I don’t review every restaurant I eat it in. I usually don’t review restaurants when I’m dining out with a number of people (more than just MG). Sometimes, I just want to hang out with friends, shoot the breeze, have some food, and chill.
That was the plan for the evening at Riverdale Garden Restaurant and Lounge. Myself and seven others had just come from a choral concert and were going to have a nice meal to round out the weekend. That was the plan. I was not planning on writing a review.
However, the experience was so universally despised by every member of our party that I feel compelled to put finger to keyboard. Each person left utterly disappointed and disgusted with the entire experience. (see Comment section) This went above and beyond terrible.
So, if you are a big fan of Riverdale Garden just stop reading. I’ve taken my time in writing this review. It has now been approximately two weeks since the disaster, so I’ve had time to cool down and ensure that the following is not said out of anger. I don’t write a review like this lightly. Though it may seem as though I am simply commenting on a restaurant, I understand that I am also passing judgment on someone’s passion and livelihood.
It was a Sunday evening at around 7:30. We had a reservation for eight people. We arrived and the table was set and ready. Riverdale Garden has a prix-fixe menu (at least on Sundays): twenty-five dollars for appetizer, entree, and dessert. I guess the cuisine would be considered Latin American. The appetizers included empanadas, steamed mussels, and a fried eggplant dish. The entrees were a mix of seafood, fish, chicken, and beef. The desserts included Tres Leches cake, cheesecake, and some other stuff.
First issue: (See comment section)
The leader of our party (the person who booked the reservation) called a few days prior and ordered two bottles of wine to be reserved for the table. As I understand it, the customary way to serve a bottle of wine for the table is to allow the head of the table to taste the wine, pour to the guests, and then leave the bottle. None of this occurred. The waiter poured a splash of wine in each glass and left with the bottle. The waiter only came back once during the entire course of the affair (at least two hours) and asked anyone if they wanted more. There is no way that they used two-thirds of a single bottle.
When taking our orders, the waiter informed us that the salmon dish on the menu was not available and would be substituted with tilapia if anyone was interested. No problem. Restaurants can run out of supplies, and we were duly informed. However, that brings us to the…
I and a few other diners ordered a chicken dish. They ran out of chicken. We were not informed when ordering. We were not informed over drinks. We were informed after our appetizers had been served and cleared. This had to be at least a half hour after our initial order. It took that long to find out that you were out of chicken?
One of the diners got the tilapia. Granted, our entrees took at least an hour from our initial order. It was not the worst thing since we were all chatting and hanging out. However, the tilapia arrived completely overcooked with nearly raw shrimp on the side. The lady who received this dish was reticent to send it back, since it took so long to get the in the first place, but had to as it was inedible. When returning it, she was informed that they just got salmon delivered, so she could have that instead. They just got salmon delivered at 8:30pm on a Sunday? Unusual, but who am I to judge? When she got her salmon, that was undercooked instead of overcooked. She had to eat around the center to get a meal.
They served dessert, but didn’t ask anyone is they wanted coffee or tea. No refills of wine. No offers of coffee or tea. Maybe they wanted to ensure that no one would have to run to the bathroom.
During dessert, they started blasting music throughout the restaurant. When I say blasting, I mean blasting. It was club and concert loud. There was no one dancing. The bar was not full. It was 9:15pm on a Sunday. They had three patrons at the bar watching the football game. There was no one waiting to start dancing. As far as I’m concerned, doing that is saying to our table, “Hurry up and get out!”
Six diners were paying cash, two were paying by credit card. With a prix-fixe menu, this should not be too difficult to figure out. Once they took the cash and credit cards, no one returned to the table for at least twenty minutes. Keep in mind, we are the only diners in the restaurant. There are three people at the bar being tended to by the bartender. Twenty minutes? Once they returned, as you have probably now guessed, they charged the entire bill to one person’s credit card. Resolving that issue took at least another 15 minutes.
Notice this review has barely been about food? Some of the food was OK. A couple things were pretty good. This horrendous experience could in no way be salvaged by good food. Nothing anyone ate made them say, “If they just got the service fixed, this place would be cool.”
The owners should just get out of the restaurant business. There is no quick fix or easy solution. This place is beyond redemption.
Riverdale Garden Restaurant and Lounge
4576 Manhattan College Pkwy
Bronx, NY 10471