Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Off the Hook

12636 Missouri 21
De Soto, MO


I’d been parking at the top of our driveway, about four hundred feet from the house, since Wednesday’s snow storm. Angel and Adam had cleared the area nearest the house but for several days there was only a shovel-wide path cleared between the house and the car. Saturday was my first chance to clear the rest. There was about four inches remaining, crunchy and icy underneath. Using gravity whenever possible I started at the top and scooped the snow to one side or the other until the drive was completely clear. It took three or four hours. A friend of mine once did the calculation, determined how much snow was moved, four hundred feet long, eight feet wide and four inches deep. I forget the number, but it’s a lot. It’s the equivalent of moving a large house, I think, one half square foot at a time . I don’t mind really, it’s actually quite therapeutic, calming, and when done there is a verifiable measure of accomplishment. It does lead to a healthy appetite. I burn more calories clearing the drive after one significant snowfall than I did for the entire decade of the 1990’s. As dinnertime arrived, I was a bit achy, but I had managed a nap and my tummy was growling.

The Place:

Adam got to pick, and his choice was satisfying to all. Off the Hook is not a chain, and it’s not in a shopping center. It sits alongside the road between Hillsboro and DeSoto with a parking lot that slants in several directions at once. The building is only a few years old and is early-American, almost barn-styled. It’s kind of like a country kitchen without the kitschy general store part. The place was only about half full, we were seated immediately. The floor plan is large and open with a high ceiling, decorated with all things fish and fishing. In the center of the floor is a large aquarium filled with fish that are not on the menu. The wait staff, all wearing logo’d tee shirts were bustling about, all female except for the guy clearing the tables. At this place the women take orders and handle the money, the men do the dirty work, cleaning up the inevitable mess, not unlike many marriages.

The Food:

I didn’t need to stare long at the menu. Though they offer other things, like chicken fried steak, fried chicken, burgers and such, the only thing I really want there is the catfish. I chose my sides and waited for Angel and Adam to make their picks. Our teas and Coke were delivered, Adam needed a few more minutes.

Finally, after being sighed at repeatedly, he made his choice and the young lady took our order.

I asked for the catfish with slaw and baked beans. Angel, the catfish, slaw and white beans (just to be contrary). Adam asked for the Angus burger with extra cheddar cheese and bacon. The catfish plates also came with hush puppies and home fries.
Hushpuppies, a southern staple allegedly got their name by hunters. They would carry some fried cornmeal batter and toss them to their dogs while the hunters enjoyed the actual catch of the day. Runaway slaves would do the same to silence guard dogs. Thus a cheap, readily available food to 'hush the puppies.'

As we waited, Adam and I discussed alternative snow removal techniques and ideas. I like to start shoveling as soon as possible, before it turns crunchy. In fact I told Adam that if I could, I would start shoveling before it even started falling, that way I could use the shovel to swat the snowflakes away from the driveway before they could accumulate. He thought about it and agreed, in theory, to the idea. We also discussed installing guided lasers to destroy each individual snowflake as it fell, though there were questions about the cost of such a device, as well as concerns of possible collateral damage.

We’d ordered an appetizer as well, OTH has a fantastic selection of appetizers. We opted for our favorite, the fried corn nuggets. It’s whole kernel corn, fresh from the can, squeezed together with a light and binding corn-bread batter then deep fried to a golden brown. These things are simply awesome. We scarfed them down quickly as we continued our discussion.

Soon our meals were delivered and all went quiet as we dug in.

Angel and I each got five ‘nuggets’, each one about five inches long and an inch thick. Coated with a thin, crunchy cornbread batter and fried perfectly, the fish was moist and flaky. The fries and hush puppies were perfect as well, though I held one puppy in reserve. The beans, home made and sweet were served in a small bowl, as was the sweet, but not-very-creamy coleslaw.* Angel thought the slaw could have been a bit sweeter, but I was quite satisfied, especially after last week’s blue cheese slaw (blech!) at Ruby Tuesday’s.**

There was no way I was going to be able to eat it all, but that was not a problem. They’ll give you a box (as long as you don’t order the ‘all-you-can-eat’ offering) and saving back a hushpuppy, two of the nuggets and a few fries makes for a great Sunday lunch.

