Monday, December 5, 2011

31. BevMo!

BevMo! (formerly Beverages and More) is a veritable liquor wonderland. If you move into a new neighborhood and tell all your friends, "Hey, I just moved into a new place, it's half a block down from a liquor store, come check it out." They will look at you with a forlorned look that can only be described as a combination of pity and concern. But watch as you're friends squeal with delight when you tell them, "Hey, I just moved into  a new place, it's half a block down from a BevMo!," You're social status increases at least 25 points and you'll automatically be slotted 2 spots up on every friend's totem pole.

Well, the same thing happened to me just this past month. I moved about 2 blocks away from a BevMo! and immediately I began shopping there regularly. It's everything it's advertised to be - a superstore of nearly every type of liquor under the sun. Before I was even unpacked, I was mixing Manhattans and sampling microbrew beer from bottles with corks.

I have nothing but good things to say about the selection at BevMo! There's so many varieties of everything that you literally begin exhuming the dark recesses of your brain for memories of random brands you might have tried when you were 23 just to see if they are on the shelves (They usually are). might think that the world's greatest store would also have that world's happiest employees, all of whom work happily, effectively, and efficiently. Sadly this is not the case at all. This might just be the BevMo! near my house, but everytime I've gone in there it's been the worst customer service on the planet. Here are some small anecdotes from the three times I've gone to BevMo! thusfar:

Example 1: "The New Guy"
We've all been there, first day on the job and literally no clue how to do anything. I will give this guy credit in that he confidentially informed us that it was his first day and to bear with him. This guy was the quintessential example of how you imagine a pizza-delivery guy in the movies: naive as shit, constantly picking at his face, and basically fighting countless internal battles each minute to not royally fuck everything up. Insecurely giggling to himself every time he hit a key on the register like it was his first time using a keyboard, he "rang" everything up. Or so he thought. It turns out nothing was rang up. There was a discrepancy on a price as well, to which he replied. "Huh huh huh, oh man, ok... I've seen this done like 20 times..lets see...*picks up phone receiver and hits a button* ...price....check?" It clearly didn't work. So what does genius do? He does the exact same thing again. And again. Surprise, it still doesn't work. Finally he just tells his co-worker, who's just standing there 15 feet away, to check the price. After it's all sorted, he again fails to ring us up properly and also fails to apply our ClubBev member discount. 20 minutes and three employees later, we're finally rang up.

Example #2: "The Unwanted Visitor"
You can't help but feel sorry the mentally deranged. Never really being more than a threat but more so an obscene annoyance to us normal folk. So while paying in BevMo! A delightful old maniac walks in, trenchcoat and all, looks around, and decides THIS is the spot for him to explain to the world the minutiae of oral sex. Apparently, according to the wise old coot, that while oral sex from a thin-lipped woman is delightful, it might actually be BETTER from a thick-lipped man. I am grateful for this piece of sagely information, because I might not have ever known this. But instead of realizing he touched my life at that moment and his work was done, he decided to repeat said information again, LOUDER. Then again, and again, getting louder and more confident with each go-round. As funny as it is (it really was) at some point I would have figured one of the BevMo! employees would step in and take care of things. I was wrong, they ALL stood there gawking, jaws agape, measuring their own lips to gauge the thickness. It was pretty ridiculous. Finally after a good 5 minutes of this guy going bananas, the smallest, meekest, female employee tiptoes up to him and politely asks him to leave. Shockingly, the man quiets down, smiles,, tips his hat, and leaves. Every single large male in the store still standing there like cornstalks doing nothing. This whole hilarious debacle could have been avoided if any employee did their job and just immediately asked the guy to leave.

Example #3: "Stoner's Pot Palace"
Weed is awesome. But stoned BevMo! employees remind us all: Don't mix weed and booze. I'm generally forgiving of new employees, but if you opt to go to work stoned then you should be damn sure you can still operate at the same effectiveness as when you're sober. If you can't, then don't. While waiting in  a massive line to checkout, this employee who looks like B-Real's cousin blissfully walks past all of the disgruntled customers without any thought of opening a new register. The frazzled checkout girl finally manages to break away from the madness to physically escort this kid to a new register and have him check us out. I ask him if I can enter my ClubBev member number directly in myself, to which is blurry red eyes blink uncontrollably. "Sure." I started hit keys and nothing is happening. "Are you sure this is working?" I inquire. "Maybe you can just enter it in for me." He starts blinking his red eyes again. He starts hitting keys when I start reciting my member number, alas, nothing is happening again. Jesus fuck, get your shit together, kid. I fially just give him my card and we start checking out. He scans literally every item, completely oblivious that no item is actually being entered into their system. I ask "Hey man, the screen still wants you to confirm customer number." Obviously baffled, he scans the keyboard for a solution to fix this. Needing to rescan the items and having him forget a couple more in the basket, we finally pay for our 5 items, 17 minutes later.

