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I Hate Bar Tabac » the strong buzz, by andrea strong
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the buzz

“I Hate Bar Tabac”

I guess the title of this piece says it all, but I do feel the need to elaborate on my distaste (perhaps hate is too strong a word, but it is effective) for this overhyped “restaurant.”

You see, I live down the block from Bar Tabac, a wannabe faux French bistro owned by the same folks that own Jules, Café Noir and Cercle Rouge, that recently and unfathomably to me, was voted best neighborhood bistro in the Time Out Awards. This place may be a bistro and it may be in a neighborhood but it is the farthest thing from a neighborhood bistro I’ve ever encountered.From where I sit, which is just a few yards from this hellacious restaurant’s front doors, it’s a rude, self-important, obnoxious cave (with al fresco seating) for French ex-pats and ubiquitous hipsters in the Brooklyn area.

I’ve been living down the block from Bar Tabac for over a month now and not once has anyone smiled as I have walked by (I smile), not once has anyone nodded hello. Perhaps I am spoiled because my old corner restaurant was Casa Mono where the staff there became like family to me. At Tabac, that’s not the case, but that’s okay. There’s no rule that says you’ve gotta smile at the neighbors.

What I find so horrific about this restaurant is not even the food, which, from what I have tasted, ain’t half bad. They serve a decent omelet, some great merguez and baked eggs, a wonderful fat juicy cheddar burger on an onion brioche roll, and excellent fries. That’s been the extent of my eating at Bar Tabac because I cannot bear to eat there one more meal. Not even just coffee. This is because of the service. The collection of incompetent misfits they have assembled here as “waiters” are not only unfriendly and clueless, they are potentially the worst wait staff in the five boroughs, if not the country. Based on my visits to the restaurant, this is what I believe the Bar Tabac Employee Training Manual says:

Welcome to Bar Tabac! You've been chosen because you're thin, pretty, speak French (or at least speak with a French accent) and have never waited on tables before. Congratulations! Please review the following guidelines before you begin work!

1. Greeting Guests: When a couple walks into the restaurant to be seated, ignore them for at least 10 minutes, preferably 15. Turn your back to them as soon as possible. Then amuse yourself by playing with your hair, checking out your manicure, or just staring out into space. Do not under any circumstances pay attention to them before 10 minutes have passed. Anyone who is found to seat guests without making them wait at least ten minutes will be docked one of their 47 cigarette breaks per shift.

2. Seating Guests: Make sure to seat people in the back room, or right next to a large party even when the restaurant is completely empty. In no event should you offer an outdoor table unless it is begged for, and in no event are you to seat a couple on a banquette with empty tables on either side. Put people right on top of each other. The more uncomfortable the better! Those waiters who succeed in this goal will be awarded two extra cigarette breaks.

3. Taking Orders: No order should be taken until the couple is straining their necks wondering where their waiter is. If they are experiencing something close to whiplash, that’s even better! The general waiting period should be 10-15 minutes, no less! Take a drink order first and then refuse to take a meal order until you return with their drinks. But wait, there’s more! You must forget to bring their drinks, and instead, play with your hair, stare into space, or chat with other servers with your back to the room. You must wait until they call you over and ask where their drinks are before you bother to even submit their orders.

4. Serving Beverages: Make sure to hold the glasses with your fingers inside the lips of the glasses. Do not use a tray. Then drop the glasses on the table so that at least a little bit of beer or wine spills out. Do not wait to see if your table needs anything. Turn and play deaf to their calls for bread and butter.

5. Serving Food: Yes we know the tables are small, but that's the point. They’re French café tables and they look cute and that’s the important part. So there’s usually not enough room for the food with the water glasses, wine glasses, beers, bread baskets, and all. Do not attempt to make room for the dinner plates when serving food. Merely drop the plate in front of the guest so it bangs into their wine or beer glasses and hopefully spills some on their pathetic wanna-be hipster outfits. Do not apologize. Turn and walk away confidently and return to what you were doing (texting, chatting, staring at a cute boy/girl are all acceptable work activities).


6. Checking Back: Do not ever under any circumstances return to the table to see if there’s anything else the guest may need, like another glass of wine, a beer, another napkin, or some more ketchup for their burgers and fries. Ignore all eye contact with guests at all times!

7. Dropping the Check: When you drop the check, if the table looks disgusted, you’ve done a stellar job! Wait at least 10 minutes before dropping the check. Hopefully you’ve added wrong or perhaps mistakenly charged them for an extra beer or something and they won’t notice. Do not tell tables that we only take American Express until they've been waiting with their Visa or Mastercard for some time. Only then will you inform them of our exclusive Amex policy.

