A few weeks before leaving for the honeymoon, we made a last minute change and trimmed the first day from our wine country hotel stay to spend a night between Eureka and Sonoma in Mendocino, CA. We heard it was a beautiful town and worth a stop. It was also a bit of an intermediary on the drive from Eureka, so we decided to check it out. Turns out, Mendocino is beautiful. It’s a artsy, hippie town built into the side of the ocean. We were in town after most of the shops closed, but we could easily see the charm. We checked out a few restaurants in town, but nothing tickled our fancy, so we went back to our inn and decided to try the restaurant there.
The Little River Inn as a place to stay was quite lovely. Our room had a great view of the ocean and we enjoyed our adirondack chairs with a bottle of wine later that night.
The restaurant itself was listed as having an ocean view (on a 3rd party website, so not the inn’s fault)… but it didn’t. It looked onto a very nice garden, however.
They pride themselves on being a family run inn and restaurant, with one of the owners cooking in the kitchen.
As soon as we sat down and perused the menu, I informed our waitress that I had an allergy to peppers and was interested in a fish/sea food dish (since we were right on the water). She went to the kitchen and came back to inform me that there were really only 2 fish dishes that I could have: the fish and chips and the pine nut crusted salmon. While not a huge fan of salmon, I had been liking the Pacific Northwest salmons and I LOVE pine nuts, so I opted for that. It also came with spinach puree, parmesan polenta and basil coulis which all sounded great.
A few minutes later, the waitress came out to inform me that the spinach puree actually had some peppers in it, so I changed that to broccolini instead. She offered “plain?” And I responded that was fine (but finding it peculiar that she didn’t offer any other way other than “plain.”)
Out came some parker house rolls, which were decent but needed some salt.
Mike and I split the wedge salad, which the restaurant kindly split for us (always tough to cut a wedge at the table to split). The bacon on this was fantastic and a really nice blue cheese dressing.
Mike got the flat iron steak with green peppercorn Diane sauce, crispy red onions,smashed red potatoes and green beans almondine. It smelled great and tasted great. Nice char and the sauce was really good.
But then mine came out…
pine nut crusted salmon with polenta, spinach puree and basil coulis. Um…
As soon as I looked at it, I asked the waitress what happened. She informed me that there were peppers and paprika in “everything.” I asked her why she didn’t inform me of that before serving it (like she did the spinach) and why she told me at the beginning that this was a safe dish.
Her response: “Well the kitchen didn’t tell me until now.”
So I tried to smile and began to dig in. It was plain (very plain) salmon with plain (very plain) polenta and plain (very plain) broccolini. At least the last one was expected.
I got really angry at this moment. I mean COME ON… a little white wine? A little lemon? Maybe a little SALT? SOMETHING?!?!
And no warning.
This was not okay.
So I called over the waitress and she once again tried to defend herself (and only herself) that she wasn’t told until the end. So I nicely informed her that this dish was listed as a $29 dish, but since I didn’t receive most of the items on the menu, I didn’t expect to pay the full price. She immediately said she would get a manager.
And then I got red. (Really red… Mike says).
I was mad.
ALL. THE. TIME.
I’d rather they serve me plain things than things with peppers all over them, just as a safety, but this was still completely inappropriate service. If they informed me this is how it would have been served, I would have gotten something else. Anything else.
But then the manager came over and immediately apologized, said there were no excuses at all, and mentioned that when he saw it come out he thought it looked pretty bad as well. He said he was going to comp the dish entirely and would like to offer us a dessert on the house in the hope that we would try them again.
And you know what… I would.
I was so mad at first but he immediately said all the right things. Mistakes happen, but it’s about how you react to it. And this was the right reaction (if not above and beyond). I always feel bad when comps happen at restaurants (I know it costs the owners money), but in the end, if mistakes happen, reactions matter. They matter more than the mistakes. And this mistake was entirely avoidable had someone just informed me ahead of time and given me an option.
As for the dessert, we decided to take it back to our room, which I’m sure led the restaurant to scramble to figure out a way to package their warm Olallieberry Cobbler with ice cream “to go.” But they did so and this was absolutely awesome. It reminded me of a pop tart but with fresh, rich, layered flavors.
It’s a bit hard to give Little River Inn a fair review, but if I take out the salmon dish all together, everything else was great. So based on that, and on the fact that the manager went above and beyond when such an egregious mistake was made in the kitchen, I can recommend this restaurant in Mendocino quite highly.
Total Nom Points: 6.5 out of 10