We enjoyed the incarnation of Cafe Intermezzo at the old Peachtree Street location. While it was never one of our "any Tuesday night" places, the tour of the dessert case always delighted out-of-town guests. Best of all, the service and food were consistent and dependable, time after time.
But since the move to the shiny new digs at the corner of Peachtree Street and 11th Street, things have gone rapidly downhill. After several bad experiences there (and after hearing about similar bad experiences from friends and co-workers), our initial excitement over our new neighbor's arrival has given way to disappointment.
On our first visit (with friends J & J in tow), the front door staff informed us the entire restaurant had been reserved by Midtown Alliance. "We can still seat you on the patio, though."
Unfortunately, the patio's frequently malfunctioning garage-style doors were sealed tight, and the late afternoon sunlight had transformed the space into a cramped and claustrophobic furnace. And while servers scrambled to push two wrought-iron tables for two together, they set them up so that the four of us would be facing a booth of diners just on the other side of a window. And -- worse -- because those windows were being washed, the entire space stank of ammonia. We passed.
Days later, Clyde and I went back on a Saturday afternoon for a quick bite. The front door staff, sweet but clueless, were so overwhelmed and so out of touch some diners bypassed them entirely and helped themselves to seats. After being guided to a corner seat, we waited fifteen minutes for a glass of water, forty minutes for a sandwich and a salad, and an additional fifteen minutes for the check. We left saying we'd never go back.
Maybe it's just us? No, it's not. Soon, friends began telling us their own Cafe Intermezzo tales. When J&J went on a Saturday morning at 9:00, the cafe was out of coffee. (What?!?) When KR went for a workday lunch, the food came so late, the entire table had to get their lunches boxed to go. Another friend complained: "I waited half an hour for a slice of pie and a cup of coffee while bar staff stood around, laughing and chatting with each other."
You'd think these experiences would teach me a lesson, right? But last week, the unexpected arrival of some friends had me wondering about what I could pick up on the way home from work to serve as a dessert. So I stopped in Cafe Intermezzo to buy a pie to go. That should be easy, right?
But -- no. Could they sell a whole pie? Um, no one at the front door was sure. "We think so, but we need to check." Once they confirmed entire pies could be sold, I waited at the dessert counter for several minutes (in an virtually empty cafe) while staff members strolled around, looking for someone to help me.
Eventually, someone showed up and began giving me a tour of every pie in the case. Glancing at my watch, I pointed to one and said, "I"ll have one of those."
"I'm not sure we have that one," the server said. "Let me check." He disappeared, then returned in ten minutes with sad news. "I'm sorry, we're out of that one."
"There's a whole one in the case," I explained. "I'll have that one."
He frowned. "I don't know if we can sell the one in the case. Let me check."
I waited ten more minutes. He returned, smiling. "We found the one you wanted in the back, in the freezer!" He gave me the box and pointed me to the register. "Someone over there will check you out."
I waited ten minutes for a young woman to appear. When she saw the box in my hand, she frowned. "I've never sold a whole pie before. Do I just ring it up as fourteen individual slices? Let me check."
Given that Cafe Intermezzo sells individual slices for about eight bucks a pop, I was prepared to walk out. But she returned with good news ("There's a discounted price!"), only to leave again to find someone to help her figure out the register.
I know opening a new location has its challenges. That said: apparently everyone with experience, customer service know-how, technical expertise, and common sense abandoned Cafe Intermezzo prior to the move ... and the folks who are left (or who've been hired since) aren't doing the restaurant any favors.
WIth service this slow and clueless, Cafe Intermezzo might snag enough business from unsuspecting hotel guests to keep the doors open a few months ... but unless things improve, I fear the only music coming from the corner of Peachtree and 11th will soon be a funeral dirge.