It's been a couple years since we last ate at our local Mellow Mushroom. Maybe it was the burnt pretzels, or the burnt pizza crust, or the fact we waited nearly ninety minutes for the burnt pizza to reach our table, but whatever it was I knew I was done with the place. The real shame of it is how excited we were for the restaurant to open. Mellow Mushrooms in other cities had never failed to please. Their service is timely and their food noticeably unburnt, both of which are qualities I admire in restaurants.
As a result, we were justifiably delighted to hear someone was going to open a Mellow Mushroom only a few miles from our house. We watched and commented as construction progressed.
"Did you see they hung their signage?"
"Did you see they paved the parking lot?"
"Did you see they're going to have an outdoor patio?"
My Lovely Wife and I were so anxious to have a Mellow Mushroom nearby, we couldn't even wait for the kids to be available to try it out. The first day the restaurant was open to the public, while the kids were at school eating peanut butter sandwiches, we were sitting on the covered patio dining on delicious items from the Mellow Mushroom lunch menu. And it was good. Good enough for us to recommend the restaurant to our friends and family.
As time pressed on, however, we noticed inconsistencies in the quality of food preparation and long waits for tables (which is good for the restaurant) and for the delivery of food to the tables (which isn't any good for anybody). People around town started grumbling. We started grumbling. That last time we tried the restaurant, the ninety-minute wait for burnt pizza was the straw that broke the caterpillar's hooka. I found a Mario Batalli pizza dough online and we never looked back.
Then, just last week, the local high school jazz band performed at the restaurant to raise funds for the band program. Our Daughter and her boyfriend, Señor Awesome, both are in regular band and Señor Awesome is featured prominently in the jazz band, so we thought: "What the heck. Let's give Mellow Mushroom another chance and help raise money for the school band at the same time."
I would like to list now the reasons why we should have stayed home, eaten our own homemade pizza, and simply written the school band program a check.
- Non-burnt pretzels, served promptly: This sounds like a promising start, but in hindsight it really wasn't. All it did was draw us into a false sense of security about the rest of the meal.
- A Confused Waitress: For obvious reasons, a bad omen. When you tell the waitress you want a cheese pizza with basil and Roma tomatoes (both items from the list of toppings in the menu) and she doesn't understand what you're talking about, you know you're in trouble. And the fact no one at Mellow Mushroom seems to realize cheese pizza with basil and Roma tomatoes is commonly known as a Pizza Margherita also says a lot about this place's pizza bona fides.
- One-Hour Wait Until Management Steps In: Yes, one hour. In an industry governed by ticket times and the expediting of food from the kitchens, it took the assistant manager one hour to realize we had not yet received our food, but only because we called it to his attention. At least he was kind enough to assure us our meal would be on the house.
- Another 45 Minutes After Management Stepped In: We waited impatiently for a total 105 minutes from time of order to the time our pizzas were placed in front of us. During that time, I somehow managed to refrain from pointing out to the assistant manager that pizza normally takes five minutes to prepare and ten minutes to bake. Allowing the dough to rise is the only time consuming process, but I have to think if any place of business is going to have a ready supply of risen pizza dough, it's a restaurant that specializes in pizza.
- A Confused Waitress, Part 2: After being reassured multiple times by multiple people we would not pay a penny for our meal, the waitress came to the table to ask how we wanted to split the bill. She might have gotten a tip if, just once during the two hours we sat at her table, she had refilled our glasses.
© 2013 Mark Feggeler