A Bitter Brew

There’s something foul afoot in coffeehouses along the Washington Avenue corridor lately.

Catalina Coffee
Photo courtesy of Flickr user Jeremey

First came the sad tale of Catalina Coffee and their owner’s bizarre snit immediately after Hurricane Ike, in which he bolted metal plates over all the wall sockets and turned off the wi-fi so that his customers wouldn’t be able to charge their electronics or access the internet despite the majority of the city being without electricity.  When asked about these “alterations” and their effect on his customers, his response was “Customers? I don’t care what customers want. What matters is what I want. I opened my own shop because of that.”

He eventually apologized, stating that ” We provided free wi-fi and electricty for anyone and everyone (after making the decision to cap the plugs, we set up charging stations in front of the cafe where the wi-fi signal is still strong, oh and by the way, some jerk stole one of our power strips). For anyone that did not have money, we gave them coffee any way.”  But the apology came too late for a community of customers that was utterly repelled by the initial actions the coffee house, and many people have stayed away from Catalina ever since (and at last report, those metal plates are still on the wall sockets).

And out of this Thanksgiving weekend comes an even stranger story: the owner of The Daily Grind, down the street from Catalina, appears to have totally and completely lost her mind.

no thanx to the taggers
Photo courtesy of Flickr user chuckwheat.

It began simply enough:

This past Sunday my wife and our friend decided to meet for a late breakfast. At my suggestion we tried the Daily Grind on Washington. I hadn’t been there in a while and had been meaning to as their breakfast sandwiches are fantastic.

My wife and I arrive and our friend was at the counter ordering her food. Excited as we’re up next we both order the breakfast sandwich with coffee. The woman(#1) behind the counter notifies us that they may be out of  croissants. Checking she confirms that they are out. The key ingredient in their breakfast sandwich is the croissant so we cancelled our order and I ordered the Migas, my wife ordered an omelet with potatoes. Two simple orders.

”That will be $26.35 please.” Woman #1 said

“Are you freaking kidding me? For a half order of migas, one omelet and two coffees?” I screamed in my head.

I paid without mentioning my displeasure, it was a nice day and I wasn’t going to ruin it by complaining about being overcharged for eggs, potatoes and tortillas. Flag #1

The story is best appreciated in its entirety, suffice it to say that an otherwise benign — if expensive and extremely late — meal ended with the owner kicking out Jason and his wife while screaming expletives at them in front of the entire restaurant:

“Get the fuck out of here you pieces of shit and never come back!” She screams again.

“Go to fucking IHOP.” She says while flicking her hand as if to shoo us away.

Now say what you will about IHOP and their menu but at least they have a code ethics and the big rule in that code of ethics that all businesses in the service industry adhere to is; The customer is always right, even when they aren’t.

Well, we were and now this woman is going insane. My wife and I have never backed down from a fight before so this woman has obviously gotten our blood boiling.

“Are you serious.” I say to her still trying to figure out if I am still asleep or not.

“Get the fuck out of here! Get the fuck out of here!” She screams again.

If you’re anything like me, you’re completely nonplussed at this point.  The Daily Grind has been dead to me for a while, ever since their prices increased and their service and food quality conversely decreased.  The last time I went there, I also waited nearly an hour for my food (but at least there was a good coffee selection).  There are too many wonderful places to eat breakfast or brunch in Houston to put up with that kind of service.

But this story is definitely a new nadir.  I — along with Jason, I’m sure — would love to hear an apology or even an explanation, a la Max from Catalina Coffee, who at least had the balls to face his critics.  I can’t imagine what scenario would have pushed the owner — the owner, fer chrissakes! — of The Daily Grind to act this way towards paying customers who did nothing other than request the food they’d paid for, but I’d love to hear her excuse nevertheless.

The story has made its way quickly out of the blogosphere and onto Twitter, where news — good and bad — about local customer service spreads like a wildfire set with gasoline.  I think it goes without saying that The Daily Grind is going to be dead to a lot more people after this.

23 responses to “A Bitter Brew

  1. Thanks for reposting this, I am still in awe of how we were treated. I’d love to hear the owners view on this but in my mind it is totally unexplainable

    Funny thing though, when I left I drove down Washington and ended up at Catalina. I had never been and their coffee is freaking amazing!

    Just wish they served breakfast

  2. You hardly hear of good/great experiences, but it just takes one bad experience for the word to spread like wildfire. Take note Daily Grind, when word spreads like this, it can’t be good.

  3. Had a horrible time the first/last time I ever had breakfast at The Daily Grind as well. Waited an hour for an Eggs Benedict that was luke warm when it came to the table. Gross! The service was worse than the wait, though. I will never be back. As for Catalina…it’s still my favorite coffee place in the city and I don’t mind them bolting up the place. I do see how non-customer friendly it is, though.

  4. Just be glad no one mentioned the mismatched furniture. -grin-

    Daily Grind had jumped the shark quite a while back in my book. Slow service, seldom open on time (Hello, coffee addicts need early coffee), better products elsewhere, etc.

    Frankly, this is just small business natural selection. DG was early in on Washington, but they may also end up being early out, too.

