Yelp! Review: The Partisan in Washington, DC

Three Star review, originally posted here on June 7, 2014.

I work nearby and LOVE grabbing lunch from Red Apron (the connected posh butcher shop), so when I noticed that they have a hip-looking bar in the back, I could not wait to give it a shot. When we finally got to swing by for drinks one night, we were not disappointed. The space is beautiful, our drinks were good, and our bartender was attentive, friendly, and helpful. When we saw a drunk guy next to us accidentally order a giant platter of meats, our mouths began watering and we vowed to come back for dinner.

Fast forward a few weeks, and we found ourselves in Penn Quarter one evening in need of food. We walked in and saw the dining area was full, so we headed to the bar to see if we could just eat there. The bar was full, but one of the 2-seater tables was empty. It’s not at all clear what the deal is with these tables (are they part of the bar or the restaurant? are they first come first serve? etc), so we stood next to it for a minute to hold it until we managed to stop a passing waiter and ask him. He said the tables are for dining only, and we had to check in with the hostess. No problem! We walked back up to the front, asked the hostess about the table, and she said “No problem! Follow me!” and lead us back to the table with menus. We were gone for less than a minute, but as we walked back into the bar another couple was helping themselves to the table.

“They just stole our table,” I said aloud. The hostess agreed, but froze like a deer in headlights. This is the point where she should have politely kicked those people out. But she didn’t. She just muttered something about how people are supposed to ask her but most people don’t bother. She looked scared and uncomfortable and not sure of what to do. I can get that. I mean, her only job is to make sure that people sit where they are supposed to, but I understand that most people are uncomfortable with confrontation, etc.

Just then, some other woman swooped in, I guess to save the day. She seemed to be some sort of manager type I guess. She also should have kicked out the other customers, but instead she told us that another table should open up in about 15 minutes and we could wait at the bar (no we couldn’t- bar was full- that’s why we needed a table in the first place). I was ready to just leave, but my boyfriend was dead set on staying, so he gave our name for the wait list and we elbowed ourselves into a crevice near the bar. I’m assuming this manager person was trying to just keep everyone happy and giving both couples a table seemed like a better overall solution to her than only giving us a table and kicking out other people. I get that. I understand what she was trying to do and can appreciate it.

A few minutes pass, and another table frees up. Having seen first hand that these people are not going to bother kicking people out if they snake others for the tables, I decided to not risk it and went to sit down to make sure nobody else wound up stealing it while we waited for them to call us up from the wait list. I sat there patiently while my boyfriend closed his bar tab, and then was suddenly confronted by yet another employee. In the most stereotypically snooty voice ever, he asked me if I was on the wait list for that table. I said yes. He kept eying me suspiciously, then asked what name we had used. I told him I think it was under “Mike.” Then he said “I’m going to go check if you are REALLY on the wait list for this table.” You have GOT to be kidding me. I understand that he needed to check to make sure people weren’t snaking tables. He didn’t need to be an arrogant dickwad about it, but it’s an important part of his job. I get that.

Here’s what I DON’T get…

…I don’t get the complete inconsistency. You can either let the tables be a total free-for-all, or you can enforce your rules. You CANNOT selectively enforce at will. I have never felt so undervalued as a customer as on that night, when I watched the staff both give away our original table and then try to kick us out of our replacement table. It was probably (hopefully) just a temporary breakdown in their communication system, but it’s an important breakdown that needs to be fixed PRONTO. Plus all of this could be avoided if they just found a way of clarifying the deal with those tables (I’ve noticed this issue pop up in other reviews). Just a little card on the table that says “For dining customers only- please see hostess.”

Anyway, despite snooty guy we eventually got to eat. I’m still giving this place an average rating because our drinks-only visit was good, and our food was seriously delicious. I like that the menu is set up by size of portions, though the inconsistent pricing on some items mystified me. I also really appreciated our waiter, who did a great job of walking us (non-foodies) through the kinda confusing menu without being at all condescending like his coworker. Will give it another shot sometime.

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