Thursday, March 28, 2013

Peterson's- Revisit

I’m glad we have Peterson’s—we have so many chain steakhouses in Indy, it is nice to have one that is locally owned.  Unfortunately my steak connoisseur son will not get to try it for several years because you have to be 21 and over to eat there.  He was a little annoyed about this, as it is his personal goal to eat at all the steakhouses in town.

Anyway, we were celebrating my sister and her hubby’s birthdays and my brother-in-law loves steak, so it seemed like a good time to give it another try (my parents were with us as well).  I like the interior of the place (and hey, I am not complaining that there aren’t more kids in there). I was sort of surprised how loud it was, but it was quite busy, which is a nice thing to see.

we had already eaten 2 of them....

My sister and hubby got there before we did and placed an order for the tempura lobster fingers ($16). I have had these several times before and they are always good. How can you go wrong with freshly tempura-fried lobster? They were fresh, and tender and dipped in the accompanying honey mustard (they also give you drawn butter), they are delicious.

Hubby and I then ordered our own appetizers, the tuna tartare for me ($15) and oysters Rockefeller for hubby ($20).  My tuna was disappointing. It was just calling out for some sort of acid.  The tuna was good quality, but seemed fairly unseasoned (even though the menu describes it as “sweet chili tuna”).  There was a sweet soy type sauce underneath and some sliced daikon on top.  After eating the first chip worth, and a furtive glance around the table, I grabbed hubby’s lemon and squeezed some on my tuna. Much better.

Hubby’s oysters were great though. For classic oysters Rockefeller (spinach, cream, Romano cheese and Pernod), these are some of the best in town I think.  They oysters are a decent size, but not huge so they are still tender and easy to eat.  Very rich and creamy and well done.  I also had a bite (o.k., several) of my sister’s clam chowder ($8), which was the soup of the day. I have to say, this was really good as well. Super chunky with lots of pieces of clam and very well seasoned. Not a bit of salt or pepper necessary. It had a nice peppery bite to it.

Normally hubby and I would split a steak at this kind of place because they are usually so big, but we couldn’t agree on which to order, so he got a ribeye ($43) and I had a filet ($35).  Both steaks were really very good.  Peterson’s definitely knows steaks—they are prime and they are cooked well. Mine was so tender that I was really glad I had gotten it, even though hubby’s was very good as well (just a little firmer).  Ok, his was maybe cooked slightly beyond the medium rare he ordered, but the meat is so good, it was still very good. Honestly, I think there is a chance that they mixed up a couple of the steaks at the table because my brother-in-law ordered his slightly more cooked.

I liked the au gratin potatoes ($9) on this trip—in the past I have complained that Peterson’s sides weren’t that good, but I enjoyed these.  They weren’t’ exactly what I think of when I think of au gratin, because they were cubed and baked with cream instead of sliced, which was what I was expecting.  It also didn’t hurt that they were topped with crumbled Smoking Goose bacon. They were my favorite side.

We also ordered Brussels sprouts ($7) based on the awesome ones I had lately, and also based on more of the Smoking Goose bacon being included, but unfortunately these were too undercooked for me, and honestly, I couldn’t really taste the bacon.  They were halved, and just not cooked through.   Finally, we had some of the King crab mac and cheese ($11) which I also really enjoyed, although from what I could tell, there wasn’t a ton of crab in there.  The mac and cheese tasted good and had a nice crumb topping though—it was a white cheddar and fontina cheese sauce and was rich and tasted great with the steak.

Ok, so that was the meal.  I would say my overall impressions is that they do old school items very well—and their steaks on the whole are top notch.  My biggest problem of the evening? The service.  They were really busy and it seemed like our server was sort of in the weeds all night—we sat there holding our menus for way too long (we still had them when our apps came because we hadn’t yet ordered our main dishes) (and they have those really large menus that are awkward). It also took forever to get our wine. And while he seemed like he was knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the food, he seemed to disappear for long periods of time (at least from our table).  It sort of all made sense when we got the bill and there was an automatic 20% gratuity added to our check (which he did not point out to us, luckily hubby caught it).  I thought this was kind of weak considering there were only 6 of us and I have never seen an auto gratuity of 20% (that seemed excessive particularly due to the bad service). I feel like our service suffered so much because he knew he was getting a good tip no matter what he did. I realize I sound annoyed, and I was. Very. We are normally generous tippers, but when service is this bad, I do not generally leave 20%. I know I talked to some of you about this on twitter already, but what do you all think? Do you think service suffers when an automatic gratuity is being added? Servers, do you worry about those tables just a little less?  Is it legitimate to cross out an automatic tip and write in a new lower one? I know you can add to it, but can you subtract from it? I would love to hear what some of the restaurant people out there think too.

