Saturday, January 22, 2011

Blockheads blows it bigtime

In July I had a great meal at Blockheads.

Tonight I am livid and still picking chicken pieces out of my teeth.

I am about to rant, rave, and vent my frustrations on your poor souls who have followed or subscribed to my blog. You've read about the trials, now here's a tribulation.

I know mistakes are made but how stupid do you have to be, how idiotic are you that when I say, and oh yes, I am quoting here, "Ok, the brown rice is vegetarian? Good, because I am a vegetarian so I'll have the brown rice," right after ordering a burrito with tofu and questioning whether the rice was cooked with chicken stock. The waitress said yes it was but the brown rice was vegetarian. How stupid do you have to be to then put in my order as chicken? How moronic is the response, "Oh, I thought you said no dairy?"

Why not just tell me you are about to LIE to my face. You heard me say vegetarian and tofu so don't try to crawl out from under that rock by lying to me.

I have never called people names on my blog before but I asked to see a manager and in my incensed state of mind her response of, "You don't have to shout at me," was totally inadequate.

Don't shout? Really? Apparently there was too much noise for your waitress to hear or clarify my order. Or care.

Don't shout? I haven't eaten chicken in 15 YEARS you dumb twit. And you say to me, "I'll take this off the bill and bring you a tofu burrito." Really? That's what you are going to do? Not charge me for allowing me to put chicken in my mouth and swallow it?

So here it is in a nutshell. I know mistakes are made and I damn well expect ... a realization that vegans take this SERIOUSLY. If you offer tofu sour cream and state on your menu VEGAN soy cheese and offer grilled tofu as an option to LURE vegetarians into your restaurant because you know more and more often we are the veto vote, don't be so goddamn flippant about screwing up. A little CONTRITION goes a long way in my book. Doing anything above and beyond merely exchanging an item works miracles in calming storm waters. Offer to pay for it, buy me a drink, invite me back with a free meal, do something to RECOGNIZE how important this is to me and how CAREFULLY I considered spending my time and money in your establishment.

As you know from reading my blog I don't get many days off. Tonight the kid had a sleepover and we had planned a dinner and few drinks to let loose a little bit. Saturday night no less. Thanks Blockheads for totally ruining our evening.

We got up and walked out.

So a warning to all you vegans and vegetarians living in NYC or visiting and thinking Blockheads might be a viable option. It isn't. They don't care. They're not careful. Don't patronize them. Take yourself and your guests elsewhere.

Blockheads Burritos- Upper West Side on Urbanspoon


Ali - YumVeggieBurger said...

wow, how horrible! :(

I have never been to Blockheads, but I certainly will avoid it now. Thanks for warning everyone about this place.

Anonymous said...

Hi Marty: While Blockheads does not claim to be a vegan restaurant, we do have vegan options. Brown rice, soy cheese, tofu, and tomatillo sauce, our homemade tofu "sour cream" are strictly vegan. I apologize if our waitress "blew it" and made a mistake with your order.
Best Wishes,

Marty said...


I do appreciate your answer and my response will be forthcoming but between Pittsburg, NYC, and Aruba my flight schedule was turned on it's head.


Marty said...

This letter went out to Ken, the owner of Blockheads, tonight. I will post his response.

Hi Ken,

What I want you to understand is that it wasn't the mistake that bothered me. I have been all over the world and sometimes people just, try as they may, make mistakes. What really upset me was that not only was the order taken incorrectly there was also another opportunity to catch the mistake when the server, not the waitress mind you, put the dishes down and I asked him very clearly, "Is this the tofu burrito? Which is the tofu burrito?" He switched plates so of course I thought, "Ok, they got it wrong but now all is well in the land of vegan plating."

When I take a bite of something that I'm told is vegan and it's too good to be true I oh so want to believe that it is true. "Man, they got the consistency of the tofu right! Spot on, it tastes, well, tastes like jerk but the CONSISTENCY is THERE!!"

What really really bothered me was that it was treated so inconsequently, so flippantly. Blase, like this wasn't a big deal. I felt like the attitude was, "oh well, we served the vegan chicken, he'll live. Why is he making such a big deal out of it? We'll get him his damn tofu!"

I want to thank you for your offer of a gift certificate but I'm going to decline. I don't want anyone to ever say I do what I do for free food or make the issues I make just to, "get stuff."
I don't think that's what you meant to imply. I'm just saying that that is the reason I'm saying no thank you.

