TJ Rockwells: Okay Food, Terrible Service.

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I hate writing negative reviews. Really. If you’ve been following me, you see I rarely post bad things about products, restaurants and travel spots. I’m a firm believer that you can always find something positive.

But I just can’t with this one.

I’ve been debating posting this for a few days. But, I feel like those of you who live in the Lancaster area might benefit from hearing my tale and save your money for one of the much better spots Lancaster has to offer.

Last Sunday, Hannah, Jordan and I decided to go to TJ Rockwells in Elizabethtown to check it out and use a certificate that was expiring soon. Hannah and Jordan had been there before, and liked it well enough (especially the cocktails… and I’m all about a good cocktail), so I thought we’d celebrate the Eagles win with a dinner out.

The weather looked a little iffy, which actually worked in our favor since we got seated right away on the back deck. TJ Rockwells is known as a summer spot where you can grab a giant VooDoo Juice and some apps, and hang out.

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We sat down and started looking at the menu. After sitting around for about 20 minutes, we realized something was wrong. No one had come up to us to greet us, and being former and current servers, we figured it must have been a miscommunication with the host. Hannah went up, and sure enough, that was the case. About 5 minutes later a flustered young man came up to us, apologizing and noting that it was only his second week serving.

[Now, I want to add in something here. I worked as a waitress between the ages of 13 and 21. Hannah has worked as a hostess and still serves. When we go out to eat, we always, always, always tip 20%, and usually more. We understand the pain servers go through with annoying customers and hard-to-work-with managers. So when this guy said he was new, we understood that might mean some screw ups and that was fine.]

We ordered drinks and some food. I decided to go with the buffalo chicken fingers and one of their cute mason jar cocktails that had cherry vodka, Southern Comfort and amaretto in it. When it arrived, the drink was OK, but the bartender definitely added in a little too much maraschino cherry juice (which wasn’t on the ingredient list, but hey, it’s a cherry drink) and it tasted sorta like cherry cough medicine. You did get to keep the mason jar it was served in, though, so I can’t really complain.

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Hannah got the fish tacos, Jordan got a burger and we split an order of the crab dip. The dip was cold when it arrived, Hannah’s tacos were in desperate need of some sort of seasoning or sauce (seriously, I’ve never had such a bland taco in my life. A taco!?!?!). The burger looked good. My chicken fingers weren’t anything spectacular, but then again, I wasn’t really expecting fine-dining chicken nuggets.

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The food was fine. The drinks were fine. The service, though, was not in any way fine.

Like I said, the guy was new. So, it wasn’t super unexpected that he never came back to check on us. We were happy to sit and talk, and while another drink or a water would have been nice, we didn’t really have any issues that needed attending to right away.

So we finished up and stacked our plates (an old server habit) and waited. And waited. And waited. Apparently he was having a problem with the check for the table next to us (who, to be fair, seemed like a pain in the ass). Finally, about 20 minutes after our meal was finished, he came over and dropped off the bill.

Double deals are these awesome certificates you buy on Local Flavor where you pay $15 for a $30 gift card. I know they can be a pain though. How do I know this? Because Hannah has to ring them through all the time at her restaurant. Because of that, we’re always sure to be courteous about it, write down the number and expiration date to make it easier on the server and tip on the full amount. (Note: Be sure you ALWAYS do this. If you get $30 off your meal, and you only tip on that reduced rate, you’re an asshole.)

When the server came back to pick up the bill and saw my phone with the Double Deal on it, he said he’s done them before and it wasn’t an issue. We showed him where we wrote down the certificate number and expiration date, and included a credit card to cover the rest.

About 2 seconds later the bill came back — with the full amount charged to the credit card.

After sitting there 20 minutes when we got first there, waiting for our food, and then waiting another 30 minutes for our check after we were finished, we were ready to go. We live 45 minutes away, it was a Sunday night, and knowing this needed a manager to fix and our server was not around, we asked a staffer at the server station if he could just send over a manager to fix the mistake.

About 5 minutes later, the server came up to the table behind us (who had also waited for about 20 minutes before getting drinks. When he did take their orders, he told them he didn’t have a pen and ‘hoped he didn’t screw it up.’) In the middle of the woman at the table giving her order, he turns to us and point blank asks, “What did I screw up?” Hannah tells him that he must have missed the Double Deal and charged the full amount, but no biggie because the manager was gonna fix it. His response? “Oh.” While rolling his eyes and walking away. No apologies, despite the fact that now a $60 and a $30 charge was going to be put on our credit card due to the error. Yes, we got the $60 refunded eventually, but as a young 20-something, having $90 taken out of your account for even a day can be a big, big problem.

When you’re new, there will be times you mess up. As a server, you can’t control mean customers, or large tables that have the shitty idea of splitting the check 1,000 times in a 1,000 different ways. I firmly believe that everyone should be a server so you can understand how awful people treat you. But no matter what, you can always control how you talk to people. We had had enough and left after the check was fixed.

I came home, posted a negative review to the restaurant’s Facebook page (my first time doing that to any restaurant, btw). About an hour later, the manager asked me in a comment to email him with more information and he would address it. So I did.

I haven’t heard back. It’s been 5 days.

Moral of the story, while it might have a great deck and fun drinks, don’t waste your time here. You’ll just get stuck with overpriced, mediocre food served by staff who are managed by people that clearly don’t care about their customers’ experience.

Have you been to TJ Rockwells? What was your experience like? Or do you have a better place I should check out? Share in the comments!

** Post will be updated if I ever hear back from the restaurant. I kinda doubt it though.

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