Now you can give the table a bit smile big and say, Thank you! That will insure a great tip for your wonderful service. Bon Chance!

Bar Tabac is located at 128 Smith Street, corner of Dean. I'd suggest that you do not ever eat here.


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1.)Industry Insider
“Andrea Strong is an idiot...”

I have lived in the neighborhood for 10+ years and seen many places come and go on Smith Street, and Bar Tabac is a HUGE favorite to many... -you (Andrea Strong) are an idiot and have the palette of a hyena. *Yes the Grocery is great for a meal, but the owners are retarded with no understanding of hospitality.

2.)Industry Insider
“Andrea Strong is an idiot...”

I have lived in the neighborhood for 10+ years and seen many places come and go on Smith Street, and Bar Tabac is a HUGE favorite to many... -you (Andrea Strong) are an idiot and have the palette of a hyena. *Yes the Grocery is great for a meal, but the owners are retarded with no understanding of hospitality.

3.)hammered
“you people is jadded”

while I don't consider myself a foodie. I always enjoyed a meal Bar Tabac. I'm just amazed how many opposite experiences people in restaurants. If u read these reveiws in a row they are very confusing. I agree the wait staff is not always spot on, but the owner has always graciously offered to seat us, and sometimes asked if we enjoyed the meal. Their burger is delicious. One of my favorites, and it's any indication to all the nay sayers -- the place is ALWAYS buzzing. That should say sometin!

4.)frenetica
“Pretty spot on”

I like that they have a little brochettes menu. Sadly, this is about the only thing that I like.

5.)le colonel moutarde
“avoid”

the place is ok for a drink, atmosphere is cosy and busy but the food is not worth it. terrible service and overpriced food like many other places in the city that pretend to be French. if you are looking for french food without the attitude, you should check cafe luluc (fresh products, best rate quality/price) on smith or pit stop on columbia st(pet, smokers. kids friendly)

6.)mommydrinks
“Correction:”

"To Each Their Own"

7.)mommydrinks
“Every one is unique...”

You have only been living there/here a month. And I get smiles all the time... as do my kids... and kisses for that matter... and Hello's, what's going on, etc.... every time I walk by, from all the servers except the NEWBIES. And in my opinion, there are places where the staff, are much worse.. say um THE Old Gravy, Robin Du Bwa, um... LaLuc.. well, their food just sucks. SO even if it's true some of the waiters are idiots, rude and into themselves... they are mostly young girls who are clueless and confused. And yes SOME ARE FRENCH, and a bit slow to warm to you. But they are not the worst staff. The american guy, is adorable, and wonderful and nice. And no I don't think he's hot. There were two very nice new people there the other day, that did not know me. IMHO, I think they seem rude, cause their scared of the brooklyn crowd. I am tired of the turnover.. but whatever.. Get over it. BTW, I like the music. Teach each their own. And that's why they DID get a good review.... and are ALWAYS PACKED. SEems some people LOVE it there!!! Anyhow.. can you suggest another place in the neighborhood? Where the food is good, and they have a kids meal, AND you can get a decent drink wether it's coffee, Wine, a mojito or a BLOODY MARY???

8.)speedy4523
“yup!”

couldnt agree more! rude and negligent service... you have to wonder how well they would do if they didnt have the best outdoor "people watching" seating on smith street...

9.)JEFF
“inverse of the inclination to blog”

Try assertion--as in sitting down at a table you want, looking people in the eye, and yelling when one needs to yell. I'd imagine it'll make you feel a bit better than blogging. And maybe even serve you well in the long run... life-wise.. Enjoy the "nabe." JEFF

10.)charlesincharge
“coq au roaches”

My biggest issue with the place is the cockroach population. On two occassions, while eating with friends, a huge waterbug scurried across the brick wall that separates the main dining area from the back area. The waitstaff didn't seem particularly surprised, nor ashamed.

11.)charlesincharge
“coq au roaches”

My biggest issue with the place is the cockroach population. On two occassions, while eating with friends, a huge waterbug scurried across the brick wall that separates the main dining area from the back area. The waitstaff didn't seem particularly surprised, nor ashamed.

12.)TT
“Why don't you boycott?”

The neighborhood around Bar Tabac has become the place where future suburbanites clog the aisles of Sahadi's before they take their poorly behaved children to Lake Woebegone. As generous as it is for these kind souls to mold everything in their image before they go; wouldn't it be simpler if they'd just go already? They'd be happier, and those of us who aren't offended by those scary svelte multi-lingual people can have their table, watch football, and listen to that god awful music in peace.

