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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Front Room Restaurant Review - Portland, Maine

I purchased a deal on Living Social months ago with eager anticipation of trying their food. I had already been to the Sister Restaurant, The Grill Room and Bar and I couldn't wait to try the food of the Front Room Restaurant. I debated for quite awhile for when exactly I would use my deal. I had spent $15 and was going to get $30 worth of food. I have to say their menu looked great for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Based on the prices for lunch and dinner and the fact that not only I would want to eat but my boys would want to as well, I quickly determined breakfast was the way to go for us.

I waited for the very last possible day to use it. Why rush these things when I can procrastinate until I reach the point of panic that my deal is going to expire (from what I could hear of the other patrons, I was definitely not the only one to do this). Since I was on vacation this week it did seem like the ideal time to use it.

I was pleasantly surprised that they are located in a very quite neighborhood on Congress Street in downtown Portland. Parking was a breeze and free to boot. You did have to be careful to watch the signs to make sure you weren't in 15 or even 5 minute parking. I was able to do several illegal U-turns with no issues before I settled on a spot. I can envision myself living in a neighborhood like this. It looked there were several neighborhood bars and coffee shops that would be in walking distance.

When we arrived it looked just what I picture a neighborhood bar and restaurant to look like. If I didn't have kids with me, I would have loved to come at lunch time to grab a spot at the bar and enjoy some food and drink. Or even better to grab a table outside to people watch while I eat. They looked like the outside ones only sat two so we opted for the inside. When we arrived at the podium we were quickly greeted and then a couple of the wait staff seemed to have an intense discussion of who was going to take us. It seemed like neither wanted us and the loser got stuck with us. I am not sure if they were understaffed but I counted 3 waitresses and not too many tables so I am not sure what the issue was.

Creamer Pitcher
The waitress did come pretty quickly to swipe the Living Social Certificate off our table. She took our drink orders and came back with them in good time. Then she disappeared for over ten minutes. I don't know about you, but when you have a toddler at the table I generally like to get the show on the road. Gabrian is fairly good at restaurants but he can only last so long.

The coffee was perfect for my tastes. It was strong without having the bitter taste to it and it tasted like it was very freshly brewed. I wish I had asked who they use because I liked it that much. The boys went with OJ for Riley and milk for Gabrian.

The waitress came back for our orders and we sat back to wait. We really enjoyed being able to see the two cooks in the kitchen. It was fun trying to guess what they were doing and what different kitchen utensils were used for. It didn't take very long for a food to appear and we were ready to dig in.

2 eggs, bacon, home fries, & French bread toasted ($7.75)
Riley went with the 2 egg breakfast. I tried to push him into the omelet but he was bound and determined to get the 2 egg plate. The potatoes were phenomenal. Riley let me steal one bite from his plate but stabbed me in the hand when I tried to get a second. They were nicely seasoned with nice little bits of crispy onions and garlic in the mixture. There is nothing worse than a flat potato and this one definitely blew my taste buds away. Riley really enjoyed the other items on his plate but they did not come close to comparing to the potatoes.
Blueberry Silver Dollar Pancakes ($7)
Gabrian went with the silver dollar pancakes with the blueberries added in. They were very good but I was surprised at the price tag once we received them considering there was no meat included on the plate. I took a bite of them (for journalistic purposes of course) and thought they were fluffy and everything a pancake should be. Would I spend $7 for this dish without a deal? Probably not, they weren't that special.
House Made Hash with 2 Poached Eggs and Toast (English Muffin) ($10)
We were served our food and the waitress was really good about asking about ketchup, jam, and refills of our drinks. She brought them back right away. There is nothing worse than asking for something for your meal and the server not coming back for 10-15 minutes and it holds you up for eating. Anyway, she was good about bringing them right back. A few minutes after being served our food the power went out. I am not sure if it was just the restaurant or the whole area. I do know that the entire remaining time we were there, we had no power.
The no power thing was no big deal during the daylight hours. Though it did seem to send the staff into a tizzy and they seemed to lose all ability to remember how to run a restaurant. I would hate to seem them in a real disaster. My guess is they would go running out screaming and leave the patrons to fend for themselves.
We dug into our meals. My hash was an awesome combination of flavors. The corned beef was represented well along with the other vegetables included. The poached egg was good but just a little overdone. It seemed like most of the yolk was cooked through while I enjoy a really runny yolk. I made it through one egg and half my hash before I made a horrible discovery of an extra item in my hash.
Piece of Metal found in my Hash (free with the dish)
I found what looked like a piece of metal from a scrubber meant for dishes. How it ended up in my hash, I have no idea. At that point I had lost the remainder of my appetite. I felt like the hash was dangerous and I was too nervous to attempt another bite. I had no luck getting the attention of my waitress. She was too busy telling another table that her hands were tied on their living social deal and they would have to pay full price for their meal and when they got power back up and running they could come back to get a refund (and good luck with paying with a credit card....the staff's solution was for the customer to give her all the credit card information including the 3 digit security number on the back to leave it hanging around the restaurant until it could be used).
At this point I started to panic a little bit. As I may have mentioned a time or two, I am on a pretty tight budget and I was definitely not prepared to pay full price. I had brought enough to cover any overages and tip.
When the waitress finally made it over to our table and I was panicked about the money and a little ticked off about the whole piece of metal in my food. I brought it to the attention to the waitress about the metal and it barely made a blip on her radar. She mumbled that she would take it off the bill and disappeared to the back with my plate. No apologies or even a horrified look. When she came back she did offer me another plate but at this point I was not interested nor did I want to risk it again.
She than launched into how I was going to have to pay full price because of the no power issue. I pointed out that since they were removing the cost of my meal, my $30 voucher more than covered our bill. That seemed to confuse her more. It honestly took the staff about 20 minutes after they lost the power to figure out that they could calculate the bills by hand and then subtract the voucher from the balance. She never actually brought me the bill, just announced that I owed $1.92 for taxes (I still think my voucher should have covered that).
My overall impression is that I think the food is actually quite delicious here. I certainly don't blame the restaurant for the power outage (although they may want to consider some training on how to handle situations that are outside of their normal workday). Even the piece of metal is forgivable. It is life and sometimes these things happen. What I am upset about is the staff. I suppose they could have been having a really off day but it has definitely tainted my feelings toward this restaurant.
I will probably give them a second chance at some point but with so many great restaurants in the area, it will take awhile before they make it back into rotation.
If would like to try them out for yourselves, they can be found at 73 Congress Street, Portland, Maine.