Tucson restaurant review: Opa! Greek Cuisine and Fun
8 February, 2011 § 3 Comments
I am immediately nervous about a restaurant with “fun” in the name. I find this to be that sort of unsettling you-shouldn’t-have-to-tell-me kind of indicator. “Fun” is also potentially problematic because “fun” often means that oblivious parents are happy to bring along their clammy children and then ignore their screams and uncouth food-slinging. I hate children, and so sometimes, that means I have to hate fun.
Anyway, on Friday night Steve and I decided to go to Opa! Greek Cuisine and Fun, which is next to two restaurants which are totally beer,* Lovin’ Spoonfuls, an overpriced veg*n restaurant that delights in serving under-seasoned crap for a lot of money, and Sauce, an equally overpriced pizza restaurant that serves cracker-thin pizzas with stuffy glasses of wine. Sauce is a Fox Restaurant Concept, and while I usually like Fox places (Montana Avenue, Blanco, Wildflower are all good), Sauce is boring and expensive.
Steve and I had been to Opa once before, with my brother Christopher, over Christmas break. It had been good. We went at maybe 2p, so there weren’t many customers. The strange thing was that we had a decent server, but this woman (not in server attire, so she may have been affiliated with the owners? or an owner herself? something…) kept bothering us. She was negative and far too … (how to say it?) open about the travails of her job with us … her customers. It was weird, and bordered on distracting. We ordered an appetizer of the saganaki cheese, which is served on a skillet and set afire by the server tableside. I mentioned something to Steve under my breath, maybe something like “Man, I wonder if they get tired of that,” or something, and she, eavesdropping in the midst of her fire-wrangling, let out a rant starting with something like, “Yeah, it’s annoying, and boring, and I hate doing this kind of stuff.” And those kinds of comments didn’t stop the whole lunch. It was like we were her free therapy for her crappy job, but we were expected to tip her for a job well done? Weird.
The food, though, was really good. Crit ordered some kind of combo with a couple selections of good things, and Steve got the saganaki burger. I had a gyro salad. I asked to hold the olives and my request was respected. So it was worth the weird service, and we figured that maybe they don’t let that woman out much.
So Steve and I went back on Friday. First, it was bone-chillingly cold. Like maybe 40 degrees F. So every time someone opened the door a gust of frigid wind flew into the restaurant. Not a good idea to leave your customers standing by the open door. So we walked into the restaurant and there was a mob of people waiting for seats. All the tables were taken, and the waiters were running around like chickens without heads only they had heads and they weren’t running. More like shuffling.
The restaurant used to be a noodle bar, so there’s a low wall along the right side of the place that marks off what used to be the walkway up to the cashier. So you used to go in and order at the cashier towards the back of the restaurant, then go around and sit. Since the restaurant is now a please-wait-to-be-seated place, the low barrier is no longer necessary and instead just makes a long hallway along the side of the restaurant, taking up valuable space that could be used for tables. There are benches along the length of this space, but I will explain why they are foolish.
I guess the rationale was that people waiting for tables would come in and sit on those benches, except the barrier ends with a large desk-type thing that looks exactly like a hostess stand at any other restaurant. On that desk is the please-wait-to-be-seated sign and the trough of menus. There’s only a little standing room between the front door and the hostess desk, and the space with waiting benches is beyond the hostess stand.
And they don’t have a hostess.
This is preposterous! I am merely an armchair psychologist (though sure, this distinction ensures that I know about as much about psychology as the typical 20-something-year-old with an undergraduate degree in psychology), but I know that human behavior does not work that way. People come in, and no one greets them, and there’s no list of parties waiting for tables. So you can’t go sit on the benches, because then you’ll lose your place in line, so everyone clusters in the tiny space between the door and the hostess table, and the door stays open, letting in all the wind, and half the parties who come up trying to eat at the restaurant just turn around because they can’t even get in the door enough to see if there is a hostess, but there’s not. So it’s kind of an honor-system thing, except no one knows who has a reservation and who came a little later than the rest of their party, so no one really knows who gets the next free table, and there are no employees to tell you who’s next or just fucking write down your party’s name on a sheet of paper so you can relax for a minute and go sit down in the long, empty hallway that is supposed to be used for waiting customers.
So we wait in this stupid mob for 20 minutes (I was counting, because I was curious about their system). After 20 minutes, an employee comes and asks the order of the parties (we were third, with several parties behind us). No names were given, and no list was held. Ten minutes later, a different employee comes with a list, and takes the names again, fumbles the order, but gets it right. This employee isn’t a host, though, so he sets the list down somewhere and then goes back to waiting tables. Steve and I discussed that if they used the principle of division of labor to manage their restaurant, they would probably find a lot of success.
Not long after, an older woman (not the one from the previous visit, but maybe her mother?) out of uniform (presumably an owner) brings the list around, and is going up to people and guessing randomly at their party’s name.
“Jessica?” she asks us.
“No, Steve,” we say, and she continues on with her guessing game.
A table frees up. A party back in the back of the mob of people (none of whom have been put on the list yet, so they’re still clustered by the door) gets to sit down. “Must have been a reservation,” I said, “since I can’t imagine they’d seat so out of order.” “Yeah,” mumbles Steve.
We get a table after awhile. This place does a complimentary appetizer plate of hummus, tzatziki, and pita bread. Someone plopped one at our table and took our drink order. A few minutes later someone else took our drink order again. The drink order comes, with the first guy, missing the water I asked for. Steve asks for water, too. Does not get. Someone asks if we’re done with the appetizer plate as Steve is in the process of swiping some sauce with bread. Um, I guess not? Idiot. The plate is cleared when Steve’s finished. A few minutes go by. Someone else brings a fresh appetizer plate to us, sets it down, and says “Sorry for the delay on the appetizer plate,” and flutters off. I guess we should eat it? So Steve got to work on it. We wondered how much money the restaurant was losing by not assigning specific waiters to specific tables; how many tables had doubled-up on free appetizers?
Another wait came to take our order. I ordered a dish from a section of dishes that had a description at the top of the section. The description said those dishes all came with such and such, such and such, and Greek salad with olives. I asked the wait to hold the olives. He said, “Oh, there’s no olives on the dish.”
I said, “Oh, okay, great. But it says here there are olives [pointing to menu]…can you make sure?”
He looks at the menu, eyes look belabored by the task of reading. “We don’t serve it with that stuff anymore.”
“Yeah, it comes with some other stuff.”
“Can you… tell me what that other stuff is?” I am truly aghast at the thought of a restaurant changing their dishes fundamentally without updating the menus to reflect such a change. Or, at the very least, without informing their waiters. Isn’t it fairly basic on a waiter’s job description to know what’s served, and how it’s served?
“I don’t know…I’ll make sure there’s no olives.”
So the food comes. The problem is that it’s really good. So that’s why we like that restaurant.
*beer – adj, etc., suggesting something that has comically diminished in efficacy, size, or quality; as a verb, to do so