Friday question of the day

We’ve had discussions about Domku, Red Rocks and Colorado Kitchen and one of the common themes, besides that I love all three of them to varying degrees, is that sometimes the service has been less than optimal. But since they are all unique, local business, in my opinion, filling a desperately needed service in sit down local dining; isn’t it worth supporting them even if at times the service can be slow? If we don’t support them and God forbid they were to go out of business, do you think other restaurants would take their place or would they just end up boarded up or take out joints? Won’t their success contribute to other similar establishments opening up nearby? Again, in my opinion I believe they have markedly improved each of the blocks where they are located. So, shouldn’t they be patronized for their “pioneering” spirit?

36 Comment

  • To an extent, yes. However, if service continues to disappoint, well then it’s not worth our hard-earned money.

    That said, I’ve had no real issues at any of the haunts you’ve named so I’ll continue to go.

  • I don’t think anyone should have to put up with what they perceive to be bad service or bad food, just because it’s a neighborhood restaurant. I think what a Petworth-area restaurant deserves from us is that we should *try* it. I will always attempt to patronize an area business that is trying to make a difference in the neighborhood.

    After that, people can make their own decisions. No one is obligated to hand over their money for something they don’t want or like.

  • Folks:
    I understand that people should not be obligated to support local business, especially when you compare the service level with dollar value. However, we need to keep in mind that if business owners cannot make enough revenue to keep the business going on, they probably will be forced to cut corners.

    If you find a business has room to improve its quality and service, without a major money spending, I would suggest instead of stop doing business with them, you meet with the business owner and express your feeling and suggestion. If business owners are getting similar opinions from a few people on their business operation, they will try to accommodate their clients need.

    I have to agree with pop that good local businesses tend to improve the neighborhood. Which implies to increase property value. So you may not be satisfied with the business service you get for the amount you paying, but you are indirectly improving your neighborhood life quality and increasing your property value.


  • I stopped going to Col. Kitchen b/c the service was so sh*tty and the food wasn’t good enough to make up for it.
    Neighborhood places all over the country tend to be quirky with service. I can’t wait until we have more of our own places, and that’s why i support the ones we do have–except for CO Kitchen, which isn’t even in Petworth anyway.

  • Colorado Kitchen…HORRIFIC service, rude attitude from the “server” and a menu that frankly is kind of outdated and pseudo-chic…if you’re gonna serve comfort food, hire comfort staff. I would love to see this unfriendly place close, and no need for residents of Petworth to worry about another taking it’s place…read the Post, we’re “hot” right now, aren’t we ?

  • I hope Chef Gillian is reading – instead of explaining away Colorado Kitchen’s shortcomings, how about listening to us and making an effort to improve?

  • Want some good, inexpensive food in the neighborhood ? Try El Limone on the 200 block of Upshur…the guy who either runs it or owns it (we’re not sure) is as hospitable as anyone could want and parking doesn’t ever seem to be much of an issue. The food’s great, service is very nice and the prices are affordable…plus the beer is always ice cold. A totlly different experience than either Domku – which is a great little watering hole, or that miserable Colorado Kitchen.

  • Good food and good service are not mutually exclusive and niether are rocket science. If you choose to own a restaurant you sell food and service, thats your product. If 50 percent of your product is bad, then you have a problem. I wouldn;t continue to support a local clothing shop if I kept finding holes in my purchases.

  • I COMPLETELY agree with Christina.

  • YES! YES!YES! Please support our local businesses! I’m not even sure about this bad service? I’ve had the most friendly service at Domku and Red Rocks (I’m too scared to try CO) every time I’ve been there, which is plenty of times. If you frequently get ‘bad service’ you might want to figure out what’s the common denominator in all of this….I’m just asking.

  • The common denominator seems to be establishments that do not understand a baseline of customer service.

  • Is it a question of the ownership? The employees? Or leadership/example given by the ownership/management?
    And in general, has customer service in general decline across the board?

  • I’ve never had a problem at Colo. Kitchen. Domku, however, used to be hard to eat at because it was so slow.

    El Limeno, 200 Upshur St., is a Petworth gem. I try to eat there at least once a month. NB: It is owned by a husband and wife team who are both very friendly people trying to make a go of it in a tough business.

  • I’m really looking forward to trying El Limeno; it’s gotten good reviews elsewhere too. As for CO Kitchen, we also had a bad experience on our sole visit(including finding one hair each in two dishes, one of them baked into a corn muffin), but in all fairness otherwise, it was Sept. 12, 2001. No one was on top of their game that day. Deliveries had been disrupted as well, so some menu items were unavailable. Nonetheless, I’m not sure we’ll ever try again.
    I’m also eager to try Lily’s Cafe next door, which has been mentioned here before.

  • I’m definitely with POP on this one. I’m also with the El Limeno boosters. The place is tasty, the service is prompt, and the owner/host/manager is very friendly.

