Are wobbly reviews of an Elk Grove taxpayer subsidized restaurant a bad omen for Mayor's Old Town 'Gaslamp' plans?

High menu prices and mandatory gratuities are the most common complaints about
Elk Grove's newest hot spot, Slow and Low in Old Town-Historic Downtown Elk Grove. | 

A new restaurant recently opened in Elk Grove's Old Town-Historic Downtown to much hyperbole, much of it generated by the city of Elk Grove. That restaurant is Slow and Low.

Unlike other new restaurants in Elk Grove, Slow and Low has the distinction of receiving loan guarantees from Elk Grove taxpayers initiated by the Elk Grove economic development director Darrell Doan. About one year ago, after spending $700,000 to renovate the structure at 9700 Railroad St., owner Michael Hargis received a $500,000 loan guarantee from Elk Grove taxpayers.
Darrell Doan knawing on a bone at the 
opening of Slow and Low. 

The barbeque restaurant opened a couple of weeks ago, and the city of Elk Grove's publicity department was instrumental in hyping the launch. 

Now that the restaurant has been operating, aside from the praise from elected officials and city hall bureaucrats, what are diners saying about their experience? To be charitable - after all, the Slow and Low staff could still be in their shakedown phase - the reviews are wobbly.  

An Elk Grove News reader surveyed Yelp reviews and found a mixed bag. While a few reviewers enjoyed the meat offerings, there were some uniform complaints. 

Notably, many disliked the counter service and mandatory gratuities and complained about the high prices. 

Here is one Yelp review commenting on the high prices and mandatory gratuities.

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Here is a favorable Yelp review.

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After only three weeks of operation and a whopping 121 reviews, the Yelp rating is three out of five stars. On Google, the rating was slightly lower at 2.9 out of five after 40 reviews.

Here is a typical Google review.

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Yelp and Google reviews are notoriously suspect. However, if you see a common theme, such as mandatory gratuities or high menu prices, that can be a gauge of consumer sentiment.

As noted, Slow and Low has been open for less than a month and is undoubtedly still working out its systems. While food quality can be addressed and the gratuity policy can be reassessed by management, food, labor, and debt services costs are not easily addressed.

We hope the Slow and Lo operators can address concerns and prosper. If not, Elk Grove may have to foreclose.

More significantly, Slow and Lo is a keystone to Elk Grove Mayor Bobbie Singh-Allen's plan, as she explained last June (see videos below), to transform Old Town-Historic Downtown Elk Grove into something resembling San Diego's famed Gaslamp Quarter. If Slow and Lo underperforms, or worse, fails, the mayor's vision could become her and the taxpayers' nightmare.  

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