Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Wow Cafe & Wingery

Wow, located near the corner of Eutaw and Fayette Streets, is a chain specializing in chicken wings with lots of sauce choices. They also feature salads, wraps, quesadillas, etc. Basically it sounds like a good place to have so close to the University of Maryland Baltimore campus...if and when carry-out service improves. Granted, they only opened last week, but it's as if they had no idea that there would be as much carry-out business as dine-in at that particular location. Hello?! Hundreds of people work and attend classes on campus, most of whom don't get all that much time to grab lunch and eat.

I tried the place on Friday. I ordered a Bangkok salad with grilled chicken, thinking it wouldn't be too taxing on the kitchen, and stood aside to wait. There's no real designated carry-out waiting area, so those of us who had ordered food hung around near the front door, confusing patrons who came in wanting table service. Most asked, "is this the line to be seated?"

I noticed that the girl who took the carry-out orders also was responsible for taking orders from bar patrons, despite the fact that there was a bartender. After about 15 minutes, I could see plastic bags of food coming out of the kitchen and being placed on the side of the bar; meanwhile, Carry-Out Girl was taking her sweet time farting around at the computer. Eventually, she came over with our tabs. I pulled out exact change so I wouldn't have an additional wait, thinking she'd hand me the bag and I'd hand her the money. Not so. I had to wait while she took more carry-out and bar orders. Meanwhile, the plastic bags were piling up on the counter and any hot food waiting to be picked up was getting cold. While all this was going on, there were two or three completely idle waitstaff wandering around, some looking at the bags, some putting menus in them, but not a one of them helping by taking payment or delivering food. It's as if Carry-Out Girl was the only person qualified to handle the obviously very difficult and complicated task at hand.

Eventually, one very pissed-off customer went over to Carry-Out Girl and Co., to complain. Finally, after handing over my money, waiting yet more time, and getting my food, I stalked out. I was about 20 feet out the door when I heard my name being called by Carry-Out Girl. She said there was a second bag with my name on it and wanted to know what bag I had. My bag also had my name on it and it contained...french fries. We traded bags and I beat a hasty retreat to my office. My 30 minute lunch break had ended 5 minutes ago and I was getting hungry.

Back at the office, I opened my styrofoam container to reveal a pile of cut-up romaine, the equivalent of three slices of cucumber, a handful of crispy won ton pieces, and a smattering of cold chicken pieces...FRIED chicken pieces. Remember, I ordered grilled chicken. And, as chicken cost extra, I figured I'd get maybe half a chicken breast or so. Nope. Not even a third. Not only was the salad on the skimpy side, so were eating implements - not a fork or napkin in sight.

And this cost me $11.12 (with tax)? I pay about $6.50 for a taco salad at Salsaritas around the corner and I have to ask them to give me *less* meat and more lettuce because I don't need so much protein! And the Greek salad at Cypriana, also about $6.50, has about half a pound of yummy feta cheese on it.

So, my advice to Wow would be: rearrange the front so there is a designated carry-out area. The hostess' station doesn't need to be that large and it's mostly empty anyway. Put a cash register and order station right there in front so one can pay as soon as he or she orders. Let there be an order taker and an order deliverer. Have a third someone take bar orders - like maybe the bartender! And portion size for salads sucks - lower the prices. Oh, and do this before the students come back in the fall.

And...maybe changing your name from "Wow" to "Meh" would be more appropriate.

WOW Cafe and Wingery on Urbanspoon