Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Steak and Shake

Steak and Shake
999 Veterans Blvd.

Festus Mo.


Once again, we’re doing burgers, which is okay. Oddly enough, although Angel, Adam and myself have lived within spitting distance of Steak and Shakes most of our natural lives, none of us recalled ever actually eating at one. So Adam’s recommendation was well within the bounds of the quest.
The Place.
Located in the shadow of a hotel, and just across a small parking lot from an Italian restaurant, and a “Bob Evans” sits the faux-diner. Black, white and red inside and out, brightly lit it is constructed from the franchise’s template. Built to look like a drive-up and / or diner from the 50’s it is kind of kitschy.
It was also kind of cold. Angel commented on this almost immediately. I hadn’t noticed, but that was due to the fact that I lost the ability to sense most modest changes in ambient temperature in my second divorce. (I had no money at the time so the lawyers went after my dignity, pride, will to live and my ability to sense ambient temperature changes. It was a compromise, they actually wanted my toenails and my eyebrows.) Anyway after a while, a long while (more later) I noticed it as well. Guessing, I’d say it was around sixty degrees. Adam was wearing a fleece hoody and did not complain. In fact I think he chuckled. I recalled and mentioned reading somewhere that some fast-food establishments lower the thermostats in order to get people to leave quicker, stepping up the pace of turnover. Uncomfortable people may eat, but they don’t linger.
We were seated in a half-booth, a booth seat against the wall, with two chairs on the opposite side of the table. I sat with Adam for the first time in our adventures simply because the booth seats looked out into the restaurant and I prefer a view. My choice to sit by him bothered him a little since it was a dramatic break from convention. I told him to shut up.
The small tables were convenient for the staff. They could arrange them into small or large groups as the need arose, which it did quite often in this busy place. There were several families, but just as many individuals (at the bar) and couples. No alcohol available here, so not as many children (see previous post: Red Robin).
The menus were colorful, not too large, and straightforward. There was a picture of just about everything. We ordered our drinks, two unsweetened ice teas and a chocolate shake. The tea arrived quickly in real glasses! We were also given silverware wrapped in a napkin. Adam was served water, also in a real glass, while his shake was being constructed. We discussed the offerings and finally decided. I ordered the bacon-cheese double steak burger, Angel the classic double and Adam, always the bolder one, chose the chipotle double.

The Food:
The food did not arrive quickly. We were patient, and just chatted, made fun of other patrons and each other, and shivered. The waiter came by after about ten or fifteen minutes and apologized for the delay. Apparently they were out of thawed patties. This is pretty serious for a place that pretty much only serves burgers.
Finally after at least twenty minutes the plates arrived. Yes plates, real stoneware plates (take notice Red Robin, real plates, silverware and real glasses!) The fries were of the shoestring variety, which I like. The one downside was the small end bits, and there were lots of them. The end bits were about 1/16th of an inch thick and only about ¼ inch long, making it very, very difficult to dip them in or retrieve them from the ketchup. They were cooked perfectly though, had it not been for the very large number of tiny ones I would have no complaint at all.
The burgers were all doubles; two thin patties made of leaner stuff then other chain burgers. None were cooked to order which is understandable since they are so thin that catching them at pink would be nearly impossible. They were delicious though. We all asked for our own combinations of lettuce, pickles, etc. I asked for everything except relish. The pickles were long cut and a little on the sweet side. The burgers were quite good, and not too terribly messy. Adam mentioned that his ‘chipotle’ was not too hot, apparently just enough of the peppers were used to add taste rather than to inflict gastric distress. They were also lighter than ‘gourmet’ burgers. By the end of the meal we all felt satisfied, but not weighed down and greasy.
Adam was quite satisfied with his shake though it was pretty much gone before the food arrived. The tea was Lipton, I could tell, but it was fresh and clear.

The Service:
For a place at this price and of this theme the service was exceptional. Our waiter was mid twenties, tall, cut and square jawed and quite pleasant. He did struggle a bit with the apology for the delay, but at least he was straightforward and sincere. The remaining staff stayed busy and teamed up to clear tables, re-arrange seating and were quite quick to refill drinks. The check arrived before we were finished eating, once again pointing to a possible desire to speed up turnover. Frankly this is fine with me, we’re not lingerers. Now for the best part You’re not going to believe it. The total tab including tip: Twenty five dollars and four cents. Yup, I checked it again just to be sure, twenty five dollars and four cents including tax and tip.

