Today was my third visit to Portobello Vegan Trattoria. It's the wonderful food that brings me back, but today the food wasn't even worth putting up with their notoriously slow service. The staff here is always friendly and pleasant, but they know nothing about efficiency or customer service.
When we arrived (party of 2), there was a ten minute wait for a table, even though there were four empty tables and only one party waiting ahead of us. No one acknowledges your entry to this place. In fact, it seems the entire staff is avoiding eye contact at all times because they simply don't know how to keep up with standard restaurant pace and service.
The host seats your party, takes your drink order, gets your drinks, then disappears for a while, then comes back to the front to seat the next party and repeat. There is no simultaneous service, no multi-tasking, no quick seating of multiple parties. My review here is painstakingly, miserably detailed so you may be forewarned of the nightmare service you can expect here.
Today's service was similar to what we had received in the past, although the restaurant was a bit busier than usual. Once we were seated, it took 12 minutes for a server to show up. We ordered, and since we had experienced a long wait for food here in the past, we asked that the waitress bring out two warm biscuits as an appetizer. 20 minutes later-- no biscuits, no food, no one even checking on us. The restaurant was nearly full by then. At times, there were stretches where none of the staff were even visible to customers. When I finally caught a waitress and flagged her down to ask for our biscuits, she complained that the kitchen was really busy. Our biscuits arrived another 10 minutes later. Our meal arrived a full 30 minutes after THAT. It was now over 70 minutes after we had been seated.
During our long wait, we really noticed all of the inefficiencies of this restaurant; There are around 10 to 15 seated parties when the restaurant is busy. One host and two servers are the only staff we've seen during our visits. They are constantly backtracking, not following through on tasks, and avoiding customers. Today we noticed one waitress check on a table where they asked for more coffee. She left to get the carafe behind the bar, came back to pour their coffee, took the carafe all the way back to the bar, came back to check on the table NEXT to the first table where they too asked for more coffee! So she went back to the bar to get the carafe again and instead of keeping hold of the coffee and checking on all tables, took it back to the bar before returning to check on the next table in line. The fact that someone was actually checking on tables for a moment was great, but the backtracking was insane.
When we finished our food, our plates sat empty for a full ten minutes before the waitress came by to check on us. I was ready with my credit card; we wanted out of there! She did return promptly with the check and I quickly handed my card to her before she could abandon us again. She took my credit card to the bar, LEFT it up there where other customers were sitting, and disappeared for 5 minutes. When she reappeared, she went to another table, took their empty plates and returned with their check. I had to flag her down again and ask what she had done with my card. She finally processed our payment, returned my card, and 2 hours after we had walked in the front door, we were finally free to escape this nightmare. I've had it with this place. The food is delicious, but if you're used to making vegan fare at home, it's not hard to make equally tasty dishes yourself.
It's simply not worth driving down Division to sit in a cold & unbelievably noisy restaurant, seated inches from the next table, to have a restaurant experience comparable to watching three coats of paint dry. I wish I could explain to someone at this place how to easily fix so many inefficiencies and streamline their service, but I really don't think these people get it.