In our many trips to Island Park and West Yellowstone, we've only stopped at Pond's Lodge for a quick pitstop, having never been inspired to actually eat at the restaurant. Today, my husband and I decided to try the newly remodeled lodge after an afternoon of fishing on Henry's Lake. Maybe we should have kept going north to West Yellowstone or further south to Trouthunter Bar & Grill in Last Chance.
At first glance, we were impressed with the remodel. Though still sparse in decorative elements, the restaurant was nice in the typical lodge style with new hair-on-hide booth seats which I thought was cool. It smelled new instead of smoke-filled as it had when the bar was on that side. Unfortunately, our first impression seemed to end there. We were seated in the back next to the kitchen door. It wasn't the kind of view I would have wanted for a restaurant experience and I suppose I should have requested another table but I felt that I could deal with it so we ordered our meal and waited.
Unfortunately, the rather long wait allowed me too much time to linger on the oddities. I was seated on the chair facing that swinging door and watching it constantly open to a view of the dish washer and the dirty dishes from bussed tables was unappetizing. The waitresses were dressed a little too casually and off-par with the upscale feel, I assume the owners are trying to project with the restaurant. Our server was wearing a layered tank top (her bra straps were red–'nuf said), jeans and sneakers. Other servers pretty much looked like they grabbed the first thing out of their closet. We ordered a large bowl of clam chowder soup for a starter to share since she said that it is a 16oz portion (small was 8oz). We waited about 10 minutes and had to ask where it was. When it arrived, it was in this huge pasta bowl but there was this laughably small puddle of chowder at the bottom. At this point, I was ready to leave (for the second time) but my husband calmed me down and encouraged me to try it because it looked good. He agreed to talk to the server about adjusting the bill when we ask for our check since it obviously was not a 16 oz portion so I settled in.
We also ordered a chicken fried steak with mashed potatoes and broccolini ($15) and a spicy chicken penne pasta dish ($13). Alright, the flavor was great but, like the chowder, the portions...not so much. I don't mind paying well for a a great meal so I let that issue go and tried to see the food quality as a redeeming aspect.
The bizarre-ness continued, however, when we requested our check and an adjustment to the bill. The manager (?) approached us, inquired about the problem and went back to the kitchen with no apologies or other comments. When he came back, he had the same bowl with a heaping-full serving of soup. We hadn't ask for a replacement but I thought he was going to give us another bowl. Instead, he holds it in front of our faces and asked, "Is this how much you got?" loudly enough for everyone to hear. I couldn't decide if I should be appalled or laugh at the rather lack of discretion. It didn't help that he was equally casual in his t-shirt, long shorts and flip-flops. After my husband told him that what we got was not as he had presented to us, he again left without a word and the waitress came back later with our check, with a comp for half the price of the soup. Granted, the price was a negligible amount but would you pay for something you didn't order? Our request seemed reasonable enough.
And if a manager was going to put the effort to address a customer complaint, wouldn't you also expect some sort of apology? Apparently not in his "best practice" manual.
So, yeah...it was a strange experience, the price we paid too high for both the portion and the ambiance, and the service leaves much to be desired. Jon Good is the head chef there and a former sous chef to Mario Batali. I thank his team for the tasty dishes. But though Batali favors crocs as part of his uniform, I would think that he would "turn over" at the casual flip-flop, jeans and t-shirt dress of his kitchen/dining staff.
I'm putting a 3-star "average" stamp to this instead of "poor" at a 2-star rating but only because we liked the food enough to give the restaurant another shot to see if they've cleaned up their act a little.
In the housing business, the mantra is "location, location, location!"
In the restaurant business, it is "service, service, service!"
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