Off work for the day, hungry for lunch, and in possession of a rental car for the holiday week(end), I headed for Bread 'n' bowl this afternoon. I failed in my attempt to lure a neighbor of mine to accompany me, she being a fan of good breads and me quoting the reviews of the offerings at Bread 'n' Bowl. Situated off to one side of a Sports Authority store in a shopping center at the SW corner of Dempster & Harlem, I almost missed the place. I was the only customer when I arrived at about 2 p.m. Arkady came from the back of the store and asked if he could help, and I viewed the refrigerated display cases as he explained what was available today.
My selection was the lentel with sausage soup and some pork/beef-filled Khinkali dumplings. Arkady explained that though the soup would warm quickly the khinkali would take a while to cook thoroughly. I told him I was in no hurry and wouldn't be bothered by a wait. Reaching into one refrigerated case, I grabbed a can of Diet Pepsi and sat at one of the three tables. Ten minutes later Arkady returned with the large bowl of soup and some bread. He explained, again, that the khinkali would take longer to cook. Fine.
The memorable thing about the soup was the dark sausage. I didn't ask what the filling in the sausage was, but it was good. I was too hungry to offer questions, and Arkady was too busy in the back for me to corner to ask about it. I found the bread - puri - unremarkable, just "okay."
During the soup course another two couples had arrived to eat-in. Arkady helped them with their selections and they occupied the two remaining tables. Several other customers came and went with take-out orders, mostly with bread.
The khinkali come in bags of 5 or 10. I purchased the 10, and asked Arkady to prepare half - leaving the remaining 5 for me to take home, uncooked. The bowl with the khinkali arrived steaming hot and when I cut into one the fragrance captured then released in the escaping steam was wonderfully seductive. Even though the pork/beef filling was well-seasoned, Arkady stopped back at my table suggesting I add some pepper - which I did. He also suggested a cup of tea, saying the tea goes well with Khinkali. Who am I to argue with the guy? Tea it was!
I very much enjoyed the Khinkali and decided to take home some soup and bread for the neighbors I couldn't convince to come with me, and some other things - particularly the sour cherry piergi - for myself. As I was in the process of gathering my take home purchases from the refrigerated cases who walked in the store behind me but the very neighbors who hadn't come with me.
The three additional customers and I sat at the table and when we caught Arkady's eye I asked him to stop back when he was free. He was busily preparing the orders for the other two tables. When he came by the table and we made additional selections his behavior changed for the worse, and from that point on, for another half hour or so, the experience there turned somewhat unpleasant. He became aggressive and rude.
The additional guests ordered the three mushroom barley soup and a bag of 10 farmers cheese pierogi. The soup came and one of the people at my table asked the woman who'd brought it if there was any bread to accompany the soup. The young woman advised us that there was no bread, they'd run out. Two of the three additional guests had made the trip just for the bread; they're bread fanatics. They expressed their disappointment and the young woman returned with slices of the puri that were rock-hard - as a substitute. The three mushroom barley soup was enjoyed, and the farmers cheese pierogi were flavorful and also enjoyed by all.
During our meal, twice, Arkady walked to the service counter and yelled at us that we couldn't just order things when we wanted, that the food took time to prepare and we just couldn't do what we were doing. We were dumbfounded. We hadn't ordered anything else, nor had any of us four turned towards the back or said anything in that direction. At one point Arkady approached our table, talking very loud, saying the store had bad service. I rose to speak with him and said that both the food was excellent and we had no complaints about the service. He again started with the tirade about ordering food haphazardly. It was a very uncomfortable situation - so much so I decided not to purchase the items to take home with me.
I suspect Arkady was put off-guard by the 8 people eating in the front of the store. The place isn't really set up for much eat-in, IMO - and I'm left with the impression Arkady isn't the type of person who's good at 'front of the house' chores. I think, too, that the other two tables were ordering things as they went along and that Arkady mistakenly thought we were part of that activity. Running out of bread and having people coming into the store leaving disappointed - not to mention diners being disappointed - probably added to his frustration.
This is a business outside of my typical pattern of travel, so I doubt I'll revisit soon. If I lived closer I'd certainly stop-in for some take-out (definitely not to eat-in, though). My companions/neighbors - people who do get out and about in that area frequently and who love soups, pierogi, breads, etc. - will probably never again go near the place - because they believe Arkady's behavior was offensive, whether directed towards us specifically or the group of 8 customers in the store as a whole.