Perhaps the worst restaurant experience I've ever had, The Charthouse goes down in our family's memories as not just having awful food, but management who seem to be more than okay with that.
I took five relatives from Australia to the docks for lunch, eager to show them what Steveston had to offer. Wait times at other restaurants that I knew were good led us to try something I hadn't been to before, so The Charthouse got the nod. Terrible choice.
I had a BLT that was served up with yellow lettuce and tomato that tasted partly frozen. My mother had fish and chips that looked like it was previously frozen - not great, considering the restaurant is right there on the docks where fresh fish comes in every morning. The two kids had a burger and chicken strips... the burger was so overcooked a hungry 9-year-old boy turned it away halfway through - the first burger he hadn't finished in three weeks in Vancouver. The chicken strips, which were obviously of the frozen variety, had evidence that they had been fried once, then put back in the fridge, then fried again. The only bite our girl took of them, you could see two shades of colour in the bread crumbs, one for the first fry and another for the second. They had the consistency of hockey pucks.
When I pointed this out to the harried waitress, she acted as if she'd seen it a hundred times before, moving to taking our plates back without raising an eyebrow. I pointed out that, while I'm not usually a complainer, this was beyond the pale and I'd like to speak to the manager, so I'd like the plates left behind so I could demonstrate what I was complaining about.
The manager arrived - after twenty minutes of our sitting there - and asked what the problem is. I pointed to the yellow lettuce in my BLT, which he said was "the heart of the lettuce", like that's a selling point. I reminded him that the heart of the lettuce is sweet, which isn't what a BLT demands, he just shrugged his shoulders and said "what else?"
I pointed to the hockey puck chicken strips and he said "that's how chicken strips are". I asked him to try one and he refused, saying he wasn't hungry. He objected to my saying the fish and chips was frozen, vowing that it was fresh. Laughable.
Finally, by the time showed him the charburger, he just rolled his eyes and said we could only have two of the meals comped.
I told him I wasn't looking for freebies, that I wanted him to know what was up with his food because I assumed he'd be shocked and want to get to the bottom of it, being a proud restauranteur. Suffice to say, he couldn't have cared less, and actually tried to justify the horrible food served under his banner.
In the end I think three of our meals were comped, and as we waited for our bills, I tapped a passing busboy on the shoulder and asked if he thought the food was good. He said, "Sure, I guess." I asked whether he'd eat the chicken strips on the plate in front of him.. he looked around the room to be sure nobody was listening and said, "No freakin' way. This place sucks."
Next time we'll walk across to Reflections or hope the wait at Tapanade isn't too long. As for The Charthouse, it will always be a running joke in our family... "I guess I Charthoused the pasta, hey honey?"