Wednesday March 8, 2006

Jerry's Famous Deli vs. Cafe des Arts

Stopped by Jerry’s for breakfast on Sunday. Asked for a booth; was told to wait about five minutes (there were tables ready to go). Waited, and got seated at a table. A waitress came over, we ordered water, got treated like retards for it, and asked to look over the (moderately overpriced) menu for a minute. After ten minutes without water, during which time our waitress walked by our table five times without so much as a glance, we got up and walked out.

Watch out, people: there are lots of places to eat on South Beach (in Miami, period), and nobody has to deal with your shit any longer then they care to. Also, I don’t care how long your chain has been around—putting up a huge sign reading “ESTABLISHED IN 1978” in a room that was the best gay club of the 1990’s doesn’t win you any fans.

A one-block stroll south along Collins revealed three wonderful breakfast establishments (one Tiki-themed), all of which appeared to be less expensive, less annoying, and classier. We settled on Cafe des Arts, on the corner of 14th street. The wait staff was helpful from the beginning, and the elevated outside patio (with daisies on the tables) was much nicer and cosier then Jerry’s. Anyway, what can I tell you: the menu was smaller, but full of interesting and delicious combinations. The Food was great – an omelette stuffed with grilled vegetables, the fattest, fluffiest pancakes I’ve ever seen, and primo roasted potatoes. Yum.

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  1. wormhole    Wed Mar 8, 09:17 AM #  

    Jerry’s is on my list of places i will never go to. Every year I go, thinking it will be pleasant, however the food is expensive, the staff sassy and the service too slow for any diner in the USA. Maybe I should wear a sign “Established in 1977” to validate myself too.

  2. Miami Harold    Wed Mar 8, 09:46 AM #  

    More random acts of senseless rudeness.
    I have a whole book of restaurants to which I’ll never return
    precisely because they treated me like shit.
    And it had nothing to do
    with my flatulence, running sores, or body odor, either.

  3. MM    Wed Mar 8, 10:59 AM #  

    You would think that precisely b/c there are so many restaurants in town and it’s such a competitive market that staff would go out of its way to please you and make you return. Doesn’t seem to the case in most places, though. Like Harold, I have lists of places that will never see my face ever again.

    I really love it when people in service positions (wait staff, sales associates, etc.) look down their noses at me. Hello, you need my money to make yours.

  4. wormhole    Wed Mar 8, 10:59 AM #  

    do tell! Does it include: Chili’s, Denny’s, Cafeteria, News Cafe, Granny Feelgoods and Cafe Nuvo?

  5. Manola B    Wed Mar 8, 11:01 AM #  

    Screw the diner. Bring back Warsaw Ballroom!

  6. Rebecca Carter    Wed Mar 8, 11:36 AM #  

    I think a big part of the problem is that everywhere I go (Miami Beach, Coconut Grove, Coral Gables, Brickell), the tip is almost always included. That’s the most sure-fire way to assure bad service.

  7. lap dawg    Wed Mar 8, 12:25 PM #  

    you can adjust the tip as need be. i agree about snooty wait staff. All i want is food and in a friendly manner. don’t treat me like the enemy, garcon.

  8. MM    Wed Mar 8, 12:36 PM #  

    So true, Rebecca. I hate when the tip is included. I know it’s tough to be a waiter/tress, but I really hate the assumption that a tip will be given – just because. I don’t think I’m cheap, but if service is bad, I won’t tip well, or at all if it was atrocious. A tip is a sign that you enjoyed your experience, not a God-given right.

    And it may be annoying, but I’ve included messages about the service on my receipts, if it was especially bad or especially great. “Surly waiter does not go well with gnocchi and wine!”

  9. Manola B    Wed Mar 8, 01:04 PM #  

    I know someone who actually worked at Jerry’s. He’s a fine—nay superb—waiter and bartender. When, in a state of desperation, I asked him if I might work as a waitress, he said, “Manola, you don’t want to work here. You’d bitch-slap the rest of the staff in no time and get fired. I work with a bunch of sloths.”

