Tan Lac Vien

Tan Lac Vien Touchpoints: Physical: Cozy clean atmosphere. Greeted upon arrival, seated immediately.Table nicely set, but ignored with only one waiter. Delicious food, nicely presented on plate. Waits for the bill for awhile. Gets a goodbye, come again greeting.

I walk into a small Vietnamese Restaurant in Squirrel Hill. The restaurant is tiny, and fits 27 people, clean, acceptable noise level, and comfortable chairs. There is one guy I see the entire time, the waiter. I walk in and he is sitting by himself behind a table playing on his phone. Another touchpoint is upon our arrival he jumps up, welcomes us, and asks how many. He sits us in the back corner to a table already set, presumably because it’s cold outside, instead of by the front window where everyone walking by can see people. I think it’s a horrible idea because the restaurant is empty, and if he sat us at the only two tables in the front, since you can’t see the back, the restaurant would look fuller. But did he sit us there because there was more light? Or because it was cold outside and he didn’t want us to be next to an opening and closing door blasting the 20 degree weather in?

The waiter brings us our menus and water. The menu has Vietnamese named foods but have letter and number combinations next to them, for people who can’t pronounce — I order N1, Pho Dac Biet. The waiter goes into the kitchen, which I can see out of the corner of my eye, covered by a black fabric divider. I sit for awhile with my friend, and the waiter comes back out with a pile of raw herbs and vegetables. Just a short time later, the waiter comes out — and it’s good that there is no door, because he is holding two gigantic bowls of noodles, steaming hot, presented well with garnishes on top.

The waiter does not come back to the table for a while, seating other people and giving them veggies and noodle bowls — maybe he knows how long it takes to eat this gigantic bowl? I try to flag him down three times by raising my arm, but he’s cleaning, he turns away, he grabs the check from someone else, he turns away, he enters the kitchen. I finally flag him down to order more N1 to go — it’s delicious and great in the winter weather — and 5 minutes later he returns, puts the bag down on the table, and leaves. I have to flag him down again to get the check — as only one waiter in a restaurant it does take awhile, only for him to return the check because they don’t take American Express. Only 10 feet away from the kitchen, I don’t hear much noise — I think only one chef. It looks like a simple system, each combination is a different type of meat, N2 and N3 have the same soup base, noodles, but are rare beef and tendon instead.

I get up, put on my jacket to leave, grabbing my to go bag — not knowing it wasn’t sealed tightly and my N1 would spill, but I would only find that out when I got home. The waiter waits as I leave the table to grab the check and clean the table, and waves as I exit the door.

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