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Ming’s Bar B Q Report — not good

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Soy sauce roasted chicken from Ming's Bar B Q

Have you ever had one of those experiences that makes you break up with a restaurant? I think I officially called it quits with Ming’s Bar B Q yesterday.

I’ve never loved this Buford Highway restaurant but I’ve liked it well enough for its good (if, not to my palate, exemplary) Cantonese barbecue, noodles and soups. Once in a while I like to get a plate of pan-fried noodles for lunch or a box of crispy-skinned roast pork, duck or chicken to bring home for dinner. It’s the kind of place that is common in cities with bigger Chinatowns, but rare enough in Atlanta to be worth searching out.

It has never in my experience been a friendly joint, but always an efficient one.

So last night I stopped by and placed an order for some chicken, pork, garlic snow pea leaves and plain rice. Only after the order was placed and rang up did I notice the “cash only” sign. The bill was for $25.25 and I found exactly $22 in my wallet. Since our family minivan doubles as a rolling United States mint, I figured I’d be able scrounge up enough change to make the difference. I came back with a handful of change — quarters and dimes, mostly, with about 30 pennies. $25.25 on the dot.

The woman behind the counter counted out the change, looked dubiously at the waiting box of food and said, “Wait. Your ordered rice? We didn’t ring it up. Two dollars for rice.”

Because I didn’t have the money, she took the box out of the bag, shook her head and said, “I guess you’ll have to cook your own rice.”

I gotta say…I’m not in the habit of trying to cadge free food (quite the opposite, actually), but in this circumstance I think they might have thrown it in. The restaurant was nearly empty, so it’s not like they were going to run out of rice.

The insult to injury was getting home and opening this box of completely-raw-in-the-center chicken. I made rice, fried the chicken in a skillet and mulled over the fact that $9.99 was a lot to pay for a box snow pea tips. The pork was good.

Sorry, Ming’s. We’re over. Anybody know where else I can get my Cantonese barbecue fix?

P.S. AJC Buzz says my tagline should be, “I eat it so you don’t have to.”

33 comments Add your comment

Jonathon

September 30th, 2010
11:59 am

Yeah you caught the perfect storm. Had no problems with the Duluth location.

Muffin

September 30th, 2010
12:12 pm

$2.00 for RICE? was it like a barrel sized portion?

JoeInAtlanta

September 30th, 2010
12:17 pm

I absolutely refuse to purchase food any more from places that don’t take credit cards.

I understand that credit card transactions cost the restaurant 30¢ + 3%, and I’m happy for them to raise the price of their menu items to accommodate the assumption that most patrons will use credit cards. (It’s still a lot cheaper than the extortionist rates that ATMs charge.)

Basically, if a restaurant (or any business) wants my money, they have to make it as easy as possible for me to give them that money. If they’re not willing to do that, then there’s a lot of other places that want me as a customer.

So, Ming’s, I didn’t need to hear how bad your food was. You lost me as a potential customer when I read the words “cash only” in the article. Same goes for any other restaurant in town that puts its own convenience over service to its customers.

Lucy

September 30th, 2010
12:17 pm

Unacceptable. Rice is included in every dish. You had a veggie dish. But then again, it’s cultural. Customer service is not a strong point among my people.

Bob from Accounttemps

September 30th, 2010
12:23 pm

Canton Cooks — how on EARTH does that place get the business and favorable reviews it does? Salty food (I had begun asking for no added salt) coupled with rude and simply terrible service led me to break up with them.

John Kessler

September 30th, 2010
12:32 pm

Muffin – It was a clamshell. Also, if I had ordered bbq plates, the rice would have been included.
Lucy – I know what you mean and do try and stay sensitive to cultural differences when talking about the tenor of service — i.e., different cultures dole out smiles differently, so “unsmiling” is not necessarily rude service.
Bob – Agreed, and I wrote one of the positive reviews back in the day.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by ajcdinecritic, Michael and Kristen Phillips, John Kessler. John Kessler said: Ming’s Bar B Q Report — not good http://bit.ly/cjkbdX [...]

Ray the Realtor

September 30th, 2010
12:43 pm

I have been eating at mings for a quick lunch & occasional togo & am not surprised. Never perfect or even consistant experience but usually is Soooo good. Being from NY, the rude & abrupt service does not bother me, it is always fast, sometimes cold meat, but where else can this be found.

We call them the rice Nazi’s, but if you go to NYC chinatown and only speak english, Mings service is 5 star, just how it is. No one is going there for the ambience.

