the Goliard
November 2005

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Restaurant Reviews 

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Thunder Canyon Brewery - Revisited

We returned to Thunder Canyon Brewery recently to drink a couple of their excellent IPA's and maybe enjoy a light dinner. We also wanted to do a spot check on the state of things so we might provide an update to the past reviews we've written about the place. Since for us, a visit to TCB these days necessitates a long drive through that ever worsening Northwest Tucson traffic, we haven't been dropping in very often to what used to be our favorite Foothills Mall establishment. Thinking about it we decided that this could be mostly because, when we did make the trek up North, we found ourselves greeted with sketchy infuriating service so it would naturally follow that the time between visits would begin to increase. Actually calling the place our "Favorite Foothills Mall establishment" isn't saying all that much either since we haven't been anywhere else up there except The Melting Pot (on that fateful night with The Swede), Applebee's once in a pinch, and the place that used to be Keatons but is constantly changing ownership and names to the point where you never know what the space might hold. The Melting Pot is a different kettle of fish so to speak and Applebee's is Applebee's so there you have it. We hear there's a relatively new place out back somewhere called the Fox and Hound but haven't made it over there yet although if we find out they have anything good on tap that will probably be our next dining stop should we find ourselves up that way again. In any event, we're about done with Thunder Canyon. We've had a love hate relationship with the place since we first discovered it due to the fact that their beer has continued to be just as good as the service is poor. At least during past visits though we've been able to say that the food was fairly decent as well. On this occasion however, the service was so bad that it even managed to adversely effect what came out of the kitchen.

Our server on this night, who I think said her name was Linda or Brenda, was unpleasant right off the bat and greeted us with a fake smile that hardly masked her bitchy attitude as she said "No" when we asked about decaffeinated iced tea and "opposed to what?" when we asked for a large IPA (they have a 22 oz size which we've learned to order since it often takes them awhile to return and offer you a second if you get a pint). Normally we don't get personal in these reviews but if you're going to act like you're some sort of debutante snob while waiting on the public you should at least not have a pot belly hanging over your apron. Especially if you're in your early 20's. She proved as incompetent as she was rude, disappearing for long stretches and sashaying around the section making stupid nasal remarks and forgetting various parts of people's orders. She didn't discriminate either as the guy in the next booth got annoyed with her and moved to the bar only to be replaced by an elderly couple that were soon furious with her as well. This type of service in itself is nothing new at Thunder Canyon who seem to employ an endless stream of nitwits but at least someone usually brings you a hot meal out from the kitchen in a somewhat timely manner. 

In this case however, our server managed to intervene and ruin that part of the experience as well. We had each ordered a salad to start, with one of us getting a pizza and the other the chili bread bowl to serve as our main course. The waitress managed to bring us one of the salads so the other could sit idly by watching them eat with nothing to chew on themselves but when a food runner appeared from the kitchen with the other meal, the plate had both the chili bowl and the salad on it. Rather than clarify and separate taking the chili back to the kitchen until we were ready for it and arranging for the salad to be presented on a fresh plate to deliver to the table, we saw our server simply take the whole dish over and set it in the bus station. When the pizza finally showed up, the waitress looked confusedly at the table for a second and then a light went on and she headed over to the bus station to retrieve the chili. By this time, the dressing appeared to have been baked and cooled like a creme brulee as if it might have been under the heat lamp on the line before the runner rescued it and brought it out in the first place. The salad was seared and wilted and the chili was room temperature with cheese atop that had melted and then hardened again. Any food worker, or for that matter, any person with a lick of common sense could have merely glanced at the plate and determined that it was not fit to be eaten let alone served in a restaurant but now we had the one of us who had been watching the other eat for fifteen minutes sitting there with a plate of cold chili, wilted warm lettuce and curdled dressing in front of them. "Is everything OK," Linda eventually asked long after we'd shoved the plate away. "Yeah everything's great just great. I think I'll just get another beer and ....." But Linda had already slapped the check down and was gone leaving the dirty dishes on the table as a reminder of her shoddy work. Eventually a busboy shuffled by and looked quizzically at the scene before asking if he could clear anything away. "Oh you can take it away alright. Take it away forever." Wait, that's no good. Marge ask us if you can take it all away again. GGRRRRRRR."

In any event, so long Thunder Canyon. That was the final straw and we won't be stepping on that rake again. We'll miss sampling your tasty ales of course but there are enough other options in town these days that we don't have to continue to put up with the slew of idiots you seem to feel the need to put out on your service floor. BJ's Brewhouse for example, which we recently reviewed, has comparable draughts and much better food and a staff that doesn't seem peppered with bonehead sorority rejects and cocky faux studs. And Nimbus, even though it is way down south, is actually quicker to get to with slightly better beer and a much more authentic brew pub atmosphere. So take care TCB. It was fun while it lasted. 

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