  5. I have a feeling Daily Grind is not long for this world. On top of the bad service and high prices, the internet did not work the last two times I went. I’m done. As far as Catalina, I asked about the electricity and was told that he just wanted a different atmosphere. I think it might be a bad move, but the incredibly good coffee keeps me coming back. The service has always been very polite, however. Their lattes have me so spoiled I quit going to Starbucks altogether.

  6. Wow, maybe I can take this place over when the lunatic goes bankrupt!! Last time I was there (probably close to three years ago), it was already pretty expensive for what we got and very, very ssssllllooooowwwww service. Clearly it only got worse. I’m so sorry that anyone received this treatment – it was so uncalled for.

  7. I started going there right when it opened. My ex-wife and I used to go there with regularity and after my divorce, I continued to go in the morning to get a breakfast sandwich, which I loved.

    The service was always good – hell, I flirted with one of the waitresses there for months before she left – probably because of me🙂 – but it was a little slow. Nothing major though.

    A couple years ago, I noticed the Coke machine was broken. I went back a few times after spaced out by many weeks and it never got fixed. Each time I went, the service got worse. The last time I went was probably a year ago, but I will definitely not be going back now.

  8. I’d still like to hear the owner’s side of the story. Somewhere in the middle is probably where the truth lies.

  9. @Cory

    I too would like to hear her story but this isn’t a ‘three sides to every story’ thing here. We were quiet and quite reserved, a normal Sunday breakfast mood. At no time we were belligerent or disrespectful to warrant this type of treatment.

    Please read Shannon F’s review on Yelp. She was with us

    http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-daily-grind-houston#hrid:l5HwazmvlyHW-By4Gi3Fag

    Then read other reviews on the Daily Grind

    http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-daily-grind-houston

    And on B4-U-Eat

    http://www.b4-u-eat.com/houston/restaurants/reviews/rsv3374.asp

  10. “I too would like to hear her story but this isn’t a ‘three sides to every story’ thing here. We were quiet and quite reserved, a normal Sunday breakfast mood.”

    I’m not suggesting you are wrong, but I AM suggesting that (as a direct party) you are the wrong person to determine what the “truth” is regarding this.

    I’m sure you believe that the “truth” as you see it is the truth and, as such, I don’t believe you are lying. As a matter of fact, I’ve been to the Daily Grind recently and tend to believe your version of the events. I also have met the owner, which lends even more credibility to your side of the story.

    That being said, I still reserve judgement. (although I too swore off Daily Grind after my last visit, but due more to bad coffee rather than poor service)

  11. @Cory

    I declare that to be the “truth” as it happened. I along with my wife and friend are the correct people to declare it the truth. The turn of events were exact. What words were traded after she called us pieces of shit I cannot remember. I was angry as were the other two people in my party.

    We were treated like crap, totally unprovoked. We were not rude to anyone, we weren’t loud and disrespectful to anyone around us. We sat and waited for our food. We never asked for a refund and at no time were we confrontational at all to any of the staff or other patrons. Once we were called pieces of shit and told to leave did we stand up for ourselves and voice our opinion at how insane this woman was acting.

    You are entitled to your opinion but to cast me off as not being able to see the truth as it happened you are off-base and have no right to determine that my view of this account is somewhat clouded by my anger at the situation and that I am only giving you half of the story. you weren’t there and do not know me so come to whatever conclusions you want. This does not fit a pattern for myself, my wife and our friend. That is how I remembered it. That is how my wife remembered it. That is how my friend remembered it. We got shitty service at every turn, voiced our opinion and were tore a new one. There is no explanation as to why we were treated this way. I can ‘determine what the truth is’ as I was there.

    You were not

  12. K and J — Thanks for reporting this. 100% horrifying!

  13. One word
    WOW.
    Plenty of other GREAT mom & pops that would bend over backwards to have ya come back.
    Bye bye Daily grind!

  14. I’ve been a big fan of Daily Grind since its inception despite the broken coke machine. But then what’s not to love about cheese grits, poached eggs, bottomless coffee, free internet and not getting hurried out the door when you’re done with your food? The service has never really sucked in my opinion, but I’ve never been there on a weekend.

    I’m wondering who the “owner” is since I thought Jack – the balding guy with the beard – was the owner.

    The JayMacs are laid back so there is no reason for anyone to doubt the story. In addition, another buddy said that their food took an hour+ to arrive on Saturday and that it was undercooked when it did show. There was no blowout with the staff, but my buddy didn’t request a refund as they were too pissed off to deal with it and decided to cut bait.

  15. “That is how I remembered it. That is how my wife remembered it. That is how my friend remembered it. We got shitty service at every turn, voiced our opinion and were tore a new one. There is no explanation as to why we were treated this way. I can ‘determine what the truth is’ as I was there.”

    My point exactly. Your anger is driving your feelings on this.

    Case in point: All I’m suggesting is that I want to hear the other side to determine for myself the truth and you’re going off on a tangent about how I wasn’t there and you were and you were treated “shitty” etc.

