Oh the tap house grill of Norfolk, the Hampton location was one of my favorite watering holes so when it came to select a location on the Southside of the water to make a weekday happy hour watering stop it only seamed logical that I’d select the Norfolk location. Since I’ve always been a big fan of bullet point reviews I’ve structured this review into an easy to follow segmented format. I will discuss Service, Selection, Food, Atmosphere, Location/Parking, and close with suggestions.
Unlike the Hampton location where service has always been in the “exceeds excellence” category; service at the Norfolk location is hit and miss. This location does have a few shining stars but also has some flops. Out of the 15 times that I’ve been here 7 of the times my drink order was messed up resulting in the wrong beer being delivered, perhaps this is a good thing as I was able to sample a more diverse amount of beers this way, but it was still a minor annoyance. Servers typically follow a bit of an unobtrusive mode which is good; but when you are trying to order food or another round, this can be annoying. My last trip in, it took 20 minutes for the staff to take a food order. To get the best service, I’d recommend sitting at the bar, the female bar tender is one of the shining stars at this location always being prompt and welcoming.
Another thing to note is that the servers can be childish at times; the Norfolk location will not split bills. This is fine if everyone in your party has cash or if one person is picking up the tab but can lead to issues with multiple parties on the same tab. One instance is in the last time I went there after a pleasant meal where we joked and conversed with the server and had an enjoyable time, there was a miscommunication that led to a few of our group not factoring in the 11% food tax in Norfolk when they were adding in tip after splitting the bill. What resulted as a close to 10% tip rather then the intended 20%… this was obviously an honest mistake on our part that everyone was oblivious too. Instead of pulling us to the side and asking “was there something wrong with my service tonight, is there anything I can do better” which would have prompted a response of who forgot to tip… the server yelled out in the restaurant in a very sarcastic mocking voice “Thanks for the 9.8% tip guys, cheap skates” the belittlement went on from there and when we tried to make things right for the honest mistake we were told to just get out. It should be noted that my individualized split tab would have resulted in a 32% tip with the tip I gave but now everyone in the bar thinks that I’m cheap. This is a training issue for the staff. If a group is tipping normally every week and then suddenly drops part of the tip; figure out if it was intentional and how you can improve, this will result in the party rectifying the error, or sharing where the issue is. In pervious visits I’ve tipped between 20% and 40% using my Happy hour tipping logic of $1 a Drink, 20% on Food, $1 an hour, 10% Bonus on tip for excellent service (conversely 10% subtraction for poor service), always round to the next dollar.
While the selection is not up to par with the Hampton location, Norfolk does have a fair amount of beers on tap from both local an far away breweries. They have never disappointed me in the amount of beer I can order. They have drinks in every price point you can think of. They also swap out many of their beers on a monthly basis to keep things new and fresh. The drink menu is split up logically allowing for you to pinpoint what type of beer you are going to order Ales, Ciders, Stouts, Wheat, etc…
The food is on par with most pubs, not anything to write home about like the Cuban sandwich that Hampton offers, but not bad either. They have entrees at every price point from every genre of food from the 7 dollar chicken sandwich to the 16 dollar shrimp quesadilla; odds are they have an OK meal ready for you. They are also cooked fairly quickly too.
The atmosphere is a lot more down to earth than the Hampton location. There are some things that they need to work on such as roof leaks, but you can’t beat the indoor outdoor seating arrangements, black ceiling and not overly loud bar scene. I can hear the person at the other end of the table talk which is a great thing. They also have a few pool tables to partake in.
The Location is perfect for this type of establishment, being on 21st street nestled between Ghent’s hot street of Colly Ave and ODU/Norfolk Naval Stations main road of Hampton Blvd provide it with a location that is where you want to be but not in the middle of the action. It also provides for plenty of parking with a large lot right across the street from the location.
You can’t have a good review without suggestions for improvement.
1) The main issue that I have with this location is that they refuse to split checks. This seems to lead to confusion when the bill comes. The servers are not drinking and thus should be better suited to figure out what each party owes. I remember one time I was out on a date and ran into someone I knew we started talking for about 10 minutes and somehow when I ordered a few tables away from this person I was grouped on his check. If a 4 dollar check book is not in the budget raise prices by .001% and buy some more. You’ll avoid having your servers get stiffed and help give your customers a better, more enjoyable experience.
2) Train your servers for better customer service, this is not a bar that prides itself on being rude to the customer so don’t try to be. Perhaps having some of the Norfolk staff shadow the Hampton staff at the Hampton location would be of benefit. Customer service at the Norfolk location is lacking and needs to be improved, you can only attract customers on low prices for so long before they split.
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