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Port of Call - Mayday! Mayday!

Earlier this week I was fortunate enough to win a free fish fry dinner at Port of Call Bistro & Beer Garden located on Wells Street in downtown Milwaukee. I had been meaning to try this restaurant and though I went there with no intention of writing about it, it soon became clear that I had to share my experience.  Let me first start by saying that I went back and forth with the idea of writing let alone publishing this post, often times deciding that I would keep the experience to myself until I had the opportunity to conduct the customary 2-3 visits.

After much debate I finally buckled and simply tweeted about my experience and what I received back was an abundance of responses  that mirrored my experience. With that I knew I had to tell my experience at Port of Call to see how many others had been in the same boat as me.

I arrived at Port of Call at 5:30pm noticing a few people enjoying drinks at the bar and the main dining room sitting empty. I had my pick of a table and began to page through the menu until a waiter / waitress came by. And like that the Port of Call experience began.  Arriving at my table was a young man, arms crossed, no introduction, no welcome to the restaurant and not even an explanation of any specials, and really no conversation at all. The only words out of his mouth were, “Can I get you anything to drink?” A water and Diet Coke were ordered for the table and the server disappeared.  Approximately 10 minutes later a Diet Coke and Water were placed in the center of the table, again with no conversation or check-in to see if orders were ready to be placed.

I took a large gulp of my water and waited patiently for someone to take my order. It was after my gulp of water I realized that a major mistake had been made; I was not served water, but a Gin & Tonic. Luckily that is one of my favorite drinks but I couldn’t help but think what if I didn’t drink? What if I hated Gin? It seemed like a major error on the restaurants part and one of many I would come to find out

Enter waiter #2. A new gentleman arrived at the table indicating he would be responsible for the table and took the 2 fish fry orders. I made it a point to let the server know about the drink order mix-up and told him it was no big deal as I loved gin, but did ask for my requested water. He simply laughed and told me I was lucky. Overall he handled the mix-up well and we all moved on.

Around 20 minutes into waiting for the fish to be brought to the table a strange appetizer was brought over and quickly placed in front of me. I looked at the server with a surprised look and told them I hadn’t ordered any appetizers and without a word the dishes were scooped up and brought to the appropriate table.

After another 20 minutes of waiting for the orders a female server approached our table and told us she would be taking over and asked if we were good on drinks. I told her we were, but I was still waiting for the original drink order,  just a water. She took note and left to fill the simple water order. Within about 5-10 minutes the manager knelt down at my table to explain that the original server “wasn’t right in the head tonight” and they were having problems in the kitchen and they would get the dishes out as soon as possible, he again took the orders and went back to the kitchen. At this point of the night it was around 6:15pm and the restaurant had only 1 open table, I noticed the Manager visit 3-4 other tables, kneel down and most likely explain to them what was going on in the restaurant tonight.

Luckily the orders came out shortly thereafter and I was so thrilled to see the fish stacked high on my plate. Service issues aside the portion sizes at Port of Call were immense; the breading was light enough to coat the fish but didn’t take away from the actual Perch in anyway.. It was by far one of the thickest pieces of fish I had enjoyed in a long time. The Perch was served with house coleslaw, cornbread and your choice of fries or potato pancakes for $12.95.

Now you have to remember I only visited Port of Call because of the free fish fry and was fully prepared to purchase any items that weren’t include in the giveaway, but when the manager visited the table at the end of the night and simply dropped off the check I was quite surprised. He informed me that he took one of the fish dishes off the bill (which was expected since it was a free fish fry) and didn’t charge for the Diet Coke because of the troubles.  I was surprised that after 4 different  server interactions, a wrong drink order, and appetizers being delivered that weren’t ordered, and waiting over an hour for 2 orders of fish the manager felt that providing a $2 Diet Coke was a sufficient response to a complete disaster of an evening. I sat with the check in hand debating if I should speak to the manager further, eventually I approached the manager and before I could even fully explain the situation in detail he responded, “Yeah, you’re right I’ll take care of the other fish.”

The experience at Port of Call from a service and communication standpoint was nothing short of bizarre, if it had not been for the exceptionally well prepared fish I can’t say I would ever give Port of Call a chance again. But we all make mistakes and I can only hope the next visit is flawless and enjoyable. I promise to provide a follow up article in the coming weeks when I head back and try this whole thing one more time,

I’ve heard some great feedback via Twitter about personal experiences at Port of Call and I am hoping to hear if your experiences are just like mine or if you had a complete different one altogether. Please let me know and I look forward to hearing feedback from all of you!

arqcdfcy

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Talkbacks

JustaFoodGuy | Feb. 15, 2011 at 8:31 p.m. (report)

That is quite the review, I have lived downtown for the last 15 years and my wife and I have seen a lot of restaurants come and go. I truly believe this one is here to stay. I have frequented Port of Call a good number of times and received superb service compared to the rest of the restaurants downtown. We absolutely love their Friday Night Perch Fish Fry, they also have started a new Saturday night special that includes a 20 oz. Lobster or 2 lbs of Alaskan Snow Crab legs for $18 that is to die for and worth every cent of that $18. To me it sounds like it was a rare bad night for a new and up and coming restaurant. I highly suggest anyone and everyone go there.

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digsisle | Feb. 11, 2011 at 11:35 a.m. (report)

34463 I frequent quite often as I work 2 blocks away. Always had good food, never bad service though. This is actually my new favorite place to eat. Fish Fry is great, but the scallops and linguini are good enough to put in your pocket and eat it the next day for lunch!

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