People who know me well know there is very little I love in life more than a good taco. I also get upset when tacos are disrespected.
I was rather excited to go to the Grand Opening of Fuse Taco in Bethesda today. This is a brand new restaurant taking the place of Bold Bite and formerly SmashBurger. (At least, those are the restaurants that have been there while I have worked in the office building across the street). This is a unstable corner in Bethesda. I have now seen three restaurants in the lower level and two separate restaurants occupying the upper levels. The only consistency in this corner has been Dunkin Donuts which reliably caffeinates this part of downtown Bethesda.
Fuse Taco is a fusion joint aimed at representing flavors from around the world. The design of the interior certainly looks better than its last occupant. This restaurant has some significant issues to work through if they have any hopes of being successful in the sea of restaurants in Bethesda, especially since they are across the street from California Tortilla (an ever-busy joint in this part of Bethesda).
I brought some co-workers along to try out this new taco joint during their Grand Opening. I was interested to taste some of these flavors from around the world. I planned to try a carnitas and a taj mahal taco, representing flavors from Mexico and India.
The menu actually seems quite well-developed and has achieved their goal of representing a diversity of flavors. There were a number of tacos that I was interested in trying at some point.
I can tell, however that the owner, Kaz Kazmi, does not have a specialty in tacos. They are currently offering their tacos in flour tortillas or lettuce wraps. The lack of corn tortillas to me shows a huge flaw in their menu. Any true taco connoisseur would say that the most proper and best way to eat tacos are in corn tortillas. Having a great masa tortilla can bring a taco-eating experience from from decent to amazing. I would never open a taco joint without corn tortillas.
Before I go into the service, I want to preface it by stating that this was their first day fully open after a soft opening yesterday. Going to a Grand Opening, I expect there to be some hiccups. However, what we witnessed today was probably enough to dissuade people from returning.
When we put in our order, there was a very short line of people, but there was a significant number of people waiting for their food. The whole restaurant actually looked full of people waiting for their order. We had already put in our order when we noticed this, but this was not looking like this would be a quick experience.
We ultimately waited an hour for our food. It took an hour for us to get tacos. It is absurd to me that I even just typed that sentence. A couple of my co-workers commented that these better be some really good tacos. I don’t know what happened, but they clearly did not have their kitchen rolling yet, even though there were several people working in the kitchen. I just can’t imagine how it was taking that long to make tacos.
The owner didn’t seem to take any responsibility for the issues they were having. He said that normally orders would take 10-15 minutes. He even pointed to this one guy and said, “He’s been waiting for an hour; that’s just not right,” as if this wasn’t his restaurant and his employees slowing things down. As an owner or a manager of a restaurant, it is your responsibility to make sure service runs smoothly.
After waiting for an hour, we went back to our office to divide the tacos. We made one large order because I charged it to a company card, and it seemed better than charging the card 11 times. My boss probably would not have like that.
For the most part, the order was right. We just didn’t get enough tacos for what we ordered, and we were missing our sides. Plus, we ordered three tacos in lettuce wraps, and everything we got was in a tortilla. I should also mention that we ordered them to go, and they had to re-package the order because they did not put them in to-go boxes.
One of my co-workers went back to get the order corrected, and the manager/owner audibly gave attitude to his staff about us. He said that our order was complete, and that our order is what slowed them down. Before I get into how incredibly rude he was being, he was also wrong. They were obviously already behind when we got there because there were tons of single people waiting for a long time for their orders. He even pointed out to us a guy who put in his order before us who had been waiting for an hour. Even so, it is not the customers fault for the kitchen being slow.
Our order was also not complete when we were missing some tacos and our sides. Even if they want to blame our order for slowing you down, they can’t blame us for the order being wrong. We didn’t make the food.
My advice to this restaurant owner would be to be careful what you say around your customers. People don’t want to be trash-talked for just trying to get a fair exchange for their money. We paid money to eat your food. We expect to get what we paid for and not get attitude when you get our order wrong. That is not our fault; that is yours. Neither was it our fault that you didn’t have yourselves together yet.
This restaurant is also primely located in the midst of several offices buildings in downtown Bethesda. You should expect to have significant traffic during lunch rush. Just stop by Dunkin in the morning, and you’ll get an idea. You could have easily had 11 people in a row walk into their restaurant causing just as much traffic. You need to be able to keep up with demand, or your restaurant is going to fail. No reasonable person wants to wait an hour for mediocre tacos. I highly doubt anyone from my office is going to be returning to this establishment.
As for the food, I thought it was alright. Some of my co-workers were not as picky and said they were good tacos. I have higher standards when it comes to tacos because I was spoiled in Texas with great tacos. The fillings were pretty good, but the tacos were cold and almost stale. The tortillas were very hard and tasted cheap. I think I will stick to making my own tacos for now.
I was there yesterday and although the wait was longer than anticipated, I do sympathise with restaurant owners on opening day. Imagine the stress and amount of things they have to think about. It’s a shame your order wasn’t as you hoped, but I definitely wouldn’t rule them out just because of opening day mishaps.
When I got my food, I did genuinely enjoy it and was apologised to profusely for the wait. And later that same night, a friend of mine checked it out and got his taco in 5 minutes, which I suppose is great progress for the same day.
All I’m saying is let’s hope that if you do again, you have a much better experience and I’m sure you will 🙂
That is good to hear that things got better later in the day. I imagined that would probably happen. I do capitulate that opening day in a restaurant must be very stressful. I have never opened a restaurant myself. I was understanding of the wait, and it didn’t bother me too much (other than knowing I needed to get back to work). What upset me was the attitude my co-worker got when she tried to get our order fixed. She was very sweet about it. The staff was nice to her, but response from management in my opinion was unacceptable.
To put things into perspective, I typically give very positive restaurant reviews. It takes a lot for me to be this discouraged from a restaurant experience. After I cool down, I may reconsider going back, but more likely I will go to Gringos and Mariachis up the street if I am in the mood for tacos.