    One possible exception is Temperence. I’m not _angered_ or _turned off_ by the slow service – it just makes it impractical to eat a meal there unless you are up for staying two hours anyway. As a bar, however, its pretty solid.

  • I don’t want to seem like a pig, though it would not be the first time, but poor service seems almost tolerable when the server is cute, and for that reason I forgive Domku the couple times I’ve come and had to wait forever so I could traipse back downtown where I live my urban cred intact.

  • If the service were only slow, you decide when you can live with it and go then.

    Hence, we still go regularly to Temperance and Domku, and order from Taqueria Distro Federal. (Haven’t been to Red Rocks yet).

    When the service is rude, or the food is not worth the cost, no. I won’t support that. Hence, never again CK.

    When the food is good, the service is quick and friendly, and the prices are right… well, we LOVE El Limeno.

  • What Colorado Kitchen needs is some competition on its own block. Since they are the only game in town, they get away with treating their customers badly. I live around the corner and go on occasion in spite of the sometimes negative experiences.

    By the way, I hear that the guy who owns the building where CK is located has let the neighboring leases run out in order to build up (those 3 storefronts are all only one story high). Not sure how that is going to work out or how it will affect CK. I have to say that in spite of their shortcomings, I’d hate to see CK leave.

  • Dining isn’t just about shoveling food down your throat — it should be an overall relaxing and positive experience. I have a hard time digesting my food when I’ve been given heartburn by a rude server or owner whose attitude is, “This job would be great if it wasn’t for the damned customers.” If you make up for slow service by otherwise being attentive or nice (a la Temperance), I’m at least put at ease. If you ignore me and give me bad service and bad food, then find another line of work.

  • I agree in principle, but as relates to Domku, anyway, after just about the worst dining experience I have ever had (I won’t bore you with the details), we did try to raise the issue with the owner. She could not have been more dismissive and rude. She essentially told me to f**k off, after treating a ten-person party (!) with an unbelievable degree of inattention and contempt. (okay, one detail. The first entree was served two hours after the entire table (including children) sat down.) I’m not sure I’m forgiving that experience.

    I agree with PoP to the degree that I hope enough other people go there to maintain this outpost on Upshur, but I will not be joining them.

    But my real point is this: go to the Hitching Post! Corner of Upshur and Rock Creek Church, right across from the entrance to the Old Soldier’s Home! A genuine, long-standing Petworth instiution if there ever was one. Friendly, great food, good music…if you are not hungry, a great place to get a drink…what else do you want? I’m shocked I have never heard it mentioned before in these threads.

  • I’ve not had any “issues” of importance at CO Kitchen; sometimes they’re just slow. So I’ll continue to eat there because I like the food. Same with all the other places mentioned. I don’t want to see any of them close.

    But if I *had* had issues, I’d probably just quit going and move on with life. And then maybe they would close, and maybe something better would come in their place. (The fact that CK is still open in the tough world of restaurants means to me that other people must think it’s good, or good enough, anyway.)

    Jason brings up a good point about writing letters or talking with the business owners, but life is short. Unless something remarkable happens — I ask politely for a menu and instead get a scalding hot cup of tea in the face — I usually just move on.

    I’ve been meaning to write a letter about the Safeway on Georgia Avenue between Quincy and Randolph for AGES. Why is that place so crappy? Why does it smell so funny inside? But I just haven’t managed to get around to it yet. I just avoid it if at ALL possible.

    Any of y’all tried Brown’s Caribbean Bakery at 3300 Georgia Avenue. I liked what I got there, which was some kind of meat-filled pastry. I read a review of it in DCist, which you can google. Check it out for us, PoP!

  • The Safeway probably smells a little funny just because its a relatively old and somewhat neglected branch. However, the staff is a lot more friendly than e.g. in the Giant. I’ve had staff ask me if I needed help finding something on several occasions; this has happened to me in Giant only once..

    With the Georgia Ave revitalization and new developments, perhaps the Safeway will get a renovation. They did a great job further up on Georgia Ave (forget the exact address), albeit in a much larger space.

  • The staff *is* friendly. In the imaginary letter that I’ve never written to Mr. Safeway, I was going to say that their staff deserve a better place to work. However, I have found the staff at the Giant friendly as well.

    One of my neighbors who has lived there for 30+ years has told me there’s a long history with that Giant — Safeway wanted to close it, Charlene Drew Jarvis prevailed upon them to keep it open, but it was clearly done grudgingly, compared to the condition of the larger Safeway north on Georgia and Piney Branch Road. You can read more about that here:

    I don’t have so much hope that it’ll be improved but it could at least be cleaner; I’ve been in old stores and they don’t have to smell like curdled milk and spoiled meat.

  • when I said “that Giant” I meant to say “that store.”

  • ST–when was that dining experience at Domku?

  • About four months after they opened.

