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Service problems trump kitchen potential at the Four Points by Sheraton near the Tucson airport

A few months ago, the sous chef at the R+R Grill at the Four Points by Sheraton near the Tucson airport sent the Tucson Weekly an e-mail. He said the restaurant had just rolled out a new menu and invited us to do a review.

This e-mail gave me some hope. Weekly World Central is located in the airport area, and the prospect of another nearby place that would work well for a tasty business lunch or a post-work dinner was, as pathetic as it sounds, kind of exciting.

Alas, that excitement turned into disappointment after two visits to the R+R Grill.

The restaurant's problems do not sit with the menu, which has a fine selection of intriguing offerings. Nor do the restaurant's problems sit with the food, which ranged from so-so to excellent.

The problem sits squarely with the service. It pains me to say this, because I got the sense that the people working at the R+R Grill are working hard—in some cases, very hard—largely because there aren't enough of them. At least that was the case during my two visits.

During our lunch visit, Garrett and I had to wait three to four minutes to be seated—and during a tight workday schedule, three to four minutes counts. When we were finally seated, we were given dinner menus, not lunch menus. It then took a while for our harried server to take our order—because she and one bus person were handling nine tables all by themselves.

We ordered the spinach and artichoke dip ($7) as a starter, and the grilled chicken BLT ($9) and the R+R burger ($10) as entrées. Well, the spinach and artichoke dip wasn't a starter after all: It was delivered, unapologetically, with the sandwiches. The dip was creamy and tasty enough; it probably would have been quite excellent had it actually been warm. (I presume it sat for a while between preparation and delivery.)

Garrett's sandwich, on soft ciabatta bread, was tasty, and the chicken-breast meat was surprisingly moist; there could have been more bacon, though. My burger was only OK, largely because the meat was somewhere between medium-well and well, whereas I'd asked for it to be cooked medium. My accompanying fries were decent; Garrett's coleslaw side was watery and unremarkable.

On our dinner visit, we found a restaurant that was doing a nice business, especially at the bar, which takes center stage in the room. Elevated booths are on one side of the bar, with tables on the other. It's a nice, comfortable space, just as one would expect to find at a nice hotel.

We were seated in one of the booths, and our server came and took our drink order. R+R Grill supposedly offers a happy hour from 4 to 6:30 p.m., Sunday through Thursday, with drink discounts and $2 off many appetizers. I say "supposedly," because we ordered well before 6:30, yet we did not get these discounts. Perhaps only diners who sit at the bar get these deals, but we were never told that or given the option to sit at the bar.

We ordered the calamari ($8) as an appetizer; I also got a cup of the soup of the day ($4), a delicious vegetable concoction, and Garrett got a wedge salad ($7) which was rather enjoyable. For main courses, Garrett went for the three-mushroom risotto with grilled shrimp ($16), and I picked the Southwest scallops ($22). Cioppino, pan-seared Atlantic salmon, a pecan-wood-smoked pork chop and a couple of steak offerings are also available, as are sandwiches and other goodies.

The calamari was good—neither gummy nor overly greasy—and the two sauces were successes: I loved the lemon-garlic aioli, while Garrett enjoyed the sweet tomato jam. However, the calamari-portion size was surprisingly small.

There was a long wait between our appetizers and the delivery of our main courses, which meant I ate more of the tasty rolls than I probably should have. Thankfully, I still had enough room for my Southwest scallops dish, which was superb. The scallops were perfectly prepared, and the dried-cherry risotto was just creamy enough; the sweetness of the roasted corn worked nicely with the subtle spiciness from the poblano pepper and the chimichurri sauce. This dish was splendid in all ways but one: There were only three medium-sized scallops included.

Whereas I loved my risotto, Garrett was unhappy with his, for good reason: It was clumpy, dry and unpleasant. The flavor was nice, infused with the taste of the mushrooms (portobello, crimini and oyster), but too much moisture had been cooked out. It was hard to believe that the same kitchen could send out these two wildly varying risottos at the same time.

On a happy note, the five grilled shrimp atop Garrett's risotto were divine, as was the broccolini.

Our server didn't offer us dessert; he simply asked if we were finished. Well, we did want dessert, and we ordered the bread pudding ($7). While I liked the bourbon glaze, the pudding itself was overly dense and decidedly so-so.

As we dealt with the check, we encountered one last service snafu: The server took my credit card, and returned with only the same, single copy of the check I was given to start. He apologized and said that because of an error, a new receipt didn't print, and he didn't want to risk a double-charge by running my card again. He asked me to sign the original receipt and give it to him.

"Well, how will I get a copy?" I asked. He thought about it for a moment and said he'd go to the front desk and make a photocopy.

First, a customer should never need to ask for a copy of a receipt. Second, every restaurant sales system I have ever seen offers the ability to print a duplicate receipt; methinks there may be a training issue here.

There's potential at the R+R Grill; the atmosphere is pleasant, and that Southwest scallops dish proves that the kitchen can do some nice work. But the service issues I encountered—from the start of my lunch visit through the conclusion of my dinner visit—are too serious for me to recommend this restaurant.

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