Update: Pho Viet, Brew Werks, Letzer’s

Readers assail the slow service at Letzer's Deli in Bend

As the restaurant critic for the Friday “Go!” section of the Bend Bulletin, I am never surprised when I hear from readers who don’t like my opinions.  Some disagree with my good reviews, some take exception to my bad reviews, and some merely write to complain.

I am a fan of Pho Viet, the new Vietnamese restaurant on Third Avenue.  I won’t write a review before spring, as I always wait at least three months following an opening, giving a restaurant time to establish itself. But Amy Scott, upon reading my blog about Pho Viet, couldn’t hold back:

Pho Viet's Tan Vo

It was “not worth the horrible treatment,” she wrote.  “I ordered a large soup and a lemongrass-honey chicken dish that came with white rice.  I told the owner when he came by my table that the chicken was way too salty for me.  He and a woman worker both tried it right there.  He said, ‘It is just fine.’ 

“I couldn’t believe he wanted to argue with me over this stupid salty chicken.  When I went up to pay for my bill, I told him I would pay for the rice and my soup.  He tried to charge me $3 for the rice.  ‘But the menu says a side of rice is $1.99,’ I said.  He said, ‘OK, but you wasted our chicken and it was just fine.’

“Then he said, ‘Because you wasted a beautiful plate of our food, don’t come back!  I have the right to refuse service to anyone, and you are too difficult.’

“I couldn’t believe it.  I have never been treated like this.  I dare you to try it and say you don’t like something.  See what happens.  Unbelievable.”

David Love, owner of the Old Mill Brew Werks, considered my “B” review of his pub to be unsatisfactory.  Love pointed out that I had erred in details listed in the review’s information box.

Old Mill Brew Werks

“I thought you were brutally honest in your review of our establishment and the assets and liabilities we bring to the table,” Love wrote.  “I hope you can be brutally honest with yourself and realize that your review was WRONG in these vital areas and can make up for it somehow.”

I acknowledged these errors in last week’s “Go!” section: 

The pub does have a children’s menu.  Five different items are available for $4.95, with ice cream and a soda.  “We fashion ourselves ‘kid friendly’ and you hurt us in that regard,” Love wrote.

Although it is hard to miss, I did not point out that the pub has a west-facing porch with outdoor seating for 33 people.  My bad.  And although I emphasized the Brew Werks’ excellent beer selection, I failed to note that it has applied for a full liquor license.

But I have never had more negative response to any recent review than to the kudos I gave Letzer’s Deli, a Jewish delicatessen on South East Division Street, in early December.

Karin Cody wrote me twice, three weeks apart in January, to “challenge your review and A- grade of Letzer’s Deli.  To say that it is Bend’s only authentic Jewish delicatessen is a ridiculous statement.

“The corned beef was obviously not even close to the caliber of a Jewish deli (which serves home cooked corned beef brisket).  As a matter of fact, I saw a hunk of processed pastrami lunchmeat in their deli case and know for a fact (I’m Jewish) that their corned beef was the same processed meat. 

“I do agree the sandwiches were big and the meat sliced thin and piled high, but to say that it is “an authentic Jewish deli” is just criminal.”

Letzer's Deli

This from M.K. Po, as he/she signed him/herself:

“In my opinion — which isn’t much, but I have cooked professionally for 25 years — they need help with customer service and atmosphere.  Seating is tight and service is SLOW!  (The owner) never gets up to offer help to his staff or a seat to his customers.  There is no ambience, no staff-to-customer engagement.

“My sandwich was AWESOME, but it took 35 minutes to make.  No ‘Thanks, have a good day, sorry for the wait, come again, let us know what you think.’  Nada!”

Pam Pangburn of Bend wrote:

“Went to pick up a sandwich at Letzer’s after your review.  Only two other people in the place.   I asked for a roast beef and Swiss to go.  It took 40 minutes to get my sandwich.  The servers were unsmiling and morose the whole time — I had nothing to do but observe them. The guy at the cash register kept wiping his nose with his fingers.

“I took my $8 sandwich home to discover the worst roast beef I have ever had.  It was completely dried out and tasteless with one little pathetic piece of Swiss. … I will never go back.  Awful quality.  Have told my friends.  I hope you make another visit. I am very tolerant, by nature, and I rarely complain at restaurants.  It was awful!  What were you thinking?”

And this from Paige T. and Brittany O., who were shocked that I rated Letzer’s higher than the Country Catering Co., to which I conferred a “B+”:

“Letzer’s is cramped, uninviting and obviously thrown together cheaply before they knew how their business was going to fly.

“While Letzer’s sandwiches are impressively tall, their bread is thin and falls apart while you’re trying to eat your sandwich. … The service is amazingly slow, and the food while possibly authentic is dry and sometimes tasteless. It seems although they’ve recognized this problem by supplying more dressings for the public in plastic side cups.”

Not everyone has the same dining experience at every establishment.  But based upon these readers’ experiences, it sounds like I ought to swing by Letzer’s at least one more time.

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4 Comments

Filed under Restaurants

4 responses to “Update: Pho Viet, Brew Werks, Letzer’s

  1. Hey JGA,

    I love this post. I used to rip on the dolts that dared to challenge me. While I disagree with you on a regular basis, I do enjoy reading your reviews. I got that same comment about Pho Viet and laughed. Asian restaurant owners are crazy like that and I totally believe that it happened exactly as outlined. Its a shocker for Bendites to take that kind of crappy service. Hilarious!

    Anyway, I like the blog and that it seems to free you up to write differently than for the Bulletin. Good work.

    -BOR

  2. Owen

    John –
    I have had similar experiences at Letzer’s Deli. I am an East Coast Jewish transplant that knows what Jewish Deli food should look and taste like. Letzer’s isn’t it. It is the Bend equivalent of Chinese food – if you can’t make it good at least give the customer a lot of it. I went in shortly after they opened and tried a corned beef sandwich. The owner came up to me while I was eating and asked me how it was. I told him the truth – the meat was dry and the rye bread fell apart. He acknowledged my comments by saying that was all he could get. He said that the local bakers who made good rye bread didn’t want to sell it to him since he was competition and that he was buying his meat through a distributor (such as FSA or Sysco)and the best he could get was industrial quality.

    Because he was sincere and apparently wanted to improve on the quality, I thought I’d give him another try so a couple of weeks later I came by and ordered 3 sandwiches to go: rueben, corn beef and pastrami. When I got home with my $25 worth of food and opened the packages to feed myself and guests there were two corn beef sandwiches (no pastrami) and a burned reuben.

    Needless to say, I’ll probably never darken his doorstep again.

  3. Al St. John

    I read the comments about Pho Viet Cafe with interest. Last evening (Friday 4-15-11) my wife and I had dinner there—our second visit within the past week. During our first meal several days ago, I noticed a strange taste in the glass of water they gave me. Then last night, my wife noticed it as well. It was strongest in our glasses of water, but also even came through in the pho and curry dishes we ordered. Maybe it’s some flavor we’re unfamiliar with that’s inherent to Vietnamese foods? However, on the first visit there we didn’t notice it in the foods. Our best guess is an undercurrent of detergent residue. We are wondering if their dishwashing machine is possibly malfunctioning and not thoroughly rinsing the dishes? Anybody else notice this at that cafe? Otherwise, although it was a busy Friday evening, the service was prompt and reasonably friendly (other than seeming a bit “mechanized” with little in the way of genuine warmth, which someone else commented on).

    Al

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