Why I Won’t Go to Duke’s Malibu Ever Again

My mom always used to say that everything happens for a reason and that couldn’t have been truer than it was on Saturday afternoon when I went to lunch in Malibu.

My wife’s family is in town and whenever we have out of town guests, she likes to take them to Duke’s Malibu. The restaurant has beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean so it’s a great spot. I love Duke’s Waikiki and we go there often but I think Duke’s Malibu is just okay. However, having a table by the window makes up for it. We had a lunch reservation at noon, which Natalie booked weeks in advance. We showed up 10 minutes early after our tour of the Getty Villa in nearby Pacific Palisades but it wasn’t long after arriving at the restaurant that we realized Duke’s Malibu is no longer our go-to restaurant.

To my wife’s dismay, the hostess said that they didn’t have any tables by the window available so they could either seat us in a different spot or we could wait 30 minutes for a window table. The most frustrating part is that the restaurant called her the day before to reconfirm and she specifically requested a window table. On top of that, the hostess said that they don’t reserve window tables, it’s first come, first serve. Yet, there was a table set for 10 just sitting there empty, right in front of the window. When we inquired why that table was being reserved by the window, she said that it was because there weren’t many places for them to accommodate a party of 10. But there were plenty of places for a party of 10, away from the window. So why couldn’t they tell those customers that they could either have a table away from the window or wait 30 minutes?

I politely asked to speak to the manager who arrived promptly but had a terrible attitude from the moment he walked out and was clearly unwilling to help. We all looked at each other and said, “Let’s go somewhere else.” After the manager’s completely dismissive attitude, there was no reason to stay and spend money at a restaurant that doesn’t even try to help their guests. I understand that they’ve got to juggle reservations and tables but what they did made no sense, not allowing us to have the table by the window when we had a reservation and were standing right in front of them. And they said they don’t guarantee tables by the window but they were obviously holding that table for a party of 10. So what is it? First come, first serve or not?

Anyway, the valet guys were amazing. “Back so soon?” they asked. We told them what happened and they said the parking was on them and wouldn’t even take a tip.

Instead of taking a right onto Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) and heading towards home, I took a left. It was a gorgeous day and I remembered a restaurant I went to when my parents used to visit me in college. Waiting for a street light to change, Natalie quickly called to see if it was still open and if we could get a reservation. Fifteen minutes later and seven miles up beautiful PCH we arrived at Geoffrey’s in Malibu and were seated immediately. It was everything I remembered and then some.

The staff were all super friendly, the setting was spectacular, outdoors with umbrellas and the food was solid. We were given a table by the railing overlooking the ocean and had a glorious lunch that wasn’t much more expensive than what Duke’s would have cost. My wife had said earlier that Duke’s Malibu had make a mistake and had just lost a customer for life but I said we should stop by on our way home to sincerely thank them for their awful service because we just discovered our new favorite restaurant in L.A!

 

Johnny Jet

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Why I Won’t Go to Duke’s Malibu Ever Again
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About the Author

Johnny Jet
I used to be afraid to fly and at times even leave the house! I conquered my fear (long story) and now I travel to 20+ countries a year sharing my firsthand knowledge, tips and deals with friends, family and readers. Please sign up to our free newsletters and tell your friends!

20 Comments on "Why I Won’t Go to Duke’s Malibu Ever Again"

  1. While reading your story about Duke’s several memories of the exact same thing happening to us came to mind. I know this happens. I even recall a situation where there were several tables open by the window which we were told we couldn’t have because they were saved for their customers among which we were nit included!

  2. I find it amazing how so many restaurants, even in tourist areas, don’t realize the value of return customers which usually means local customers. I live in Manhattan Beach and had a very bad experience with one of the restaurants in town where I had just spent a bomb on a business dinner for four. Never again for that place. When I called to discuss the matter, they didn’t care.

  3. So sorry that happened. And SO unnecessary– and DUMB. And now look at all the bad word of mouth. (They probably don’t care. “You don’t HAVE to like us. We are DUKE’S!”)

    Glad and unsurprised Geoffrey’s was an excellent experience. Terrific place.

    I’m a longtime fan of Paradise Cove and Gladstone’s (the latter of which has been a bit unreliable), and prefer their prices. But this is good information to have.

    • Paradise Cove is the only restaurant I love in that area. Never been to Geoffrey’s but will give it a try next time we are in the area. Duke’s has the Hollywood attitude and they look down on us the “regular” local customers without even knowing who we are. They do not deserve our money.

  4. Since you are “somewhat Canadian” through your wife and Jack (LOL,) couldn’t you find some great credit card bonuses for those of us who reside in Canada (some of us have bank accounts in the States too.) Please?

  5. Wow, I’ll have to give Geoffrey’s a try when in LA. Do they still have a Chart House in that area? I love that place much more than Dukes and the salad bar used to be the best.
    and yes, Mom is always right!

  6. that place has such lousy, supercilious service … the food’s horribly heavy too. we’ve been to the one in kauai a few times and decided to drop by this one once; never again!

  7. I took a guest from England last week to Gladstone’s and had a great table outside overlooking the pacific and the fish of the day was delicious.

    I have been to the Duke’s in Oahu and Kauai and have never been impressed with the service or food.

  8. The Charthouse is now a Mastro’s Ocean Club.

  9. Hope you and the family are well! I just read your post on Dukes in Malibu. We spent 2 weeks in Southern CA last summer and spent some time in Malibu. I loved it- so beautiful. We ate lunch at Dukes and we had the same poor customer service as you. While the location is beautiful, we waited for quite some time and found the staff less than friendly, and we were very rushed through our meal- which was mediocre at best! Its just a tourist trap. I much prefer In-n-Out Burger! Ha! I wish I had known about Geoffrey’s- it looks stunning. We may be going back t his summer and will add it to our list!

  10. A great experience and you’ll tell a few friends. A horrible experience – especially customer service – and you’ll spread it like wild fire. Businesses should realize that their food, product, views, prices are not the only reasons a customer returns. Thank you Johnny Jet for the review.

  11. This is the most spoiled, entitled, whiny post I have ever read about anything.

  12. We have grandchildren in Santa Barbara. Whenever we fly into LAX for a visit, our first stop is Geoffrey’s . 3-4 times a year for past 6-7 years. A perfect lunch spot

  13. We had a similar experience at Duke’s Oahu years ago. Our waiter hardly paid any attention to us at all or asked how anything was; simply stood across from us talking with a young couple he was obviously friends with. Another waitress ended up taking care of us so gave her a monetary tip and left him with maybe 10%. He actually came out front after us about not tipping properly and even mentioned getting the manager, to which I replied I’d love to speak to his manager and explain his actions when he was supposed to be taking care of customers. He then turned and went back inside, grumbling, and I’ve never had any desire go to Duke’s since.

  14. If you haven’t tried it yet, give Terranea a try.

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