Disclaimer: the photos tell a different story than the text.
I, like almost everyone who follows the Seattle food scene, was thrilled when I heard that Matt Dillon was going to open up a new restaurant in Pioneer Square. I probably wouldn’t have cared AS MUCH if I hadn’t recently started working in the neighborhood but I applaud all of the bold moves that are being made to revitalize Seattle’s oldest neighborhood.
I was equally intrigued by the fact that this restaurant was not going to have a stove – only a wood-fired oven that wasn’t going to serve pizza. Bold concept! I was excited. I knew I was going to love it even before I figured out where it was going to be located.
My first visit was about two weeks after they’d opened. I’m pretty generous and will allow for some first-day/week/month kinks that need to be worked out and this was a surprisingly positive experience given the newness of it all. My friend and I were both completely wowed by the space itself – it’s probably one of the most beautiful restaurants in Seattle. Plenty of natural light, a variety of seating options, a gorgeous bar and open air kitchen.
We couldn’t be seated immediately, so we perched at the standing bar in the middle of the room and ordered the beet drinking vinegar/seltzer beverage. It was phenomenal, both in color and taste. Once seated, we followed up with the prosciutto and avocado plate and then had some marinated mushrooms that were served alongside their fantastic bread. The day was sunny, we ended up at a great table, the ingredients were fresh and flavorful and the entire experience was exactly what I had expected.
But it wasn’t until a few days later after I had finished gushing to a friend about how great it was that I realized that I had paid close to $30 for food that hadn’t even been cooked… and that’s when my love affair with Bar Sajor started to take a turn for the worse.
On my next visit, probably a month later, my friend Kendall and I decided to visit Bar Sajor instead of Rain Shadow Meats for happy hour, a decision that I instantly regretted when the rather rude host made us squeeze into a spot at the bar that was in no way meant for two people (and there were plenty of other seats available) and the customers that surrounded us made absolutely no effort to make room for us.
Uncomfortable in seating and made further uncomfortable by the attitude of our bartender and his refusal to acknowledge us again after we’d gotten our drinks (which it had taken awhile to order – but we definitely would have ordered food), we finished them as quickly as we could, left cash on the bar and escaped over to Rain Shadow Meats, feeling like we had wasted our time.
On my most recent visit we had a eerily similar experience and were made to feel entirely unwelcome yet again. [Full disclosure – we arrived before they were technically open, but the door was wide open and we’d just seen another couple be seated.] Our bartender straight-up ignored questions that were posed to him about the different types of liquors in the cocktails. My companions and I looked at each other completely bewildered – was he deaf? We were the only people at the bar! We weren’t simply mispronouncing the names of the brands to ourselves! We were all set to leave right then and there until he finally asked, “Oh, were you speaking to me?”
As it turns out, I am not the only person who has had a negative experience – but I do appear to be the only one who has subjected myself to it multiple times. One friend commented on my Facebook post:
Lovely environment, but we won’t go back. Lots of other fab spaces with good cocktails and good service in Seattle.
Over brunch, another friend shared that she had decided to take herself out to dinner there and had been seated, ignored, gotten up and left and then was chased down the street by the owner and brought back in and paid for her entire meal.
I don’t know what kind of person you have to be to be made to feel welcome at Bar Sajor, but I am clearly not one of them. Do I not look like I have enough money? Am I not to be taken seriously? The staff needs to either flip their attitudes or start training so they can continue to run after their unhappy customers. It’s simply a matter of not acting like the presence of the guests is a massive inconvenience. Please bartender, take my drink order instead of methodically rearranging the bottles at the bar. Greet me with a smile and act like you’re happy to see me. And by me, I mean other customers because I’m probably not coming back.