The only solid criticism was the temperature of the place. Even the delay was not that bad. Had the temperature been more tolerable the delay might have gone less noticed. It was so cold that I was not at all inclined to order a shake, which is half of the business’s name. (disclaimer: I don’t like shakes anyhow, but if I did , I am sure I would have been too cold to want one)
The price was simply unbelievable. Recall that there were real waiters, real silverware, glasses, and plates. Go back and read the Red Robin review again for a real comparison.
Price: one hundred points +, food: ninety eight points, temperature: sixty degrees. I won’t ding them for the delay too much since it was likely a rare fluke. That sixty degree thing however drives the total down to a mere chilly 92 points, a B in my book. Highly recommended, we will return, with hoodies or a sweater.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Red Robin Gourmet Burgers

The past few weeks we’ve been visiting mostly full service places that serve steak, seafood, etc. We have not limited our exercise to this though, as you will see this week. When we started this quest, we made only a couple of rules. 1. it needed to be a place we’d not been to before. 2. The choice would rotate between the three of us. This past weekend was Angel’s turn and she decided to try a place that she had seen often but that we had not tried.

Red Robin Gourmet Burgers
130 Gravois Bluffs Cir, Fenton, MO
Official Website
Oct 17 2009

The place:
Gravois Bluffs is surprisingly enough a shopping center on a bluff just off Gravois Blvd, (Highway 30) in Fenton. The shopping center hosts our nearest Target, movie theaters, office depot, and nearby is the nearest Best Buy, Garden Ridge, etc. so we’ve been by the Red Robin scores of times. It sits in the parking lot near a Qdoba, Olive Garden, and a few other such places.
Inside we immediately noticed the staff busy filling helium balloons, and a large CRT TV mounted in the floor under thick glass. I noticed that no one was stepping on the TV, though they could, they were stepping around it; modesty perhaps? I also noticed that no one was watching it either. It seemed more gimmicky than functional.
The place was very busy, the noise level was quite high, high enough that even though I sensed there was music playing I could not identify it. We were quickly escorted to a booth in the back affording us a view of the entire place. We liked the lamps, small halogen deals suspended from the exposed metal rafters and covered with small, brightly colored thick glass shades. I think LOWES carries these, we’ve always liked them. On the walls were mounted pictures, different sizes, different subjects, mostly bright and happy. They really covered the walls, nary a bare spot was visible. There was no underlying theme, some movie posters, some animated ducks, some group photos and some scenery. It appeared to have been the result of raid on a flea market rather than a planned art hunt. There was a large mural near the entrance near the ceiling, of people smiling. A diverse group of people, heads only, all very content and happy. It appeared to me to be something you would see on the cover of a brochure for an insurance company or HMO. There was also for no apparent reason, an outrigger canoe dangling from the ceiling.
The menu we were offered was a single colorful card about four feet by eight feet in size. . . well maybe not that large, but close. The variety of offerings was very good considering we were in a place that bills itself as a gourmet burger restaurant. We did not expect a soup/salad bar or a vast array of main courses.

