antipaucity

fighting the lack of good ideas

1401 argentinean bistro

Wow.

It’s truly that good.

This week I was working in Fort Lauderdale. It’s been over 4 years since I was last in the area, and I’ve always wanted to visit Miami – at least once.

As I am wont to do, I checked-out OpenTable to see what interesting food places were available. One of them was 1401 Argentinean Bistro. It’s a fusion restaurant selling Argentinian food with Italian influences (the owner/chef’s dual heritages).

I went with a coworker and the customer contact with whom we were working. We all ordered the skirt steak, and LOVED it!

Our waiter was the chef, Fabio Pizelman: he enjoys tending tables 2-3 nights a week to get a better feel for what his customers like, don’t like, want, etc. We arrived late enough Tuesday that we were [effectively] the only customers. So I do realize that our service was perhaps slightly more attentive than it may be when the place is packed, but it was still a phenomenal place to eat.

Due to circumstances beyond our control, we ended up leaving work late, and had to move our reservation a couple times – but that worked to our advantage in that we had the place to ourselves.

The outdoor seating was excellent on the balmy fall evening, and we decided by the end of the rolls that we had to go back.

While waiting on our entrees to arrive, I rebooked us for Wednesday – when we planned to sample the non-steak portions of Chef Fabio’s menu.

Due to some more unforeseen (and unavoidable delays), we had to no-show Wednesday – but Thursday was our night.

Alas! Senor Pizelman must think we’re flakes! Last night we didn’t get to leave the office until it was almost today 🙁

And with my return home imminent, it also means that I won’t have a chance to eat at the Bistro again for some time – a true shame. Chef Fabio’s food, service, and personality couldn’t be better.

And so, with this, I must wait to return to 1401 Bistro until my next trip to south Florida.

I wish Mssr Pizelman all success until (and after) then.

staybridge replies – the next week

In follow-up to my post from last week, two members of the Staybridge staff contacted me on Wednesday of this week. Their replies are posted below. Also, a disclaimer: I never asked for anything to be done in recompense for the situation – I just wanted it fixed.

Mr. Myers:

Please accept my apology for the delay in responding to your email. I have received it through IHG Guest relations and was not aware of it until this morning. I have copied the email to go over with the executive housekeeper. While we have been challenged with very large sports groups, staying one week or longer, it is no excuse for poor service. I was not aware that the complimentary room was not a direct benefit to you. In lieu of the issues you encountered I will add 10,000 priority club points to your account. The description of your stay, by no means, represents the type of service we strive to present to all guests. Thank you for taking the time to let me know. If I may be of any further service please do not hesitate to contact me directly my cell phone number is 317-640-2708.

Sincerely
Gary W Miller

General Manager
Staybridge Suites
Indianapolis/ Fishers
317-577-9500

And from the other manager (quoted as sent, including any typos):

Hi Warren,

I was reading over your comments in regards to your recent stay with us. I want to sincerely apologize for the problems that you encountered. I understand that the company was paying for your stay and that the comp night was not an actual benefit to you. I have included a free night certificate for you to use in the future. While it doesn’t make up for the problems you had, I hope that you and your family can use it for personal use next time you are in the area. I have also upgraded the room type to a one bedroom suite for you. I will be sure to address these items with housekeeping and the front desk, so that the same mistakes doe not incur. Again, please accept my sincerest apologies.

Natalie Page
Guest Services Manager
Staybridge Suites Fishers-Indianapolis
317-712-5101 direct dial
317-577-9500 front desk
317-712-5200 fax

When I emailed Gary this morning asking why he had not replied to the emails I sent him directly, this was his reply:

Mr. Meyers

That is the correct email address. However, I am having issues with my email account over the last few weeks. I am receiving an exceptional amount of “spam”. It is not unusual for me to have over 150 emails every morning. Yours may have been deleted by mistake. I did however receive your email through IHG Guest Relations. That is what I was responding to. I hope we can be of service to you in the future.

Sincerely

Gary W. Miller

Yeah, I get a lot of “spam”, too – but when the subject line includes not only the reservation, but my Priority Club number, and is addressed directly to you from a corporate address… it sounds like a weak response.

