Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Beer Recidivism

I don't know what it is about The Happy Gnome that keeps drawing me back again and again, only to be disappointed again and again. It's a place I want to love and frequent often (Ouch, how's that for a horrible phrase?), but I seem to keep getting burned. I like the location, the building is fantastic and has a great atmosphere and the beer selection is solid. They have an active beer menu and interesting/frequent events. And yet these things are not enough to outweigh my disappointment.

I don't care for the menu. It's not for me. But that doesn't really bother me. The beers can be very pricey. But what the hell else am I gonna spend my money on? Clothes? Furniture? A manicure? Ha! Moot. The place can be very crowded. So what. These aren't the issue.

So what is it that turns me off about the joint? Its the staff and the service. Time after time, I and my friends seem to experience something negative about the staff or the service. If it isn't an arrogant bartender, then its an inattentive server. If you miss the bad attitude coming, you'll get the wrong order going. And if you're lucky enough to have an issue-free evening, you can always get your fill of negativity by having your neighbor at the bar tell you about his/her crappy experience.

And yet I keep going back when I should know better. Stupid.


  1. I couldn't agree more. My friends and I no longer go there because of the arrogant bartenders and poor service. The other issue that also irks me is that a lot of the beers on tap are only served in 10oz glasses at a larger price tag than some places sell them in a 16oz serving. I've had enough of this place!

  2. Totally agree. Every time I have to wait forever to get a beer that I'm paying $1-$2 more then any other place in town for. Then when I need another beer the wait staff is nowhere to be found while I sit empty. Order a beer and then wait another several minutes while the bartender does who knows what that involves not getting my drink.

    Menu doesn't do it for me either. Parking is usually a pain. Tables are usually hard to come by. It's always lots of things that keep me from liking the place.

    No reason to go for the most part when you have the Muddy Pig just a couple blocks away.

  3. At first I thought, "nah, I love Happy Gnome", but then I read further. You're absolutely right - the staff and service have been the downers in each and every visit to the Happy Gnome.

    The food and beer selection (when they aren't out of my top 5 choices) are great! Now if only they could fix the staff and service issue...

  4. Wow! Let me be the one dissenting vote here. I love the Gnome, and it's at the top of my St. Paul list as far as selection goes. I've had several very pleasant experiences with the servers, but I'm not usually too picky as long as I get some delicious suds. I've even gotten off-the-menu deals on samplers. You want a long wait? I waited 40 minutes for a Surly Bender at Fabulous Fern's. Now that was ridiculous.

  5. I'll add to the heap of dislike. I dislike the poor service at the Gnome. At least twice when I've been there with you and Kris, they've messed up a food order.

    I also find the food quality to be inconsistent. I've had both great meals and terrible meals there. What ticked me off the most was getting a steak well done when I ordered it bloody rare.

    Regarding nils comment about it being on the top of his St Paul list, I'm not surprised. There are not many craft beer bars in St Paul. There is the Happy Gnome, the Muddy Pig, Lowertown Bulldog, and who else?

  6. Everytime I go there I feel like I don't belong and I am not good enough for the bartender/server's attention. I went for the first time in a long time on Tuesday and I stood at the bar for 5 minutes and everyone avoided me. So I went to Stub's and shot the shit with Jon and some customers and I spent my 20 bucks and drank like a king. I'll go to the Gnome for special events (maybe) but other than that, nope. The Gnome, to me, seem a bit more white collar. I prefer the blue collar joints.

  7. Maybe we should all go there in packs and take over the bar. They can't ignore all of us. Plus, it would be easier to swap when we get the wrong beer. And if it is still bad enough, we can take comfort in that misery loves company.

  8. The Gnome (food-wise) is probably the most inconsistent restaurant I've ever been to. I have also experienced the arrogance and the poor service. They have a lot of good things going for them (how cool is the patio too?) but it's hard to really disagree with any of your points.

  9. I curl across the parking lot at the St. Paul Curling Club, and I usually stop in for one or two before going on the ice. I can't say I've experienced any arrogance (one waitress recognizes us and is quite friendly), but the service can be very slow. Sometimes when I could have two beers in the amount of time I have before going next door, I will only have one because it takes 10-15 minutes to get the first beer, 10-15 for the second, and another 10 to get the check. I now try to sit at the bar, but even then it can be slow.

  10. In response to my question about what other craft beer bars are in St Paul, I forgot about The Blue Door Pub and Groveland Tap.

  11. In the entire metro area, I'd say Sturbs has the best rotating domestic craft selection. But the Gnome gets rarer beers and has more on draught in total, and their rotations are more frequent than the other options. I don't really care about much else. Too poor to get food anyway. The point is to drink tasty suds right?

  12. As much as many of us like to think the opposite, my perception is that the Gnome is a restaurant first, beer bar second. Craft beer lovers will perpetually be disappointed until they set their expectations with this in mind.

  13. I'm not on Team Devil's Advocate, but I play in the same division in this case, I guess. I prefer the Pig if I'm in the neighborhood, but I've not had a notably, memorably bad experience at the Gnome. My main grievance is one of value (high price, stingy pours, etc.), but service (good or bad) has never been an issue.

    On the most recent visit, I started at the bar and was served with remarkable alacrity, given the dual flood of dinner patrons and Flat Earth revelers. Meandering back there after boring a pair of beer-loving couples to death, I was surprised, given the knock for which they've gained some repute, how attentive the bartenders were (a contributing factor to my 1 a.m. departure, no doubt). Other times I've been there, it's usually been at low-volume times (think Sunday afternoon pub rolls), so maybe I just got lucky on this one...

    And if you're lucky enough to have an issue-free evening, you can always get your fill of negativity by having your neighbor at the bar tell you about his/her crappy experience.

    *sigh* Touche.

    Honestly, though, you could have replaced "The Happy Gnome" with "Great Waters" or "Barley Johns" or "Mackenzie", and I would be nodding with some greater level of agreement (especially with fridaynightbeer's comments).

  14. You know, my probably eight or ten times there, I never thought about this, but I suppose the general trend is right.
    I held my groom's dinner there just before my wedding, and it was fantastic. because we had the room upstairs, our own bartenders and food, we didn't have to worry about service. everything was dynamite, food, beer, atmosphere, fun.
    Of course, if you're not renting it out for a hundred people, it's a different scenario.
    I'd say positives definitely outweigh the negatives overall.