The food:
One ice tea, one diet coke and one regular coke.
Angel went off the grid and ordered the Grilled Salmon Burger , Adam, the Banzai Burger, and I decided on a classic Bacon Cheeseburger. I was asked if I wanted it ‘pink’ or ‘not pink’, of course I chose pink. All orders promised a bottomless supply of steak fries.
The tea arrived, I was not about to be impressed. The menu had highlighted the fact that it was Lipton as if there was reason for pride in such a claim. So one point was immediately deducted from the total score. It was clear and fresh though so they didn’t lose any more points than that. Angel and Adam said nothing about their unimaginative drink choices, so I assume they were as satisfactory as mass-manufactured soft drinks can be.
The burgers and fries arrived quickly enough in a basket about two sizes too small for the offerings. The burgers were tightly diapered to help catch the advertised drippiness. This was not a problem; I like my burgers a bit messy.
The fries were thick and mostly hidden under the burger in the small basket. Adding ketchup was difficult since I prefer to dip my fries rather than drizzle them. I cleared a corner in the basket and struggled throughout the meal to keep the fries from drowning in the puddle.
I have to say the burger was fantastic. It was indeed pink, somewhere near medium rare. It was thick and juicy and covered in cheddar cheese. It held together just fine in spite of its juiciness. I tried Angel’s salmon, and oddly enough it was probably the best prepared salmon filet that I’ve had anywhere, and here it was pretending to be a burger and served like one. Angel really liked it.
The fries were a disappointment. I would have preferred thin crispy fries. Of course by definition steak fries are thick. These however were also barely done, no crispiness, mostly soft and starchy. A few more minutes in the fryer would have done the trick, these were barely brown. However there was a promised infinite supply of them. Since the basket was so small there were not many served initially, Adam and I had to request more. To my taste they were also too salty, though that’s probably just me. Angel added salt to hers.

The service:
It was fine. The uniform was blue jeans and properly logo’d polo shirts. Our server was young, quick, friendly and attentive. Looking around the staff seemed to all be busy and content. I would not have been because:
The place was filled with babies!
I noticed this while we were waiting for our food. The place was full and by my estimate more than eighty percent of the tables had at least one baby or toddler, several had more than one. I mentioned this to Angel and she agreed that there was an astonishingly high proportion of families with very young kids. I tried to figure it out. The place was more expensive and slower than McDonald’s or Burger King, the burgers were certainly of a higher quality but still we’re just talking burgers and fries. I was perplexed. Then Angel pointed to the front of the building. I saw it; the bar.
A quick scan around the tables confirmed it. Nearly every table that had a young family also had a parent or two sipping something more potent than ice tea. Dads had a variety of choice beers to choose from; the mom’s and grandma’s seemed to prefer something tall with ice and an umbrella or sunken cherry. It made perfect sense. All around messy, smelly, greasy babies were sucking on their slobbery steak fries, while mom was taking the opportunity to dip her toes into a slightly more relaxing place.

The burgers were very good. I wouldn’t say ‘insanely delicious’ as the advertisements scream, but I certainly did enjoy the burger. The fries, though okay, were quickly too thick and heavy. This is an issue with steak fries in general, not just Red Robin’s. The baskets were frustratingly small. The meal only cost forty four dollars with tip, much less than our previous restaurants, but quite high for burgers and fries. Frankly Dairy Queen’s burgers taste almost as good, and are nowhere near as pricey. Given the choice between the two, I would probably more often choose Dairy Queen because of the price certainly, but also there are fewer screaming kids and less noise in general and of course, better fries. I can certainly recommend the place though, but ONLY IF you have small children and are seeking an ‘adult friendly’ burger joint.
The final score, eighty five; barely a ‘B’.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Tanglefoot Steakhouse

Oct 10, 2009

1198 Gannon Drive
Festus MO 63028

The place:
Located near Interstate 55 in Festus, just across the parking lot from Home Depot and next to a large hotel, Tanglefoot is a busy place.(for an explanation of the name, go to their well designed and maintained out web site) Nothing fancy about the building or interior, somewhat Spartan. It was large though and could easily accommodate large groups. High ceilings and nearly bare walls made it a bit echoey, but not too bad. There were a few framed Basketball jerseys from local high schools on the walls, and several CRT TV’s mounted on the wall. The TV’s were all playing the dismal Cardinal playoff game. The sound was muted, which spared us the details of the sad game.
We were seated immediately and greeted by our host who mentioned the day’s special, some sort of chicken dish. The menu was laid out well and not too clumsy. A large assortment of appetizers and main courses took a while to go through and choose from.

