Restaurant critics are supposed to be invisible, but this was ridiculous.
My husband and I arrived at Pat & Mike's in Towson about five minutes apart -- he had come from work and I from home -- but we spent 30 minutes more waiting for each other. While I waited at a remote table, thinking he was caught in traffic or mired in a ditch, he languished in the bar, fearing I might have been abducted from a nearby mall.
Although I had clearly told one hostess that I was ''meeting my husband'' and he had inquired -- twice -- if I was there, describing even the color of my coat, neither of the two hostesses made the connection. He was, in fact, told by both that they had seated no ''single women.'' He tried to look around for me, but the many levels and high-backed booths, which afford diners considerable privacy, made it difficult for him to find me without being intrusive.
When the hostesses finally discovered the error, running into the parking lot after him, they could not explain what had happened and met his questions with only blank stares. And the manager, who came to the table to inquire about the ''problem,'' said one hostess told him I had not indicated I was meeting anyone. But I had, and she had set the table for two. The manager offered only his apology.
Over the past 18 months, we have had no other problem connecting in a restaurant. Granted, Pat & Mike's, housed in the former Rusty Scupper, has several levels and nooks; few tables are in clear sight of the front door. But that is all the more reason for the hostesses to be diligent about helping diners get together.
After speaking to the manager, we tried to concentrate on dinner. Our lot did not improve markedly. Our waiter was inept and slow, even though the restaurant had few patrons. He was not familiar with the wine we ordered, though he pretended to be; he neglected to tell us about a special we overheard other servers reciting, and he took forever to refill our water glasses.
The food was better than the service, but not by much.
During my wait, I had ordered Diamond Onion Chunks ($4.25), an interesting variation on onion rings. Thick rectangles of layered onion pieces, they had been battered and deep fried. The serving was large and the flavor good. I couldn't eat just one.
Pat & Mike's has an eclectic menu with a lot of what is usually called light fare: salads, sandwiches, pastas and appetizers. The entrees include Prime Rib, Barbecued Ribs, Teriyaki Chicken and a fresh catch of the day.
Having either lost my appetite or filled up on onion chunks, I was no longer very hungry. I ordered a Soup and Salad combination ($6.95), choosing the soup of the day -- Chicken Princess -- and a Caesar Salad. Mike's Gumbo and a house salad were the options.
My husband ordered a Caesar Salad a la carte ($5.50) and Ponchartrain Style Chicken ($9.50).
Both my soup and my salad were thin. The cream soup had large pieces of white meat chicken with crisp-tender asparagus and sweet pepper pieces. It didn't have a lot of flavor, though.
The salad was huge and fresh, but the dressing, described as creamy, was far from thick and lacked the rich cheese flavor that makes a Caesar so enticing. Perhaps more cheese would have helped.
My husband's chicken was a pungent arrangement of chicken breast, mozzarella, peppers, onions and andouille sausage -- similar to a cheesesteak with chicken instead of beef. The chicken had been brushed with barbecue sauce and had a strong taste of smoke. I found the combined tastes exceedingly unpleasant, sort of like the down-draft from a chimney.
He, however, found the smokiness a nice counterpoint to the mild chicken and cheese. The accompanying potatoes -- sort of cottage fries -- were undercooked.
For dessert, we shared a "What The Heck Chocolate Chocolate Mousse Cake'' ($4.95). It was a disappointing concoction of dry cake and creamy filling served with vanilla ice cream -- the best part.
As we finished the meal, our waiter scurried about refilling salt shakers and resetting tables for the next day. Meanwhile, the empty glasses piled up on our table and it was difficult to get more coffee.
Our bill, with two cocktails, one glass of wine and two coffees, was $41.68. As we were leaving, both the manager and the hostess wished us "good evening," seeming not to remember the earlier disruption.
* 1/2 Pat & Mike's
720 Kenilworth Drive,
Hours: Sunday through Tuesday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Wednesday through Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Reservations: None accepted.
Credit cards: Major credit cards accepted.
Handicapped access: Limited access.
Smoking: Separate areas designated.