My name is Mimi Mehrabi, and Iâ€™m excited to be a part of Annapolis.com as the voice of real restaurant reviews. The cool thing about this site is that weâ€™re not beholden to restaurants, which meansâ€¦ I wonâ€™t say the food was good when it wasnâ€™t. I wonâ€™t say the service was flawless if it was filled with flaws. What I will do is give you honest reviews that encompass the whole experience: from calling for reservations to walking out the door at the end of the evening. A bit of a heads up and confession: Since I moved here in 2003 from San Francisco, I have not been blown over by either the food or the service at most restaurants. So while some reviews may seem to be, or are, harsh, they are in no way an effort to close an establishment; rather, to give owners/managers a wake-up call to pay better attention and improveâ€¦or, risk going out of business because life is too short to pay for bad food and bad service.
A little bit about me: Iâ€™m a west coast girl. Born in L.A., grew up in Portland, OR, went to school in San Diego, worked there for a couple of years after school then moved to San Francisco in early 1990. I was single in a city filled with restaurants and foodies, and believe me, my friends and I took full advantage. I never cooked, which meant I ate outâ€¦ a LOT. My schedule was; work, go to the gym, go to dinner. Virtually every night. One of the truly great things was to see a new, incredible restaurant flourish and stay in business because of intensely involved owners and loyal locals. You always cheered them on and told your friends about them because word of mouth was the quickest way to make or break a new restaurant. And, truth be told, there were some equally fabulous ones that regrettably went out and it still hurts. However, it was immensely satisfying to see one go out because their customer service, quality of food, and/or overall experience was flat out bad. It was just one of the many benefits to those of us living in a hyper competitive market.
I worked in the HR/Management consulting world from â€˜90-â€™95, then in mid-â€™95, I switched gears and signed on as a partner in a girlfriendâ€™s tea and tea flavored ice-cream store called, Pure T. The name really says it all: We only sold tea and tea related products. I managed the wholesale side of the business, and my partner managed the retail side. This was a time when tea was just starting to elbow its way into an American culture driven by coffee consumers. In just our block on Polk Street, there were FIVE coffee shops. Five. And Starbucks was consistently the least crowded. Gotta love the city!
In 1997, we made the difficult decision to close up and perhaps take it up again at a later date. It was a great couple of years and it taught me a lot about retail/wholesale, customer service, and staying in the customerâ€™s mind long after they have left your store.
Aside from getting back into the consulting world, I took gourmet cooking classes, learned the basics to complicated, not to cook necessarily, but to learn. I continued to eat out, and not just in the Bay Area. My job required me to travel; therefore I frequented some other excellent food markets: Manhattan, Chicago, L.A., New Orleans, etc. I learned that itâ€™s critical to give a new kitchen six months before you could really judge whether they warranted a return trip. I learned just how much youâ€™re willing to forgive when the server and manager acknowledge a problem and fix it. Right there. Right away.
Iâ€™ve been to French Laundry in Napa; Daniel in Manhattan; Chez Panisse in Berkeley; Zaytinya in DC; Gary Danko, Aqua, Boulevard, and a host of equally fabulous restaurants, in and out of San Francisco, both upscale and low brow. Needless to say, I spent years of my life eating out.
I continued to eat out after I got married in 1998, only after the birth of our first son, Nicholas, in 1999, did things slow down, and really slowed down when Benjamin was born in 2000. But not entirely. We just changed the venues, and adjusted the frequency, but the lifestyle of eating out, which is so embedded in San Francisco, continued. And when you live in a food culture, paying attention to the details of the experience just becomes second nature. Even when you want to look the other way, itâ€™s very difficult not to have the overall experience stay with you on some level. And yes, while the food can be divine; itâ€™s also the level of service that compels your return.
All this goes to say, that Iâ€™m thrilled to be the person writing reviews for local restaurants in Annapolis. Iâ€™ve been reviewing restaurants for years in my head and with others, only now, I have an audience!
I hope you enjoy my columns and give me your input and suggestions on where to go next. I do not get paid to do this. I’m writing this because I truly want Annapolis to take their dining experience to another level, and that starts by accepting where you currently are in the world of food and restaurants. If I believe what I hear that Annapolis wants to be a food town, then letâ€™s shed some light on whoâ€™s doing it right and who needs to get it right. Right now.
Talk to you soon.