Adam’s burger and fries disappeared quickly, Angel stopped eating at about the same time I did. We discussed the food and found no flaws. This was our second or third trip here and agreed that the quality of the food and service was very consistent and very good.


The place is very well managed, clean, efficient and the food is, without exception, of excellent quality. The price was very reasonable. The whole thing including the appetizer and more food than we could eat, came in at thirty seven dollars. This is roughly half the price of a similar meal at the chain restaurants. I’d put this place up against any chain restaurant in the area. They’ve got it all figured out, a casual atmosphere, excellent food, affordable prices and a great staff. They manage a lot of traffic without any noticeable sign of distress or disorder.

If you come to visit us, we’ll probably take you there. They offer ‘family style’ meals for large groups so every one can dig in as much as they like. Highly recommended!
*Not-very-creamy coleslaw. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Some coleslaw, like KFC's uses buttermilk to add creaminess, other places simply use vinegar, sugar and mayonnaise, and some use just vinegar and sugar. It's a tradition/taste thing. I prefer the creamy stuff, but I'm not married to it.
** I have sent 'Feedback' to Ruby Tuesday's about their awful, awful slaw. If it is stricken from the menu, as it should be, you'll have me to thank.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Ruby Tuesday’s

Festus, MO

We had originally planned to return to Taytro’s Bistro in Festus, a Cajun-ish spot where we enjoyed a light lunch at back in December. As we were readying to leave, Angel offered up an alternative. Doing so aroused our suspicions. “I’m really hungry and I don’t know if that place’s dinner menu had enough stuff that I like well enough to fill me up.” She explained. She’d had a busy day that started early. With a couple of dogs in for training, another for day care and the fosters, plus her morning class for clients and a pickup and drop off, her day had been wall to wall. I on the other hand had attended a pleasant critiquing session, stopped a Walmart for HBA’s and then napped in the early afternoon. She works a lot harder than me, which is her fault for choosing a career that consists of a lot of manual labor and a considerable amount of time outdoors in all kinds of foul weather.

“Mama needs some carbs!” She added. I shrugged my shoulders, which is my casual way of hugging/consoling her.

I respected that she was hungry as did Adam so we asked where she wanted to go where there would be an ample supply of food of the kind she was sure to like. First she suggested Ryan’s, a dive of a buffet, at which I made overt gagging sounds. Then she called out Ruby T’s, I could come up with no rational objection.

On the way there we continued our philosophical discussion, this time, not just on truth, but the universality of truth. Once again we reached consensus quickly and for the last half of the drive we were all but silent.

“Aha!” I shouted, “It’s the salad bar!”

Adam looked at me with the awe and respect I deserve, but there was also a hint of befuddlement in the young man’s dark eyes. “What’s the salad bar?” he asked innocently. “Your mom wants Ruby Tuesday’s because we place our order then immediately get to go fill up a platter full of salad from the generous bar. She’s hungry, hungry now, and knows that we’ be chowing down about five minutes after we get there.”

Angel was smiling, drooling and nodding.

The Place:

Just below Lowe’s, the generous parking lot was only about half full. We walked in and were greeted by a half dozen little girls, probably in their late teens to early twenty’s, dressed in black pants and black shirts. Those also wearing black shoes made me think of them as hoodless Ninjas. Blonde, hoodless Ninjas with scary, hair-trigger hormonal issues. A gaggle of darkly-clad princesses.

We were led to a back booth, passing the salad bar to get there. I think Angel sucked in some produce as we walked by. We were seated at the dark table and handed colorful menus and asked for drinks. Tea, tea (with lemon), Coke. The lighting was so low that I could barely make out the words on the menu.

Usually I get steak, but I wasn’t really all that hungry, not having actually burned off any calories so far that day. I scanned the offerings and landed on a risky alternative. I chose my sides and waited as Angel chewed on the menu itself.

The Food:

I ordered the crab cake with ‘Blue Cheese slaw’ and onion rings, plus the salad bar. Angel, the Lobster Carbonara, and Adam the Chicken and Broccoli penne. Angel also asked for the salad bar (surprise!) Adam declined. Angel shoved me out of the way and had her salad plate half loaded up before I even got to it. She had bloodlust in her eyes, small children ran away in fright.