I will tell you what I would like though, and I hope you'll respond in the blog, (where I'm copying this letter as well). I want to know what you tell your front end staff about vegans and vegetarians. What you tell them about why you have put these items on your menu. Obviously there is some sort of commitment on your part to do more than just omit the animal protein from your dishes and hope a non meat eater will be happy. I applaud your efforts but somewhere between the intent and the execution something short circuited. Something disconnected where your waitress, server, and manager all thought what happened didn't warrant the attention to detail it apparently did. What do you tell them about someone who goes out to eat and searches out a restaurant that caters to their small sliver of culinary desires. What do you tell them about our commitment to the animals, our health, and the environment? What do you instruct them to do differently, (if anything), when a mistake is made not in an order but in a dietary requirement? What happens when you serve cheese and sour cream to a person who is lactose intolerant? What changes have you instituted, if any, in training and especially remedial training, since learning of my unfortunate experience? I'm just curious if in the few weeks since this occurred any memos or meetings were generated about this, any discussions, any operational changes.

I truly hope that the answers are satisfactory because I very much want Blockheads to be a place that I can suggest to others. There just aren't that many of you out there to choose from and perhaps that is why this is doubly disappointing.


Marty said...

Ken's response and my answer:

Hi Ken,

I had a suspicion that there was someone in management with more than just a business interest in offering vegan options.

First, might I suggest that you put what you just wrote about the vegan ingredients somewhere on your menu, on an insert or clip card. I always have to ask those questions when something isn't explicitly stated. I've ordered meat substitutes before and not caught the ranch dressing or mayo on the sandwich. It does become very difficult, or at least involves a whole slew of questions to avoid the "hidden" non vegan items. Rice cooked in chicken broth is a big one. You know how it can be so when a place says vegan we hope/assume/forget that the staff is 100% familiar with what we want if we say, "I'm a vegan." I want a waitperson who either calls over a manager immediately to assure my order is correct or has the knowledge about what I eat to catch things like that ranch dressing I mentioned before. I don't have the ingredient knowledge of your menu that she does. I also have a pet peeve when I say I'm vegan and still get questions like, "dairy-less soy or regular cheese?" It causes my next thought to be either, "What did I just say to you?" or "You have no idea what I'm talking about do you?"

So if your rice is not cooked in animal broth I'd suggest you put that on your menu as you already very clearly state "vegan soy cheese." I like that there is no ambiguity and I don't have to ask. If you put a little "For Our Vegan Diners" section and put down exactly what you just said, man that goes a long way in my book.

Second, I'd truly like to know what that aspect of your meeting is going to entail and the discussion about it that will invariably follow, plus any changes in training that might be made. I would very much like to pass that info onto my readers and perhaps after hearing of your specific efforts, give Blockheads another try.


On Feb 1, 2011, at 8:50 AM, Ken wrote:

Hi Marty:
Thank you for your response and I appreciate why you won't accept the gift certificate. My offer was merely meant to compensate you for a meal you could not eat, not to trivialize your concern. The reason we are so dedicated to providing vegetarian and vegan alternatives at Blockheads is because I was a vegan for many years, some of that time a raw vegan. I took the diet very seriously, supported vegan restaurants, and talked to anyone who would listen about the health, humanitarian and environmental benefits of an animal free diet. At Blockheads, when it came to making sauces, I made sure there was a vegan option, I made sure we had a tofu alternative to sour cream, and that our soy cheese does not contain animal rennet as some soy cheeses do. Our beans are refried in vegetable oil and we never put butter or any other dairy in our rice. Our salsas are vegan. Yes, mistakes happen, but serving meat to a vegetarian is serious and I'm sorry if our staff did not understand that. The incident with your meal has been on my agenda for our next manager's meeting (that has been postponed twice for weather).
Thanks again for taking the time to write,

tammy said...

ridiculous. why are these incidents always turned into discussions about veganism? it's about CUSTOMER SERVICE. I don't care if your customer is a meat eater, a vegan, allergic to shellfish, whatever. If you give the customer the wrong thing, you are not providing good service. If you refuse to see how important the mistake is to the customer, you are giving crap customer service. Bringing up the word vegan is not necessary. If I owned a restaurant and a server did this, I would fire her on the spot. Also I would not comment publicly on a blog and use rabbit ears around terms. Unprofessional.

What has happened to the art of customer service? It disgusts me. I am living in Berlin, Germany and am constantly amazed by the customer service here. It is so hard for me to accept that the level of customer service here is even lower than it is in the US. How sad is that?

Sorry to rant on your rant, but you seem like the kind of person who doesn't mind a little commiseration!

love the blog, glad I saw it on Happy Cow. thanks for entertaining me!