In the movie “Harvey,” Jimmy Stewart played the lovable character Elwood P. Dowd who had a friend who was with him all the time, a 6 foot tall invisible rabbit named, well… you guessed it… Harvey.
Elwood’s friend Harvey was always by his side and the whole town knew about his special companion.
My friend Harvey (that’s really his name, by the way), has been sort of invisible lately himself. In fact, the last time we got together over a plate of spaghetti marina and a bottle of dago red, was around two years ago. So when he came out of hiding and asked if I would join him for dinner, I couldn’t refuse.
Harvey suggested we hit up Farmer’s Table in Boca Raton. He was under this strange impression that I’ve been on a mission to eat healthy, so he decided that taking me to a farm-to-table restaurant was a good choice. He chose a spot where organic cooking is the norm – where the things we were going to eat were harvested from sustainable sources and chickens were running free-range before being pan roasted.
Poor Harvey, I scolded him for not reading my blog and seeing my reviews of burgers loaded with cheese and topped with way too much bacon.
But healthy and sustainable it was! As I never dined at Farmer’s Table before, I was excited to check it out. When I told a friend of mine I was going there, she wished me luck as she did not enjoy her visit a few weeks ago. I didn’t let her opinion skew mine, as food is something that is subjective.
You may love meatloaf. I’d rather eat a tire.
See what I mean?
Our reservation was for 6:30pm and I arrived on time. I spied Harvey sitting on a bench in front of the restaurant waiting patiently for me and dining companion number three who was running a bit late. After the obligatory “you look great,” “how have you been,” and “great to see you” opening lines, we headed inside to the hostess stand to announce our arrival and grab a seat at our table and have a few drinks while we waited for number three.
“It’s the policy of our restaurant not to seat you until everyone in your party is here,” the hostess said.
That’s all I needed to hear.
As someone who has spent my entire working career preaching the importance of providing customers with outstanding service and saying over and over again, “no customer ever wants to hear the phrase “it’s our policy” come out of your mouth,” my face turned a bright red in anger.
“What can we do to get to yes?” I asked, as the hostess stared at me with a deer-in-the-headlights look.
“It’s our policy,” she said. “But my manager is right here and you can speak to her.”
Along comes the manager, who reiterated “it’s the restaurant’s policy to not seat you until everyone in your party is here.”
As I continued to boil over, we pointed to the dining room where there were only a few tables occupied – with most people dining outside.
That meant nothing.
“You can wait outside until the rest of your party arrives or you can have a drink at the bar, but I won’t seat you until everyone is here,” the manager said in a firm tone. A tone I haven’t heard since my mother told me I was grounded for getting caught stealing a pack of Bazooka gum from the drugstore down the street from where I grew up.
At that point we looked at each other and were going to walk out, but that would involve logistical moves and coordinating with dinning companion number three on an alternate spot, so we stuck around.
I declined the manager’s offer of having a drink at the bar, telling her “I will not give you any additional bar revenue tonight, we will wait outside.” (By the way, there was not one seat taken at the bar.)
That was it. My first visit to Farmer’s Table was marred from the very start with a hostess and manager who felt it necessary to throw “policy” in the face of a guest, rather than make them happy, take them to a table so they can have a few drinks and enjoy the start of their meal.
Unfortunately, before we even sat down and decided whether the food was good enough for a return visit, my mind was made up that this would be my first and last time I would be dining at Farmer’s Table.
Sorry guys, you lost my business and got a bad start to this review, before I even sat down.
We waited outside for dining companion number three for about five minutes then went inside. We clearly stated that everyone was here, and was asked whether we wanted to eat inside the still sparsely populated dining room, or outside on the bustling patio.
We chose outside.
Farmer’s Table is located in the Wyndham hotel and the outside patio allows you to essentially dine pool-side. For those familiar with Boca Raton, this spot formerly housed the ever popular, and always packed, Mario’s of Boca – an Italian joint who’s owners now operate Mario’s Osteria in Boca Raton, which carries on the tradition of being a place that’s aways busy.
