By Andy Tarnoff Publisher Published Jun 03, 2009 at 2:41 PM

Downtown Dining Week, of which is a sponsor, can be an awesome promotion. When a restaurant gets it right, like the lunch I had at Kil@wat on Monday, it has the power to bring in new customers and make them repeat patrons (see Maureen Post's review of our exquisite service here).

On the other hand, when a restaurant isn't set up to handle the event, things can go horribly wrong.

Today was such an experience. It was so bad that I won't even reveal the name of the restaurant, since it's not my job to help drive a place out of business.

The debacle unfolded from the moment we arrived, when the hostess seemed utterly confused despite our noon reservation (why take reservations if you can't accomodate them?). We sat for 15 minutes before anyone took our order, and waited 20 minutes between each of the three courses.

When our orders arrived, all separately, the team of several, equally-confused servers, had one of them wrong -- and was strangely adamant that she got it right. I won't reveal what we ate (since that would give away the restaurant), but the first course tasted like it came from Wendy's; the second burned dish tasted like it came from a company picnic. No one refilled our drinks until we asked, 40 minutes into our visit, and our dessert took an eternity to arrive, even though the place had largely cleared out.

This was not only the worst experience I've ever had at Downtown Dining Week; it was one of the worst I've had at a Milwaukee restaurant.

Downtown Dining Week can be so great, but a restaurant needs to be prepared for larger-than-normal crowds and the lunch and dinner rushes that come with lots of new people coming for the first time. Every year, I visit a few places that make me want to come back, and I tell my friends.

But every year, I visit a place that makes me never return -- and I tell my friends that, too.

I'm not sure if the restaurant list needs to be more selective for this week-long event that ends tomorrow, but if this was my only experience at Downtown Dining Week, I'd never give it another try.

Which would've been a shame. Most of the 40 places participating are delivering excellent food at an amazing price, and they're working incredibly hard to pull it off.

As I digest my sub-par lunch with my three co-workers who joined me today, we're all left with a bad taste in our mouths. A few places, unfortunately, are bringing down the reputation of an otherwise brilliantly executed event.

Andy is the president, publisher and founder of OnMilwaukee. He returned to Milwaukee in 1996 after living on the East Coast for nine years, where he wrote for The Dallas Morning News Washington Bureau and worked in the White House Office of Communications. He was also Associate Editor of The GW Hatchet, his college newspaper at The George Washington University.

Before launching in 1998 at age 23, he worked in public relations for two Milwaukee firms, most of the time daydreaming about starting his own publication.

Hobbies include running when he finds the time, fixing the rust on his '75 MGB, mowing the lawn at his cottage in the Northwoods, and making an annual pilgrimage to Phoenix for Brewers Spring Training.