Sunday, November 23, 2008


Steph has once again ventured into an East Memphis chain restaurant! As usual, she provides us with some laughs and some fascinating insider info on the restaurant industry...

6450 Poplar Ave

On a warm late-fall evening not too long ago, we decided that dinner would be much more fun if it were served to us on a restaurant patio. We chose Cozymel's, a chain Mexican restaurant close to our house. Why did we choose a chain, when there were locally-owned patios nearby as well? Long ago, when we were young, we used to spend a lot of time drinking margaritas at Cozy's and we've always had a soft spot for the place. Besides, sometimes the consistency you find at a chain restaurant is comforting.

We arrived and found that despite the weather, the outdoor seating was not yet full. The patio at Cozymel's has about 6-8 tables, all in one row across the front of the building. (They also have a semi-patio that is covered but has open windows and doors that create a breeze. They can all be closed up in the winter, though.) We were seated on one end of this row, next to a couple who were probably in their sixties. Next to them was an empty table, and on the other side of that was a couple with two boys. The boys were in that 10-yr-old range, give or take. On the other end of the patio was a table of people who were clearly just there to drink. They were a little rowdy, but left soon after we got there.

We sat down and immediately requested a high chair for Chloe and an order of cheese dip for the table. Although Chloe is big for a child who is 2.75 years old, it is a well-documented fact that she always does better when strapped in. Chip and I immediately started debating our margarita choice-Cozy's has a large margarita menu with a lot of fun flavors and combinations. However, they also make a standard margarita really well too. There's no way to go wrong here, other than to have more than one. (They're so filling! And also, full of tequila.) Chip chose a vanilla margarita and I ordered pomegranate. We were also pleased, as always, with their excellent chips and salsa. The corporate standards were coming through for us early.

We had decided on the way that we would get the cheese dip so that we would only need one meal for the kids-they tend to fill up on chips and dip. However, as soon as we sat down Connor requested chicken nuggets and Chloe asked for a quesadilla, so we ended up getting two meals. (They both came with fries, a drink, and a dessert--banana pudding, which only Chloe would eat.) This prompted our first discussion with the table next to us. The couple turned around to ask how old Chloe was, and to comment on how well she said the word "quesadilla." I gave Dora her props, we all smiled, and the Chockleys turned back to their basket of chips.

As we ordered the kids' meals, the chicken flautas, and the fried calamari (Chip and I had decided to share two appetizers), we noticed that the boys from a few tables down were running wild up and down the patio. I wasn't too upset at this point, since the drunk people hadn't left yet and the atmosphere on the patio was still a little loose. However, I had just admonished Connor to use his inside voice, even though we were outside, because the patio is part of the restaurant. I worried that he would see those boys and use it as an excuse to get rowdy again, but he didn't.

Our food came quickly, and we all enjoyed what we ordered. None of it is the best I've ever had, but it was good enough to make me happy about our decision to get out of the house. The kids are always good at Mexican restaurants because they are occupied by the constant presence of the chips, although as I suspected they didn't eat too much of their meals. (I boxed it up and they ate it the next night for dinner, so I can't complain too much.) Also, they were given crayons and kids' menus to color on, a small gesture that goes a long way with my little Picassos.

Soon, I couldn't help but overhear some grumbling at the table next to ours. Finally the man behind us asked the server to get a manager out here. Uh oh. As a veteran of a corporate restaurant, I started assessing the situation in my head. Was the food bad? Service slow? Plastic/staples/errant hair in his food? I hadn't noticed any problems up to that point, and sadly I am always aware of those kinds of things-I haven't waited tables in eight years, but some habits are hard to break. The manager came and our neighbor neatly laid it out there: "Those boys are out of control and ruining my meal, and it's your responsibility to do something about it." Wow- I've seen that issue debated on many message boards, but I've never heard someone cut to the chase quite like that before.

Chip and I tried to exchange a smug look without giggling, and held our breath to see what the manager would do. He agreed with the man and walked over to the parents of the Wild Boys. We couldn't hear what he said, but those kids were soon in their seats. The manager brought our neighbors a free dessert and apologized for the problem at the other table. Once the couple finished the dessert and paid their bill, they turned back to us. "Do your kids have a piggy bank?" they asked. Seems they wanted to give each of my kids a crisp new dollar bill to reward them for their good behavior. Suddenly I liked the family at the other end of the patio-they made us look great by comparison!

But soon we learned that the other family hadn't learned a lesson from this little incident at all. As soon as our kindly benefactors left the restaurant, the boys were given the green light to once again treat the patio like a playground. It seems the parents had only agreed to contain their kids as long as the complainers were there! Did they think that because no one else had said anything, that no one else cared? Where was the manager to remind them how to act? Well, it turns out the manager was in the back fixing them free desserts. That's right. After apologizing to the couple next to us for the fact that someone else's kids were ill-behaved, the manager then turned around and apologized to the rude parents for the fact that someone had complained. Oh, the life of a corporate restaurant manager! Everyone has to be happy, and everyone has to want to come back. I remembered right then why I got out of the chain game, and felt sorry for that manager. But I felt even more sorry for the patrons and staff at the next restaurant this family decides to terrorize. No matter what the manager at Cozymel's might lead you to believe, it is NEVER okay to let your kids run around like that. Shame on you for encouraging your boys to act like that, Cozymel's family!

Watching all this drama unfold really didn't dominate our meal the way it did this review. But I felt it was important to remind people that in a corporate restaurant, you can get anything you want by being the squeaky wheel. More specifically, it shows that you can get the management to do something about wild kids in situations like these. They might not kick the family out, or even convince them that their kids should sit in their chairs while out in public, but at least you'll be able to enjoy your meal in peace.

I feel comfortable recommending Cozymel's. The food is consistently good, if not at all authentic. It has a good patio, and is a great choice if you want to munch on chips and salsa while enjoying a nice, big margarita. It is a little on the expensive side, though, so be smarter than I was and let your kids split one meal between them. And as always, make sure your kids behave. You never know who will be willing to pay them for their good manners.

Cozymel's Mexican Grill on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

Nitegator said...

I have not been there, I have tasted some of their stuff at the Zoo Rendezvous a few times in the past.

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