13.)zburch
“There are certainly better places nearby”

I have lived in the neighborhood for 8 years and have endured a meal there twice. Try the Pit Stop on Columbia. The service is spotty, but friendly and the burger (with truffle oil) is awesome. Petanque courts in back are fun. Jolie is good and better atmosphere and service. Also, Petite Marche in Brooklyn Heights is tasty. We also love to walk across the the Brooklyn Bridge to Les Halles on John St. Perfect in nice weather.

14.)Kristin
“Here, here!”

I agree completely with your review of Bar Tabac!! The one time I've been there not only were we ignored for 10 minutes before being seated, but once we were finally given a table, we were yelled at by another hostess who was giving the table to other customers! We didn't even bother staying to eat the mediocre food. If you want a good French Bistro in the neighborhood, go over to Jolie on Atlantic between Smith and Hoyt. Fantastic food, better service!

15.)M. Desmibo
“Barf”

While Bar Tabac certainly has its flaws, most notably the god-awful Gatsby-esque jazz that so often pollutes the otherwise tranquil block, it is these types of self-important diners who have copies of “Slow Food” rammed so far up their asses they feel compelled to act the part of the neighborhood William Grimes every time they step out for a burger. Even good food critics’ writing more often than not often traipses into the realm of self-important epicureal dorkdom, but self anointed food critics?!?! Self anointed ex-big law associate food critics?!?!? Just when I thought the only thing I would ever have hear your run-of-the-mill sycophantic-loser NYC associate opine on was how many hours they billed last Sunday morning, now I find they are getting all Ruth Reichl on the local bistro and other dining establishments?!? There goes the neighborhood. . .

16.)nselzer
“Corner Restaurants”

We miss you Andrea!

17.)duece
“Agree but c'mon it's the french”

Completely agree with all said... But it is the French all said this is a very crapy bistro. It isn't about the food or service it is about the outside seating and people watching.

18.)jcesar4
“agreed”

Never been more rudely asked to vacate my table than at this place. We (civilized, pleasant adults) had an early dinner there at an outside table. After we declined dessert, we were given LESS THAN 5 MINUTES then asked if we could leave so they could have the table. That was a few months before I moved to the neighborhood, and I haven't been back since I moved several blocks away in October.

19.)jape
“pointing out the naked emperor”

I certainly agree that Bar Tabac is not all it should / could be and I hope that the owner's ears are burning. I haven't experienced terrible service, though; it's the food that drove me away. Basic comfort food like chicken and mashed potatoes turned into depressingly dry, overcooked, flavorless glop... how is it that even a quasi-French place apparently doesn't use salt? The makings of a lovely place are there: good location etc. With better food and staff, we neighbors would return!

20.)mrsbabsabel
“Comme ci comme ca”

The first time my husband & I ate at Bar Tabac, shortly after it opened we were convinced we'd dropped in to a French spy thriller and the restaurant was a front because clearly none of the ridiculously good looking people running the place had ever worked in a restaurant before. The next top model who took our order actually LEFT the restaurant with a hot guy on a motorbike before telling our order to anyone else. Though we go back a few times a year with our kids clearly nothing has changed.

21.)dcasebrooklyn
“suit yourself?”

I've been in Brooklyn for over 6 years now and have always had a decent and welcoming experience at Bar Tabac. Several times I have dined as groups and we have been comped a bottle of wine or champagne while dining there. The burger on the onion bun hits the spot often times and the other menu items and convivial atmosphere has always been a draw for going there... It's no chi-chi Casa Mono if that's what you're used to as a your "local neighborhood joint"

22.)llewisgog
“I Hate Bar Tabac”

Finally! I thought it was just me. The service in this place is horrible and while the food is decent it is not worth putting up with the rude/incompetent servers.

23.)akc
“authenticity”

How authentically French! I think you're too forgiving of the food. For a place that popular, the menu offers few interesting choices. The jazz players seem like a stereotype of themselves, too.

24.)Mel Russo
“I hate Bar Tabac”

Finally, someone with the balls to call out one of the many obnoxious French bistros we have. (God I love you Andrea!) I have eaten at Bar Tabac on Brooklyn and totally agree with your review. In fact, I'd love to add my list of 400 other places around NYC that have the same bad service with (in my opinion) mediocre food. I remember in the 90's when having an accent in any NYC restaurant allowed you to be the worst waiter/waitress in the world. Sadly, there are still some remnants of that time

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