    I’m sorry if I angered you, that was not my intention. But I’ve seen this type of thing explode on blogs before and I’ve learned to not make up my mind before I hear all sides of the story.

    I say this not to change YOUR mind about what happened, becuase you have (and are entitled to) your version of the truth, but to establish in MY mind what exactly went on.

    If that makes you angry then so be it.

    Again, its not my intention to anger you, but it appears that ANY dissenting opinion on this matter is going to provoke that response due to your emotions in this matter.

    That being the case I’ll just apologize and move on. Good luck to you sir.

  16. Maybe they all had too much coffee.

  17. @cory

    I’ve tried to write and rewrite a response to your frustrating comments concerning my experience and my ‘view’ of it. I’ve come up with all sorts of things to say but honestly I’m at a loss.

    You weren’t there, you don’t know the ‘truth.’ People here have vouched for me. I’m a nice Canadian living in Texas, that’s kind of a double whammy in niceness.

    Hold out judgment as long as you want.

    Yes my emotions run a little high on this one and I would gladly talk to anyone that has relevant opinion of what happened that day. Yours is not. You came to your own conclusion without ANY knowledge of what happened that day and let your own blog reading paranoia decide for you. You simply called me a liar, took it back and then retracted again all in one comment.

    Yes that made me angry and frustrated that I feel compelled to respond to this ‘fact free’ accusation.

    a hem

  18. ” I’ve tried to write and rewrite a response to your frustrating comments concerning my experience and my ‘view’ of it. I’ve come up with all sorts of things to say but honestly I’m at a loss.

    You weren’t there, you don’t know the ‘truth.’ People here have vouched for me. I’m a nice Canadian living in Texas, that’s kind of a double whammy in niceness. “

    Here’s an idea: “apology accepted”.

    All I’ve said all along is that I understand your frustration, feel you are entitled to it, but I would like to hear the other side.

    I’ve made no “fact-free accusation” against you other than to say I’m not willing to accept your version of events verbatim.

    Part of this is because you are so frustrated you keep on-line screaming at me (I can almost feel your lip quivering in anger) despite the fact that I’ve repeatedly apologized for offending you, because that was not my intention.

    If that still “angers and frustrates you” then so be it.

    Ironically, I’ve never said your opinion is irrelevent, I’ve never said you were lying, I’ve never made on accusation against you personally except to say you were emotional over the issue. Something that you yourself admit to.

    Because of this my opinion is not valid, I’m paranoid, and that I’m calling you a liar.

    I never did call you a liar, as a matter of fact I said specifically that I was inclined to believe your version of the events because of past experience at Daily Grind.

    “I’m sure you believe that the “truth” as you see it is the truth and, as such, I don’t believe you are lying. As a matter of fact, I’ve been to the Daily Grind recently and tend to believe your version of the events. I also have met the owner, which lends even more credibility to your side of the story.”

    Again, I apologize that you’ve gotten so bent out of shape about this and now you’ve got me wondering if you make it a habit of making mountains out of molehills.

    See?

    Dangit, we’d have all been fine if you’d have just let by-gones be by-gones, stopped with the adolescent name-calling and accepted my apology……now I’m right back to doubting your version of the story again.

    (yes, for everyone else, now I’m just being ornery)

    @JB
    “I’m wondering who the “owner” is since I thought Jack – the balding guy with the beard – was the owner.”

    This little bit is puzzling me as well. Which is one of the reason’s I’d like to hear the other side of the story.

    Ironically, its because I wasn’t there that I want more information, and not just the word of one guy who feels the need to call names of everyone who’s not willing to 100% accept his story at face value.

    I’m sure Jason is a very nice guy, but he’s off-base here responding with venom and making up accusations.

  19. Note, I also realized that I made a typo in my second post.

    I meant to say that I’ve met the lady that (I think) is the one who did all the hollaring, and I can believe that she would do that.

    I didn’t think that she is the “owner” however, which is why I’m confused. (Well, that and being called paranoid and irrelevent for wanting to hear a second side to a story…..yeah, that’s a little off-putting as well)

  20. I’m sorry that was just my unfounded opinion of you, I thought that was ok to do that

  21. K, in the spirit of investigative journalism, why don’t you /we stop by the daily grind and interview this woman, find out if she really is the owner and get her side of the story. then we could stop this bickering on your blog and settle it once and for all. i agree with cory and would like to hear both sides to this story.

    besides, you are just so terribly nice that she would have to be the devil’s incarnate herself to call you a piece of shit or tell you to get the fuck out — with me? not so much. if she gets out of line i’ll have your back.

    maybe we’ll even start a blog that investigates outlandish (sounding) blogger, reviewer, and yelper complaints against local businesses. food and beverage only — let’s be frank. this is all we probably care about. we’ll report on both sides of the story, then let readers vote on which side of the story they believe more. whaddaya think?

    let’s talk about it tonight @ dinner.

  22. Investigating outlandish claims sounds good. I have one and I would not have believed it, had it not happened to me. A review I posted about the experience to Citysearch got deleted, which annoyed me cause I did not embellish on it. Maybe I’ll start a blog so I can finally gritch (cept it’s not a food related business).

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