    Well, I paraphrase … it’s true though. I mean when one GOOD waiter complains about the other waiters being lazy jack asses, you know you don’t want to patronize that establishment. And I know he was only putting up with it to make ends meet.

    If you want good diner-style sandwhich and good-old fashioned NY Style Authentic Rude—which is really just masked affection, believe me—go to Arnie and Richie’s on 41st street. The guys behind the deli counter are a riot!

    I know it’s not Katz’s in NYC, but it’s as good as it gets down here, and it IS good, not to mention unpretentious and authentic!

    If you choose to sit and eat, the menu is reasonably sized. (And besides, who needs a menu when you’re ordering a classic like pastrami on rye?) The wait staff is friendly and accomodating. You can even chat about the weather, sports or whatever comes to mind. Imagine that, not only does the wait staff wait on you, you actually TALK to them about stuff. Nice!

  10. alesh    Wed Mar 8, 01:34 PM #  

    15% tip included on the check is absolutly standard on the Beach, and becoming so everywhere else, too. I understand the reason for it (Canadian tourists), but it does seem to be a good predictor of bad service.

    I’m not insistent on attentiveness… All I care about is the amount of time that passes from when I walk in to when I get served, and about getting my damn beverage refilled – Critical Miami is thirsty!

  11. Denise    Wed Mar 8, 05:15 PM #  

    i have had really good experiences with the front porch cafe at 1418 ocean drive on the beach. not expensive, very yummy breakfast food, nice overall. i don’t remember anything particularly bad about the service.

  12. Jesus    Thu Mar 9, 06:17 PM #  

    I wonder how many times you are going to misspell “than”

  13. merry    Fri Mar 10, 11:15 AM #  

    Totally hit the nail on the head regarding Jerry’s. I have had so many similar experiences with them, that I refuse to go back.

  14. MiamiGirl    Fri Mar 10, 07:39 PM #  

    Jerry’s is overpriced and practically sucks. However, since I recently moved to Miami and have worked in the hotel and restaurant industry for many years prior, I definitely have an outsider’s view of tip standards in other major cities versus the tip standards in Miami.

    Miami is known for poor service but did you also know that Miamians are known as bad tippers? I am not sure who started the bad trend first, the servers or Miamians? When I took a job as a server in a very high profile restaurant on the beach, I was quickly warned and quickly learned that Miamians are known and are indeed very bad tippers. It was further stuck in my head after I got stiffed on a few $500 tables where I worked hours to ensure great food, great service and a great atmosphere. I have spoken to many servers all over the city and this is not only the case on the beach but also on Brickell, Coral Gables and other hot spots.

    Before moving to Miami I worked in a very small but up and coming southern city. I have a ten plus year track record as a 18-20% gratuity expectation. I also know many many servers who have had similar experiences in other cities and are very disappointed with the lack of knowledge or pretend lack of knowledge from Miamians. Yes, I realize that we have a ton of foreigners (no offense my husband is one but sometimes they just don’t know) that visit our great city every day and their tipping standards are very different back home. Yet, I am not talking about the tourists, I am referring to Miamians. Yes, you know who you are, pretending that you are not aware of how to leave a proper tip.

    It’s very simple Miamians, if you want to get better service, you must learn to tip properly. Of course we can argue the reasons of tipping all day long but currently tipping is a “standard” in the rest of the country and it is not going away any time soon. So if you want to eat out and get great service, learn how to tip.

    Otherwise in order to get servers to work, restaurants will have to continue to add an automatic gratuity. In my opinion this ultimately creates servers that either become lazy because they know they will make money no matter the service and plus this creates an atmosphere of servers racking up the bill because they will get an automatic percentage of the final total. Essentially it is the customer that drives the situation, not the servers.

