Tolima: Good food, very good, but a miserable, personal evening out experience. A very good friend suggested we have dinner together at Tolima (BYOB) in Chatham. On a Thursday night we needed reservation. Those without a reservation were turned away. Obviously it is a popular spot. The place is narrow and small, maybe 5 or 6 tables for 4 plus a couple of larger ones set up for 12 and 6 the night we were there. Normally we only review restaurants we enjoy.
Why take up valuable time and space telling people where we are not going to again? But Tolima is the exception to our “golden review” rule. Despite having a diversified interesting menu and really excellent food (my pan fried pork loin topped with bacon and caramelized apples on Southern grits was outstanding) we hardly enjoyed the experience and won’t be going back unless they make changes including accepting credit cards, improving the service and improving the acoustics by an order of magnitude. .
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We got off on the wrong foot as soon as we walked in and saw a sign that said, effective February, they were no longer accepting credit cards. I suggested we try another local spot and come back when we were more loaded with cash. Our friend had been there many times before and felt confident the owner would somehow accommodate us since none of us left home with coin. We could hear the conversation between our friend and the owner back in the kitchen area the gist of which was……..”credit card processing fees were costing me $700/month etc. etc.” Seems to me the higher his processing fees the better his business is doing. Maybe he would have been better off bumping his prices and maintaining this important customer service. When we left, Tolima agreed we could drop off a check the next day but only after taking down our friend's ID information from her driver’s license.
That cash only part of the evening was a downer but another more serious issue was the slow service. It took much longer that we expected to get our three rolls (one for each of us) , Tapas samples (another word for salads and appetizers) and entrees. The servers were fine but the longer than expected waits I expect comes from having a small kitchen with apparently only one cook and everything prepared to order. Our entrees seemed to take forever coming. It took almost 15 minutes for example to get two good desserts that we split, one being ice cream with peaches and Carmel sauce and one being a brownie like serving with ice cream. Why 15 minutes? The really, really major disappointment however was the really terrible acoustics of the place. Three of us literally could not have a conversation the entire time we were there. I just kept repeating “I’m sorry. I can’t hear you.” By time our desserts came all three of us were sitting tightly side by side on one side of the table in an effort to have a conversation. It made no difference. We noticed others in the restaurant were having similar difficulties. It was absolutely the longest two plus hours I have ever spent in a restaurant. If the acoustics had been at all reasonable we would have dealt with the cash only policy and the slow service because the food was excellent. Unfortunately we won’t be going back.
Tolima: 641 Shunpike Road, Chatham. (973) 410-0700