When Ollies Mediterranean Grill off of Hillcrest and Grelot first opened I use to love going there with my family. It had the best shawarma plate and hummus appetizer around. The other food on the menu was fantastic and I could be assured that anything I got off the menu would be spectacular. The wait staff was wonderful, charismatic and bubbly; well worth the 25% tip that I would leave them (I'm a firm believer in above average high tips for extremely well performed service).
Over the past years I have noticed a drop in the quality of the food and service that Ollies has to offer. The quality hasn't gone unnoticed by a small subset of the public because many of the people with whom I associate have told me that they have noticed the same downward spiral. At one time the small parking lot would be full and filling over to the parking lots of the adjacent businesses but now the parking lot is mostly filled with the vehicles of the staff. While inside I've started noticing that the wait staff tends to linger about, smoking in the public areas by the bar and just malingering around with nothing to do. Perhaps they were waiting for the evening rush, perhaps not, regardless it makes the place look unmanaged and lacking in pride.
This trend in Mobile of a good restaurant going down hill seems to be fairly common in the area. Is it the fault of the waiters the management is hiring or is it the lack of management talent that the city has? I'm thinking that it might be a little bit of both. Let's take my recent trip to Ollies as an example. My wife and I both ordered the Reuben sandwiches, an order of flaming cheese, salad, and lentil soup. The appetizers came out quickly but then flaming cheese isn't something that takes rocket science to do but it did take them twice to get it to the table. Typically butter, and cognac (or a bitter ouzo) are used and ignited melting the cheese and giving it a nice toasty flavor. I'm not sure what was used this time around but it really didn't have a flavor. It wasn't bad but it wasn't knock out good either.
Our entrees came out a short time later. The Reuben looked wonderful. They were loaded with meat and cheese and all the goodly innards that makes up a Reuben sandwich. The salad and lentil soup were placed on the table as well. The salad was nothing special and the lentil soup was grey. I'm not sure what happened, but Ollies use to have a beautiful golden yellow lentil soup that was as inviting as Alice's bottle that said drink me. It was something that tasted as good as it looked. In contrast the grey version of their lentil soup wasn't anything special. I started eating my Reuben and it was pretty good. I actually finished half of it before my wife had eaten two bites of hers and that is where this story gets interesting.
My wife, after eating two bites, said "Does this smell funny to you?" Without smelling, I mentioned to her that it was a Reuben with sauerkraut after all and that of course it would smell. She insisted that I smell it, so I did. My stomach turned as I caught an aroma of underarm body odor and a stuffed ash tray. What I smelled was wretched. It was so strong and eye watering I was surprised it wasn't caught by the chef before leaving the kitchen. I flagged down my waitress and politely told her what was wrong with the dish. The poor thing looked sadly like a deer in headlights and politely took the dish back to the back.
I was a bit nervous - scratch that - I was a LOT nervous. I just ate half of a Reuben sandwich that probably came from the same batch of corned beef that my wife's came from. It smelled rotten and I was a bit fearful that I would be getting sick. I've seen pictures of people that had legs amputated due to bad cases of botulism. I've grown quite fond of my legs and would hate to lose one because of ill prepared food. Enough of the silly talk. Actually I was worried that I would have the runs and be uncomfortable for the next couple of days. I do have an iron stomach after all.
The waitress returned and said, "he removed it from your ticket." Great, wonderful, I didn't have to pay for spoiled food. She asked kindly if I wanted a box for the other half of my sandwich to which I told her that I was a bit nervous. I didn't want it just in case it also might be bad and eating it would probably not be a good idea. I wanted to ask the waitress 1.) Who "he" was, and 2.) Why is "he" not at the table apologizing. I didn't though, and this brought me to a conclusion on my rhetorical question above. In the case of Ollies on Hillcrest, the downward spiral in quality is definitely due to poor management. Big points are awarded to managers and chefs that interface with customers that are extremely dissatisfied. I feel, that if a customer has an item removed from their bill because of quality, that manager or chef should be at the customers table apologizing like no other. I don't know. Perhaps my low standards in restaurants, and restaurant management is still too high for this area.
Ollie's Mediterranean Grill
1248 Hillcrest Rd
Mobile, AL 36695