  • Dear ST…

    As a server at Domku now, I can tell you that the owner takes your issue very seriously, as do all of the current servers as we have been exploring our brains to see when this posted incident occurred. Since you say it was 2 years ago, we have an entirely new serving staff, and Kera, the owner, does most of the cooking, helps bus tables, makes drinks, takes reservations and does everything else it takes to keep a small business in operation in Petworth (which includes driving to Baltimore to get the kielbasa). I encourage you to come back to Domku–a Sunday brunch! And say howdy to Patrick, me, your server. I’ll be happy, smiling, and offer you a high chair for the kids (we only have two, though) Hope we can get you back!


  • ah, christina… welcome to a world (stores with substandard conditions) which, alas, existed (and still exists) for those whose neighhborhoods are not in transition. im not writing this to put you down-just to remind yourself ( and others) to ask why these things might be…. i think it means that, as jimi hendrix once sang, “something’s wrong.”
    and why is everyone hating on colorado kitchen so? if a third of this kind of righteous anger could be directed towards the white house….

  • El Limeno is a perfect example of how bad service isn’t a function of not having enough help. The Fella that runs the front does it all by himself almost flawlessly, even with 6 or more tables. Bravo. It’s organization and attitude that matter. Pay attention DOMKU.

    Oh, and I still haven’t tried the enchiladas but PoP was right about the soft tacos (tacos al limeno), prudy good.

  • Patrick: Some of us have had our bad experiences at Domku a lot more recently than 2 years ago. Of the now 5 times I’ve been in Domku in the last 2 months the wait times on three of those visits would have caused me to never, ever come back if it wasn’t that Domku is in walking distance of my house and the food was so well done.

    Kera doesn’t have much of a customer service demeanor either, which is fine, but perhaps it’d be best if she had a host or floor manager who did? After waiting over an hour to get our food after ordering, having wrong orders brought to us, and having a food item and some drink orders disappear, did we get a “sorry” or a comp from Kera? Forget it. If this was just one grouchy customer you could write it off, but please note that whenever Domku is discussed, whether it was 2 years ago or last week, the slow service and blunders are constantly mentioned. And while all of you servers are pleasant enough, there needs to be some floor management.

    Much as with Gillian’s constant rebuttals to people who mention CK, you need to keep the following in mind when addressing complaints about Domku’s service: the customer is always right.

    We’re not guests in your homes, we are paying $$$ for the food AND the service.

  • good to hear about the kielbasa being bought, hopefully from an actual Polish market. It’s been 2 years since I went (moved from the neighborhood), but the first time I went there I was less than impressed by the kielbasa. Being part of a Polish family, I have high standards.

  • I completely agree, Prince.

    Also, local businesses give back more (financially) to a community than a chain. A study one neighborhood in Chicago did recently proved this.

    [For every 100$ spent at a local business, about 70$ remains in the local economy. For every 100$ spent on a chain (i.e., Ruby Tuesday), about 43$ remains in the local economy]

  • With regard to Anonymous’s comment, about Colorado Kitchen needing some competition and the leases next door running out–the block is an incredible site for restaurants and cafes. How many other sidewalks in the city are so wide as to easily accomadate HUGE patios in front? I can only think of one area, the 17th Street NW between P and R.

    And DO patronize LILY’s. She has a nice cafe going. Her sister is considering opening up a gourmet foods shop on the same block, but is getting flack from the owner of the dumpy ‘grocery’ and liquor store at the corner.

  • “The customer is always right.” I’m sorry, you all are going to disagree with me, but it is impossible to make every customer right. If Domku has one particular table that is a favorite, or say, the outside seating is full, then how do you make every customer happy? If an incoming table wants to sit outside do you kick out someone that is already there? Would that make both parties happy? You can’t run a small independent profitably and give everyone what they want. If you really want it your way you need to eat at chains. They’re much more financially equipped to handle changes. I’ve eaten at the places you’ve blasted. I’ve actually had simple requests handled (I like my burgers and steaks well done.) I don’t intend on bringing down the kitchen (especially when one person is doing the cooking – Kera and Gillian)by having them completely change up the plate.

    If you’re complaining about wait times there are myriad reasons why a customer might have to wait for a table…even if tables are open. If Kera is doing all the cooking – well this is really a no brainer, isn’t it? As a former server I personally know that sometimes servers have to catch up. You might have walked in right after the rush. To you it looks as if they’re ignoring you when but they’re trying to regroup and get ready for what might be the next wave. Maybe I get this more because I was once a server. I also don’t go out to eat when I’m in a hurry.

    Perhaps we need to look at these places with the same spectles we look at the Hitching Post. Domku doesn’t smell like old grease. Both Kera and Gillian appear to be in their 40’s. Maybe we should give them the same consideration.

    And if your server is rude, for god’s sake, say something there. Its helpful to the extablishment AND the server. I’ve had a few table talk to me, and it did make me step back and consider my behavior.

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