Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Bob Evans

Festus, Mo.
The Place:
“The Home of Homestyle” located just off I-55 in Festus. Back when we were in a rut, only going to the same places over and over again, this was one of them. Angel chose it for this week’s critique. At first I thought it might be against the spirit of the quest, but then decided that I couldn’t now recall what I usually got there or how good it was, my palette had been cleansed. Why NOT see how an old favorite stacked up against the thirty-odd places we’d been to since.
It wasn’t crowded at all; there was ample parking and plenty of open tables. The place is large with three or four distinguishable dining areas. The kitchen is in the middle, visible when you walk in the door. We were seated by a courteous and quiet hostess immediately in our preference, a booth. By ‘our preference’ I mean ‘Angel’s preference’, not necessarily mine.
The whole place was clean and fresh looking, well appointed, well lit and not too noisy. If there was music, I couldn’t hear it.
The walls were painted in a tasteful shade of yellow, and unlike Cracker Barrel, not cluttered with farm implements, buckets and quaint signage, just a few subdued framed ‘objects de arte’ with country themes. The seating areas were separated by waist-high wood panels topped with frosted and etched glass.
The heavy laminated menus were delivered and drink orders taken; tea, lemonade and sweet tea. Angel ordered the lemonade to our shock. She’s been doing lots of odd stuff this last couple of weeks, she got contact lenses along with her new pair of geeky-looking glasses around the same time she got her hair cut differently than she normally does. My guess was she’s either pregnant or dating again, or both. She insists not, but we’ll see.
The Food:
Then she didn’t order the country fried steak. In fact she ordered something that did not include gravy at all. She ordered the Memphis Spice Rubbed Chicken, which is like regular chicken except it’s neither breaded nor fried.
So I ordered the Country Fried Steak just to let her know that I objected to her bizarre changes in behavior. Adam ordered the Chicken and Noodle Deep Dish Dinner. When he ordered it the waitress cooed and patted him on the shoulder saying that it was her favorite as well. She was obviously expressing a crush on him. He denied it, but it was apparent to me. I can always tell when a woman has a crush on me; it’s what happens right before I ask them to marry me.
When asked about our bread choice I did recall an old spat regarding this place. Angel likes rolls, I prefer biscuits. So I asked the love-struck girl (woman, lady, whatever.) to split it, some of each, please.
She brought back a basket, three rolls and three biscuits along with several micro-tubs of ‘Whipped Butter Blend Spread’ which is about 90% soybean and about 1% butter, not even real margarine. I lathered up a biscuit and had my merry way with it. They make a pretty decent, country style biscuit. Then we got in a fight once Adam declared that he liked the rolls better. He just did that to suck up to his mom, I’m sure. I ultimately won the argument though, I write the blog which means the official account of the debate is whatever I say it is.
My gravy-laden steak was accompanied by gravy-laden mashed potatoes and green beans. It’s hard to go wrong with that except they tried too hard. The green beans were barely edible. They were just canned green beans that had been simmered with some form of ham. There was too much of a hammy taste though, I couldn’t finish them. I like ham just fine but this was rather overpowering in a perfectly good food that isn’t ham. The steak was delicious, crispy outside, tender inside, the gravy was great at first but saltiness crept up after a few bites and started overpowering my delicate but handsome taste buds. I stopped after about three quarters through. I tried a chunk of Angel’s chicken, didn’t really care for it. There was a definite herb and spice blend, but not the same blend that the Colonel uses and I just couldn’t get my brain to recognize it as good. Angel liked it, but since there was so much, two complete breasts, quite large and firm, but tender breasts, it proved to be more than a mouthful. I understood, I’ve always preferred smaller breasts myself . . . hold it what were we talking about?
Adam’s noodly thing was thick noodles and chicken chunklets served over mashed potatoes and a biscuit. I’m not a large noodle fan, anything bigger than spaghetti just seems doughy. He liked it very well though, it’s a preference thing I guess, he liked his mom’s chicken too. Like I said, he’s a suck-up. He understands the power structure in our home and he’s not afraid to rub my nose in it.
By this time the waitress was becoming quite chummy, I’d already insulted her a couple of times. I only do that to test a waitresses’ mettle, to see if they are up to the task of waiting on me. It’s not personal and their response is how I figure the tip level. She stood up pretty well, those times she could keep her eyes and hands off my son anyhow.
It got a little intense though. I wasn’t going to finish my dinner, but I wasn’t quite full. I inquired about deserts and she pointed to a desert menu that was sitting on the table directly in front of me. I asked around and no one else looked interested. I looked at the apple pie and remembered something else I didn’t care for about this place. Oh they have apple pie, but it’s sugarless apple pie. They use a form of unnatural petroleum, baby seal, or spotted owl extract to make it seem sweet, similar to the way rat poison is made. Aspartame leaves a thick, heavy and long lasting aftertaste on my tongue and some scientists believe it actually causes racism, terrorism and warts.
I chose instead the Strawberry Supreme Pie, which is essentially cheesecake but for some reason they refused to call it cheesecake. The picture looked good with one small problem. There was whipped cream on it.
I don’t care for whipped cream, on anything. Whipped cream brings nothing to a party except sweetness. I’d rather have subtle sweetness, like apple pie made with real sugar, or cheesecake, or Oreo’s. Whipped cream is only sugar, it’s a one trick pony with no depth or character. So I asked for mine without the whipped cream.
“So you don’t want whipped cream on it?”
“No thank you.”
“That means we’ll have to scrape it off, it’s already made.”
“That will be fine, I can wait.”
Then Angel leaped in to the conversation:
“Or you could just scrape it off yourself.”
“No, that’s what we’re paying these people to do, they don’t mind”
For some reason the waitress stopped smiling.
“And some coffee” I added. “In a cup please.”
She forgot her station for a moment and replied “How about in your lap?”
I responded with a mighty wit: “How about in YOUR lap!” Then she said some other stuff that I wasn’t paying attention to.
She came back shortly with the coffee, and no pie.
“Sorry, we had to make a whole new pie, it was just too much trouble to scrape all the whipped cream off the one we had ready.”
“Excellent. See Angel, I told you they wouldn’t mind!”
When she did bring the pie I had to politely point out that I had no fork. She mumbled something, probably an humble apology, and grabbed a fresh one off an adjoining table. I could have done that I suppose.
Summary:
I prefer Cracker Barrel for this type of food. It was good, there was nothing awful about it. A bit too hammy, a bit too salty, but not enough to send me retching. The price at about forty one dollars was reasonable and comparable. The apple pie thing is problematic though. I mean mostly the food they serve is already a bit on the heavy side, why not just make a real apple pie? Apple pie without real sugar is like apple pie without America.
The tea and coffee were excellent, the wait staff was attentive, if not flirty and the service was quick and efficient for the most part. The food as a whole though was only pretty good. They really should back away from the salt shaker a bit.
And we tipped the waitress well.

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