Regardless, at least there was some form of reply to the situation – not what I would have expected, but I suppose it’ll do.

staybridge suites – avoid like the plague

I rarely have good reason to complain about hotels, restaurants, etc.

This is one of those rare occasions. And it was made worse because my wife had to go through it, too 🙁

The following is the message I sent to the general manager of the Fishers IN Staybridge Suites location on Tuesday 19 July 2011 (after sending it to the corporate customer service department):

Our stay at the Staybridge Suites in Fishers IN has been horrible so far.

The facilities have been adequate, but the service has been appalling. Shortly after checking-in on the 18th, my wife was hit in the head by a stray thrown basketball while walking through the parking lot to walk our small dog. While walking our dog, she was also shouted-at by some of the teens staying at the hotel. After reporting this to the front desk, nothing was done – no apology was given, or was any attempt made to control the myriad teens running amok through and around the hotel.

The teen group has been out of control every time we have seen them, except at breakfast: taking-over the pool area, screaming, shouting, horseplaying, throwing basketballs out of the court (and hitting cars), making loud a ruckus after 10p last night in the common area (which could be heard completely down the hall and in every room facing over the great room).

Hotel staff have been unwilling or unable to control the behavior of the teens, and their apparent attempts to contact the chaperons and coaches have gone unheeded: the chaperons have been nowhere to be found (contrary to posted rules), and have done nothing to control the unruly children either.

At 1030p Monday evening, my wife went to the front desk to ask for extra pillows. The front desk lady indicated they would be sent up to our room “shortly”. At midnight, I went down and asked where they were: not only had housekeeping not brought anything up to our room, they had not been contacted even though there is a radio at the desk for such purposes. I waited an addition 12 minutes for someone in housekeeping to find a couple spare pillows and bring them to the desk so I could take them upstairs.

As I mentioned earlier, we are traveling with a small dog (a 2.5 year old Shih Tzu). The pet rules at Staybridge, vs any of the other ICH brands) are excessively stringent. An option is given at check-in as to whether daily housekeeping checks will be done either between 9a and 2p or after 5:30p. We selected the after 5:30p option. At 12:20p today, housekeeping knocked on our door. After being told to “wait just a moment”, they knocked again, and were told again “wait just a moment”. Then they opened the door WITHOUT INDICATING WHO THEY WERE until after the door was partially open. My wife was in the room by herself enjoying a TV show, and this behavior is unacceptable. After being shown that our housekeeping contract shows no one should come before 5:30p, they insisted on attending to the room anyway, and two maids came in, reset the sheets and replaced the towels, then left. If this is the daily housekeeping that is “required” for suites with pets, I shudder to think what “housekeeping” is done typically.

The behavior and attitude of the staff at this location is truly unbelievable for *any* hotel, let alone one in this price range. I travel extensively for business, and stay at hotels 2-4 times per month just for work. This is my first (and I expect my last) experience staying at a Staybridge Suites location. I have stayed at Candlewoods several times in CT and here in IN (just last week down one exit from the Staybridge). Candlewood has always been eagerly attentive to guest needs and requests, has a far more lenient pet policy, and is less expensive than Staybridge. We only selected to stay at a different location this week due to the Candlewood being sold out. We should have stayed the full week on the other side of town at a Candlewood to avoid this horrible experience with Staybridge.

It has been over a year (with hotel stays near weekly for much of that time) since having even a mediocre experience at any hotel – let alone such an egregious example of not caring and not trying on the part of hotel staff – and I am extremely disappointed with the Staybridge in Fishers.

His response to this message was NOT to call me at my cell phone number given on the day of the report (which the manager on duty (a sales coordinator) said he would do prior to my sending of the initial email), but rather to call my room the next morning (Wednesday) – after I had gone to work.

Hello, Mr Miller

My wife called and relayed the conversation you had with her this morning.

We will definitely contact you if anything else comes up and/or we need anything else during our stay.