Farmer’s Table in Boca Raton is a beautiful restaurant, no doubt about that. The owners did a great job at designing the space making it bright, airy and may I say… “organic” feeling. Farmhouse-chic is how I would describe it.
Our server came over to our table, presented us with menus as well as a sheet containing the daily specials. She went over the concept of the restaurant, explaining everything from the house-made syrups used in drinks, to the farm-to-table concept of all the menu items. Farmer’s Table has full-bar service as well as a selection of wine by the bottle or glass and a craft beer menu.
I chose my usual, a filthy Tito’s martini with three olives, while a bottle of wine was ordered for the rest of my companions.
One of the daily features was a BBQ Shrimp Flatbread which our server highly recommended. We ordered that along with the Funky Buddha Mussels and a bowl of tomato soup. Our server came back to tell us they did not have any mussels “due to the weather conditions” and asked if we wanted something else noting that the Salmon Cakes on the daily features menu were also not available. We choose the Cucumber Tartare with added Atlantic Tuna instead.
The starters came out fairly quickly. The flatbread was thin and crisp with plenty of shrimp on top. If I dare say so, it was one of the best flatbreads I’ve had. I’m a fan of the Lobster Flatbread over at Seasons 52, but this one was incredible.
The Cucumber Tartare topped with line caught Atlantic Tuna arrived with a few chips, definitely not enough for the plentiful amount of tuna stacked on top of the cucumber-avocado mix. The tuna was fresh and while I’m not a fan of avocado, this was a very good appetizer overall.
Oh, and the soup? Mr. H. enjoyed it. But what’s to say about soup? Not much, so let’s move onto the mains.
I’ll start off with Mr. H. who got the Buddha Bowl, something that I was going to order, but let him run with. It was a very large bowl filled with chicken, shrimp, stir-fry veggies, Udon noodles in a light broth topped with a gingered fried egg. The large bowl held a large portion of this dish which yielded enough to take home for the next day.
Dining companion number three chose the Herb Grilled Duroc Pork Chop which came highly recommended by Mr. H. who had it here before and was also recommended by our server. He had initial fears that it would be a small chop, but we were told they’re around 8oz, and it did not disappoint in size or taste.
Myself? I decided to go with something off the daily featured menu – a Skirt Steak with Au Gratin potatoes, cooked medium rare. The steak itself was around the same number of ounces as the above mentioned pork chop. It was topped with sauteed onions and a sweet sauce. Skirt steak isn’t known as being the most tender cuts of meat and this was a bit rubbery, but that is to be expected. Overall, I would prefer it with less of the sauce on top, or the sauce served on the side.
We tossed around the idea of dessert over and over, and the Strawberry Shortcake did catch my eye, but alas, we decided we ate enough and passed on the happy ending.
All of us agreed that the food at Farmer’s Table in Boca Raton was very good and I would recommend that if you’re looking for that fresh concept of dining that they’re all about, that you give it a try.
For me, I still have a bitter taste in my mouth that trumps the good meal we had. For as much as I would like to give Farmer’s Table another chance, I won’t.
By seating us five minutes before the arrival of our dining companion who was running late, we could have run up an additional $30+ in beverage sales, in addition to the bottle of wine and martinis we had. I could see the need to wait for everyone to arrive and be seated together if the restaurant was packed, but as I mentioned earlier, the indoor dining room had plenty of available tables.
There are plenty of other good restaurants in Boca Raton worth dining at where “restaurant policy” doesn’t turn off a guest before they even sit down to enjoy a meal.
Sorry Farmer’s Table, your food was great, but until you improve customer service at the door and teach your team members and managers that the phrase “it’s our policy” should never be a part of their vocabulary, you won’t see me again.
And I so wanted to try the Buddha Bowl.