? The trail of food we had to clean up from around the table and out the door made me wonder if you weren't expecting to get lost on the way to one of Key West's beautiful gingerbread houses. Oh, to see the crushing disappointment on your face! I only mention this because your server's apron must have been, by comparison, filthy in such a glowing, oozing, toxic manner for you to have noticed and made such a personal remark in such a public forum. Aside from bitterness, you're mouth isn't the only thing that lacks taste.
Jokes aside, Mr. Bates (heh heh), I don't mind an honest review of the restaurant; but why not an honest account of what actually occurred? I don't mind the bad review. I've certainly had my share - and quite often deservedly so, but I do mind the bad faith in which this review was written.
After all, you afforded yourself what is, I am certain, a fair review of the restaurant for which you are currently the General Manager: 32 East of Delray Beach, Florida. To quote an infamous chef: "Quid pro quo, Clarice."
You may, of course, reach me at The Flaming Buoy should you want to discuss your horrible experience at my restaurant. I think you've got my number now. I know I've got yours.
Here is John Bate's review for his own restaurant, also posted on Tripadvisor (before it vanished):
I dare you to find a better restaurant!
We booked our reservation on Sunday because we read that they offered 50% off there bottled wines. Turns out that it's 50% off wines under $100 and $50 off any bottle over $100. The reservationist told us the dress code was "denim to diamonds" that made my husband happy , so he went in shorts. The wine list was amazing and the manager helped us throughout the selections and picked a perfect Pinot Noir. We were informed by our server that the menu is printed daily the offerings were diverse and exciting. This is a foodies paradise. Everything was perfectly prepared and delicious. We shared several appetizers and had half portion entrees. Service was friendly and professional. Do ur self a favor and eat there. We can't wait to go back!
Mr. Bates has offered an apology:
sir - i am sorry you got the brunt of a weekend of poor service and food experiences - we looked you up after being fed up with poor attitudes and had expectations that were unrealistic - picking on our friendly server was not nice at all - send her my apology - please
i pulled my review - if you have nothing nice to say..........say nothing. is what i was taught, i'm not sure why i had a lapse in memory - i am not mean by nature - but your review was
i am sure u do not open your doors everyday in hopes to dissapoint your patrons - many people love you for a reason, as proof by your glowing reviews those reviews took effort to achieve
The man was a bully and I would gladly grapple with him to the last. If his behavior at any of the other restaurants in Key West was anything like that exhibited towards me and my staff, he got the service and experience he deserved.
He pulled his reviews, including the one he wrote for his own restaurant – a review, I'm sure, 32 East took some effort to achieve. I, in kind – backhanded apology notwithstanding – have pulled my posting from every internet nook and cranny I graffitied, save this one.
In short, as Darth Vader said best: "Apology accepted, Captain Needa."