I forced myself to not pile things on too high, but it was difficult. If nothing else, RT’s has the best, freshest and most varied salad bar of any place I’ve been. There’s plenty of everything, several kinds of greens, different kinds of mushrooms, lots and lots of chopped bits and about ten different salad dressings. Then there’s the croutons, dark and rubbery, which Angel and Adam love , but I can’t stand.

Seated again, Angel tore through her salad like a chainsaw through Styrofoam. I maintained class and decorum, picking and cutting, dousing each bit into both of the dressings, and then savoring each bite. Whenever he thought it was safe, Adam would reach across the table and pluck a crouton from his mother's slaughterhouse of a plate. I was sure he’d mis-time it once and pull back a bloody stump.

The pace slowed as her appetite was soothed, her face faded from the violent murderous red that it had been. Calm overtook her and she relaxed.

The main courses arrived, the two pasta offerings steamy and piled high, slick with sauce and dotted with lobster and broccoli respectively. Angel lit up when she discovered chunks of bacon alongside the buttery lobster bits.

My plate contained a large, but lonely crab cake. The slaw and rings were contained in smaller ramekin-like bowls and cuddled up on the plate with the crab cake. I tasted the thing, more ‘cakey’ than crab, and even though there were large, identifiable lumps of crab, I wasn’t really tasting it. The breading had a stronger taste and it tasted of fried bread. Not a bad thing in and of itself, but crab is king, you don’t want to cover it up. Angel and Adam hunted down and picked the meat out from their pastas, they seemed to be enjoying themselves.

I then tried the slaw. I immediately decided that this dinner had already suffered its first fatality. Blue Cheese slaw sounded good, I like blue cheese, a little sprinkled on a salad, or as a second dressing. My guess is that RT’s took shredded cabbage and mixed it in a vat of pure blue cheese dressing. There was no other taste discernible other than the blue cheese. A little blue cheese is nice, but too much of it ends up tasting like stinky cheese, rotting curds. It was simply too strong. No sweetness of mayonnaise to offset it, just a mouthful of liquid stinky cheese, like moldy, fetid, death itself.

Fortunately the onion rings were just right. I made it through about three quarters of the crab cake, with the help of a couple of cheesy biscuits, the slaw was completely abandoned. As I turned the last curve on the crab cake though, I had to give up on it. It wasn’t just me, Angel confirmed it, way too salty. Crab cake doesn’t need a lot of salt or salty ingredients. Crab is a subtle taste, it can be easily overpowered, and in this case it was.

Angel and Adam seemed quite pleased though, so I just had another cheesy biscuit and watched them push pasta and meaty bits around their plates.

The waitress seemed to notice that I’d left a lot of food behind, but I chose not to complain. I was full, enough salad and bread can do that for a man, and in no mood to yell at the dolts that thought the crab needed more salt and the slaw needed more stinky cheese. Besides it wasn’t Ninja girl that had ruined the dishes, it was those tasteless, under-trained amateur robots in the back, the one’s blindly following the menu cards in front of them. (I don’t really blame them, they’re just trying to earn a living, it’s the institutionalized, carbon-copy-style food prep that I object to.)


Sixty bucks before the tip. Not awful, had the food (mine) been up to par. I’ll just choose something else next time. Certainly not that nasty slaw, and ‘pass’ on breaded seafood. Angel and Adam were genuinely satisfied though, no complaints.

The tables were too dark, but the service was perky and quick. The overhead football games were meant for somebody else and added nothing to our experience. The background music was tame, generic and forgettable.

We’ll go back, probably. Most of the time the food is quite good, just not always.

Blue cheese slaw…What were they thinking?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Kim's Cafe III

DeSoto, MO

We’re back! We sincerely hope everyone had festive, merry, happy times the last couple of weeks.

One gift we received was a gift certificate for Kim’s Café in DeSoto. This made choosing a place really, really easy. I know we’ve been before, but there’s new information that could help you make a more informed dining decision should you ever be in such a terrible quandary.

Before Christmas I attended a birthday party for a friend/co-worker. At the party were a few friends from the company we both used to work for, I hadn’t seen them for a few months. One of these former co-workers, who I’ll call ‘Chad’ was eager to talk to me.

“So I hear you write a blog about places to eat?”