If you have further questions or need to contact us, please call me at [redacted]

In the intervening days, nothing has been done beyond comp’ing us for the first night’s stay: which is a nice gesture, but doesn’t really do anything for me as this is a business trip (though I am sure my customer will appreciate the discount). The message I sent to Gary Miller today:

Mr Miller

While the noise from the rowdy teens has disappeared (I am guessing from not having seen them the past couple days that they left), housekeeping has been atrocious during our stay. Referring back to my initial email (which you have still not replied to outside of a call to my room on Wednesday morning when I was not available, in contradiction to what Kim Ilagon said you would do by calling my contact number she took down (and that has been on each of the emails I have sent you) or the contact number on my reservation), a “light touch service” is supposed to be mandatory every day in every room, with some form of more extended service if there is a pet in the suite. As you know, Tuesday’s housekeeping visit occurred over 5 hours before they were supposed to come to the room. That service visit was a mere “light touch” – replacing towels, emptying wastebaskets, and straightening the bed.

On Wednesday there was no housekeeping visit at all, and I was forced near the end of the evening to go ask for new towels at the front desk myself. Likewise on Thursday: no housekeeping visit occurred – and we again had to get new towels on our own.

Over the intervening days since Tuesday, the wastebaskets in our room have filled from day-to-day items – with no visit or way of getting housekeeping to take care of the room.

Additional cleanliness problems:

  • There is a cup of beer on the windowsill at the end of the hall by room 201 that has been there since before we checked in
  • The tray we used to bring breakfast up to our room was set outside our door yesterday – by lunchtime it had not been collected, so we moved it to the windowsill as well; it had still not been picked-up by when I left for work this morning
  • Myriad soaked towels were on the floor of the pool last night for over 90 minutes with no one using them or coming to take care of them (my wife and I were swimming by ourselves for that duration)
  • Trash bags have been left in stairwells for over a day before being collected

I appreciate the token you gave of comp’ing us for our first night – but as I am traveling on business, that doesn’t really “do anything” for myself or my wife (though my customer will be happy to have saved a night’s cost).

Last night I went to the front desk to ask if it might be possible to do a late checkout, which the staff member told me was not an issue, and wrote down that we would be checking-out at 2p. Today housekeeping came by at about 1215 to do a service on the room, and were surprised my wife was still in the room.

90 minutes later the front desk called my wife asking if we were going to extend our stay – the woman at the front desk had not bothered to read any of the comments/notes left for her from the night before.

Communication at this hotel amongst the staff is atrocious. I have copied this message back to corporate customer service as well (as I did the first message to you).

Contact information for this hotel:

Front desk: 317.577.9500

General Manager: Gary Miller gmiller@imd1.com

mid-term travel needs

Since I can’t register on Kevin’s blog, I’m replying here 🙂

He asked about where to find “mini” packages of laundry needs.

Here’s what I do, I hit the dollar store if I’m going to be somewhere more than a few days – $3 and I have detergent, bleach, and fabric softener.

family reunion and a new trip

A couple weeks ago, my wife and I flew up to NJ for my family reunion (held near South Bound Brook every last Saturday in June). I’ve missed the last few due to other things getting in the way (like living in Singapore and getting married ;)) – so it was great to be able to catch up with some people I haven’t seen in 3+ years, but sad that not everyone could make it.

Excluding the cruddy service we got on US Air from CVG, the trip was pretty good. The Sheraton at Newark Airport bumped us to the “lounge level” (that floor you need your room card to get to). The picnic was fun. And dinner that evening at one of my favored restaurants in Whitehouse Station was tasty, too.

Sunday early we got to Newark Penn Station to do something neither of us has ever done before in the US (and my wife, well, ever) – take a “substantial” train ride! I’ve taken the train back and forth between Albany and NY Penn a few times, and I’ve taken the train in the UK, but never anything longer than a couple hours in the US.

The Cardinal line runs 3 days a week, and hits myriad stations on its way from NY Penn (the stop before we got on) to Chicago (we got off in Cincinnati).

