While driving down Del Prado Blvd. this afternoon looking for dinner, I saw a sign that stated, "AYCE Fish and Salad Bar - Moorings Restaurant". I decided to give it a try since I like a good fish dinner.
My first impression after walking into the place was that it was decorated like a cheesy Key West or island bar with hand painted murals covering every wall, fish nets and toy dolphins hanging from the ceiling. But it did put you in a vacation state of mind, I guess what the owner was trying to accomplish. My second impression was of the owner and it wasn't very good, since he tried to steer me to sitting at the bar as I was dining by myself even though I told him I wanted a table for dinner. He made it quite evident that he didn't want a party of one taking up his valuable table space since every table in the small place was set up for either four or six people. When I told him the second time that I preferred a table so I didn't have to eat at the bar, he said in a gruff voice, "Fine. Sit wherever you want and I'll find you." I should have taken that as a hint of things to come, but apparently left my brain at home.
A young waitress approached me within seconds, dropped a menu and silverware and asked what I wanted to drink. When I told her a soft drink, she acted dejected. I later realized that she was doubling up as both a server and the bartender, so I am sure it would have been in her best financial interest if I had purchased a bar drink of some kind. For whatever reason, it took her almost ten minutes to bring me a can of Coke and a glass of ice. I told her it was my first time dining there and when she asked me what I wanted to eat, I told her I had seen the sign on the road about the all you can eat fish and salad bar. I asked her what kind of fish they served and was told scrod. Since I enjoy either scrod or cod, I felt comfortable that this would be a good meal. She told me I could help myself to the salad bar. I didn't realize at that point in time that this visit to my table would be her last.
The salad bar was where I encountered my first problem with the food - there wasn't any lettuce to make a salad. There was slaw, macaroni salad, tomatoes and an empty bowl that used to contain lettuce. I waited for about ten minutes and a new bowl was brought out, giving me enough time to fill a plate, sit down and have the owner deliver my entree. That's okay, I said to myself, since all I received was fish nuggets and fries for my meal; a bit of a surprise since most ayce fish dinners also come with slaw. But then, that's why there is slaw on the salad bar, I guess. I ate my salad along with the dinner.
As soon as the dinner was delivered, I began looking for my waitress so I could ask her to bring me some lemon for my fish since the only condiment given was tartar sauce. She flitted by me many times on her way to other tables, but never once looked my direction or stopped to ask if everything was all right. I called her over one time as she was passing by and asked her if she could bring me some lemon and was told, "I don't have time right now. Give me a few minutes and I'll see what I can do."
The first bite of fish that I took told me it wasn't scrod, cod, haddock or any other white fish. The flesh was dark; darker than bad spots on catfish but not nearly as tasty. The breading was light and had a good flavor, but that is the only good thing I can say about this entire meal. The fish was dry, had a poor taste, was not firm, and although I do not know what kind it was, I know for a fact that it was not what I was told.
When I was finished (there was no way I was going after seconds), I sat for another three or four minutes waiting for my waitress to stop, clear the table and ask if I wanted anything else. Since she had not given me any service other than to drop off my can of soda (no free refills, by the way) and take my order (the lemon never arrived, she never checked back and didn't even deliver the food), I had already decided that she would receive less than my standard 20% gratuity, something in the 10-15% range depending on the change coming back to me. When she finally arrived and asked if I saved room for a cannoli, I told her all I needed was the check and asked if I should pay her or up front. She said I could pay her and went to get the check, which took another five minutes, dropping it off only after getting second drink orders for three other tables. I had plenty of time to calculate the final bill with tax to the penny and therefore, was quite surprised when the bill with which she presented me was higher. She added $11.49 and .69 tax and came up with a total of $12.99 instead of $12.18. Innocent mistake? I guess we'll never know since I looked for her again, couldn't find her, laid $12.20 on the table and walked out. I am in the restaurant business and it is very difficult for me to stiff a server, regardless of how poor the service has been. But adding an additional 81 cents to the bill, mistake or not, is inexcusable. So instead of getting a small tip for her lack of service, she got no tip at all for her attempted robbery.
I won't go back to the Moorings again. I will, instead, tell all my friends, relatives and acquaintances to stay as far away as possible. Sort of like, "When you're walking down Del Prado, use the other side of the street."
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