Monday, February 4, 2008

Finishing My Thoughts on Rosetta Stone Cafe

I left off my last post, having been bummed about the food choices and presentations from the Rosetta Stone Cafe's dinner menu. I will repeat one caveat and lead with another; I have been in the restaurant business for about 15 years before I became the Sales and Marketing Director for Accent Media. I have managed various types of restaurants and owned my own for 2 years. Unfortunately I didnt make the wisest choice in location myself, which is a little why I know of what I speak. My second caveat is to say that I really am very Pro Yo and want the Rosetta Stone Cafe to succeed here. So having already talked about my very good lunch and so-so dinner the first week they were open, let's get into my last visit for dinner last Monday night, and my thoughts and recommendations for the cafe.

Last Monday evening I left work around 6pm and decided to stop by the Rosetta Stone Cafe for dinner before heading home. I was dining alone and brought my Sunday paper from a day earlier that I had not had a chance to read yet. At a little after 6pm there was one other table there of 6, and a table of 2, with about 6 patrons at the bar. The hostess seated me at the row of 1/2 booth and 1/2 tables, directly across from the bar. I sat on the booth side, facing the bar, kitchen area and host station. After I was sat I began to read my paper. And read, and read, and read, until 3 pages later I have still not had a server drop by. It seemed as there were 3 servers on with one of the 3 in the process of being sent home since it wasnt busy. I looked up from my paper and began to search for eye contact to get my meal started. As I sat looking around, the bartender was in conversation with her guests, the other 2 servers that were still on were putting in orders, and chatting and the hostess was polishing the silverware of the tables in my row, but at the opposite end. I kept looking and trying to make contact and nothing. Finally, after the Hostess made her way from the far table of my rown to the table next to mine, I asked if she would mind getting me a server and maybe some water to drink. The Hostess walked over to a server that was doing something at a register and pointed my way and said something to her. The Hostess then went and filled a paper cup with water and walked right by me back to her Host stand with her own water to drink. It took another 3 minutes for my server to finish what she was doing at the register and then go into the kitchen and bring the table of 2 something out.

Once the server made it over to me, she was very nice and pretty much attentive throughout the rest of the meal. About half-way through my meal, a table of 8, including children came in to eat. To add to the insult of my inattentive Hostess who never seemed to notice I was not being served, I saw her walk this family to their table while thoroughly enjoying her chewing gum. This brought a total of 4 tables in the restaurant my entire dining experience, (almost 2 hours, it was a big sunday paper folks.) My meal this time was much better, although I still wish the dinner menu had more options. I ended up with the Bruschetta, which was fantastic, and the Baby Spinach and Fruit Salad, that was perfectly fine. The sweet taste of the balsamic glaze over the tomatoes and roasted vegetables on the artisan bread was a perfect mix. Although it wasn't the best Hot Bacon Dressing I have ever had, my salad spinach was crisp and the strawberry's and mandarin oranges a good compliment. For dessert, I had the homemade Tiramisu that was very flavorful and rich, with an excellent cup of coffee. Overall, once the meal got started, it was a very enjoyable experience.

Overall after 3 visits, I have to say that the service, with the exception of my last visit until I was greeted, is pretty much on par for where a new restaurant should be. I believe the food is primarily excellent in taste, but there are definite presentation problems and the variety of the menu is not one that I think will succeed in Downtown Youngstown. One of my best arguments to back that up is the family that came in to eat this past Monday. I really have no idea what the children at that table could have ordered. This I believe is the hidden jewel of what is needed downtown. Not a 4 or 5 star dining experience, but a place where families can come, have a great tasting meal, and be able to enjoy downtown life. If I had to guess, I would say that the DeYor's core audience is 35- 65, but they offer many great children's fare throughout the year as well. The Chevrolet Centre on the other hand, has it's most successful events with families, IE: Disney On Ice, Hockey and Football Games, Ringling Brothers Circus, etc. Of all those events, where can families really eat Downtown Youngstown that is not catered to more upscale diners. I can think of BW3's and I guess Tomasino's if you dont want atmosphere. You can go a little outside Youngsown to MVR and Charlie Staples and thats it. I believe another harbinger of bad news for upscale and innovative dining is definitely Oscar's on 224 in Boardman and GQ's in Canfield. Oscar's parking lot was always half-full compared to the more family friendly and sports bar oriented Blue Wolf Tavern next door. Now Oscars has closed their fine dining concept and changed itself into a sports bar called Jeremiah Bullfrog. GQ's has already cut it's menu prices which was Oscar's first step. If you cant find fine dining diners in Boardman or Canfield, you are going to be very hard pressed to have them come to Downtown Youngstown. I definitely applaud their efforts, but if the Rosetta Stone Cafe wants to be in business over the long run, they better think about changing their menu concept quickly. The atmosphere they have created in the design of the place is fantastic for a Bistro type place with their Lunch menu intact and then some great midrange meals that cater to families more than the more refined taste's. I would love to be listening to some great jazz, blues or fusion on their stage while having a great tasting sandwich or entree in the $8-$12 dollar range that has taste appeal across a wide spectrum. Of course this is just one man's humble opinion. More power to them if they prove me wrong and are the next big thing in Downtown, but I also hope they are around for the long run, we need some stability back in Ytown and then we will all be a happier community....Scott

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