Some things we learned:

  • coach class seats are comfy – for the first few hours; after this, a room would have been a LOT better
  • had we bought a room, our meals would have been included
  • it’s intensely bizarre to eat going backwards at 75mph
  • the NRHS does narrated tours of part of the Cardinal run (West-to-East) a couple days a week
  • there are way more train stations in this country than I would have expected: but never quite where you want them to be
  • meals are eaten with whomever they set at your table – so unless you’re in a group of 3+, you’ll be eating with total strangers

We’re both constantly checking Amtrak now for any future trips – both leisure and business – to see if taking the train is a better deal than flying… and a non-trivial percentage of the time, it is turning out to be so 🙂

The only truly bad part of the trip was the taxi ride from the Cincinnati Amtrak station to CVG – the guy who picked us up waited until we got to the airport to claim his credit card reader was down (future reference – if the machine is off/”down”, it’s probably that the driver wants cash in his pocket, or for change, but he is still REQUIRED to take your card info by hand). Then he offered for us to “just buy gas” for him instead of pay him. Then he didn’t shut the meter off when he drove us to an ATM (at the airport terminal) to get cash out for paying the sheister. When I talked to the taxi owner the next day, he set us straight on how that should have worked, and fired the driver for cheating us. Oh – and he also told about all the “mechanical and electrical” issues his car had.. yeah – extremely unprofessional 🙁

restaurants

I’ve been a bit lax lately on reviewing places I’ve been to eat.

Since March, I’ve traveled a few times for both work and pleasure, and have gotten to enjoy several local establishments:

  • Foundry Grille
  • Verve
  • Seasons
  • Patrick O’Shea’s
  • Bensi
  • Roots Steakhouse
  • The Cheese Shop
  • Thai Kitchen
  • Food For Thought
  • Captain George’s
  • Tucano’s

Hopefully over the next few weeks, I’ll have the time to do a write-up on each.

1 year

Sunday marked the my first anniversary with my lovely wife, Christina.

We spent the last week in Virginia, utilizing the one-year passes we bought on our honeymoon 🙂

Our flights into Norfolk were smooth, and since it was so nice, we just decided to head straight to the beach from the airport. The weather was just about perfect all week – highs around 80, with light breezes every day: great weather for wading, sun soaking, theme parking, and taking in the historical sights at Colonial Williamsburg.

Thursday we decided to do our anniversary dinner a couple days early after finding out there was a Melting Pot nearby (oh, and we had a coupon for them, which was even betterer).

We found great places to eat all week, returning to one of the places we ate last year (Captain George’s), and trying-out some new spots (or, at least, new to us) like The Cheese Shop, Seasons, and Food For Thought.

We hit-up Busch Gardens again, but were disappointed to find out they no longer do the all-you-can-eat wrist bands: apparently too many people abused the system – so now you have to buy meal passes that get redeemed when going through the lines 🙁 .. not that I needed to be eating “all I can”, but still: it was a let-down.

One drawback of the great weather, though, was that water rides are distinctly less refreshing than when it’s 100 out, like it was on our honeymoon last year. Like last year, we did a paint-your-own pottery thing at Busch Gardens, and hopefully this time we’ll remember we did it and not be *quite* as surprised when the mugs arrive in a few weeks 🙂

I think the only disappointment of the week was visiting the Ripley’s museum in Williamsburg: definitely too small for the admission fee. But, oh well.

On our return trip, while sitting at the airport, we realized we hadn’t brought house keys 😐

Woops.

Right, so – instead of asking her parents to drive 90 minutes (each way) to bring us the key they had for our house, and wanting to skip the emergency maintenance fee and/or locksmith charge, we stayed an extra night on vacation right here in Lexington at the nicely-appointed Springfield Marriott next to UK. Got a pretty hot discount, on the room, too 🙂

Thankfully, our rental agency has Saturday hours, and was able to unlock our door for us for free! Woot.

How did we not have keys but have a locked door? Ahh. Good question. Last weekend my wife’s parents and we went to Louisville so the girls could go to the Deeper Still Conference. My father-in-law dropped us off Sunday morning at the airport, and since we didn’t drive… we didn’t think to grab house keys. (OK, OK, ok: so *I* didn’t think to grab them… but since we’re *one* as a couple, it’s a “we” :P)

I can’t wait to see where the next years will take us .. but we’ll make sure to have our house keys on those adventures 🙂