Charles Jenkin: A column-full of culinary correspondence

Culinary correspondence – As you can imagine, the review of BT’s Burgerjoint generated several emails. I thank you, and I have personally responded to each one. The review also prompted the owner to reach out to me and we discussed the review by phone for about 30 minutes. Given that discussion and your emails, I wish to share these points with you.

(Above) Mac’s Speed Shop took home the top prize for Tomato Sauce at a recent barbecue competition in Memphis.

(Above) Mac’s Speed Shop took home the top prize for Tomato Sauce at a recent barbecue competition in Memphis.

In case there was any doubt, the price of the burgers includes all the toppings available at no additional charge, except avocado for $1 extra. I had no issue with the food itself, as you read. As for silverware and plates that are less than completely clean, I have sent back dozens of each over the years, as I am sure you have. When it comes to being given a fork where “The tines were thickly coated with dark brown, leftover food,” I can say with conviction that I have never had that happen. As you know, there is a big difference between a slightly soiled fork and one that is heavily coated with a thick brown, dried-on substance.

As I told the owner of BT’s, the crux of the biscuit was that the manager chose to walk away from the issue, rather than come to our table and apologize. That told me they just don’t care. The owner, I can assure you, cares very much about the cleanliness of the restaurant and was equally disappointed in the lack of action on the manager’s part. He told me he had looked into the matter personally and I could tell by his voice that he was equally concerned. Given our conversation and the fact that the food itself was good to very good, as the review stated, I would suggest you consider a visit to BT’s Burgerjoint. And one more thing: had the manager at the time, or the owner by phone, offered me any complimentary meals or certificates, I would have declined them out of principle in my capacity as a restaurant reviewer.

This email from Jason was too lengthy to print in its entirety, so I’ve included the major points with which he disagrees with the review. “… As I read your column, I noticed a couple of things I would question. … You wrote that the burgers were good, though they didn’t wow for $4.95 for a plain 6-ounce and $7.35 for an 8-ounce with cheese. You misled many people here as there are a plethora of toppings available for free to go along with that ‘plain’ burger. … You realize this isn’t a customary full-service restaurant, complete with your personal waiter or waitress, right? In fact, like most other similar chains (Five Guys, Smashburger, Chick-fil-A, McAlister’s, etc.) this action is on the customer, as well. The ‘walking by’ of the staff is just ‘gravy’ so to speak. So in my opinion, you misled your readers again. … But where you go from this point is so far out in space, you may already be at Mars by now. As

I finished reading your column, I realized your intention. You wanted free meals. It’s pretty obvious at the exorbitant nature that you went to trying to describe the fork and the staff needing to get their eyes checked. Then saying the manager should have comp’d your entire meal for a fork. But you didn’t stop there. You actually wanted gift certificates for your next visit. … Sincerely, Jason.”

Jason, as a previous restaurant owner and manager, I picked up the check many times when circumstances deemed it appropriate. This would have been one of those occasions had it been my restaurant. My guests that day, having worked for years in restaurants, wanted to leave when the disgusting fork appeared, and suggested the manager should be so appalled as to make the offer of picking up the check and more, so I included it. Regarding service, unless it is a walk up and pick up at the counter, like Five Guys, servers walk the floor to assist guests; especially those that provide a table number. In fact, Chick-fil-A has staff walk around to each table with a large peppermill for your salad and to check on you quite promptly, so they may not be the best example, even though it’s order and pick up at the counter.

Here is one in support of the review. “I wanted to commend you for your recent review of BT’s Burgerjoint. At first I was surprised at the low score of only one star after reading that the food was decent but after giving it some thought I completely agree with the score. Your review was honest and I appreciate you being a stickler for good customer service. As a native Charlottean, I was raised on Southern hospitality and to think this incident occurred without any effort from management appalls me. Thank you for being a voice to cleanliness and customer service – not an option but an expectation! Thank you, Kelly.” I thank you, Kelly, for your take on the review.

Another restaurant, another dis-satisfied guest – Catherine sent me this email. “I was just reading the South Charlotte Weekly for the week of May 17 to 23 and read (the review) regarding Block & Grinder. The patrons said the flavor was extremely tasty and that all items busted with flavor. They said the service was top notch, professional, and most of all you feel very welcomed.

I am writing to say that my friends and I had the very opposite experience. We called ahead and were told that Monday nights are not that busy and that we should be fine to arrive without a reservation. We arrived and our table was ready. However, our server was the most unfriendly server I have ever had. It took 35 minutes to get our drinks. We then proceeded to order and when we inquired about some of the dishes on the menu the waiter was extremely rude and responded ‘I have no idea.’ Our meals finally arrived and one of my friend’s lamb was raw. We asked to speak to a manager who came over and did nothing about our terrible service. Some of the food we ordered never even arrived. When we were finished with dinner, it took another 40 minutes to even get our bills. The bills were incorrect and it took another 40 minutes to get them corrected. The manager responded that he knew our service was poor and that our dining experience was terrible. However, that was the extent of his involvement. Needless to say we will not be returning to Block and Grinder.” Thanks, Catherine.

It is important to note that a new general manager is at the helm of Block & Grinder. Aaron Ward, who has managed some of the finest restaurants in Charlotte, is now in charge. Knowing Aaron and his level of passion and dedication to the guest, I would still recommend a visit to Block & Grinder.

Mac’s sacks BBQ contest – When more than 250 barbecue teams from around the world stepped up to the plate on May 16 to compete at the “Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest,” Mac’s sauce scored big.  The signature “Red BBQ sauce” invented at Charlotte-based Mac’s Speed Shop walked away with first-place honors in the “Tomato Sauce” category.  Mac’s Chef Kevin Kourac said the honor will undoubtedly be the high point of his year. “Even against such daunting competition, we knew we could prevail.  Nobody makes BBQ or BBQ sauce quite like we do at Mac’s.”

Mac’s Speed Shop has been saucing up North Carolina’s BBQ scene since it opened its first restaurant in a renovated transmission shop on South Boulevard. The Red BBQ Sauce that won in Memphis is described as “Western N.C. Style,” a sweet and tangy tomato barbecue sauce, with a touch of vinegar that makes it perfect on ribs, brisket and wings. You can get a four-pack of sauce that includes Mac’s Red, Mac’s Vinegar (Eastern N.C. style), S.C. Mustard and Coleman’s Home BBQ Sauce, a special Mac’s recipe named in honor of one man’s personal story of survival on the streets with profits earmarked for the Urban Ministry Center. In addition to Mac’s three Charlotte restaurants, Mac’s BBQ Sauce is available at Harris Teeter. I recommend a visit to Mac’s for scrumptious BBQ and more. Check out the win with photos at www.macspeedshop.com.

Questions, comments, south Charlotte restaurant openings, closings and food news, email culinary@thecharlotteweekly.com.

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