A couple weeks ago, NR, LM, the bro and I hit up MSG for the Bruins-Rangers game. Jonesin' for some food and drink beforehand, we convened at Stout, just across the street, for some pre-game fuel.
First of all, let me say that Stout is HUGE. It's got two floors, and even just the top floor is larger than you could even conceive of. We were seated in the far, far back, the farthest table from the entry (literally), amidst a crowd of people scarfing chicken fingers and pounding beers.
The fact that Stout is huge is actually really relevant to this review, because on the night we were there, they were not only huge but apparently painfully understaffed. Sure, there were servers running around, but getting served was a challenge at any point during the night. Fortunately, the bro and I, acting as Advance Team and arriving at the table first, decided to order ASAP to get things rolling. A beer and a Magner's, along with a house salad and a Reuben pizza, were delivered in a relatively timely manner.
The salad, a bowl of mixed greens with matchsticks of green apple, some walnut pieces, and a few dollops of goat cheese, was decent, if small. Once I had finished I was still ravenously hungry and debating ordering a second salad. (I didn't, fortunately... you'll see why.)
When the pizza arrived, NR had joined our crew, and he and the bro split the pizza. It was a thin-crust pizza topped with Swiss cheese, some sauerkraut, and small chunks of pastrami. While ordering the Reuben pizza was a gamble, it paid off-- both NR and the bro enjoyed this concoction. They planned to finish their meal with a chicken pizza, to be ordered the next time we could flag down a server.
Our first server (ostensibly the one assigned to our table), passed by in a rush-- the bro flagged her down and said we'd like to order some more food whenever she got a chance. She said she'd be back and then promptly disappeared. We did not see her again. Around 15 minutes passed, and LM joined us; finally, after significant effort and frantic glances at the clock, we were able to order some more drinks, the second pizza, a spinach and artichoke dip, and an order of chicken fingers for LM's meal.
Cue another 15-minute lapse; a manager came over at one point to ask how things were going, and we mentioned we were still waiting for our food while trying to make the start of the Bruins game. He disappeared and returned a few minutes later to tell us the food was on its way. Sweet.
Soon a chicken pizza graced our table. In a moment of group foresight, we'd thought to ask for the check at that point so we could pay and dash whenever the food was done. The check arrived, we paid, and a couple of minutes later the spinach and artichoke dip came. Still waiting for the chicken fingers, we mentioned to the passing manager that they'd never arrived. He left and returned a few minutes later to say that the kitchen had run out of chicken fingers. Yes, really. About 30 minutes after we'd ordered them, they had "discovered" there were none left. Oh, and we'd already paid for them, of course, given that we'd paid the bill in advance.
To his credit, when we informed the manager of this, he was incredibly apologetic, told us he'd take the dish off the bill, and offered us a round of drinks. Since we were under incredible time pressure at this point, we opted for a round of shots. A bit of Patron in our bellies, the bro and I dashed across to the Garden to work out an issue with our seats while LM and NR finished their meals (such as they were).
But that's not all--apparently after the bro and I left, the manager had returned because he had made some mistake on the bill and was trying to get our party to pay more than we had (we'd paid the right amount for the total bill, minus the chicken fingers, including tip). Really? At that point, given our experience, as a restaurant manager, don't you just let it go?
So I'm really mixed about Stout. The service, obviously, was atrocious, but the manager did make a good-faith effort to fix things... until he came back with the bill issue and further mired himself in bad-service purgatory. The food was decent, however, and not overpriced, and the ambiance is enjoyable if you're looking for an Irish pub/sports bar atmosphere. And if you're in the MSG area, your food and drink options are sorely limited. Would I go back to Stout? I'm not sure-- even with our bad experience, I wouldn't rule it out; the bro has been there several times before and has had good experiences previously. So I'll give Stout two Offset Spatulas rather than one, with hopes that if we do ever return, it will redeem itself.
133 W. 33rd Street, between 6th and 7th Avenues