I went with a group of friends which included an Aiken resident who served as our guide and hostess. This was to be our fine-dining experience for the trip. Unfortunately, the dining wasn't so fine. There was a mix-up as to our reservation time because two parties reserved under the same last name for early evening dining. We ended up seated at a table in the hotel lobby, which was not awful because we could people-watch as guests and customers went in and out of the hotel, but not optimum, either. Most of us ordered NY Strip, which was too tough for one member of our party. My NY Strip was actually a ribeye seasoned like an old-style Ponderosa steak. We had the option of a side of a carmelized onion sauce that looked remarkably like A-1 in a steel ramekin probably used for ketchup for the burgers with fries. Our Aikenite hostess had Bernaise sauce, so she was happier those of us expecting onions. I reckon we were expecting steak au poivre. Later, my friend with the tough steak asked for the tapioca dessert which came out looking like a hockey puck and was impenetrable by fork. She sent it back, and the restaurant took it off her bill. In fairness, I have to say that the atmosphere was wonderful. I put up with a lot when a place is decorated with equine art (note my Trip Advisor handle.) However, for a fancy place with a reputation for southern elegance, the attention to detail, let alone basic food quality, was lacking.
I also want to add that we had visited The Willcox earlier in the week for a musical performance by some jazz musicians from Julliard playing live music in the lobby. We received wonderful bar service. I have to admit that the room was crowded and hot, so we left soon. For those who want to attend such performances, I recommend arriving very early and staking your claim to seating. In fairness, that was much more of a positive experience than the meal on Saturday night.
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