In conclusion, I don't expect exceptional customer service from an entry-level employee, but common sense is always expected. Come to BevMo! if you want an amazing selection of booze, but stay to witness employees operating at a near-drunk capacity. I immediately drove to the DMV after just to get better customer service.

Name: BevMo!
Genre: Liquor and Spirits
Value: Reasonable prices, ever-increasing frustration.
What You'll Need to Enjoy Your Meal: Hella time.
Rating: 3 / 5

Thursday, December 1, 2011

30. The Vine in Niles

The odds of stumbling across The Vine in Niles will be not unlike opening up a briefcase and finding this. Surprised? Yes! Disappointed? No way! This is how I felt about The Vine, a quaint, newly- opened restaurant in the Fremont, CA suburb called Niles.

I'll begin by admitting a couple things: 1) I've been moving apartments and dealing with holiday obligations and thus have no been updating this site very much, to which I apologize. And 2) My sister opened this restaurant herself so I purposefully drove the 400+ miles north just to go to it. Familial connections aside, I'll do my best to not give it undue credit.


Seriously, it's really good. I'm very proud of my sister's hard work in this venture, and it shows with the final product. Yelp reviewers all love it, and apparently they pulled a VERY substantial profit in their first month of business - literally unheard of in the food biz.

Located in Fremont, CA in the small suburb of downtown Niles, The Vine serves contemporary cuisine prepared by executive chef Annie Wood, a lifelong friend and co-owner with my sister. While Annie is charged with all things edible, my sister handles all finances, vendors, front-end operations, and literally built most of the furnishings by hand.

Before I discuss the food, I believe the "town" of Niles deserves some attention. Niles is one of those communities that, to an outside viewer, looks like everyone has the same two parents. I don't mean this in the retarded, incest-driven hillbilly sort of way. I mean that everyone dresses the same, makes roughly the same amount of money, and every citizen can communally discuss last night's episode of WWE SmackDown!! on TBS.

The residents of Niles decided they needed a downtown strip, you know, a place to put all their old, unused furniture and clutter. 10 years later this unused furniture morphed into 17 antique shops, 12 glass-art studios, and 6 silent movie theaters. A quaint downtown indeed. They even added a magical train of lights which pulls in every hour or so to the delight of the ignorant rednecks who've never seen multiple light bulbs amassed in a single location before. True magic!!
"Dale, something aint quite right 'bout that train."

Meanwhile, the Niles residents plum-forgot about actually building any restaurants or cafe's on their downtown strip. This is why my sister and Annie decided to build a place where townsfolk could bring a date, have a drink, and discuss the unholy practice of using contraceptives.

Now, onto The Vine itself. As previously mentioned, the ambiance is delightful. My sister (a sheet-metal worker by trade) designed and built the floors and tables from scratch. Furnished with chic ornaments and tasteful accents, The Vine reeks of class and is a great place to take a date or to have casual drinks with friends. Even the bathrooms are tastefully done. You could seriously eat to the point of explosive shits and screams and still comfortably relax on the toilet without feeling the pressure to vacate ASAP. Oh yes, and they also have a covered back patio for weekend drinking.

The food is amazing in terms of taste and also price. A meal for four with 4 appetizers, 1 salad, 6 glasses of wine, 4 cocktails, 4 main courses, and a shared dessert all came to a meager $127!! And everything we got was fantastic! I've put a link to the Dinner Menu so you can get a good idea of the type of food. Also, there's a drinking friendly Brunch Menu for weekend warriors/drunken housewives.

I got the the point where I could literally feel my stomach pushing into my other vital organs. My breathing became slow, short, and deliberate as my fully expanded lungs would only compress my bloated belly further. Even so, the food was so good that I would still periodically make lame attempts to digest a fry. The food is unbiasedly good, I promise.

The service was top notch and even when the restaurant became packed, (as it does every evening, apparently) we still received ample attention. Even the people waiting to eat were directed to sit on a massive comfy couch and were served drinks while they waited.

This place is great and worth the short drive if you're ever in the San Francisco Bay Area. Every person I watched exit had a smile on their face and a contented look of someone who was too full to do anything like want sex or free money. Utter bliss personified in each customer. Well done, sis!!


Name: The Vine in Niles
Genre: Contemporary Cuisine
Value: Fantastic Prices for Quality Food.
What You'll Need to Enjoy Your Meal: An empty stomach and an exaggerated interest in glass art.
Rating: 6 / 5