Guido and the Black Ball, Next Door

The need to protect personal information and the grasp that Victoria has taken to curb credit card fraud in service businesses, we quickly realized the power of advanced electronics, wireless technology and the internet.

Leaving Victoria we arrive at the Black Ball. The Black Ball is the name of the ferry service from Victoria, BC to Port Angeles in Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. I think it just sounds good, “I’m takin’ da Black Ball”. Waiting in line for the ferry, one of the ferry staff approaches our car and asks for our reservation paperwork. I surrender the documents and he quickly returns them. Moments later a second attendant approaches my window and asks, “You got da package?” Our reply was, “What package you talkin’ ’bout?” The attendant walks away and goes to the check-in booth and quickly returns and say’s, “They say you got da package”. Ok . . . , “just what is the ‘package’?”, we ask. The attendant explains that our ferry tickets were purchased on-line as a package deal. “O o o o o o hh!, that package”! We say in return. “We thought we were being informed of some kind of ‘package’ that we didn’t know about . . . you know . . . , ‘da package’,” My wife winks obviously. The attendant replies, “hey, I ain’t from Jersey, you know”. My wife continues while winking obviously, “we thought maybe we were supposed to have a package, like a couple of body’s or something in da trunk”. Once we figured out what was going on, we realized that the “guido” was referring to the tickets that were supposed to be given to us included in the package deal along with the ferry tickets.

blackballAs we’re waiting in line for the ferry to load, our travels from Canada into the United States require customs and immigration documentation, such as forms used for bringing items into the States and our personal passports. We were asked by one of the federal Homeland Security agents that had approached our car in the waiting area to have our passports scanned at the shack in the corner, as she pointed off to her left. Victoria, BC now recently enacted a requirement for all service establishments to scan all credit cards in front of the guests. They have this new portable credit card scanner that print the receipt right from the unit. I was told by one of the bar managers that we had visited, that this is intended to reduce or eliminate the possibility of credit card fraud in service establishments. It is being used widely in Europe and will soon make its way into the United States. Now that the Homeland Security agent asked me to “go to the shack” made me think about the missed opportunities the government has by not providing immediate scanning of passports from each car as the agency passes by. I fully understand the whole security threat issue and the ability of some crooked individuals  to capture information being transmitted over networks, but I also realize the ability of electronics and wireless systems to encrypt that information for personal security. What ever . . . just noticed this.

Once we cross into Port Angeles, WA, and with great anticipation, we finally arrive at our lunch destination. Today we had an opportunity to visit Next Door.  I found Next Door when I “Googled” the words “gastro pub Seattle”, luckily to my surprise, Next Door popped as the top spot on that search. I did a bit more research into the establishment to find that it appears to have been around for just a short time, and they were just a quick 2 to 3 blocks along our travel from the Port Angeles, WA ferry port where we had just arrived after takin’ “da goods” from Canada to the US.

Next Door hails itself on it’s signage hanging in front of the street entrance and as part of their name. When entering the very “open to the street” establishment, especially on a cool rainy Pacific Northwest day is that we had no inclination of taking advantage of the wonderful street/curbside seating under the awning that mostly hides their street sign. Yes, we went around the block a few times. But when we entered, and made our way past the entry partition we were greeted by a warm blast of air inviting us into the main dining and bar area.

next doorWe were promptly greeted and asked for any drink orders. I had one of the craft beers they featured on their abundant chalkboard menus displayed behind the bar. The first beer came out quickly but was a bit on the warm side. Later the server confirmed that my intuition about the keg being just tapped as correct. The very chilled glass it was served in helped offset the warmer temperature of the beer. The lunch menu didn’t really seem to intrigue us as there were plenty of burgers and a variety of sandwiches, but little on the way of entrée plates. I’m always game for trying an appetizer if it seems like a worthwhile opportunity to checkout a kitchen’s skill. At first opportunity I asked the server about their Chicken Brochettes. She wasn’t immediately sure about that menu item claiming she had been away for a few months and would gladly find out for me. Unfortunately, she returned without any real information except that they didn’t have all of the component needed to execute that appetizer, so I ordered the wings that were over deep-fried and basically flavorless if it wasn’t for the shaved parmesan and minimal garlic.

I was kinda in the mood for pasta and their mac ‘n’ cheese boasted a three-cheese béchamel. Added to that, for a 4 dollar increase, was a feeble attempt at buffalo chicken that was a waist of my money. I did also add the 1 dollar jalapenos that were pleasurably grilled before adding to the dish. The three-cheese béchamel pasta was very delicious and was quickly consumed, but we left much of the buffalo chicken behind. My wife ordered the beer battered fish tacos, containing cilantro slaw, avocado, tomato, chipotle sour cream and pineapple salsa. We may have missed the pineapple salsa, but the overall combination of flavors was still good; and that may have been because she ordered a side of house made ranch dressing, . . . “uh sorry, we’re out of that, but they are making more, . . . it’ll be a while, . . . can I get you some ketchup?”, she came back to claim. My immediate internal reaction was, “WOW, a second failed kitchen flounder”. The server returned only moments later to recant her statement about the dressing and placed a fresh cup of ranch on the table stating, “they just finished it”.

Another service blunder happened when I was ready for another round from the pub. I tried to get the attention of our server, whom seemed a bit flustered with her ability to keep up with the pace. I tried to get her attention as she passed by a couple of times since my glass was empty. The second attempt was overheard by another server that quickly responded to my desire. That’s a plus in my book. They covered for each other with the overall execution. I later saw our server thank the other for the back-up. My second craft beer came in very cold and was served in another very chilled glass. I wasn’t driving the next leg of our journey, so I used the opportunity to give their pub another go ’round, and prepare myself for a quick car nap.

Next door seemed appropriately decorated for its intended market, but I really wasn’t impressed with the overall “gastro pub” marketing strategy since the menu really didn’t boast much in the way of entrée’s but more specialty sandwiches and burgers. I had eaten a sandwich the day before so I wasn’t in the mood. next door2Next door also boasted a couple of chalkboard chef specials but that was limited to (I think I remember) a fish plate (duh, your in the Puget Sound) and a quinoa or risotto dish. Sorry, I had my photo image quality on low resolution.

Although the food didn’t really capture our attention with gusto, the atmosphere was good for the soul. Once inside the warm dining/pub area, I quickly noticed the stage situated above the kitchen area that is used for Sunday evening live performances. I also noticed the very good whole-area sound system playing mellow renditions of popular favorites similar to Coffee House on Sirius/XM satellite radio. I may be wrong, but the exceptional sound was being assisted with the existing stage sound equipment from above the pub floor area.

I can understand why this place seems popularly rated on Yelp and other social media site, but I still remain hesitant if I would ever return. It’s not that it was bad, it just didn’t seem worth the wait for us.

I say, “check ’em out”. Give your own thoughts on meeting your expectations and overall experience.

Since we’re in the Puget Sound, I’ll give them a pier piling full of starfish. Maybe they can figure out how to make a starfish sang-wich!starfish



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