(I apologize for the lack of photos. I didn’t plan on writing about this restaurant, but I was compelled to after my experience.)
I had been looking forward to trying Ricky P’s Orleans Bistro for weeks. I knew about the smaller shop on Fourth Street and was excited to try out their new, more upscale eatery. Sadly, I can say without reservation, that my experience there was a completely unmitigated disaster from beginning to end.
My wife and I arrived at 7:30 on a Saturday night and the place was packed with people. A good sign, or so I thought. The main room is fairly large and open, with very tall ceilings, making it obnoxiously loud. Like I couldn’t hear my wife who was sitting right next to me loud. There was a bar area jammed next to the entrance, as well as some outdoor seating in front of and around the side of the restaurant. There was also a second dining area up some stairs at the back of the room. There seemed to be a lot going on.
We waited in the tiny area in front of the hostess podium. There was a small L-shaped seat thing to sit on, but for some reason the Specials whiteboard was resting on top of it. So we had to maneuver around it, making sure not to knock it over. An interesting choice.
We were told the wait was twenty minutes by a hostess who seemed to disappear, without patrons in tow, into various parts of the restaurant for many minutes at a time. A pair of diners returned from outside to ask how much longer the hostess thought the wait would be. Sadly the hostess was no where to be found, so the couple left, not very happily. Forty minutes later we were seated. A bad start, but not a huge deal.
Five minutes after we were seated, a table of four was seated directly behind us. This is important because their table seemed to exist in an alternate reality where the service was fantastic. Our waitress, who we would learn was firmly in the running for Worst Waitress in History, took our drink orders. I was denied a Cherry Coke because of a lack of grenadine despite the bustling bar out front. Still no big deal.
She took the drink orders of the four top behind us and disappeared. She returned with our drinks, didn’t even pretend to be interested in taking our order, left and returned with the drinks for the four top. She took their order happily and disappeared again. Several minutes later the four top was served their full array of appetizers by an expediter. A few minutes later our waitress returned for our order: a shrimp po’ boy and a soft shell crab po’ boy. Both with French fries. Simple. Easy.
A few minutes later four po’ boys arrived at the four top. They were diving in excitedly while we continued to wait foodless for another twenty minutes. We could not spot our waitress anywhere, nor anyone that even resembled a manager. Finally she came back, and I kid you not, asked us with a straight face, “Where are your sandwiches?” Not being employed at this establishment, I had to admit somewhat sheepishly that I did not know where they were. Several minutes later they finally arrived.
Now Ricky P’s touts po’ boy sandwiches as their specialty. If that is the case, I don’t want to find out how their non-specialty items turn out. The menu promised “crunchy French bread.” It was anything but. Soft and limp. Not a trace of crunch. I would have settled for just crisp.
Also, having ordered the “Ultimate Shrimp Po’ Boy,” I was expecting to be wading through the suckers. I got a little over a handful. It was sad. The shrimp itself tasted good but lukewarm at best; as I’m sure our sandwiches had been sitting around in the back for a while before anyone bothered to bring them out for us. The French fries were hot though! But they too were soft and limp. I considered sending the food back for it’s hotter more delicious version, but thought the better of it, when I realized I did not want to spend the remaining nine years of my 30s dying slowly in a chaotic Cajun restaurant.
We finished eating forlornly. A manager looking gentleman stopped at the four top to ask how their meal was. He offered to bring them boxes. We needed a box, and not knowing if our waitress was still alive, we snagged him and asked for a box too. He said yes, so it was looking like we’d finally be able to leave before sunrise. The four top got their boxes. We did not.
After ten minutes, our waitress stopped by to ask if we needed a box. We said yes and away she went again into the wild blue yonder.
Ten minutes later she returned to give us our box and clear our plates. Not to leave the check or ask about dessert mind you, just to clear our plates. She took said plates, and was gone for, you guessed it, another ten minutes. She brought the check, vanished for yet another several minutes, returned for our credit card, vanished, and eventually, I’m sure through complete accident, happened to find our table again.
From the time we touched down in our booth to the time we left took ninety minutes (over two hours overall). Ninety minutes for two sandwiches and a soda. It was absurd. My wife, who never complains about anything ever, said it was the worst experience she had ever had at a restaurant. I could have driven to the House of Blues in Orlando and got a po’ boy in the time it took to eat at Ricky P’s. And the House of Blues sandwiches have more shrimp, some good spicy mayo, and better bread.
Ricky P’s Orleans Bistro is a mess. There weren’t enough servers to man the amount of tables in the restaurant. The servers they did have were completely clueless. I’d say they were inexperienced, but that would imply at least a modicum of experience. I think most of them were un-experienced. The poor hostess seemed confused and completely on her own. The manager was doing who knows what (We only saw him once). Tables sat unbussed while the waiting area teemed with people. It didn’t seem like anyone was in charge. Employees were running around everywhere looking stressed out and lost.
If they were short-staffed, they really should have closed the top level. Or the outside. Or something. I really don’t know what could have fixed this shambles. You could chalk this up to the restaurant being fairly new, but I’m not going to. At a certain point, someone should be in the restaurant who actually knows what they are doing and can assume some sort of leadership role. If you don’t have that person for a busy Saturday night, then you shouldn’t be open.
And if the food was great, I would have forgiven a lot. But it just wasn’t. Maybe their much smaller shop on Fourth Street is better. I’m sure there are fewer moving parts to be managed.
Things may very well improve, but I don’t care. I can easily say I will never return to Ricky P’s Orleans Bistro. I’ve never been more let down by an eatery. All of my high hopes were dashed. It saddened me.
The only positive thing to come of this experience is that I can finally use a line that I’ve always want to write:
It would seem that in this new venture, Ricky P has bitten off more than he can chew.
1113 Central Ave.
St. Petersburg, FL 33705