Popped into Beneluxx, the new wine, beer, cheese, and chocolate-tasting restaurant located down the stairs on
The gist of Beneluxx is that you can sample wine, beer, cheese, and chocolate by the ounce –fifty wines, thirty beers, thirty cheeses, and twenty chocolates. Fondue, mini pizzas, sandwiches, sausages wrapped in galette, soups, and salads are offered, too. Fun!
Skreeeeeeeech! (Needle on vinyl.)
Before I start my long rant (it's always the whiners that write long reviews), let me say that nothing we put in our mouths from Beneluxx was bad and everyone working there was amiable. I write this with the utmost love for Beneluxx, and I hope someone will tell them to read this review. (I looked for a comment card, but there wasn’t one.)
When sitting down at the tables equipped with glass-rinsing systems (fun when drunk!) lining the wall across from the bar, the first thing you notice are bottles of bleach solution attached to the wall between EVERY table. The small sign below the bottles recommends that cautious individuals use the bleach solution to spritz surfaces. This. Is. Fucking. Weird. Is the owner O.C.D.! Any germaphobe is already packing Purell and antibacterial wipes. Take these bottles down at once. Weird. Weird. Weird.
The menu! Oh, god. Where do I start? Um…if you have to warn your customers that the menu is a novel when handing it to them, you might want to rethink it. The menu is horribly organized; it took us a good fifteen minutes to decide on the first drink order. It didn’t help that not a single one of our three menus included the same pages (some missing, some in different order).
My partner actually designs how people use information, and he tells me that the “information hierarchy” is poorly designed on Beneluxx’s menu. I dig holes in the dirt for a living, and I could tell that this menu was poorly designed. We spent a lot of time flipping back and forth between pages that logically and visually didn’t relate to each other.
The pairing suggestions were unhelpful. Listing five wines (nothing specific; just Zinfandel, Merlot, Reisling…) next to each cheese is like telling me to throw a dart. Towards the back there were two more pages with pairing suggestions (redundant!) for a select few cheeses, beer, chocolate, and wine. Just an example: all but one of the cheese and wine suggestions were for goat cheese. I like goat cheese, but, if you don’t, you’re screwed.
I’m not a professional information architect, but may I suggest handing me three pages only...
- Side One - White wine organized from light to heavy.
- Side Two - Red wine organized from light to heavy.
- Side One - Cheese organized by texture.
- Side two - Chocolate grouped into white, milk, semi-sweet, and bitter-sweet.
- Side One - Beer. I’m not a beer drinker, so have no suggestion for organization, but alphabetical wasn't working for the beer drinkers in my group.
- Side Two - Other food menu items.
Can’t fit it all? Yes, you can! Pare down the descriptions to essential words. Get rid of those unhelpful suggestions, and rely on the in-house experts. Intensively train your staff, so they are also knowledgeable. The staff was nice, and I could tell the non-expert staff was making an effort to learn. I know you’ve only been open a couple of weeks, but their knowledge will come in time.Beneluxx, please hire a professional to design your menu. If you did already, fire them. Every day you have a customer struggle with the menu like we did, is a day you lose customers.Ok, I’ll keep this short…
Go ahead and sample all of the beers at Beneluxx. At around sixty cents per ounce, it’s not expensive to sample all thirty. Yes, it's more expensive than buying a few beers, but.... One ounce of beer is about two small sips – not much – but it’s fun to sample and compare. Plus, you can depress the glass washer to your delight.
Sample as many cheeses as your colon can handle. One ounce of cheese (you can order more than one ounce of any item, but we stuck with one ounce for everything) is perfect for sampling, and the prices are not outrageous. I went with three
I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but one ounce of chocolate is a bit much if you’re sampling a few different kinds. Half of this plate went into my bag and was eaten for breakfast the next day. I found the chocolate sampling the most interesting. There was even a chocolate that – gasp – I didn’t like. It tasted like beer!!
Hungry, we tried a few items from the food menu. The traditional Swiss fondue came in a tiny ramekin with bread. Additional accompaniments can be ordered for a charge. We went with the apples. There was barely enough cheese for the bread and apples, so I wonder what happens if you order more than one accompaniment?
All of Beneluxx’s mini-pizzas include meat. The Iberian, with chorizo, La Peral Blue Cheese, port
Sampling by the ounce is always more expensive than going whole hog, but look at it as a learning experience. Food was good, sampling was fun, but getting there was painful. Hopefully, Beneluxx fixes the menu train wreck, and gets on with gettin’ on.
Beneluxx, 33 S. 3rd St., Philadelphia, PA, 19106 Tues.-Thurs., 5p.m.-midnight; Fri. and Sat., 5p.m.-2a.m.; Sun. and Mon., closed.