  15. Manola B    Fri Mar 10, 08:43 PM #  

    It’s “tip” for “tat,” to be sure. :-)

    I have worked as a bartender and waitress and I know what it’s like, believe me, but Miami wasn’t always this way. Twenty odd years ago, when I worked in food service to put myself through college and pay for European back-pack vacations, I NEVER experienced a bad tipper. I worked, for the most part, at Fox’s Sherron Inn, which was, second to Tobacco Road, a true Miami institution. And the clientele was all Miami … all veterans in every sense of the word … all hard-core, real people who’d lived through hell and still appreciate a smile with their martinis.

    My favorite quote about Fox’s: “Shut the door! You’ll let the darkness out!”

    (By the way, if you haven’t been to Fox’s, it’s must. Does anyone know if it’s still there? I rarely venture to the mainland.)

    On the flip spide, in all my years as a Miami “customer,” it’s the old-timer places where you got service so great you left more tip than you can afford. (Hey Chamber Lounge … OMG … why, why did they close it?)

    But I know what you’re talking about … I’ve had dinner with such people who glossed over the tip and left me mortified, with me sneaking a few extra bucks under a napkin. Obviously, I never had dinner with those cheap bastards again.

    You would really have to define Miamian, in this case, as the person rude enough to not tip you might very well be a non-Miamian. There are very few true natives. And this begs the point, simply living, working, driving and eating in Miami does not a Miamian make. Years ago, this was a really simple, sleepy town with yes, drug dealers wearing pastel-colored blazers and espadrilles, but it’s nothing like it is today. I don’t know how to define Miamian anymore, even though I’ve lived here all my life. I guess I could be a “true Miamian,” but the city is changing so much on me, I don’t even feel like I belong here anymore. It’s like someone slipped the rug out from under my feet.

    Anyway, I personally like the added 15% tip because I am a math-challenged moron and so it’s a convenience.

    Again, those who don’t tip (who are rude customers) and those who wait badly (who are rude staff) are only exacerbating an awful situation. It’s like, “I’m going to assume you’re a jerk, so I’ll act like a jerk” for both parties. This is not the way to civil and pleasant life, folks.

    I don’t know what to say. I just ran an errand from 41st to 15th Avenue on Alton … nearly missed several head-on collisions from seemingly manic, blind drivers, almost ran over several non-chalant pedestrians who didn’t even bother to look either way while crossing the road (Stuck on the Palmetto, can you elaborate on the topic?)

    and what else …

    oh … the highlight of my evening … meeting the NICEST two-year old blue and gold macaw for sale at John’s Pet Shop for $1500. Now that bird was NOT rude to me at all! I gave her a peanut and she gave me a sweet nip! See, smile and the whole world smiles with you!

  16. Manola B    Sat Mar 11, 02:17 PM #  

    I had no intention of posting anything else on the subject of waiting and tipping, but LOL! It happened to me last night! I’ll be brief …

    Ordered a pie from Pizza Rustica. Always same guy on the phone. Always same pizza. Always same price. I’ve been ordering from them for years!

    Anyway, driver says $16. And I know it’s $12.50. I pointed to the receipt.

    Are “we” doing this now? Drivers adding a tip trying to pull the wool over our eyes?

    I wanted to laugh right there under the street lamp, such a Kafkaesque moment. And I did laugh—thinking of this thread. The driver must’ve thought I was loca en la cabeza.

    I still tipped the guy well, even though his English was horrible and his Spanish unintelligble. Even though he couldn’t figure out how to find my apartment, leaping out of the bushes from the building next door, nearly gave me a heart attack, even though he told me he was five blocks away. Even though he price gouged the pie. I always tip as best I can, because I delivered pizzas when I was in college. I know it sucks.

