Good value, great food, bad temper
It seems to me that someone on your staff has an ax to grind with Harding Lee Smith. The first article [“Satan’s Sous Chef,” July 2013] was interesting and I came away with the impression of the Smiths as successful restaurateurs with tempers and arrogant streaks. All entertaining reading in a voyeuristic kind of way. To me, the follow-up article [“Head Chef in Hell,” September 2013] crosses a journalistic boundary. It basically calls for the reading public to boycott the Room restaurants in protest of the Smiths’ behavior: “Satan has his influence, but Chef Smith’s fate is really up to you.”
I have no intention of boycotting a restaurant because of the personality of the chef. Steve Jobs seemed to be a worse boss than HLS, so I assume you don’t purchase Apple products, in protest.
If the Smiths are difficult employers (and we’ve all had them), then they will find it hard to retain and hire staff. That’s how a free economy is supposed to work. Either they will have to pay higher wages or change their behavior. I have no intention of ever working for the Smiths, but every intention of eating their food as long as I get the same good value and excellent meals. Sure, if I have an experience similar to those shared by other customers you quote, then I would stop visiting, but the point is that I have always received excellent service there and so, I assume, have the vast majority of customers.
Two free front-page ads
Harding Lee Smith and his wife are reprehensible, surly, uncouth beasts, undeserving of their success — I get it, the point is made and I don’t want to read or see any more about them, please. The July story was interesting and informative; the September story is a petty rehash, fraught with hearsay, supposition, gossip and innuendo.
Negative publicity is still publicity. The Bollard has now dedicated two covers and many pages of feature print, in which all the Smith restaurants are cataloged, to spotlighting this unworthy phenomenon. The Smiths have hit the jackpot and The Bollard is positively reinforcing their bad behavior with free advertising.
Portland is a vibrant city, with many engaging and arresting stories to be told. Please get on with it.
Unfair and unbalanced
My wife and I are regular patrons of Portland restaurants. We know several people who work in the Portland food service/entertainment industry and have heard the rumblings about Harding Smith. A couple of rumblings have come from people who amicably parted from employment in at least one of Smith’s establishments.
To be fair, we’ve eaten at the (previous) trilogy of Harding Smith restaurants, and outside of consistency issues (where price did not meet consistency), we have had zero problems with staff or ownership. We will return to none of Smith’s establishments, but only for the reasons of price and consistency. You can just get a better meal, for the consistency and price, someplace else.
Your latest article about Smith is offensive and gossipy, and while your first article was interesting and incisive — with a lot of sources — the second article is over the top and lacking the same depth of sources. And by over the top, I mean over the top in a bad way.
While I enjoy reading The Bollard, this article comes across like an un-subtle Fox News buzzkill: lots of details, zero subtlety, massive agendas. What were you thinking?!
The sea hag, the shrew and monkey shit
My fiancé and I were in Portland over Labor Day weekend for a wedding. Before meeting up with the wedding party at Gritty’s, we thought we would have a couple drinks, then a nice dinner at a local restaurant. We’re from Illinois, and about the only place to get seafood is Red Lobster — if you even consider that real seafood.
The bartender at the establishment we visited before dinner recommended Boone’s Fish House & Oyster Room. The hostess at Boone’s was very nice and we got a table inside right away. It was fairly busy — we arrived around 6:10 p.m. Our server was a little spacey, but also very nice. After taking our drink orders, she didn’t return for another 15 minutes or so, which really wasn’t a problem since it was dinnertime on a Saturday.
But things went downhill after that. Not only did we not get our bread until we requested it, but we waited 35 to 45 minutes for our soup to arrive. The soup came and went and we sat for approximately another hour before I finally went to the hostess station and requested to speak with a manager.
I’d never done that before, but we were already running late to meet my family at Gritty’s. And to be honest, having ordered two entrées totaling $96.63, I expected the meal to be a bit more prompt, especially since the early dinner rush had died down quite a bit by then.
After about 10 minutes, the manager (who could have been mistaken for the Crypt Keeper) finally arrived and asked what the problem was. I stated that we had been waiting over 90 minutes for our entrées to arrive and had other places to be — all in a polite and respectful manner. This sea hag blankly stared back, looking like she could give two squirts of tepid urine, then said she’d be over to our table shortly.
When she did come over, 10 to 15 minutes later, we still had no food, empty beer glasses, and even emptier stomachs. She half-assed apologized for our wait and stated that “it was a busy night.” Well, no shit, but how come the two tables of four that arrived after we did were already enjoying their food and I was stuck sitting in the corner staring at them like a hobo in front of a buffet?
The manager said she might be able to give us half off our meal, and promised to return. Our food finally came, and of course we dug in, as we hadn’t eaten since 9 a.m. that morning and were famished. The Crypt Keeper came back as soon as we started eating, handed me the check, and stated that if we did not pay the bill in full, “it would be considered stealing and the police would be called.”
At this point, I lost it and asked to speak to the owner. First, she told me the owner was not there. After I gave her a questioning look, she admitted that the owner was indeed there, but added, “I wouldn’t talk to him if I was you.”
This only infuriated me more, and I asked her to please point him out. She did, and I walked calmly over to Mr. Smith. This is when shit really hit the fan.
I won’t recount the conversation verbatim — I’m getting pissed again just remembering that awful experience — but after I explained to that dickweed that we had sat for nearly two hours before receiving our food, his reply was, “So what you’re saying is you had bad service?”
YEAH, IN YOUR RESTAURANT, YOU FUCK! (I didn’t say quite that, but I was pretty heated in that moment.) Dickweed Harding then began to yell at me that if we did not pay, the police were going to be called, to get the fuck out, etc. I replied that this was the worst restaurant experience I ever had, told him to go fuck himself, and my fiancé and I went to the hostess stand to pay our check, chalk it up as a loss, and leave.
ENTER THE CUNT SHREW KNOWN AS MRS. HARDING. Darcy, or the Devil’s Mistress, as I like to refer to her, flew in out of nowhere and started berating my fiancé as she was pulling out her card to pay. The Devil’s Mistress literally snapped the card out of my fiancé’s hand and began running the transaction while speaking in tongues, saying something similar to what her husband had said: Get the fuck out, the police are on their way, yada yada yada. Then she looked at me and said, “Sorry you didn’t get your free meal tonight.” In response, I said something along the lines of, “Does it look like I’m a fucking bum looking for a free shitty skirt-steak dinner?”
We left, and were still talking about the dinner as we entered Gritty’s. A local told us to check out the front page of The Bollard, and we were horrified by the article inside. WHAT. A. PIECE. OF. MONKEY. SHIT. I honestly felt sorry for their unborn child, knowing that little guy or gal will no doubt have to suffer under the rule of these two idiots for the next 18 years.
And you know what the worst part about it was, besides the shitty steak and poor service? I didn’t even get my piece of key lime pie, which I paid for. Safe to say I’m glad to be back in Central Illinois, where the people are far less rude, even if all we do have is Red Lobster.
Department of Corrections
In last month’s cover story, “Head Chef in Hell,” we quoted a source who said Harding Lee Smith’s less-than-official wedding ceremony took place on Peaks Island. According to a source closer to the event, it took place in Bath. This source also clarified that Smith’s unofficial bride gave birth prior to the wedding, so she named the child after Smith before their break-up, not “despite” it. Lastly, according to multiple sources, this woman’s parents did not invest in Smith’s restaurants.