Tuesday, June 11, 2013
Review: 5th Street Bistro (Anacortes)
I have been a regular at this establishment for the past fifteen months and I have probably been one of the most frequent visitors during this time. Therefore I believe my review is fair and just and reflects the changing nature of the restaurant.
When I first started visiting the 5th Street Bistro (March 2012) its menu was varied with plenty of choices for one and all. The Happy Hour was exceptional, the wine list adequate, and the main menu diverse. The bar and restaurant were also staffed with happy and skilled servers.
Wind forward fifteen months (June 2013) and there has been an almost 100% change in everything. The bar and wait staff has seen nearly everybody replaced (left to seek pastures new). Now that in itself is not necessarily bad, but in a small town like Anacortes where most places still employ the same staff as last year, it is most unusual and there has to be an underlying reason for it. Then there is the chef. In the fifteen months I have been there, the 5th Street Bistro is on its third chef. Enough said about staffing.
So, onto the food. There was a time about six months ago when I despaired of the menu. Suddenly it went from being a nice northwestern-themed hotel menu to a southern-based 'grits-insprired' offering. The Happy Hour became an Unhappy Hour, with everything suddenly going up drastically in price (with the hours shortened to boot). The 5th Street Bistro was pricing itself out of the market and also offering food that the local clientele did not want. Unfortunately this also came at a time when the restaurant was undergoing a complete redecoration and was closed / relocated for almost three weeks. Business suffered and something obviously had to be done.
Recently a new chef has been hired and the Happy Hour menu has been reworked. Prices have been lowered slightly and new items added. A few of the older, original, items have also been added back. I am told the main menu is also due for a complete overhaul along the same lines.
So what about quality? The 5th Street Bistro suffers because of itself. It is the only restaurant in Anacortes that is open for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and late night Happy Hour. And it does that with few menu changes and a diverse array of kitchen staff who have seen several chefs and cooks come and go. It is no little wonder that the quality of the food from hour to hour and day to day is, at best, inconsistent. I have seen two dishes go out side by side looking completely different even though the customers ordered the same exact thing.
Please simplify! Treat each dining period as a separate event. Make breakfast breakfast and lunch lunch. Change the menu, simplify it, educate the kitchen staff, keep everything consistent. Then for dinner, bring on the A-Team (oh, and for heaven's sake get rid of those abysmal 'home fries' - they are never cooked correctly, and go cold in two minutes).
Wow! I'm writing a lot and I haven't even covered half the topics I wanted to. Other suggestions? Employ a dining room manager (or two - one for AM/early PM and one for late PM) and have them actually run the dining room and bar. Let them make decisions about who gets which tables, ensure sidework gets done, food is to quality, and when servers get phased, etc. Management in this area is sadly lacking. Lastly, change it up a little from time to time - guest beer taps, cocktails of the day, new wines. The list is obvious. Again, a proper manager could make this happen.
I like the 5th Street Bistro. It's a friendly place. It serves mostly good food and has mostly good service. But it could be great with just a few minor tweaks. I look forward to the next fifteen months.