Disappointed at Houlihans *but received excellent response from management

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Scorereader
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2013/04/25 15:14:40 (permalink)

Disappointed at Houlihans *but received excellent response from management

 This was among our favorite spot years ago when I lived in Greensboro, NC. The one on High Point Road, across from Darryl's had an excellent staff, nice brunch, good menu, food and service. We often took visiting guests here for brunch. We went to a Houlihans in Boston and at an airport several years ago, all with similar excellent results.
 
Well, Houlihans opened up in The Village at Waugh Chapel, in Crofton/Gambrills, MD. This new shopping center with condo/apt and senior living, has lots of nice estabishments, from anchor stores like Dick's Sporting, Wegmans, Bed Bath..., Target, Old Navy, Home Goods, White and Black, to mall type stores like Game Stop, Hallmark Store, Five Below, and restaurants - mostly chains, though - from business casual to fast food.
 
Well, we though we've give a Houlihan's a try, as they just opened up last weekend. Maybe relive our younger days? Well, you know how they say you can never go home again? Houlihan is not the same. No brunch, a menu appearing to be tight and focused, but expensive compared to the offerings at their competition.
 
My meal, they completely blundered. With my Atkins diet, my choices are sometimes limited, but I can usually get by.  Actually, I can always get by. I never go hungry in any restaurant. In this case lunch was to be a small ceasar salad (skip the croutons) and Buffalo wings. I specifically asked if the wings were breaded. The waitress, who had difficulty remembering some of the menu items when my wife inquired, said an emphatic "no. Wings are not breaded." "Great, " I thought.
 
My wife purchased a Grill Salmon BLT. My son a grilled cheese that came with choice of side (he chose mandarin oranges) and carrots with ranch dip.
 
My wife enjoyed the grilled salmon BLT, I thought the salmon was a little over done, but coupled with bacon, tomato and lettuce, she said it worked. The carrots and dip were omitted from my sons order, but remembered by the waitress near the end, before we had a chance to ask about them...because, they screwed my order. The mandarin oranges are from a can. Frankly, the Houlihan's of old would never have served fruit from a can. I distinctly remember fresh fruit - super fresh. Another reason we used to be patrons back in the day.
 
The side ceasar salad was good, albeit a bit small. Even for $4 for a side salad, I expected a little more sustainence. but, I'm ok with that. At least all of the lettuce was from the greenery of the romaine, and not whites and spines you sometimes get at places trying to stretch their romaine - good job on the lettuce. Grated parmesian was good.
 
Wings came, there were maybe 6 of them for a $9 plate (and I get upset when the price is $1 a wing) and they were breaded. Immediately I said, "I'm sorry, you said the wings weren't breaded." she apologized and said she'd talk to the chef. Apparently this confused the kitchen, because the waitress can back because the chef asked if I wanted them just grilled (rather than deep fried) then run through the bufffalo sauce, no breading. I said, "grilled or deep fried, either way as long as they are not breaded nor dusted with flour." What came back, was five small pieces of cut chicken breast, grilled, sauce added, with side of bleu cheese. I said, "these aren't wings." She said, that the chef informed him that the wings were "purchased lightly breaded" (which means they are buying frozen, breaded wings  -ugh! that doesn't speak well to the quality of the rest of the products - and they were not LIGHTLY breaded, they were battered, which constituted 24-30% of the sixe of the wing, that's not light - don't insult my intelligence) - so he made this up for my benefit. some benefit. The five small pieces would hardly constitute an order of wings, and they still charged the $9 for them. That's $1.85 a piece for pieces of chicken no bigger than a chicken nugget.
 
I said, "if I had known that he didn't actually have wings, I would've ordered something else" (for example, they had a large ceasar salad with grilled chicken...which was $10 or $11). I did not get a response. I thought the waitress' lack of knowledge of the menu (not just my meal, but my wife asked about other dishes and she was slow to answer, and this was not a young inexperienced server), and the stupid decision to serve me something completely NOT what I ordered, of substantially lower value but charge full price, and I hate that there were four hostesses, one opened the door and 3 more to say hello while one seated us. It was not busy, and there aren't enough tables in the dinning room to substantiate 4 hostesses. All four said good bye, and "we'll see you again." Not ONE asked me how the meal was. My waitress never asked, no manager ever asked. no one asked if everything was ok. ever.  (funny note about the bill: they actually listed two orders of wings at $9 each for a total of $18, then listed a "comp" for one of the orders? really? their screw up and it shows up on my ticket like they did me some favor?)
 
How sad, for me to see a place we really used to enjoy, fall flat on its nose, with a poorer menu, bad use of staff, under trained, and bad decisions in the kitchen.
 
