I was recently asked to review a restaurant called Tivoli Gardens. It is a local facility attached to one of the city’s most popular conference centers at 1815 West Mercury Boulevard in Hampton, Virginia.
I was amazed to see that the restaurant hasn’t changed that much over the last 14 years. It is obviously a little bit holder, but it looked very much the same as it did when I was an executive with the Virginia Peninsula Chamber of Commerce.
The Chamber use to hold a variety of events there. In fact the last event I held from the Chamber was at that facility. Consequently, it felt a bit like coming home.
Tivoli Gardens is located in the center of the Holiday Inn Conference Center. It has the feeling of wide-open spaces with super tall ceilings, miles and miles of greenery, and a kind of European ambience. I remember the first time I saw it, I thought it was one of the most beautiful atmospheres ever established for a restaurant.
Unfortunately, it has aged over the years and could stand a bit of makeover. The carpet, chair tapestry, and greenery have a dingy, almost dirty look and feel. In reality, however, it is just a matter of being well used.
My husband wasn’t at all impressed with our waitress who, I’ll admit, had a bit of a rough attitude at first. She eventually warmed up a bit, but her start position was bordering on rude.
The restaurant was empty, which worried me at first. However, I knew that the hotel wasn’t overly occupied at the moment and there are many less nearby businesses than there were in my “olden days.”
I was very disappointed in their luncheon menu. It was varied enough considering their lack of clientele. However, it was handwritten and copied to a point where it was barely readable. As a former teacher of marketing and advertising, I have to admit that the menu caused a major hit to the facility’s image; at least in my mind.
My husband, as usual, headed straight for the Rueben Sandwich. I opted for an Angus Burger (sans bread, of course). We also ordered a Blooming Onion as an appetizer.
As we waited for our meals, we talked about the old days and the various events we used to hold at the center. Sometimes it is fun to reminisce.
The blooming onion arrived promptly and was absolutely delicious. I loved that it wasn’t so large we couldn’t possibly finish it. It was, in fact, the perfect size.
No sooner had we finished the onion than our meals arrived. They were perfectly done, piping hot, and exactly as ordered. My husband really enjoyed his Rueben and my hamburger patty was excellent as well. I opted to leave my fries since I’m trying to drop a few pounds, but my husband really enjoyed them.
It was odd to be asked to pay for our meal before we had finished it. Our waitress approached us with a story of her checking out for the day. She wanted our payment immediately. I found that a bit offensive. Suppose we had wanted dessert? However, we complied and left shortly thereafter.
While the food was quite good, the service was much less so. Maybe they didn’t like the fact we were using a gift certificate to pay for our meal. At any rate, they were eager to get rid of us and we were eager to comply.
Tivoli Garden’s luncheon menu consists of typical appetizers like buffalo wings, chicken tenders, mozzarella sticks, and the blooming onion. Soups and salads where typical as well, although I really liked that they had a fresh fruit plate as well.
Sandwiches include the Angus burger, a Philly cheese steak, the Rueben, grilled chicken, prime rib, fish, pork BBQ, turkey club, chicken salad, and a garden burger.
They also offer a buffet most of the time. Our waitress did not indicate why one was available the day we were there.
The prices were reasonable, ranging from $3.95 to $9.95 (for prime rib).
Their dinner menu mirrors the luncheon menu with the addition of potato skin appetizers and chicken quesadillas. Entrees also include steak and seafood. Prices range from $3.95 to $18.95.
I couldn’t in good faith recommend this restaurant to my friends or family. The food simply isn’t so good that you can overlook the poor service and the dingy atmosphere.
I hate to see places like Tivoli Gardens go downhill, but I guess that is true of any place that we remember fondly. Sorry to say, this one only gets two out of five stars and that is strictly for the quality of the food.