I’m not too sure I caught all of the hoopla last night. I had an opportunity to check out a new joint that I had been recommended to and yet I have heard rave reviews from various other sources. I think I remember the reviews hyped the desert (butterscotch pudding) and left the remainder of the menu at “meh”.
I like pizza on Friday nights as do my kids . . . kinda’ sacrilege. I tried using the beautiful San Diego weather yesterday to my advantage, and take my 90yr old Mother and Father out for a special pizza night, to try a new place. We even left super early to try to get a patio seat so they wouldn’t have to hear all of the noise inside. You see, I have been wanting to try this place for some time, but have never trek’d (I forgot how far that distance really is) down the 5 freeway to Encinitas to see what I was missing. Just south along Hwy 1 (Pacific Coast Highway, or “PCH”), and exited the freeway on Encinitas Blvd, we found an open parking spot right in front of Blue Ribbon Artisan Pizzeria. I even called ahead to try to get the inside scoop on seating and noise because of my folks. Blue Ribbon (I guess the name is taken after Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer) is a newer, very well decorated in-spot for beach go-er’s and wanna-be’s; seeking the artisan quality and fresh, local, sustainable ingredient compositions of this trendy gastro-pub style pizzeria.
What we hoped for, the outdoor seating, turned sour as we then were directed toward the inside “communal” table that sported bar-stool type seating at a raised table. Being seated next to another family of three, was different but not awkward. I began my evening in a bit of a tiff because I was hoping to have a relaxing opportunity outside vice the louder, more hectic environment inside. I was afraid the backless high barstools were not going to be easy for my mother. Turned out she was OK. Let’s talk just for a moment about “the environment”. Being a Friday night, I expect things are going to be busy. I said the décor was very nice. Linen napkins and quality wine glasses. Then just what the heck are these mason jars. My 92 year old Father said the same thing, “what is this crap?”. “I guess that’s your water Dad”, I replied. “Humph . . . crap”, he grunted as he pushed it aside.
We ordered a couple of appetizers. One was an Albacore Tuna, Avocado and Grapefruit Crudo . . . “What is a Crudo?”, my wife asks. I could not hear the server’s response above the inside customer chatter and the sub-par audio system butchering the classic rock playing in the background. Well the Crudo, seemed to be a blob of some sort . . . “fresh” is what Wikipedia has it. It was tasty, light and fresh. Perfect for these Moonlight Beach zombies. We also ordered the cheese and salumi platter. Again OK, but not really enough to share for 7 persons. We tasted it all and the presentation was acceptable. Ah . . . now for the pizzas.
We all ordered several pizzas. They are about 12 inches and baked in a stone oven. Nicely charred along the edges “artisan” style. The young server that delivered the pizzas had several in his hands. We ordered four pizzas and our original server had only put out two of those pizza rack thingy’s that hovers the pizza above tabled salads, drinks and sodas. The young delivery boy quickly placed whatever pizza he had, calling it out, “Father’s”, and placing on an open rack above the tabled drinks. Once we had a moment to think about who ordered it and grabbed it to hand it down, the server quickly called the next pizza, “Classic”, then placed it in the now open rack spot. This continued for all four pizzas until the server had none left to call out. He served them all to us in about 8 seconds. He didn’t seem to care if they ended up near who ordered them, or if they were safe. He saw the open rack and called out another, “Blue Ribbon”. We’re all now trying to hand the right pizza to the correct person. The server just kinda assures himself while looking over his shoulder, that through all of the table mêlée, he could now depart the pattern. Sure enough, one of the pizza’s goes down. The 12 inch pan size just barely has enough surface area to stay on that rack thingy, and we’re now eating one of ’em off of the table.
I started in a tiff, now the shitty sounding audio system was annoying me as it seemed to get louder with the loud music passages and quieter with the softer musical passages. I just ate my pizza and happed to pay attention to the couple and child next to us now attempting to pay their tab. “Uh sorry, we don’t accept American Express”, the server said. The guy looked just about as annoyed as I at the music. He resolved his issue by breaking out the back-up credit card. He even made a comment, “I guess there’s now two places that don’t accept American Express”. That was a pretty harsh comment, in my opinion, because they seemed to like their meal, but it also must’ve been their first experience at Blue Ribbon. If we talk about experiences, I guess I would have to say that I wasn’t having much of a good “guest experience” either. The food wasn’t bad. In fact, it was all tasty . . . just not “over the top” for me to take notice. Just the whole experience left me hangin’.
So . . . , what is being hailed as “the best butterscotch pudding anywhere” was now being offered to us as the follow-on desert recommendation. I asked, what . . ., if any, other deserts are availa . . . , I was shot down before it even came out of my mouth, “Nope, that’s all”. Dang, although the butterscotch pudding was very good . . . not great, I was hoping to have a couple more items to try the waters before we paid our tab. Speaking of which, I placed my credit card with the receipt on the table for the server. It stayed there for a good 10 minutes. My mother was getting antsy so we all got up and walked out. Well, 90 year olds don’t move really fast. We finally got outside and then my wife came out after signing a good 5 minutes after. Well, when we left, the place was not as full as when we went in, so I don’t know what took so long about finalizing payment. That final impression left me empty. They had that moment to try to salvage my “less than” good customer experience for the night. I left, and I probably won’t return unless I happen to be sunbathing along the Encinitas shores, or my boat runs aground and there’s just nowhere else to eat. Food, was better than OK. Service, was better than OK.
I guess this place has been open since 2010. They probably made a great initial impression on the food scene. They reaped their rewards, then it now appears they are opening another restaurant in the local area once again. Perhaps, and I’ve heard many stories of this occurring, is that Blue Ribbon’s popularity grew rapidly enough to make them standout and allowed them to open another eatery, that it had left some gaps in the service quality and what the customer experiences in the previous location. Well that previous location is here . . . tonight!
Unfortunately this customer’s experience gets a sinking cruise liner and a fistful of tea bags.