Monday, July 20, 2009

Gulf Port Grill

Gulf Port Grill
Mud Island

The Gulf Port Grill is located at the tip of Mud Island, near the "Gulf of Mexico." It's in an ideal location and it's got something no other restaurant in town has--water play out front!

On Saturday the monkeys (Satchel, 7, and Jiro, 5) and I made our annual trek to Mud Island. The whole time we were there, I was thinking back to the Mud Island River Park planning meetings we attended, imaging what things might one day be like. (My mental picture included us on skateboards.)

Our purpose in visiting the island was to check out the new pedal boats shaped like swans, a dragon, and a ship. (The ship is actually beached for whatever reason, so there are only three working boats.) When we got to the "Gulf of Mexico" I went into the Gulf Port Grill to buy our tickets. The woman behind the counter informed me that it would be an hour an a half wait. "Huh" I muttered looking around. The island was definitely bustling, but I didn't see a line forming anywhere near the dock.

"Are you sure?" I asked. She nodded vigorously as a young man came in and announced, "I have two open boats." I looked at him and said, "I'll take one!"

We got right into a waiting swan. (I thought for sure the monkeys would complain that we weren't in the dragon, but they didn't.) I had briefly considered letting the monkeys go it alone (at their request) but once we got close, they chickened out. I don't think they would have been allowed to go without me anyway. As a compromise, I let Satchel steer. In order to do so, he sat in the middle of the boat, right behind the swan's neck. This did not give him the best visibility and our entire ride was fraught with distress as he steered us the wrong way again and again!

Once we finished our ride, the monkeys begged for French fries. I had purposely stuffed them before leaving because I remembered that the food was extremely overpriced on the island. And I could think of a million other places I'd rather eat. However, we were parked at my office near Beale Street and I needed them to have some fuel for the long journey back to the car! I only had enough cash for the trolley, so the verdict depended on whether or not the Gulf Port Grill accepted credit cards.

I ran inside, saw that they took cards, and then went back out to make sure that the wading monkeys really only wanted fries, and nothing else. "Chips!" they said. "Chips and French fries? I don't know about that," I said, but they insisted. In the time it took them to dry off, it seems everyone and their brother got in line ahead of us. "This doesn't look good, " I said. I was ready to pull stakes. "Let's get some food back by the trolley stop," I suggested.

"Please! We want to eat here!" they persisted. They ran ahead and got a bag of chips and sat down at a table while I waited in line. When I was getting close to the front, I heard the woman in front of me request some pedal boat tickets. (Yes the food line and the boat line is the same!) The woman behind the counter told her it would be 30 minutes. She looked at her two small girls and said, "I don't know if we can make it 30 minutes. Let's ride the boats next time, OK?"

I looked at their said little faces and then whispered to her that it probably wouldn't take that long and that earlier the woman had mistakenly told me an hour and a half. (It's only fun for about ten minutes, so everyone finishes early.) She thanked me, and bought her tickets. I watched as she walked right over and got a boat. (I have no idea why the woman behind the counter likes to discourage everyone from riding. It *seemed* like she thought she was doing everyone a favor, but clearly, her concept of time was off.)

As I inched closer, I peeked at the menu. Burgers, chicken tenders, catfish, and fries. Maybe a grilled cheese. When I finally ordered I went ahead and got some chicken tenders, fries, and a Diet Coke since I could tell that it was going to be a long wait. Despite not trusting the woman behind the counter at all, I asked, "How long do you think it will be?"

She responded with, "Oh I can't say." (Was she reading my mind?)

I went back and joined the monkeys for a game of "Eye Spy." As we each took multiple turns, I watched as everyone around me grew extremely impatient. I craned my neck and peekedin the kitchen. There was one woman working as fast as she could, but she just had too many orders.

After about 45 minutes of "Where are the French fries?" my patience ran out. I informed the monkeys that I was getting my money back. This had never happened before in all of our eating adventures. Satchel's eyes lit up. I think he was excited to see it all go down.

I marched over to the counter, waited for the woman to notice me, and then asked for my money back. "Oh, I'm not allowed to do that," she said.

I looked at her and said, "What do you mean you aren't allowed to give me my money back?"

She replied with, "Yours will be right out."

The last order to be called was #2. I was #5. There was a loooong wait between orders.

"No, it won't," I said. "I can't wait any longer."

I couldn't!

She asked me what I had again, then went into the kitchen. Two seconds later she came back with my order. I'm assuming she stole it from someone's else's order, but maybe it really was ready and the woman in the kitchen just needed help?

Appeased, I took the food over to the table. Satchel was disappointed I didn't get my money back, but happy to have his French fries. I was actually surprised to find both the fries and the chicken to be very good--crispy and not greasy at all. Also the portions were large enough for the three of us all to have a decent sized snack. That was some consolation.

Had I ordered ten minutes earlier we could have avoided the whole infinite wait, but I still think the system at the Gulf Port Grill is flawed. And the menu is certainly lacking, along with the staff.

When I saw Kevin Kane and his family walking over the bridge on our return trip, I resisted giving him a mouthful.

I now have something to add to my wishlist for Mud Island River Park: a decent place to eat! (I did notice another restaurant closer to the entrance and it had the word "deli" on the window. I can't imagine it's much better, but maybe it is. I probably won't ever find out for myself.

At the next round of planning meetings, I will put "Jerry's Sno Cones" next to my request for a world class skatepark.


Ginger said...

We had a similarly awful experience there . . . credit card machine was broken, rude employees, were told that the wait for the boats was really long when it seemed no one else was waiting, etc. How hard could this be?

Unknown said...

We were just there last week. Luckily we only ordered bottled water because we had snacks from the Peanut Shoppe on Main Street. But the place was packed with kids and out-of-towners. They could sell tons more if they tried harder.

Aaron said...

I am impressed you even tried. Honestly, the whole set-up over there is terrible.

What's the incentive for good service? They all get paid regardless of whether operations are profitable or not.

The food space should be leased to new local restaurant owners and serve perhaps as a business incubator.

There are some many options that could be explored.

See you at the next meeting!

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