I respect cash only, there is an ATM in the shopping center. I have tried some other local asian BBQ places & they stink.

Monica Ricci

September 30th, 2010
12:45 pm

I LOVE breaking up with places for awesome reasons like this! I hate to say it, but after 20+ years in the food business, and 12 years as a self-employed person, I LOVE punishing piss poor business people by breaking up with them. And I often take pleasure in doing them the service of telling them WHY I’m leaving. Not that they care. If they cared or had a clue, I’d not be breaking up in the first place.

There is no reason on planet Earth she should have charged you for PLAIN rice with dinner in the first place, but okay that’s what they do. BUT to see that you were already scrounging for enough cash just to pay the bill and then to be all snarky about it, and pull the rice out of your bag? Puh-leeeeeze! The goodwill gesture of giving you that rice would have cost her all of five cents and would have EARNED her loyalty points with you. Instead, she chose to be short-sighted and has lost what could have been a vocal lifelong customer.

Poor business people hide behind stupid “policies” instead of being human beings and taking the opportunity to make a fantastic impression when it arises. What they fail to realize is the LIFETIME VALUE of a particular customer. Every customer is an opportunity to either grow or break your business. As a business person, you get to choose which one will happen.

If your average customer spends $100 a month with you, and you can keep them happy and coming back, over a ten year lifespan, that person is worth not ONLY the $12k in hard dollars they will give you out of their own pocket, but also countless other dollars from referrals when they tell their friends how much they love you!

Poor business people also fail to understand that when you assume the best in people & put the humanity of your customers first, the money will follow it. To the contrary, when you nickel and dime your customers, you crush goodwill and you alienate people, which creates *customer churn*. That means you constantly have to be adding new customers to the pipeline to make up for the ones your idiotic “money-saving policies” that you so earnestly cling to, have driven away.

Can you tell I’m just a LITTLE bit passionate about this stuff?? LOL…

Hungry Gringo

September 30th, 2010
12:48 pm

No rice for you. Come back… ONE YEAR!

tanline

September 30th, 2010
1:06 pm

Try Hong Kong BBQ in Chinatown Mall or Big Wongs in the Hong Kong Supermarket on Jimmy Carter… Both are excellent and compares well to Ming’s. Service best at Hong Kong BBQ…

StylinGirl

September 30th, 2010
1:13 pm

Yeah- they’re hiss-tory! Aside from the rice issue- the CHICKEN WAS RAW people! Never never never ever again. How hard is it to see blood runnning from a chicken??!?! I broke up with a sentimental fav back in my hometown that I actually even used to work for over being served raw chicken. We pointed it out and they still insisted it was cooked perfecly fine. Adios!

bride of puerquito

September 30th, 2010
1:20 pm

@StylinGirl: blood running from chicken? Have you ever cooked chicken before?

Kimbo

September 30th, 2010
2:21 pm

I actually think the food there tastes pretty decent, but I won’t eat there again ever again either. Why? Because both my roommate and I became violently ill after eating there one night. I just can’t make myself eat there ever again.

+1 on tanline’s suggestion of Hong Kong BBQ in Chinatown Mall.

John Kessler

September 30th, 2010
2:24 pm

Thanks for the tips. I’ll check them out. And, Monica, so true: the small gesture makes — or breaks — regular customers.

jack trent

September 30th, 2010
2:47 pm

your raw chicken wasnt the only one:

http://www.11alive.com/news/local/story.aspx?storyid=129856&catid=40

They were closed down last year for a very terrible health code violation. Skinned cat skin on the fence, raw pigs left to thaw outside.

Sue

September 30th, 2010
2:56 pm

I guess they have no idea who John Kessler is. Ooops for them! Hey, I didn’t know Bob from Accountemps had time to read your blog, he is always so busy working for whats his name?

Sam Bruni

September 30th, 2010
3:02 pm

I guess you people never had/heard of chicken sashimi (toriwasa)… Well, at least JK never has to write about them ever again. I heard PF Chang’s is pretty authentic. There’s always Atlanta’s favorite (Best of) Chin Chin’s.

Lauren

September 30th, 2010
3:05 pm

For real Jack? They should be closed for good.

John Kessler

September 30th, 2010
3:08 pm

Sam Bruni: I’ve actually eaten sasami toriashi (chicken tenderloin sashimi) several times in Japan. It’s good stuff from clean, carefully handled chickens.

Jack Trent: Was waiting for that to come up. Not sure it wasn’t bogus reporting.

