Frita Batidos: Fruit Flies, Terminal Hair, Bad Attitudes, and a Mean Streak

October 26, 2011

I am not in the habit of writing reviews of restaurants as I rarely feel compelled to force my bitchiness judgments of a particular establishments merits on another’s subjective experience, but tonight’s dinner at Frita Batidos was so piss-poor that I feel obliged to warn others for their own protection.

This was my fourth meal there. The first two were fine, a little shaky, but charming enough to warrant further inspection. The vibe was a bit much: the staff seemed to be high on the fresh start (according to an unimpeachable source, Frita’s owner, Eve Aranoff, stiffed investors and staff alike as her last venture crumbled), and sold the concept of every item in booming uber-enthusiastic voices that made it hard to taste the food for yourself, and I had a hard time hearing my companion(s) because of the canyonesque acoustics of the room, but the sandwiches were good (can you go wrong with chorizo and french fries?) and, despite inconsistency and items that failed to live up to the hype (conch fritters), most of the ingredients and combinations were thrilling and novel, so I was willing to go back for more.

The second time we casually commented to an employee about the noise. “We’ve heard that, yeah.” the server said. “The Roadhouse had that problem,” I said, “they put up some baffles in the dining room and that was that.” I half expected to find baffles the next time I went in.

The third time was not-so-charming. The fruit flies arrived at Frita Batidos in late summer (big, juicy, jungular ones – they must have ridden in on a carton of mangos), and were a nuisance while we ate. It was also disquieting to have a half dozen buzzing around with me in the cramped bathroom. And to my surprise, after a lapse of more than six months, nothing had yet been done about the cacophony.

All of this prelude to tonight’s dénouement. Shall we begin? How about with the flies.

Apparently, they loved it so much this summer they moved in permanently. We (Courtney, Henry and I, and our friend and her two children) decided to try the furthest-back table, hoping to keep our kids’ high chair legs out of the crowd by the order counter and also hoping that it would be beyond the canyon of noise. It worked for the former. We couldn’t gauge the latter. More on that later.

Behind our table, against the wall, was a trash can. Above and around this can, clinging to the wall and the pile of napkins and the bottles of condiments on the shelf at the end of our table, were somewhere between fifty and a hundred fruit flies. It took us a few minutes to notice them (they were mostly still, and small enough to blend in to the dark nooks and crannies of the whitewashed brick) but by meal’s end they were restless or hungry enough that they had come off the wall and into our circle and we were vigorously shooing them from our faces and food.

At one point, after noticing them early on, I joked with an employee that had sent them flying when he moved some decorative bamboo stalks near the trash: “Mind those flies now,” I said, and he chuckled. “A shop vac will really do the trick.” I tried again when he missed the subtle call for help. He walked off with the bamboo and I did not see him again. It would appear that that early booming enthusiasm has been replaced by chuckles and apathy.

Our food came moments later. I liked my chorizo sandwich. But then I found a hair in it, nice and dark and curly, facial or pubic I couldn’t decide without my gag reflex activating. I set it aside and finished my sandwich – I compartmentalize well. I understand that this happens. Still, it can’t help but be added to the negative impression I was cumulating.

I will venture that it did indeed seem quieter in the back with the flies and the pubic hair, at first. But then the music coming out of the speakers directly behind and above our table was turned either on or up. Whichever, it was so loud that we all paused in our conversation, waiting for order to be restored. When it was not I turned and got the attention of the employee behind the counter and motioned a request for him to turn it down. He did not understand my gestures for a long moment. Someone out of view turned it down at last.

Twenty minutes later we were finishing our food. Henry asked for another of the pretty umbrellas that came with a drink. The music volume had also crept back up to an unbearable level. “I’ll ask,” I said, and got up with Henry. There was a man ordering at the counter. I did not notice anything remarkable about his manner. He finished and turned away, and I looked at the clusters of customers milling abjectly near the counter, waiting for, I presume, to-go orders, to make sure that I wasn’t cutting in line. Satisfied, I stepped forward and looked up at the woman, who had just completed an eye roll to her (bearded! off-duty or non-employee) companion (about, I presume, the man who had just ordered). She was nice to Henry and I, took time to offer him his choice of pretty umbrellas colors, and made small talk. I thanked her and asked her if she could turn the music down. She said she would. I am not certain she did.

We left soon after so that we could hear ourselves finish a conversation. I considered warning the couple I saw eyeing our table about the flies as we prepared to go, but decided against it. I could not gauge them and wasn’t confident that they would appreciate my input. We walked out, through that abject crowd, and as we hit the air outside I felt noticeably relieved. I turned around as we waited for our friend, and looking back in it was clear. It was written all over all of their faces: “I can’t come back to this place anymore,” I said after a moment. “There is something really off in there.”

Frita Batidos In summary:
Flies: Really, really, really gross. Reported, observed, ignored.
The Hair: Ick.
Inordinate Volume: Requested. Ignored.
Atmosphere: Stifling.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Eve Aronoff November 21, 2011 at 5:21 pm

Hello Steve –
I read your comments about your experience at Frita Batidos and would like to reimburse you and your friends for the meal you had. If you can let me know where to send it, I will put a check in the mail to you. I am very sorry that you had a disappointing experience, and especially that you weren’t treated with consideration. I believe the staff is generally very kind and considerate, but I am very sorry you were not treated with consideration when you were there. I am also sorry about the fruit flies – As you probably know, they are drawn to sugar and thus, the sugar cane (which I believe you thought to be bamboo) We do have a ton of produce which we ripen instead of storing in the cooler, and we are addressing this issue aggressively. Just so you know it is not a matter of lack of cleanliness, but I do understand why it would be off-putting and offensive during your meal. We are no longer using the sugar cane for that reason.

Regarding closing eve – I do not think you have received accurate information and do not think it is really fair or appropriate to make public posts without gathering facts and perspectives from both sides. Additionally, it sounds emotionally loaded and not grounded in the reality of the situation. I have never stiffed an employee in my life. We did have have to close eve and I tried to do so as responsibly as I could under the circumstances. As soon as I knew I spoke to the staff together and individually to make sure they had time to find alternative employment instead of just serving the needs of the restaurant during the last weeks of operation. Additionally, I used every penny from the sale of the business to meet payroll, payables and pay back investors. It was an investment and closing meant that not all of the investment was returned as the partners had entered into the investment knowing that risk, and that is not the same as “stiffing” someone – I put 100% of my energy into making it successful and that is all a person can do – I did not close it frivolously or without doing everything in my power to do it as responsibly as I could. I took on any remaining debts personally instead of seeking LLC protections and paid every vendor in full and am now and will continue for a very long time paying the personal loans I took to honor what I saw as my personal responsibilities. Additionally, I arranged to pay back outstanding gift certificates for 9 months and have done much of this out of pocket as well. I am not trying to earn credit or praise for any of this, but do think that you may have an unfair perspective of the situation.

Again, I am sincerely sorry that you had disappointing experience(s) at Frita Batidos and would like to reimburse you and your accompanying guests and use your feedback as constructively as possible. We did experience a rough transition at Frita Batidos and things are going much more smoothly now, with an exceptional manager who I worked with for years at eve who has come back to help run things as I am still somewhat out of commission with the back injury which was a primary factor in closing eve. I am not sure what your intentions were in writing your review, but it was definitely helpful to read your feedback and will use it to improve things.

Thank you and Sincerely –

Eve

Thank you and sincerely –

Eve

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