The food:

We broke with tradition a couple of times. Instead of two ice teas and a Coke Angel opted for a Diet Coke for herself. I expressed my confusion and disappointment to no avail. The beverages arrived and I was pleased to see that the tea was crystal clear. It was fresh, not poured out of the middle of a thirty cup batch. It was not Luzianne, but still better than we had been served at our previous meals.
We also ordered appetizers, something we rarely do. It was the Lobster Rangoon that tipped us to sin this way. Adam does not like lobster, or even the essence of lobster so to be fair we let him order some mozzarella sticks.
For the main course, Angel ordered the Tilapia and shrimp, I ordered a Flat Iron Steak, rare, and Adam asked for the Cajun Chicken Sandwich. Angel and I asked for house salads, which were available for only ninety nine cents each. (compared to $2.95 at TGI Fridays)
The appetizers arrived and were fantastic. Nicely plated the Rangoons were served on a leaf of lettuce and drizzled with just a drip or two of sweet and sour sauce. They were expertly folded and crimped and arranged symmetrically. (The eyes always eat first). They were to die for. They oozed with flavors, lobster, onions, butter, cream cheese. They were sweet and rich but only perfectly so. The Mozzarella sticks were fine, served with the standard Marinara sauce. We saved a few of each to take home.
The salads arrived and were pretty large. They were fresh and individually made, we could tell by the equal proportions of cherry tomatoes and cucumber slices. The croutons were made in house, toasted to a light brown and not too hard or dry.
The main courses were served in excellent time and were still sizzling. The steak was cooked perfectly and was bleeding a bit, the baked potato was sliced open and two generous scoops of butter were starting to melt into it.
Angel’s Tilapia and shrimp was accompanied by a cheese and spinach gratine, which was beautifully browned and very well made. I tried a half shrimp dipped into it and wanted much, much more. The shrimp was delightful in itself, but adding that gratine dip made them extraordinarily good.
The steak was very, very good. It required no sauce, though I did cheat a little by letting a chunk or two slide through the potato’s ample butter supply. Having the salad made a big difference as far as the dining experience, something to break up the steak-potato-steak-potato monotony.
Adam said his Chicken sandwich was ‘fine’. I could tell it was pretty good by the way he went at it, devouring it.
When I asked Angel about her fish she responded “It was tilapia” meaning it was fine for a light fish meal. She had wanted something light and apparently this filled the bill perfectly. I wanted more of her shrimp and dip but the bowl was cleaned out.
The refill of my tea confirmed my initial opinion. It too was crystal clear. Excellent.

The service:

Or server was professional, courteous and responsive. I did notice that the average age of the staff was older than most of the chains. I recall no teenagers, mostly people in their late twenties to thirties. I only mention this because it was so noticeable. There was no confusion or delays or errors. The food was brought out in a very timely manner and the check was handled quickly as well. All A’s as far as I am concerned.
The total for this meal was higher than our other outings. This was due solely to the addition of the two appetizers. These at eight dollars and six and a half dollars respectively were in my opinion overpriced, even though they were excellent. The appetizers added about fifteen dollars to our meal, the total coming to seventy eight dollars including the tip.

The food was all excellent to superb. The service was professional, tidy and courteous. The only criticisms I really have were the price of the appetizers and the lack of a vegetable with the main course. I polled the family and they agreed with my own assessment, that we would indeed go back and we could indeed recommend Tanglefoot to others. I give them a ninety four out of a possible one hundred, the first ‘A’ I’ve awarded so far.

Adam’s Comments:

I agree, though I would like to input something other than "fine" for my meal.

As mentioned, I was given the Cajun Chicken Sandwich, as well as a side of fries. I was thoroughly pleased with my fries, which may sound unusual since they are... fries. But they were just about perfect. Each piece was salted well and all were crunchy, not, for lack of better word, potato-y. I was served a plentiful amount - not too much or too little. It may seem minor, but as half of my two part meal, it is rather important.

As for my chicken, I am a bit less enthused. I believe, though, that this may have more to do with personal preference rather than a general dislike. I didn't hate it, but it wasn't too my taste. I liked the spice, and the spicy sauce that they put on it was okay, but the chicken slice I was served was thin, and was only big in a manner that it was long - it stretched further than the bun. This is neither a good or bad thing, really. I liked having more, but I would rather it be all under the bun. It cancels out, I guess you could say. The meal was good for what it was, just not what I would normally have.

Friday, October 9, 2009

TGI Friday’s

TGI Friday’s
Oct 4, 2009 6:00 P.M.

