Words and Photos by Lauren N. Colie
College students can be a rowdy bunch. With that being said, I’m sure we’re a constant pain for many restaurants right on campus. However, we come bearing valid U.S. currency, big appetites and really want a good night out with friends. As college students, the little money we have is precious; poor service can ruin a meal and leave you feeling like your money was wasted. I hate to see a night end on a lukewarm note due to a lackluster dinner service, so I’ve put together a countdown of the top five worst service locations on campus so your money isn’t wasted.
5. Village Café
1001 W. Grace St.
Before loving locals and die-hard “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” fans skewer me for adding the Village Café to this list, I would like to clarify that this is a list of the worst service around VCU’s campus. I’m not commenting on the cozy diner food or the kitschy college-town atmosphere. I’m saying that at best, your throat will turn to dust waiting for a drink refill and at worst your server will be outright snotty. I think this happens mainly for parties over five because the Village automatically adds gratuity, so servers are tipped whether you think they deserve it or not. I’d recommend either going with a smaller group or hiding a water bottle in your bag that way you don’t die of thirst trying to finish your Stromboli.
4. Elephant Thai
1100 W. Cary St.
Next on the list, Elephant Thai is another location you might want to bring your own drink. Service is about as slow as the last 10 minutes of your night class. Last time I was in Elephant Thai, I had to remind my server I needed silverware to eat. Instead of an apology followed by attentive dinner service, I was left without a drink the entire evening. I didn’t even get a refill once the check came. The food isn’t horrible, so you might consider ordering take-out to avoid the dining service. Just don’t forget to leave extra time to wait.
3. 821 Café
825 W. Cary St.
The 821 Café is a tiny little box decorated inside with obscure art, so I guess it makes sense that the staff is a little snobby. The servers are generally rather irritable when asked to do anything – if you’re easily cowed by disgusted facial expressions, eat your eggs in silence and don’t request ketchup. I’m not a huge fan of the tiny, crowded tables or the rather dim atmosphere, and it’s possible the dismal attitude of the wait staff reflects the grim décor. As a result, I’m placing 821 Café squarely in the middle of my list. I might go back, but only if someone else was paying.
2. Sahara Mediterranean Restaurant
813 W. Grace St.
Sahara is conveniently open far later than the other locations on this list. Whether you want hookah or food, be sure to bring extra patience. I guarantee your coal will go out and stay out while your stomach rumbles in time to the music blasting from the dingy corners of the dining room. If you’re only there for food, be ready to tolerate the cashier gazing apathetically through you while you peruse the expansive menu above his head. Your order will be taken grudgingly and probably incorrectly. While you wait, alone and awkward, the staff in the kitchen will glance at you and talk in hushed tones. I like some of the food, so I still eat at Sahara sometimes, but my skin is always crawling by the time I walk out the door. Sahara is near the top of the worst service list because it’s dingy, uncomfortably open and sometimes downright creepy.
1. Mojo’s Philadeli
733 W. Cary St.
I don’t know what stinks more at Mojo’s – the bathroom or the service. When I went with my friend, we chose not to order alcohol (it was 4 p.m. on a Sunday). Immediately I felt judged by our server, whose phony smile shrank when we declined. We opted for nachos, which came to us as a burnt, crusty handful of chips drowned under chunks of tomato, olives, jalapeños and the barest suggestion of cheese. It took half an hour of staring at each other and our half-eaten plate of cardboard-flavored chips before our server came to check on us. The only fast part of eating at Mojo’s is the speed with which they’ll swipe your credit card.