Last Saturday, I decided to visit Gereny again after reading the review in the August 5, 2010 edition of the Memphis Flyer. I assumed that things had improved since my last visit there, when I couldn't see a menu and the only food items offered were beef and chicken subs. At the time, I thought it was odd, for it is standard for any restaurant, whether it's upscale or "low rent" and regardless of cuisine, to offer a list of items that it serves. However, I couldn't get a menu from Gereny despite the fact that a copy of it was posted on Urbanspoon (it's also online at the Marks Menu website). Also, it took them over five minutes before anyone there even acknowledged my presence and took my order. However, I interpreted this experience as growing pains of a new restaurant and gave it the benefit of the doubt, hoping that my next experience would be better. My second visit to Gereny amounted to gross inhospitality on the part of the restaurant’s staff.
The first thing I saw when I entered the restaurant was a family sitting at a table, trying to decide what to order from the menus they had been given. After seeing this, I had hopes that things at Gereny had improved, and expected a decent, if not great, meal. However, when I asked for a menu, the server said that the only food options they could offer me were two basic rice dishes, with the meat choices of either chicken or goat. Perplexed, I asked why the family sitting across from me was given menus, and the server said that it was the old menu produced by the previous owner, and somehow that family was allowed to order from it. This reason made absolutely no sense, for if a diner orders from a menu given by the restaurant, even if it's old one made up by a previous owner, that person has to assume that the menu represents the food offering of the current owner. Also, unless the restaurant made arrangements for any orders made from the old menu to be prepared off the restaurant's premises, a diner has to assume that the order will be prepared in-house, in the restaurant's kitchen. That said, it would seem that Gereny had the capacity to cook about anything offered by its menu, but not for me. Also, while waiting on the family with the menus, the server was very attentive to them and helped explain what was on the menu. Unfortunately, I wasn't shown that courtesy and would have been left "holding the goat" (with rice), but I decided to leave and headed to Abyssinia, an Ethiopian restaurant that treated me very well.
Reflecting on this latest experience at Gereny, I am not sure what to make of it. I could go with the obvious conclusion that my appalling treatment was race-related, due to me being black and that the family who got the good service is white, and it may be so. But, given that the owners are black, combined with praises I heard from a black guy who was doing maintenance work there when I made my initial visit, my bad experiences there could have been attributed to something else, although I don't know what that could be. These kinds of experiences are rare for me, for most restaurants that I’ve been to treat everyone equally as opposed to offering different levels of service to different customers. If I'm the only person that had these kinds of experiences at Gereny, then I guess I'm extremely unlucky. On the other hand, if my experiences are typical of many customers who dine there, Gereny's chances of long-term success are slim. Regardless, I cannot recommend this restaurant and I will advise others, regardless of race and class, to not dine there.
NOTE: Recently, the restaurant has gone out of business, as I predicted. It is now a Don Don's Hot Wings franchise.
Not what I expected
Had the chicken sub sandwich at Gereny, a Sudanese restaurant near Rhodes College. It was spicy, with a unique taste that was similar to other Middle Eastern dishes that I've had. To wash it down, a had a hot apple tea, which was sweet and delightful (actually, it tasted more like pumpkin pie (I'm guessing the tea had cinnamon in it)).Although the sandwich and tea were pretty good, I wasn't too impressed with the service.
Although the restaurant staff was friendly, it took almost five minutes for them to take my order (only had two people working in the kitchen, while the lone server was outside). When they finally got to me, I asked to see a menu, to which they responded by saying they weren't available and I could only choose either the chicken or beef subs (both were offered with rice, although my sandwich didn't have any). I will assume that because I came in at 12:30 PM, the restaurant wasn't prepared to offer their full menu (I noticed that the cook/chef was cooking a lot of meat in the kitchen, more than the number of patrons dining there could eat; must have been preparing for the evening rush). Overall, the experience was a lot less than I expected, based on what I read on Urbanspoon.
I hope that my next visit fares better, for I really would like to see this type of ethnic restaurant thrive near my neighborhood. These type of places make the neighborhood a nicer place to live.
First review was originally posted on Urbanspoon on June 2, 2010
Labels: African, Midtown, Sandwiches
Follow Ken's Food Find