By Michael Stodola Special to Published Jan 25, 2009 at 11:29 AM

Our beloved East Side is a truly special, organically-developed gem. The feeling is laid back, the people are tolerant and life seems more meaningful. I loved living there and now love the visit. As a family, we hang out, have fun and eat almost weekly on the East Side. But, sometimes that genuine East Side attitude turns into self-important apathy.

At great risk of playing the crabby, old man, here goes: Last weekend, we made a visit to the relatively new Hotch-A-Do. It wasn't our first, but it may be our last. Past visits have ranged from the confusing (Do I order at the counter? Is there a hostess?) to the surprising (the food and vibe are good). This particular visit was much more the former.

First of all, there is no host / hostess -- even on a very busy Sunday. So, you're forced to negotiate with other hungry souls as to who was first, who gets the four-top or "When are those people getting up cuz they finished their breakfast 10 minutes ago?!" Sure, they have a sign explaining the laid-back attitude and one should enjoy the atmosphere, but it does little when you're a hungry family of four.

I know what you're thinking right now.

Hotch-A-Do is not a place to take the family (especially with a 3- and 4-year-old). And you may have a point. However, we're not the Perkins Restaurant-types and we want to expose our kids to a better reality than a processed, factory-made meal.

So, there we were, negotiating our place in line while staring down other would-be diners when, suddenly, a table opened -- phew! Several minutes later, we were greeted and we placed a drink order. When we asked for another minute to look at the menu before ordering -- we got a very "generous" 14 minutes. I finally had to ask another waitperson to take our order (ours went AWOL).

It was placed, and 45 minutes later our waitress surfaced -- only to tell us that our order had NOT gone through, but she was putting it through NOW.

Another 18 minutes later, we got food.

Can I just give some props to my kids here? For the circumstances, they were model children -- hell, model citizens. All of this waiting would crack 99 percent of all kids under 5.

Finally, after waiting for our waitress to get up from chatting with friends, I got up and went to the counter myself to pay (as if we didn't deserve any compensation for the awful service). Who runs this place anyway, the "Peanuts" gang? There seems to be no adult supervision.

Now, there are East Side spots that offer BOTH the casual attitude with solid service. From the Comet Café to the "gold standard" Beans & Barley, we enjoy what truly should be the East Side experience. There's a big responsibility to being laid back that is missing at the Hotch. I will give a "thumbs up" to the food though. And I suppose sans-kids (and lots of free time) this wouldn't have been so dramatic. But this is reality and a business must expect to give good service. God bless those inked youth and good luck to them.

Michael Stodola Special to
Michael Stodola is the Creative Director at Boelter + Lincoln – a Milwaukee advertising agency. He loves his job, but not as much as he loves scuba diving, crab cakes or playing with his kids. His favorite thing is sneaking off for dates with his hottie wife. Born and raised in Nebraska, he’s been calling Milwaukee home for well over 10 years. After Michael’s impending death, he’d like to return to this world as your next American Idol®.