My friends, let me be the first to welcome you to the inaugural BYOB Club dinner roundup blog post! We’ll keep it short and sweet (read: long winded and incessant). Comments are HIGHLY encouraged. I’m already excited to read Jeremy and Brian’s comments but, with all due respect to the Big Fella and the “other” bald guy, the more people’s input we can get the more interactive/interesting/awesome this is going to be. And we’re off…
Habana Libre provided a great environment for the BYOB club to do what we do. What do we do you say? Well, we take up half of a restaurant, greedily acquire 75% of its decibel output, consume approximately 80% of the alcoholic beverages present in the establishment, and send the kitchen into general disarray, among other highly laudable qualities. We’re very locust-like, you know, in the very best sense of the underutilized locust-to-group-of-humans analogy. Everybody seemed to give the scene solid scores, but actual comments about the atmosphere itself were few and far between. Someone noted that it was an “authentic Cuban environment” which got me thinking, probably never a good thing, but hear me out. If this person is willing to vouch for the Cuban authenticity of this environment it would mean that they must have either (a) been to Cuba before or (b) been lying through their teeth because in reality they really have no idea what a true Cuban environment would look like. If it’s option (a) then the person obviously can’t be trusted due to their overt anti-American Communist sentiment. If option (b) then we’ll just chalk it up to a little post dining over-excitement due to extreme satiation. Consider your faux-pas forgiven anonymous comment maker, just make sure that it doesn’t happen again! Anyhow, BYOBers, let this be your official notice that your judgments will be judged! Then again I guess it’s always possible that this person could have possibly spent a semester abroad in Cuba infiltrating the establishment and planting seeds of an insidious nature that would lead to the crumbling of the pinko Cuban regime from within (although who are we kidding, the only person we know who could pull this feat off is one AT Killer, Christian name withheld here for various legal reasons). But I guess we’ll never know. The music was good. For our purposes; feeling comfortable being loud and drunk, slow clapping to our heart’s content, etc.; the composition of the clientele and the setup of the establishment couldn’t have worked out all that much better.
Group Rating: 3.12/4 (or, a rock solid smairtings-hairtings)
The service. What to say about the service? Really, I mean, it was just all over the place, which, in my opinion, probably added to the charm of Habana Libre in some weird way. Slow was the theme of the day, and “slow” might not even do justice to the speed in which our services were rendered. We won’t get into details but from the appetizers to the main courses, there was an inordinate amount of confusion and time spent placing, taking and receiving orders. To give everyone a frame of reference, I think I had approximately 3 beers between the time that our waitress took our table’s first main course order and when she was finally able to take down our last order of the evening. In the end, following a scene that I would imagine takes place regularly at retirement homes across this great nation of ours (servers and patrons both had trouble recollecting who had ordered what) the proper food was eventually delivered right where it belonged; directly in front of the gluttonous pie-holes that had ordered them. Granted, I can’t imagine that it’s easy to cater to a group of 19 barbarous individuals, so some of this is entirely understandable and should simply be chalked up to them not quite being able to handle a group of our size.
Given the actual services rendered, you’d think that the service would get resoundingly negative reviews from the crew. However, sometimes in life, one moment is all that is needed for redemption. This was one such occasion. Our waitress, with a little prodding from the peanut gallery, and to the great delight of everyone involved (with the exception of one member of the crowd who erroneously thought that “the waitress was totally out of line”) led a hilariously deadly slow clap of our dear friend (or, in some cases, arch nemesis) John Stamos, which not only led to a near state of euphoria from us and the neighboring tables, but brought redemption to the entire Habana Libre staff, from sous chef to server, in one fell swoop. In terms of timeliness and accuracy, the wait staff left much to be desired, but in terms of table interaction and friendliness (ranging from menu suggestions, to, most obviously, participating in the infamous slow clap) the folks at Habana Libre were second-to-none. For a BYOB get together I always feel like the later is typically more important than the former unless the errors and waiting are egregious in nature. In this case, the service, for all its deficiencies, definitely added to the overall experience and while someone might be inclined to think it ridiculous to allow a simple waitress-induced slow clap to sway an establishment’s overall service category marks, that someone would likely be vastly underestimating the sheer awesomeness of a stranger slow clapping the easily embarrassed and decidedly French John “Jean” Stamos.
Group Rating: 2.71/4 (or, a tenous at best smairtings-hairtings)
The menu was actually fairly extensive, which can be somewhat of a blessing and a curse. Those with an indecisive temperament may be paralyzed by the wide array of choices, which can potentially lead to the dreaded ‘panic pick’ when you are on the clock. This, in turn, inevitably leads to at least some degree of regret as you watch your fellow dining companions joyfully and decisively order other, potentially more delicious, options than you were capable of when you had your moment in the sun. Severe indecisiveness aside, the food was quite delicious as a whole. Most of the offerings were above average. Generally speaking, the pork dishes seemed to be the most popular among the group (outside of the steak fajitas, which were, by many accounts, the most delicious offering that was sampled) while the steak/chicken/vegetarian dishes didn’t seem to resonate with the group quite as much. Appetizers were above average at worst across the board. The empanadas really hit the spot. If there was one theme that tied all of the different dishes together it would have to be the universally liberal use of garlic. Not a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination, just don’t plan on any post dinner PDA with anyone who didn’t sit down to dine with you earlier in the evening. All in all, not mind blowing, but I would definitely like to sit down at Habana Libre again and try a few additional items from the menu, and really, that’s about all you can ask for.
Group Rating: 3.12/4 (or, a rock solid smairtings-hairtings)
Habana Libre was a most suitable way to kick off season numero dos of the BYOB club. If the goal of each meeting is to enjoy good food with good friends and have some good fun then we hit the trifecta. The most memorable moment for most will be of our waitress’ slow-clapping escapade with our favorite lovably unsuspecting and abundantly uncomfortable victim. The count sits at three. It’s going to take dedication, perseverance and cultivation to make this number fully reach its potential greatness. I hope that you are all up to the task. Fellow BYOBers, after week one I can proclaim with confidence that we are now ready to take the city by storm. Let’s build on this. Jenn/Dan James/Mills, the pressure is on!
Group Rating: 2.98/4 (or, a fundamentally sound smairting-hairtings)More Evidence