Jack the Horse Subject of Some Blogger’s Strange Rant

CurbedNY links to Strong Buzz, a food blog apparently based in Brooklyn Heights, and their rant about Jack the Horse Tavern.  While a spirited debate raged here last week over JtH’s brunch, most commenters agreed that it’s one of the best places to eat in the North Heights.  Dissenters discussing Karl Junkersfeld’s video about the eatery mostly bickered about the price of buckwheat pancakes (causing the dish to enter the BHB lexicon of inside jokes along with Great Wall references, parking jokes, dog poop etc).

However, author Andrea Strong’s condemnation of the Hicks Street establishment reads like a therapy session more than a restaurant review.

It’s news to us, but evidently Strong is notorious in the NYC blogworld. She guested on Top Chef in 2007 prompting Gawker to ask Why is Andrea Strong Such a Hater?

Here’s the setup, read the full post here.

Strong Buzz: The first sign that I needed to break up with JTH came during a dinner for my father-in-law’s 70th Birthday. My sister-in-law and her husband had flown in from Portland, and there were 9 of us at dinner. We were excited for a great evening. We had spoken to the chef and owner, Tim, and arranged to bring in our own birthday cake. When we arrived, Tim was nowhere to be found. He had said he would be there, and that he looked forward to it, but apparently he had taken the night off. Totally fine, but what happened without him watching over his flock was not fine at all.

After about a 20-minute walk in 105-degree heat from our place to the restaurant, we arrived, wilted and with a birthday cake that was about to slide apart. When we were seated, we asked the waitress if she would mind bringing it to the kitchen to be refrigerated. We explained that we had cleared it with the chef.

She was not interested. She snarled at us, rolled her eyes, and tossed the cake box on the table next to ours. “I am going to give you the specials now,” she said, like a school marm to her class rowdy teens. I was perplexed. “We can wait on the specials,” I replied. “Would you mind bringing the cake to the fridge first? We’ve been walking in the heat and it’s about to fall apart.” “I said I was going to read you the specials, so here they are,” she replied, glaring at me. That was the first sign that something was up. We’d never had rude service at JTH before. And this was more than rude, it felt personal and mean. Why not just take the cake in the kitchen and do us a solid?

Strong claims that she gave JtH a second chance recently. As is often the case with a very popular restaurant (you know in places like MANHATTAN), the host was straightfoward with the blogger telling her it was unlikely that her party of 3 would be seated in less than 45 minutes. Feh, here’s her account:

Me: Hi, do you have room for three for dinner?
Host (male, bearded, pale-faced, stoic): Do you have a reservation?”
Me: No, unfortunately, we don’t. Do you have any room for walk-ins?
Host: No.
Me: So there is no possibility of a table tonight?
Host: No.
Me: Do you think if we waited at the bar a table might open up?
Host: No.
Me (increasingly amazed that this man is employed in the hospitality business as he seems capable only of saying the word “No”): We can wait. We’re not in a rush.
Host: Well, it will be at least 30 minutes. PAUSE. Actually it will be more like 45 minutes to an hour.
Me (thinking, Could he be any less welcoming? Does he not realize that diners who actually eat in your restaurant not in someone else’s are what keep you in business?): Goodbye.

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  • TB

    It’s true though. Service is iffy at best. We’ve had a waiter slam an overfull cocktail down on the table and have it splash everywhere, then not help clean up the mess he made.

    On more than one occasion our servers have disappeared and been snotty. It’s really too bad because the food is good and the atmosphere is nice.
    The owner NEEDS to do something.

  • Hicks St Guy

    I had a bimbo hostess tell me there’s a 30 minute wait, got a drink,
    after 15 minutes asked how’s the wait, told it was 45 minutes.
    g’bye, sad, because I really like Tim.

  • http://brooklynheightsblog.com Qfwfq

    Of course, the real news here is that people still read Strong Buzz.

  • Matthew Parker

    Went back to JtH for the first time in a long time. My gripe is that the menu is static, but they do have good food. Not great food, but good food. Cocktails are also good, not great, but good.

    I’ve been to JtH approx 20x since it opened and have had good/very good service each time.

    Just one man’s opinion.

  • EHinBH

    Anyone who walked 20 minutes in 105-degree weather is a little cracked. Taxi? I just dont get it, the food is not AAA, but it is very good and I have had great service every time.

  • Drew

    JtH = MEH!

  • Mickey

    What does her walk have anything to do with JtH? Just indicates she already had an attitude when she got there. And I’d rather have the Maitre D’ tell me there wouldn’t be a table available than have him tell me 20 minutes and find myself still sitting at the bar hungry an hour later.

  • north heights res

    Every time I’ve eaten or had a drink there, the staff make me feel as though they’re doing me some sort of a favor by deigning to serve me.

  • travy

    i don’t want to pile on but in the few times i’ve been there i’ve found the restaurant’s opinion of itself to be inflated and this woman’s rant rings true to me. i eat out most nights and rarely go there.

    sigh, just another downside of our crappy restaurant scene.

  • Clintonious Wow

    I like it and the people are always really nice!

  • Matt

    Homer, why is your tone so dismissive? All of the commenters agree that JtH is mediorce, at very best.

  • David G.

    I love the location and the drinks but the food and service are kind of middling. Someone needs to open up a better restaurant in the north heights.

  • Holly Martins

    Meh…sounds like a typical night out and typical NY waiters.

