I remember when The Family Dog first took over the rather dismal, little Italian restaurant in the mini complex by Morningside. As I walked by it to buy some cookies from Alon’s, I thought to myself, cute name. I’ll try it sometime. After class one night, I found myself craving the tasty, simple foods that taverns and pubs often offer. With a test just around the corner, I decided to go somewhere nearby and The Family Dog came to mind. I checked out their menu online and found my mouth watering at the “Cajun Mussels : Andouille, San Marzano Tomatoes, Crystal Hot Sauce, & Cream” offered on their Fat Tuesday menu. Realizing that it was, indeed, Tuesday, I immediately headed over with my friend in tow.
Ten minutes later, we walked into The Family Dog. Right away, the bar to the left drew my attention. Gleaming, polished, and very well stocked, it promised to fulfill any wild, alcohol-desires you may secretly, or not so secretly, harbor. No hostess stand, hostess, or even a worker, greeted us at the door. Being first timers, my friend and I stood uncertainly, waiting for someone to either lead us to a table or ask us to seat ourselves. Three minutes slunk by as I tried to catch the attention of two of the servers chatting with each other a short distance away from us. Finally fed up, I simply walked over to them and asked, “Do we just sit anywhere we want?” The guy looked up and said, “Yep.” Gee, thanks for telling us during the three minutes that we waited, literally, smack dab in front of you.
Things didn’t approve after we found a table. After sitting at a table for a few minutes and ignored, I simply got up and grabbed two menus. I tried to ignore the couple, a few tables down, who were handed menus seconds after sitting down. When our server appeared, she was so friendly that my irritation melted away under her smiles. I ordered the Cajun Mussels and A got the Po’ Boy of the day, the fried blue cod, which comes with a cup of gumbo and Zapp’s potato chips for just $10. We had sat right next to the large window of the kitchen and I was able to observe the cooks and food-runner. I’ve long become accustomed to restaurant workers giving me puzzled and/or amused looks as I snap pictures of my table’s foods and our surroundings. The food-runner here, however, shot me a withering glare that surprised me. I contrarily took a shot of the kitchen.
I saw the cook plate our food and set it on the window counter. We eagerly watched the food-runner check the ticket and bring the plates over. I readjusted my overflowing bowl of mussels in front of me and prepared to dive in – “Excuse me, let me check to see if this is yours.” The food-runner seized the bowl and took it back to the counter, leaving me speechless. If he had indeed given me another table’s mussels, he should have, instead, had the kitchen bang out another order right away, not bring the one I may have touched to the other table. During the minute he hmmed and haahed at the counter, I could only sadly watch the steaming mussels grow cold in his hands. Of course it really was my bowl and he came back to plunk down the now-cold mussels without so much as a “sorry.”
In the meantime, I snagged bites of A’s food to placate my stomach. I’ve never had a po’ boy before so I’m no expert on these iconic sandwiches of Louisiana. It was decent – who could turn down a piece of nicely-fried fish? The creamy remoulade paired wonderfully with the hot, crispy cod and toasty baguette. The small cup of sausage and chicken gumbo had large chunks of chicken and a small mound of rice. Although seasoned well, the gumbo lacked deep, complex flavors and simply didn’t pop.
When the food-runner ever-so-graciously plunked my now-cold mussels back down in front of me, spilling over the sauce in the process, I was too hungry and fed-up to care about his rudeness. The plating itself showed an extreme lack of consideration for the customer – how in the world am I supposed to dunk the mussels on top in the sauce in such a tiny, jam-packed bowl? I had to even ask for a separate plate for the empty shells. For a sauce made with hot sauce, it lacked the bold, fiery “Cajun” spice I had looked forward to. The mussels themselves were slightly gritty with sand. After finishing the two measly slices of toast that came with the dish, I asked for a little more for the sauce. My friendly server, who had been missing for the past twenty-five minutes, brought me another five slices. It wasn’t until we got our check that I realized that they had charged me two bucks for the extra toast. Really? I have ordered steamed mussels at five other restaurants in Atlanta and they had all given me a generous hunk of fresher, tastier bread at the start and when I’d asked for more, not a single place had charged me for it. For two bucks, I could almost buy a whole loaf of bread at the supermarket.
My irritation has sky-rocketed just remembering the experience. Average food and plain-old terrible service – sorry, but I won’t go back even if you paid me.
The Family Dog
1402 North Highland Avenue
Atlanta, GA 30306