Preparing to shoot a few segments of Big Jon in 5 for BEER2WHISKEY in our upstairs studio at Barley's Taproom in downtown Greenville. That's owner Josh Beebe preparing for his closeup.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Ford's Oyster House in Greenville: Another Lesson in Never Letting Your Dumbest Employee Answer the Phone

It's Black Friday!

I couldn't care less, but it seems to be a big deal to some folks. I know people who headed out at midnight last night just to get into the spirit of the season. If I need help getting into the spirit, I'll watch "It's a Wonderful Life" thank-you very much.

Getting mob-rushed by a herd of crazed bargain hunters at 1 AM isn't my idea of getting into the spirit.

But here's the real topic at hand today....

Yesterday was a disaster. Without question, it was the most miserable Thanksgiving I've ever spent -- and I've been around for a bunch of them.

Here's the crux of the problem: There are regions of the country where you can go out for Thanksgiving dinner and regions where you can't. Although there were restaurants in Greenville offering some sort of Thanksgiving buffet, basically the city is shut down for the day.

Greenville is a Thanksgiving-at-home sort of city.

We could have gone to one of a handful of restaurants between, say, 11 AM and 3 PM and had a very decent dinner. Cost at these places averaged just under $30 -- a little pricey for turkey and stuffing even if it was "all you can eat."

The cost was a moot point, though, because some of our group decided 3 PM was too early a cut off. They wanted to play golf in the morning.

So far our criteria included a dinner price somewhere south of $25 and a late-afternoon-early-evening timetable.

One of the key players in our little band of four holiday orphans decided another key criteria for choosing a Thanksgiving dinner venue was the ability to watch football. This, of course, required a bank of TV screens spread across whatever restaurant we chose, further limiting our options.

Okay, so dinner had to cost less than $25, be available after 4 PM and be in a place with a lot of TV screens.

All four of us are from South Florida. In South Florida, nearly every joint is open every day come rain, shine, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny or the Thanksgiving turkey. I remember having Christmas-day brunch with a bunch of friends in South Florida the only Christmas I didn't go to my sister's for the holidays. That's Christmas brunch at a restaurant!

Finding a location for Thanksgiving dinner in South Florida, regardless of the number of qualifiers invoked, would be as easy as getting into your car and stopping at the first restaurant you see.

We recognize Greenville is different -- and believe me, most of the time I praise that difference -- but we had no idea how different. Three years ago we ate Thanksgiving dinner out in Greenville and had a great dinner at a wonderful restaurant. Sadly, it is no longer in business. Little did we know what a rare bird Thanksgiving turkey is in Greenville.

Compounding our situation was our pre-Thanksgiving search for a dinner spot was cut prematurely short when some idiot at Ford's Oyster House told our researcher that they would be open and serving a Thanksgiving buffet beginning at 4 PM. Come on down; no reservation is necessary!

I wasn't thrilled with the idea of a Cajun Thanksgiving, but was willing to give it a shot.

However, when we attempted to go at 4 PM, we were turned away. Yes, they were serving a Thanksgiving buffet between 4 and 6 PM, but it was for a private function. Ford's would open to the public at 6, but the kitchen would be closed.

I halfway expected the manager, or whomever it was we spoke to, to spread his arms and say with a big smile, "Hey, face it, you screwed up; you trusted us."

As with many businesses, evidently Ford's Oyster House leaves answering the phone to the newest and least knowledgeable employee. In any event, we were screwed.

The BBQ joint Sticky Fingers was open, but when we attempted to enter there, we were told only people with reservations could be seated. I'm not exaggerating when I tell you that the place was empty -- completely and totally empty. Zero, zip, zilch people were in the place. It was scheduled to be open for another 45 minutes and we couldn't even get a beer at the totally empty bar.

A couple of other places downtown were scheduled to open at 6 PM. We hung around downtown waiting for the magic hour. Finally, we were granted admittance to Wild Wing only to learn that it was only serving from its late-night bar menu.

My Thanksgiving dinner, that I cooled my heels on the streets of Greenville for two hours for, consisted of fried chicken fingers, potato chips and beer.

Never again....

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