    /not from around these parts

  • Gerry

    Hey Hicks Street Guy,

    Was the Bimbo rude also?

    We were in JTH and the Bimbo was dumb and rude it was a cold day my wife asked the Bimbo if she owned a turtle neck?

    Service here is sporadic to say the least.

  • Quinn Raymond

    You know, I really love Jack the Horse Tavern.

    And I am continually appalled by how eager some of you are to insult the people who feed you.

    If you don’t like the restaurant because the waitstaff are not up to your rigorous standards, don’t go. I can’t say the rest of the us will miss you. And I would love to see any of you work a single shift as a waiter.

    I hope you guys don’t act this way offline too…

  • Holly Martins

    Quinn Raymond….lolwut??

    You mean to say that working a shift as a waiter is so tough that being rude, dismissive and arrogant is an expected outcome? Please, do tell me more…

  • Heightsguy

    I doubt if anyone on this venue has ever worked as a waiter, true. Maybe a few did in college.

  • Quinn Raymond

    Perhaps some of you have had radically different experiences than we did, or maybe we’re just less sensitive? I suppose either of those things are possible.

    But calling a waitress a bimbo?

    I just don’t understand where all the vitriol comes from. Ya’ll live in an idyllic, beautiful neighborhood with plenty of nice restaurants, but all you do is complain about small things.

  • AEB

    What?! First rule in the hospitality business is to treat customers graciously. Staff needn’t fawn–in fact, fawning is objectionable. But one must feel that one’s presence in the restaurant,one’s business, is welcomed.

    The problem is that young people who resent service often choose service positions. It doesn’t take long for defiant, often passive-aggressive (to use that over-worked term) behavior, like that of the host mentioned above, to occur.

    The job of the boss is to nip such hostility in the bud. Unfortunately, she or he can’t, often, afford to be short-handed, thus dead wood remains and reputations take a hit.

    Obviously JtH has something of a history of impolite/impolitic service. Despite exceptions, there seems to be a consensus on the point. The cake matter mentioned above is outrageous–the server should have been canned, or at least reprimanded, following service.

    The rule of thumb: how would you treat dinner guests in your own house? Their pleasure while there is your responsibility, and so it should be for the staff of any restaurant. Even Great Wall!

  • Teddy


    You’re so right about young people who resent service often taking service positions. I’ve noticed this at several places. Sometimes it seems like my waiter/waitress is in shock that they’re running around with trays in their hands. At times, I can feel the contempt they have toward their job. Of course I’ve encountered those who seemed happy (maybe they were new).

  • AEB

    For those people, Teddy, the job is construed as a gig, rather than something requiring even temporary commitment to professionalism.

    Ever been in the hands of a really good waiter–someone who strikes the right balance between attentiveness and discretion, who’s cordial but not overly familiar, and also knows his or her stuff to the letter? A pleasure!

    Customers can be rough, but the point is to know how to handle…everyone whom you serve.

  • Peter

    Having eaten at JtH about 25 times I can say the following:

    –We’ve never has a bad meal — far from it. We’ve loved almost every dish we’ve ever had.

    — Indeed, I wish the menu changed a bit more.

    — Some of the staff can be a bit inattentive but they’ve always been perfectly pleasant. We even have a favorie waiter there (hi, Chad!) who we’ll wait for if he has a table opening up soon.

    — On 3 occasions we’ve had comically BAD service… polite, but incompetent. For whatever reason, those were also the only 3 times we were served by a female (a different one every time — and always tge only female server in the house). All 3 times we said something to Tim and we never saw the same waitress there again.

  • Heights Mom

    I’ve found the service/restaurant to be full of itself too. I know this blogger and don’t think she was exaggerating – I think all that probably really happened. I’ll just never go back because I didn’t think the food was that great and really don’t need the attitude.

  • BklynJace

    I refuse to go to brunch there any more because you can count on incompetent service, and I don’t need my blood boiling on a weekend. That said, they’ve always been pleasant while being maddeningly clueless….

  • Topham Beauclerk

    Very rarely have I ever encountered the sort of rudeness one finds at JTH at a Manhattan restaurant.

  • Hicks St Guy

    @Quinn, I can’t complain about food if I have never been
    a commercial cook? can’t complain about bad service if
    I’ve never been a waitstaff? c’mon.
    I would only return when the place is not busy.
    @Gerry, don’t remember is she was rude, cold probably,
    but not rude. shame is I love the ambiance, the food is
    creative and tasty, the mixed drinks are terrific and the
    owner is a great guy.

  • V

    Sit at the bar. Problem solved.

  • my2cents

    I’ve never had a bad meal there. In fact, my meals there have consistently been very good. Generally, I have generally found the service to be attentive and not rude, though nothing to write home about. I never go there for brunch though. Just dinner. I do think the place was better when it was first opened compared to nowadays.

  • Heights Mom

    If the owner is such a great guy he should have a talk with his wait/host staff – the number of people, even just on this blog, who have commented on the shoddy service and attitude, says many share this experience.

  • william

    @Hicks St Guy
    I’ve gone to JtH a few times, and if the “bimbo” you’re referring to is the same as the hostess I assume you are referring to, she is a hot blonde, sure. But far from a bimbo. I had a lengthy conversation with her on my way out and she was nothing but gracious and great for conversation. The fact that you would stoop so low to insult her like that because you had to wait at the bar for 15 minutes says a lot about the people she and the entire waitstaff have to deal with on a regular basis.