  17. MM    Mon Mar 13, 11:22 AM #  

    Fox’s is the best! It’s still there, and still quite dark, and the jukebox is still free – but unless you get there early, you won’t hear it – and the food rocks. As for the crowd – it’s not the horrible, shallow crowd of the Gables (Houston’s, Tarpon Bend, etc. – and as a resident of the Gables, believe me, I hate the way it’s been transformed), but it’s definitely a younger, not-very-mainstream crowd (at least Fri and Sat nights). So it must be different from the days my father-in-law hung out there, or else I will feel pretty weird about loving this place so much. However, I haven’t been there in a year – and I was early in my pregnancy and missed having martinis, so I ordered my sprite in a martini glass – and the sweet bartender thought I was funny in a sad kind of way, and she kept refilling it for free.

    As for pizza – yeah, there’s now a “delivery charge” that most places add on. A few months ago (again, during my pregnancy when I shifted into “irrational arguing” mode), I called Papa John’s on it, and they told me they “had to” do it to cover losses (what? gas? no tips? lost drivers?). And I told them I was not informed of the charge when I placed my order so there was no way I was going to pay it. And I didn’t. And I still got my pizza and tipped the driver. But then we discovered a little Italian place by my parents’ that delivers, and we never have to worry about that nonsense again. I hope.

  18. Rebecca Carter    Mon Mar 13, 11:56 AM #  

    I used to be a solid 20% tipper, as long as the service was decent. Here in Miami, I’ve hardly ever received decent service and therefore NEVER add an additional tip to my required 15%. I’ve never worked as a waitress, but I still feel that if it was more questionable how much tip they would be getting, they might smile a little more and wind up profiting more in the end.

  19. Manola B    Mon Mar 13, 02:42 PM #  

    Mujer Maravilla! What a darling baby you have! And that’s so quaint … ordering sprite in a martini glass. That’s exactly what I would do if I were pregnant.

    When I worked the lunch shift at Fox’s, there were old-timers ordering martinis with lunch. The evening crowd was more hip, but always local.

    The bartender at that point was Jimmy, another old timer, who taught me how to make drinks. He was a great teacher and a very mellow guy. I was sad when I heard he passed away. He had worked at Fox’s for half his life.

    A great Fox’s moment from my college days: friends of mine going to eat late at night. They got stoned. Then the waitress asked how they wanted their potatoes. “Baked or hash?”

    PS – Rebecca, the added charge in my pizza case was not a delivery charge. He was just surreptiously adding a tip for himself.

  20. MM    Tue Mar 14, 08:16 AM #  

    Manola, thank you! He’s such a funny, good-natured little thing – I’m glad you saw some of his charm!

    As for Fox’s, I love that it’s an institution in this town (where so few things are!). I think the crowd is still local and hip, and most likely more down-to-earth than in other places. I don’t know too much of its history, except for my father-in-law’s stories, and he hung out there in the early to mid 70’s.

  21. Manola B    Tue Mar 14, 03:06 PM #  

    Hi! When I worked at Fox’s, if I recall correctly, the owners were the 2nd only to own the place. It was a husband and wife team and he had been a former pilot for Pan Am. I don’t know if that painting is still in the “dark room,” on the wall by the US1 entrance. But if you look at it closely, you can’t tell if the aircraft is coming or going.

    Also, I think it’s called Fox’s because—believe it or not—there are ferral foxes in the South Miami/East Gables area. I’ve seen a few of them in my lifetime. Beautiful red fur … if you blink you might think it’s a dog, but no, it’s definitely a fox. I also saw one at that park—an extension of the Everglades National Park, gosh darn it, I can’t remember the name of the place.

  22. MM    Wed Mar 15, 09:48 AM #  

    Interesting! I had no idea… I must find me some ferral foxes…

    But why “Sherron” Inn? Hhhmmm… I’ve puzzled over that part of the name for a long time…

  23. Manola B    Wed Mar 15, 11:37 AM #  

    This, my friend, I completely forgot … might be worth to stop by for “research” purposes next time I’m in S. Miami! :-)