The Place
Located at Lindbergh Ave and Baptist Church Road in South St Louis County, it looks like every other TGI Friday’s on the globe. The parking lot was large and almost full. The place looked very, very busy, but a neon sign above the door assured us: “Seating Available”. The hostess greeted us and quickly found us one of the worst tables in the place. It was at the intersection of the bar, the kitchen and the drink station.
The hostess arrived and handed us menus, and said some stuff. I’m not sure exactly what. I was too busy trying to avoid listening to her. She had the high pitched saw-blade voice of a cuddly but loud cartoon character, or as Angel decided, Lacey Chabert
, the girl who played ‘Penny’ in the 1998 Movie “Lost in Space”. She was otherwise professional though so I didn’t deduct any points for my distraction by her voice. I recognize that I am occasionally overly critical about some very petty things and can’t blame others for my own twitchiness.
The place was very, very busy, no empty tables for more than a few minutes. The din was almost relaxing, a white noise that faded into the background. It is a casual sports-type bar/restaurant, so the noise was expected and therefore not a problem. There were several large screen TV’s playing, something… I really didn’t watch. Aside from the constant foot traffic at our intersection table it was quite alright, decorated with flea market canoes, boats, and other assorted rustic but pointless and theme-less bric-a-brac. The stained glass skylight and interior windows were nice, if not a little out of place.
The background music, when it could be heard, was safe and unmemorable, ten to twenty year old pop songs. Too easy, too generic.

The Food
We were served our drinks quickly; once again two ice teas and a Coke. The tea was tasteless and unremarkable, I could tell it had been brewed in a large batch at least an hour before being served. It was also not Luzianne.
The menu was colorful, large and overly complicated. Too many pages, too many pictures. It was more like a collection of cumbersome billboards than a menu. The selections offered appeared quite appetizing though, everything they listed looked good.
I chose the sirloin steak (rare) and cheesy mashed potatoes, Angel ordered from the 'Jack Daniels Grill' page, ribs and shrimp. Adam ordered the All American Chicken Sandwich, hold the onions and tomatoes.
I was already a little disappointed. The choice of ‘sides’ for the steak was extremely limited. Onion Rings, fries, mashed potatoes, cheesy mashed potatoes were all I recall seeing. AND the steak only included ONE side. A small choice of salads was available for an additional $2.79. The steak was already costing me over fifteen dollars; I could not see paying an extra three bucks for ten cents worth of iceberg lettuce and Thousand Island dressing.
The plates arrived in a timely manner. My plate was mostly barren. On it sat a good looking thick steak and beside it there was a small platter containing the mashed potatoes. No garnish on the plate.
The steak was grilled perfectly to order, the waitress even asked me to cut into it to see if they got it right. I did so and on appearances accepted it.
Angel’s larger plate was packed, a rack of ribs, fries and breaded shrimp with a small bowl of ‘Jack’ sauce. Angel found the bowl of sauce unnecessary as the ribs had been saturated with the same stuff already. I tasted the sauce and decided to drizzle a bit on my steak. It was quite good that way.
Adam’s sandwich and fries were delivered in a basket and after opening it up to check for unwanted renegade condiments like onions and tomatoes, he wolfed it down. He seemed quite pleased with it, even though it had a green pepper sauce on it which we did not think he would like.
My steak appeared perfectly cooked; it tasted a little dry though. The sauce helped. I say it tasted dry; I should say it WAS dry. I’ve never had a rare steak that didn’t bleed all over the plate. This one barely bled at all. I suppose the fact that it was ‘aged’ could account for this, but it still seemed dry.
The mashed potatoes were a disappointment as well. They tasted instant, salty and starchy. The ‘cheesy’ appeared to be the application of some shredded cheese on top. If there was cheese IN the potatoes, I could not discern it. Colonel Sanders makes better mashed potatoes at a fraction of the cost.
Then there was the fact that I had nothing else on my plate. Some beans would have been nice, anything would have been nice.(Angel suggested that if we eat there again that Adam should go ahead and accept the tomatoes and onions and give them to me.) Eating this meal seemed to lack a beat. Steak, mashed potatoes, steak, mashed potatoes; repeat… there was nothing else to mix it up with. It was the culinary equivalent of a two string banjo. It just lacked simple depth and diversity.
Angel ate her ribs as if it were her first meal in a while. They were incredibly messy, as ribs are, and the pile of bones started looking like Fred Flintstone’s plate. The shrimp was breaded and fried. TOO breaded. She gave me one, I don’t recall the actual shrimp but I do recall the enormous thick wad of breading, easily as thick as the shrimp itself.
My meal left me feeling unsatisfied. Angel’s left her feeling bloated and thoroughly sugared up. Though the ‘Jack’ sauce tasted very nice in moderation, by the end of the rack of ribs, Angel said she felt like she had just drank a large bottle of maple syrup. That sensation did not go away quickly. The very idea of desert nearly sickened her. Which is okay, we don’t usually get desert anyhow.

