And then there's the casefile of Stella's Deli, an appealing-looking little eatery in Gulfport. Twice have I dined here, and abortively attempted a third. And I still sometimes scratch my head and wonder what went wrong.
Make no mistake about it, the food is excellent. Stella's is one of the very few Florida joints that actually gets up early and serves breakfast for people don't laze around like a slugabed. (Seriously, you'd be surprised just how hard it is to find a morning coffee during the morning around these parts. Good thing the Central Avenue Starbucks opens its doors early, usually about 5am.) I can vouch for their amazing pancakes, and can vouch that their sidewalk seating is a most pleasant place to sit within view of the beach and the Gulfport Casino.
What I can't vouch for is the service. And it's not just the typical lapses in courtesy so common in Florida and so commonly causing me to walk out, it's something stranger, something seemingly... selective.
During each of the three times I have graced Stella's with my presence and my wallet, I was with a date. And we immediately were taken aback by the gruffness, rudeness, and coldness of both our server and the... the... well, whatever you call those people who stand at a podium up front and check seating arrangements.
And then we noticed that seconds after scowling and growling at us, these same employees suddenly did a hard left turn and brightened up into a sunny smile and a cheerful disposition for other customers, greeting them with chatty banter and warmth. Then, back to us, smile vanishes, plates almost dropped hard with a disrespectful thud on the table. And trying to get her attention again to ask for more syrup? Forget about it. Her actually coming back to check on us? Nope.
To be fair - not that I haven't been - another time we tried another place nearby and got the same treatment. I'd like to tell myself that it's just a case of Old Floridians being Old Floridians, turning on the charm for locals and regulars while viewing newcomers and tourists (never mind that I have lived in Florida for a year and a half now, and lived in Gulfport for most of this year) with feral suspicion and snowbird-phobia.
But I remain unconvinced.