BuHi

September 30th, 2010
3:26 pm

Yes, they are rude, can be kind of dickish and raw chicken would put me off as well. But please lay off the freaking ignorant cat story people – it just paints you as ignorant.

Property management poisoned all the rats around my office building a few months ago – which is also the home to a very well know catering company. There were dead rats everywhere – I’m sure there were a few dead cats around as well from secondary poisoning. I didn’t see anyone accusing the catering company of serving rat or cat…

Matt Freedman

September 30th, 2010
3:37 pm

Hong Kong BBQ is very good.

Kar

September 30th, 2010
4:20 pm

Good for you John. If a meal and experience is that bad, share it.

jack trent

September 30th, 2010
4:28 pm

Their health code violation closed them down for a good reason. The health department wouldn’t close a restaurant down just because they found a roach in the ice bin, it takes A LOT MORE. It just shows how much they care about sanitation. This is not about being ignorant. Read the link.

Im glad that the health department are finally cracking down on places that practice improper sanitation.

John: This was no bogus reporting, it was all over the news last year. TRUE TRUE TRUE

Jason

September 30th, 2010
7:55 pm

Hk BBQ is tops in my book. At least they act like they glad tom serve me unlike mings which apparently was doing me a favor to even let me in their door.
Screw that. I don’t care how good a place is, (kh BBQ is equal or better anyhow-best salt and pepper shrimp in town) you’re serving me, not the it her way around.

Jason Pellett

October 1st, 2010
2:40 am

I’ll second (or maybe at this point in the thread 4th or 5th) Hong Kong bbq. I’ll admit that even when I go for bbq I usually end up with a Malaysian curry though (maybe the best Malaysian food in town). I may be remembering wrong, but I think it might also be cash only.

I’ve never been charged for rice at Ming’s. Most of the time find their food only okay, but when their duck is crispy it’s awesome.

annie

October 1st, 2010
11:38 am

on the corner of Buford Hwy and Chamblee Tucker, in the same shopping plaza as Harmony Vegetarian, there is a run down looking asian supermarket. inside (front corner of the store) there’s a bbq butcher that sells a decent roast pork, etc. in the traditional style where the meats are hanging there and you can pick your beast and have him cut it or not.

J Hancock

October 1st, 2010
3:33 pm

I think you’ve misused your authority here. Your job is to provide the AJC readership with consistent, critical reporting of, first and foremost, the food – also tempered with certain aspects of the overall dining experience that may have affected your enjoyment of the food. It seems you wrote this article not to report on the food, but mainly because you were miffed at the (new?) policies of the restaurant and felt mistreated as a paying customer. I generally enjoy your articles, but there was a certain aspect of entitlement in this article that was very unappealing. It may have been more acceptable when your column was more casual, but now that you are the main dining critic for the AJC I think you need to practice more restraint.

Jay Son

October 1st, 2010
4:35 pm

They WERE on my list to try. I just saved a trip. Bad reviews are as valuable as good reviews. Thanks.

Jimmyd

October 2nd, 2010
4:08 am

John, I know how you felt. I once broke up with a favorite Chinese restaurant over hot tea. I stopped by there after a long, long day at work, and placed a to-go order.

I had a killer of a sore throat, so I asked to buy some hot tea to go. I even told them, straight up, that it would be fine if they just put a tea bag in a plastic soup container and poured some hot water over it, I’d take care of the rest. All he said was that he didn’t sell hot tea to go.

I knew I was out of tea bags, and did not feel like going into the store, so I asked if I could even just buy a tea bag. I knew they had them, there was an entire box sitting on the shelf. He still wouldn’t budge.

He already had my seven bucks for the Mongolian Beef, or I’d have walked right then. As it was, I never went back. Given that it was the owner who was acting this way, and not an employee, I didn’t see much sense in complaining…he’d always seemed to be a bit of a “soup Nazi” at heart anyway.

Jere

October 2nd, 2010
7:55 pm

@JHancock — reporting when food is bad is his job — raw chicken = BAD food. Cash only is code for “we dont pay taxes” I work close to BH and eat lunch at various places there nearly every day — I appreciate it when JK saves me from wasting my $$ at a bad place.

Susie

October 3rd, 2010
3:40 pm

The supermarket Annie suggested is Hoa Binh.

donna murphy

October 4th, 2010
12:51 am

Now we know. The cat story was probably a journalists retaliation of ‘not enough money? no rice for you, I guess you cook your own”.
we must be careful who we tick off!