We won't be back. In Waugh Chapel, alone, there are better places, from Green Turtle, to the independent 4 Seasons Grill - heck I'd go to Chipotle's first. Nearby is a fantatic pubm Irish Channel Pub, and we've been circulating through the menu and have found no losers yet, and Big Fish Grill, which has a fantistic happy hour deal from 4-7, allowing us to order several small plates - which aren't really that small at all at 1/2 price, plus 1/2 price wine. I tip on what the total cost would've been - even though it's not coupon dining, in part because service is excellent. So, Houlihan's had dropped to last place in Crofton. It is sad that an old favorite has lost it's way.
post edited by Scorereader - 2013/05/01 23:11:49
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8 Replies Related Threads

    kland01s
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    Re:Disappointed at Houlihans (Croton/Gambrills, MD) 2013/04/25 16:37:33 (permalink)
    Maybe it has to do with being new? Our Houlihans has not changed, there has always been excellent service and food. We love their small plate.
     
    Big Fish Grill closed here several years ago within a year. They were terrible and had rude terrible service. It all depends on location and management.
    #2
    joerogo
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    Re:Disappointed at Houlihans (Croton/Gambrills, MD) 2013/04/25 17:17:15 (permalink)
    Houlihans is the restaurant attached to the Hilton in Springfield, VA.  The do a good job with breakfast, but, if I were to eat dinner there, I might have to miss a trip to Filomena!
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    kland01s
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    Re:Disappointed at Houlihans (Croton/Gambrills, MD) 2013/04/25 17:26:26 (permalink)
    joerogo

    Houlihans is the restaurant attached to the Hilton in Springfield, VA.  The do a good job with breakfast, but, if I were to eat dinner there, I might have to miss a trip to Filomena!

     
    Oh, granted, it is what it is but usually Houlihans can be pretty reliable. But... my Houlihan's doesn't have breakfast, it's free standing and has nothing to do with a hotel.
    #4
    Scorereader
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    Re:Disappointed at Houlihans (Croton/Gambrills, MD) 2013/04/25 19:45:20 (permalink)
    Kland01s:
     
    The Big Fish Grill in Crofton is not part of a larger chain. It's an independent restaurant, so it can't be compared to the one in IL.
     
     
    #5
    David_NYC
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    Re:Disappointed at Houlihans (Croton/Gambrills, MD) 2013/04/26 00:36:35 (permalink)
    I think Buffalo Wings can be found at most Houlihan's, maybe not at lunch in all places, but maybe for dinner. IIRC, it is the chain's recipe and it does not come with breaded wings. To refresh my memory, I searched on the web for copycat recipes and also images and reviews of their wings. This review suggests the wings are not breaded:
    http://www.examiner.com/article/houlihan-s-san-antonio
     
    As others here have indicated, these may be start up problems. Houlihan's website allows you to turn them in.
    #6
    Scorereader
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    Re:Disappointed at Houlihans (Croton/Gambrills, MD) 2013/04/26 09:10:15 (permalink)
    That review is 3 years old. As I said, I remember Houlihans being excellent in the past, which is why this was such a disappointment
     
    But, I can appreciate a new place. But, first impressions, first impressions, first impressions, you never get a second chance at making a first impression.
     
    I did send an almost identical review to the "contacts us" page on Houlihan's website. If I get a reply, I will pass it along.
     
    I definately think the corporate response can adjust my current attitude. We'll see how it goes. I'm NOT looking for a free dinner card or anything. Usually, that kind of response is insulting (i.e. why whould I get for free the same thing I didn't like). But, if their explanation is similar to those above about opening week jitters and flubs, I may, though hesitant, give a second chance. I'm not a TOTAL d**k, I can be reasonable.
     
    I do know, that the Houlihans of old sold fresh, unbreaded, Buffalo wings. But, I always ask just to be sure, because I really hate refusing/sending back a meal I ordered. And I've toughed it out through some stinkers - over cooked meat, dry fish, etc. Sometimes, depending on the company I'm with, it makes the table uncomfortable to send it back, so I just smile and keep it to myself.
    #7
    joerogo
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    Re:Disappointed at Houlihans (Croton/Gambrills, MD) 2013/04/26 10:40:11 (permalink)
    If it's 4 free, it's 4 me!
     
    http://www.houlihans.com/email-club?sid=148
    #8
    Scorereader
    Sirloin
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    Re:Disappointed at Houlihans (Croton/Gambrills, MD) 2013/05/01 23:19:41 (permalink)
    I won't bore you with the long succession of emails between the restaurant manager who responded to my critique at houlihans main website and me, but I will say the note was incredibly personal in approach. He apologized for the mistakes, he did admit that the opening week has had some bumps in the road, but they are determined to be as strong as the reputation that Houlihans has maintained for a long time. HE was polite and supportive of my opinion, and talked about what they're doing to make things better as they get this new restaurant off the ground.
     
    So, many of you who commented that it was due to opening week issues of undertraining, etc. (and I suspected that might be the case after reading your opinions) were, in this manager's opinion, spot on.
     
    With the personal care he took to send me a message free from canned language/responses, that was genuine, I will definitely wait a short time and revisit this restaurant. I'll let you know how it goes. But, the manager, Kevin, restored my faith in a restaurant chain we used to really enjoy. And reaffirmed my former opinion that Houlihans is a customer oriented corporation that takes the time to do things right.
     
     
     
    #9
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