So the other night we happened to check out Kauai's newest restaurant, Tiano's--formerly Oki Diner--on their opening night. We had no idea it was their first night. Frankly I wouldn't have chosen to try them on their first night because heck, I've watched enough Kitchen Nightmares where the "made over" restaurants are given brand new menus and expected to perform to a full house that same night to Chef Ramsey's expletives-deleted accompaniment. I figured they do that just for the TV drama because the producers hope for chaos to make "good TV." Well they probably could've brought their cameras over to Tiano's because there seemed to be almost as much opening stress that night.
|Delicious rolls were freshly baked!|
|Chef's Chopped Salad...yummy!|
|The meatloaf looked good.....|
|The steak was done perfectly,|
but Blazing Steaks is better.
This doesn't usually happen, but we all ordered beef that night: meatloaf, hamburger steak, and steak. Leonard absolutely hated the meatloaf and I didn't disagree with him because I tried it. School lunch meatloaf is better, IMHO! He was especially annoyed because it was labeled "Mama's" or something like that and he said you'd expect it to be good if it has someone's identity associated with it. Maybe their Mama is a lousy cook, who knows really? It seemed to be pure meat, but low quality gristle-y meat. The only positive was the generous serving.
|Third beef plate: hamburger steak.|
Yes, they all look alike.
I think Tiano's problem is that they're attempting the heroic: low-priced gourmet. The food looked good, served on heavy plates, so you--perhaps unreasonably--expect gourmet. For instance, perhaps they want to offer a gourmet meatloaf that has a lot of beef, but to keep the price down, they're using lower quality beef. I say go ahead and use bread like the rest of us! I could be wrong, but personally I like meatloaf that almost falls apart from the bread. Same for hamburger patties. I know for a fact that those "old-fashioned" hamburger patties that we love have a lot of bread in them. (My grandma had a soda fountain in Palama and made very delicious hamburger patties.) I do appreciate their attempt at trying to give us upscale for moderate pricing (the three beef dishes were around $11.99-$12.99), but they may be aiming too high.
When the waitress brought the check, she neglected to tell us that the "cash only" message on the receipt was incorrect. After I had triumphantly, yet begrudgingly, scrounged $44.76 in exact change (including 11 pennies) I asked if this "cash only" policy is temporary and she said they do take credit cards. Since we were one of the late diners, I wondered how many times she'd had to repeat the "Oh no, we take credit cards..." to people. Wouldn't you think she'd learn to give the diners their check and say "Ignore the old Oki Diner message on the receipt, we do accept credit cards" by then? Maybe by next week she'll learn.
Overall I'd give the restaurant 3 out of 5 stars based on what we ordered and the service we received. Oh wait, I just remembered that Oki Diner has an average of 3 stars on Yelp.com, so I have to revise this to a 3.5 stars. Oki was notorious for it's filthiness and they're the ones responsible for the tacky "cash only, ATM machine located in restaurant" on the receipt (how can a restaurant with more than 10 tables expect to survive this way?). One of the more generous reviewers in Yelp dubbed them "Okay Diner". Tiano's has done a complete--and attractive--makeover and hopefully will keep it well-maintained. Possibly next time we visit and order different items, I can give them even more stars. For now, they're "okay plus". We are certainly happy to have a clean restaurant with the American/local "diner" menu that they have instead of yet another Asian/local "barbeque".
To anyone about to open a new restaurant, I would recommend:
1) 2 napkins under the silverware unless you have disposable placemats.
2) Fresh flowers rather than plastic for the first few nights at least. I sometimes wonder if NO flowers is better than fake? How about dried instead? How about taking an idea from party centerpieces--there are a lot of nice ones that don't require any upkeep once you make them, except maybe dusting.
3) Give bigger portions for the first month or two because you're building a reputation and giving a little more is totally worth the good word-of-mouth recommendations you'll get, especially if you're not high end.
4) Hold a class for your employees to teach them the table numbers--at the very least Table #1--and teach them how to look around at their tables as they pass by rather than zombie walking to get the water pitcher, zombie walking to get the check, etc.
5) Pretend Howie Mandel is a regular customer because as Oki Diner probably discovered, a reputation of uncleaniless is very difficult to overcome.
6) If you inherit the previous owner's cash register, learn how to re-program it to remove tacky messages such as "cash only...ATM next to the karaoke machine."
If anyone wants to add to this list, feel free to comment and maybe I'll post the revised list later. You never know who may be reading them! Hi Chef Ramsey!