The Service
The restaurant was heavily staffed. Young people, mostly girls, in black pants and red shirts. I already mentioned the hostess. The servers, and there were three different ones as I recall, were all friendly, available and they didn’t screw anything up or spill anything. One of them was pleasantly chatty, but not to the point of annoyance. The timing of the meal was excellent, quick, but not too quick, and the check was delivered and returned quickly. The price? Including tip, sixty three dollars and seventy four cents. This was a serious fiscal disappointment. It had cost more than similar fare at Ruby Tuesday’s but Ruby includes one of the most bountiful salad bars around. AND Ruby gives you TWO sides with a steak and a much wider variety of them. Also Jilly’s (previous post) had only cost six dollars more and provided two sides and a bread basket AND the meals are prepared by a real live chef.


For what it cost there was simply not enough meal. The food served was not really all that great, it seemed manufactured. The rib sauce was too sweet and heavy, the shrimp too bready, the steak plate bare and lifeless. The chicken sandwich rated a ‘fine’ which is pretty much the only rating Adam gives anything. I would only recommend this place for a casual, unimportant meal, and ONLY if there were no Applebee’s, Ruby Tuesday’s, or Outback within ten miles or so. Primarily for the price, but also for the overall un-remarkableness of the food I can only award a barely passing grade of seventy (out of a possible one hundred).

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Jilly’s Café and Steak House, High ridge MO
Saturday Sep 26, 2009

The Place
Jilly’s was an unexpected surprise. Angel came across it while surfing the interwebs looking for restaurants. We had never heard of it and knew no one that had ever eaten there, so our expectations were minimal.
The directions said ‘behind the Quick Trip”, and sure enough it was. The parking lot was ample and only moderately filled. To the left of the main entrance was another entrance this to the bar and dance floor. (live music on many nights) To the right was something altogether different from the bar/steakhouse we had imagined. The dining area was upscale, dark paneling up to the chair rail, then rich, tasteful and demure textured wall covering to the ceilings. Dark hardwood floors added even more warmth and unexpected classiness. Centered by a large sunken dining section the surrounding booths were tucked into roomy enclosures, wood paneled floor to ceiling. Soft individual lighting made the booths very inviting and intimate.
Upon entry there was a distraction, a life-sized butler or waiter that quivered mechanically as you passed by it. Not as tacky as “Billy Bass” but just as unnecessary and kitschy.
The restaurant was very well staffed, clean white shirted young people dashing back and fourth going about their duties were everywhere. Aside from one young man spinning, tossing and catching a menu they were not a distraction and seemed to be both satisfied with and serious about their tasks.
The music in the air was soft and unexpected. Rather than fancy restaurant elevator fare or steakhouse country, or the perfectly harmless generic vintage rock played at many family chains, the music was traditional blues; a rather welcome and refreshing touch.
We were seated in a booth by the hostess and immediately served with water, in glasses.
We were told our server’s name and that he would be by shortly. He was. Clean, friendly, serious and apron clad he greeted us and told us about the evening’s specials as he handed out the menus.

