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« The Wine You Love… from the Winery You Can’t Visit | Main | Best new pizza in San Francisco! »

December 05, 2007


jim white


Much thanks for your feedback and commentary. Imagine -- it's been a year since I posted my original story and they're still getting away with all that fussy, make-you-squirm, overbearing behavior.
Not what you'd expect -- or tolerate -- in a "top-tier" restaurant. And obviously not a scene that you, or I, will willingly return to experience.
When the economy falters a bit more, and San Francisco tables lighten at the expensive restaurants... and staff are let go, then maybe a little bit of hubris will creep into the kitchen.


My partner went to GD for a reward dinner for some accomplishments at work. One of their party was running late, but the rest of them had arrived early. They tried to explain the situation to the Maitre'D and told him they understood the restaurant's scheduling problem and the person running late would understand if they had to eat without him if he was more than 10 minutes late. The Maitre'D said that was impossible, that they could not seat a table of 3 (!!). My partner had tried to order an expensive bottle of champagne and caviar service in the midst of all this to signal to the restaurant that they weren't going to be a "cheap" party, but the Maitre'D had such a stick up his ass he wouldn't allow them to order anything at the bar.

Long story short, the 4th person arrived in the nick of time, and as they were seated they were told they had to complete their meal within 2 hours of the original 7 PM reservation. Utterly unacceptable at a restaurant that offers a tasting menu.

A few minutes into the meal, when they had ordered wine, the entire tenor of the service changed from rude to obsequious, and the pace slowed down to the point where they were the last party in the restaurant that night, and the sommelier pressed his special two-tone business card in my partner's hand, telling him if there was anything he could arrange in the future, please call the special number directly, not the regular reservation line.

Needless to say, there will never be a next time.

Mark V Marino


I have a saying for this. When ego outruns Intelligence the result is stupidity! I have seen this over and over success has grown their ego until their decision making is blinded by that ego This obviously is true for Gary Danko's.
They have gone as far as they will and now they will lose business by the stupidity of their out of control ego or Head Man!
In one word that is just stupid, I agree they are looking to lose business if this is their idea of hospitality, just you pointed out does not even make sense!

john smith

How many microwaves do you think they have in the kitchen at Gary Danko? answer ..2 meal...come on..
...i could purchase the same or better ingredients at any supermarket....

jim white

I am not sure that most restaurant patrons would agree with your point of view that waiters have a divine right to a tip regardless of the degree of their service, quality of the dining experience etc. I grew up with the teachings that good service demands a good tip but that lousy, testy, uncaring service does not.

I have often said that a really skilled waiter can save the dining experience for a guest when the food is poor, and that a poor waiter out front can ruin good fare, no matter how talented the chef in the kitchen. Waitstaffing is an important career that requires great “people skills” and as I said in my story, I have never NOT left a generous tip until my experience at Restaurant Gary Danko.

And let’s be clear – I asked the gentleman responsible for his waiters if he would be fair and not punish me for asking his staff to open a third bottle, given one bottle I brought was undrinkable; the decision of how his waitstaff would deal with the situation was determined by him, not me. If his waiters have a grumble about not getting a tip from me, they should direct their ire at the GM or Maitre d’, not at me.

And let me be clear about this flawed wine, which we did not drink; had I bought this wine off the very large and well thought out wine list, and had the wine been corked, at whatever price, it would have been taken back by the restaurant and another, similar bottle pulled from the cellar. No questions asked, no punishing fee to me for having asked the restaurant to open a bottle that happened to be corked. So why, if the bottle I brought, is corked, should I be punished with not only another corkage fee, but a DOUBLED corkage fee? That, Boywillis, is NOT a hospitable policy. It is an inhospitable policy.

I also think some of the emails, which came directly to me (and not through this website) are worth sharing for their point of view and for their humor; I am not a lone voice out there ranting about my Danko dining experience.

1. From a reader in Los Angeles:
Your review of Danko was great but I think you are missing the point. In LA, people pay far more than $70 to be treated rudely and with disrespect by a big name restaurant. The food is usually mediocre just to make sure you get the point. In fact, they wear it like a badge of honor and brag about it at Hollywood parties as a way of being accepted. Your problem is that you don't go to those parties so maybe the thing to do is spend more time in LA so you can feel good about being made to feel lousy. If you still insist on being treated with respect and dignity, then you will just have to stay in Napa Valley for dinner, or stick to places in San Francisco that value your values. However, Danko will find this expectation most arrogant of you.

2. From a reader in Oregon:
I had a seriously good chuckle and a "good for you" moment when I read your article about Restaurant Gary Danko. I cannot believe how unreasonable they were to you and your situation but glad you wrote the article. Wonder what prompts people to be that rude in a world that has so many other serious concerns to deal with - oh say like war. They need a reality check. But good for you for sticking to your guns.

3. From a reader in the south Bay-area of San Francisco:
Danko has never been on my list of favorite places. I think I went twice early on and have never been back despite being acquainted with some of the sommeliers at various times.
I did not have a bad time on either visit but rather like La Folie, I could not see what the fuss was about. I may be a little unfair, La Folie is clearly a very nice bistro (but that is all) and Danko does have elements that raise it above that status but they are mostly pretensions in my view. I am not alone in my thinking that these two are the most over-rated restaurants in The City, a number of my friends and acquaintances have come to the same opinion independently over the years. I'm not saying they are bad, just over-rated. I still go to La Folie on occasion because of the atmosphere, the good service and the charisma of the chef but Danko has none of this to offer. As your experience confirms, it is precisely the opposite. I believe everyone at Danko is either consciously or unconsciously aware that there is an element of sham about the place. I think the arrogance you describe is probably a manifestation of a guilty conscience.

4. From a reader in San Francisco with an evident sense of humor:
How much coffee did you drink that day?


As I understand it, an appropriate gratuity should always be left regardless of the issue (service, quality, experience, etc.) as the wait staff should not be punished for decisions and policies established by the restaurant (especially in this case). If you feel that you have a valid complaint regarding any of the above stated items, it should be taken up with the restaurant management. To put it bluntly, in your fit of entitlement, you took money out of the pockets of the people that needed it most. Tips are usually shared by a broad spectrum of employees, most of which (namely busboys and bar-backs) can’t afford to pay rent, let alone drop almost a cool grand on dinner. Gary Danko has a house rule of two outside bottles per dinner. You broke that rule and were asked to pay a small fee for your transgression. Nothing more. Nothing less. In the end, it was pittance compared to what comparable wines would have cost off the GD wine list. You are right though, there was an arrogant bastard at dinner that night, it just wasn’t Gary Danko

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