Ok, enough of my rant, but unfortunately the whole thing left a bad taste in my mouth, even though the food was on the whole pretty good.

7690 E 96th Street
Fishers  46037

Peterson's on Urbanspoon


  1. I've never worked as a server so I can't speak to whether they slack off if gratuity is added to the bill. I think that even "automatic" gratuity can be omitted* and if a patron is determined not to tip then they will skip it.

    I would question added gratuity for a party of 6. I would also question added gratuity of 20%. It seems the purpose of putting it on the bill for large groups is because of the hassle serving them can cause—the restaurant doesn't want the server to be screwed after handling a big, tough table. But I've always seen 15–18% added to the bill, never 20%, and never for fewer than 8 people at the table.

    I know you were in a delicate situation because it was a family celebration—and no one wants to question the server about his/her tip anyway—so I think I would've done what you did. But, knowing this story, if this were to happen to me in the future, I would substitute a more reasonable tip in place of the added one on the bill. Especially for a bill that big. I mean, if I'm paying that much for a meal at a place that nice, then I expect exceptional service.

    *Some say that patrons are bound by contract to pay it if the policy is stated ahead of time, as we see on menus etc.

  2. I am a server and have been for a long time at my (not fine dining, more pub style/family friendly) restaurant and I think we have always had a 20% gratuity on parties of eight or more, but it may have been 15 or 18% years ago. It's definitely 20% now and it definitely says it on the menu as well as on the bill. I always tell people too, point it out so that they don't leave a tip on top of the tip unless they really want to.

    It seems odd that a place like Peterson's would have a 20% tip on a party of six, don't they do a lot of parties that big? I think you would be within your rights to change the tip if it didn't say it expressly in the menu, or if something terrible happened but I agree that just because the service wasn't great on a busy night, it's harder to make a big thing of it.

    I can honestly say I never slack off because I know that I am adding the gratuity, but I could see people doing it. It's crazy to do it at a place like Peterson's, because I just expect more - if they are super busy, why don't they have more servers? Where is the host to help you with those giant menus? I do expect better service than that when I am paying that much for an entree. That is not to say that I give crappy service because our entrees are more like $16 than $40, but at a steakhouse like Peterson's, I feel like you are paying for the service and ambience as well as the great steak.

  3. I don't like this new trend towards the group gratuity going up to an automatic 20%. That happened to group of my friends recently at a different restaurant so it seems to be a 'thing' now. As others have said, I understand and could get behind 15% or even 18%. Then you can add extra if they have really done a great job. But 20%, though growing to be the expected norm in tipping, is still technically a very good tip for servers who have done their job well (with 15% for those who are less attentive). 20% just feels so presumptuous to me.

  4. If the restaurant was busy, give your server the benefit of the doubt. Especially if he was enthusiastic and helpful when he was around. There have been many times that I've been caught back in the kitchen fighting with an uncooperative cook, trying to get someone's food fixed. There are several other situations that may have been keeping him from showing up to your table as often as you might have liked.

    And I would never slack off on a table just because of the gratuity for two reasons. 1. If the service was truly terrible, there is a high chance that the table would complain and I'd lose that money anyway. Even if they don't, there is a greater chance they don't come back and given that I'm only making money when people are in the restaurant, this hurts me as well.

    2. Many times, people will tip on top of the gratuity. Obviously I'm working for this.

    There have been times that I've prioritized a non-gratuity table over one I knew was getting the gratuity, but I'd never purposefully ignore a table simply because of the gratuity.

  5. lauren, thanks for your comment. ANd trust me, I do always try and give a server the benefit of the doubt and am generally a very good tipper. I have just started noticing a trend with large groups that the service often seems to suffer

  6. I think a lot of larger groups don't realize how much more trouble it is to take care of large parties. Even doubling the party size (six to twelve) can triple the amount of time it takes to get things done. Entering that size of an order into the computer system (especially if you change the way an item comes on the menu) is going to take several minutes. And by that time you have half the table needing refills. By the time you fill those up (longer if you're waiting on the bartender) you've got the other half of the table needing refills. This by itself isn't a problem, but when you've got other tables in addition it can quickly become overwhelming.

    It should also be noted that these parties put a major strain on the kitchen as well. I've often had large groups all order the same thing and comment that "we're keeping it easy for you." But in reality this makes it much harder for the kitchen. There are only so many pans and so much space on the grill that, invariably, someone's food is going to be waiting for the rest of the parties to be done.

    I just think these things are important to keep in mind. Personally, I don't like to go to restaurants with more than seven or eight people. Any more than that and I can't really enjoy a conversation with everyone in the group, anyway, so what exactly is the point of going out with them like that? Just some insight from someone in the industry.