The Meal
The menus were well sized and not complicated. There were several items, but not too many. Of course there was steak. There was also a generous compliment of sandwiches, pastas, chicken etc. Adam, our rather picky adult son, quickly found something in the chicken category. Angel decided on the 12 Ounce Sirloin with Cabernet Butter Sauce with a Mushroom Risotto and Onion Scoops. I wanted steak as well, but since Angel already covered that, and this quest is all about branching out and exploring, I instead chose the Crab Encrusted Salmon with Seasoned Green Beans and Boursin Whipped Potatoes.
Drinks were ordered and delivered promptly. Two ice teas and a Coke. I noticed and remarked that the coke and tea were served in plastic tumblers whereas the water had been served in nice glasses. My family told me to shut up and stop nit picking. In my mind any ‘Café’ or steakhouse that distributes fancily folded napkins, should not serve drinks in plastic tumblers. I expect them at Denny’s or Ruby Tuesdays, but menu prices at Jilly’s were quite higher than those chains for similar offerings.
The tea itself was unremarkable. It wasn’t bad, just not memorable. I mention this because tea can easily be exceptional. Usually though it is not.
Next came the basket of rolls. The rolls we were served were pretty typical. I wish I could tell you what kind they were. We detected a possible poppy seed taste, maybe not. We asked the server what kind they were; he struggled for a moment and responded “whole wheat” as if his answer were really a question. I really don’t think they were whole wheat.
Even better than the mystery rolls was the whipped walnut butter served with them. If there were any left Angel planned to take it home. I’m not a fan of nuts as an ingredient in anything, but Angel and Adam made such a fuss about it that I am sure it was top-notch and woth mentioning.

The Salmon was large, eight ounces, about three ounces larger than it really needed to be. Better too much than not enough I suppose. The crab paste encrusting it was awesome good, the lemon butter sauce equally delightful. Most of the salmon was perfectly cooked, but since the filet was so large and not of consistent thickness, the doneness was a little uneven. The part that was a bit overcooked was rather small, so in all it was very, very good. I’m just saying, had it been a little smaller and more consistently thick it would have likely been perfect. I still highly recommend this dish though. The crust and the sauce more than overcame any defects.

Angel and I tasted each other’s meals and decided that one was very much as good as the other. Angel declared her steak the best she had ever had. The risotto was another story. She’s only had risotto a few times and has yet to find any she really liked. I tasted it and found it way too mushroomy. Risotto is a rice dish cooked slow and with a technique that forces an infusion of the flavors of whatever it is cooked with. It has to be done carefully. Risotto essentially amplifies flavors by concentrating them into the rice during the slow cooking process. My taste of it was far too strong where more subtlety would have been preferred in a side dish.

The Service, etc.
The service was pretty good, not exceptional. The wait for the check was a bit longer than it could have been, our server was pretty much nowhere to be found for several minutes. More attentive wait staff/supervision would have noticed the fidgeting and looking around of this table a bit sooner. That and his unfamiliarity of the rolls kept our tip down to the lower end of the appropriate scale.


The criticisms listed are really quite modest. In all I’d give the experience a ninety out of a possible hundred. Certainly a high B, almost an A. We decided that yes, we could recommend it and would go back ourselves. The dinner cost us seventy dollars including tip, about thirty percent more than we would pay at a family chain, however the selection and quality of the food was for the most part exceptional. If Jilly’s can get over it’s minor identity crisis, use actual glassware and dump the silly fidgety faux-waiter it might more easily match its prices and fine food offerings and overall near-elegant ambience. Details, details, details.

*Several minutes after the meal I noticed an aftertaste. Something was too salty, perhaps the potatoes, I don’t recall noticing it so much as I was dining, but there was a definite lingering saltiness later.

Seldom asked questions: (SAQ's)

Where is High Ridge?
High Ridge is not a big town, 2000 census data shows 4236 persons. It lies in north – central Jefferson County, not far at all from suburban St. Louis County. If I lived in High Ridge instead of Hillsboro I could easily shave about twenty minutes off of my commute. Should we decide to relocate for convenience it is one of the small towns we would definitely consider.
That it is a small town is evident from every angle. It’s proximity to St. Louis is evident in a few places, apartment complexes, etc. but for the most part it is just a small town, convenience stores and towing services dominate the billboards. Fenton, one of St Louis County’s large and southernmost suburbs is a mere seven miles up highway 30 (Gravois). Fenton has all the stores and restaurants you are thinking about.