“I’m pretty sure you knew that.” I responded.

“No, I didn’t! Send me a link!”

“Okay sure.” (I haven’t yet.)

“Hey!” he added, “Have you heard of a place called Kim’s Café in Desoto?”

“Well yes, I’ve reviewed it before, maybe twice even.” I went all thumbs up.

Then his face wrinkled up. “Ewww, really?”

“Well yeah, it’s one of my favorite places.”

“Oh, well okay then.” He walked away, shaking his head.

This didn’t bother me at all. Chad has lots of opinions; I’ve rarely found any that I agreed with other than pure work stuff. He was born and raised in DeSoto which means he’s somewhat socially and culturally disadvantaged. (Many DeSoto residents can and do overcome this malady by getting out into the real world and observing other cultures. Chad simply has not.) Chad was brought up on Hot Pockets, Fruit Loops and lime Kool-aid, cartoon-watching food. His tastes and food preferences are quite stunted and inherently dubious. The fact that HE doesn’t like Kim’s should not cause any alarm or concern. If anything, Chad should be pitied and his behaviors not duplicated.*

The Place:

On our way to DeSoto, the three of us discussed/debated the notion of ‘truth’. Yeah, we discuss these things from time to time. Having come to complete agreement during the fifteen minute drive, we took our philosophically satisfied selves into the joint. A small boy of about three or four…. or maybe more or less, was standing in one of the booth seats. He had short cropped hair and was covered in the shiny, sticky goo that one finds on a young child after they are allowed to feed themselves. He looked friendly and was not in possession of a weapon, so I smiled at him. He mistakenly took this as an indication that I liked children. He stuck out his sticky claw and offered me the last bite of a heavily moistened sandwich of some sort. I politely refused by making a shrieking, puking sound and running toward my own table. He was a cute kid as far as those things go and probably meant no offense. I blame myself partially, for having tried to be friendly in the first place.

Kim seated and menu-ed us. She seemed apprehensive at first.
“You know who I am right?” I asked her.

“Yes, I do, this time.” She smiled.

Kim got hold of my first review and we subsequently friend-ed on Facebook. The second time we went I still didn’t introduce us, she was disappointed. I wasn’t going to extend the charade, so this time I wanted her to know that it was us, and we would be writing about her establishment yet again. I understand if she was distressed. A highly-critical and sometimes scathing reviewer that reaches an audience of tens of people weekly, a powerbroker, a star-maker such as myself can be intimidating to have as a customer.

She said: “I suppose you want unsweetened tea even though you don’t think it’s very good.”

Angel answered her. “Don’t worry he doesn’t like anyone’s tea.”

I chimed in. “I only said it was unremarkable. It’s not personal, and Angel’s right. I’ve yet to find tasty, refreshing, satisfying tea anywhere.”

The Food:

So we got our tea (it was unremarkable) and perused the menus. Kim told us the daily special was Spaghetti, which was fine, I just wasn’t in the mood.

Angel ordered the Chicken Fried Steak, with corn and mashed potatoes. Adam asked for a breakfast combo to include French toast, bacon and an egg. Kim offered him the choice between grilled and fried French toast. He asked for an explanation and eventually chose a mix of both.

I’d decided that since I’d had the slammer once before (and LOVED it) that I needed to try something else. I went for a Cheeseburger with bacon, lettuce and tomato, extra cheese and grilled onions. And of course, crinkly fries.

We sat and waited, watching the sticky little boy and the young parents, apparently somehow related to Kim. The music was contemporary and tasteful, but a little loud. Adam asked if it could be turned down and it immediately was. I don’t think it was so much the volume for him as it was the bands/groups. He’s really picky about the crap he listens to. I couldn’t tell for sure since pretty much all music tends to be of-putting to me.

We discussed another deep and favorite topic, what the cast members of the tragically and prematurely cancelled TV show ‘Firefly’ were doing now.**

The food arrived. Adam’s French Toast was nicely arranged on a platter, a combination of grilled (as you normally find it) and deep fried. The toast was sprinkled with a generous dusting of powdered sugar. The fried, he tried and declared that it tasted like a donut. Angel agreed. I took them at their word since he had applied maple syrup to it and therefore rendered it inedible in my eyes.

My burger was sizable and grilled nicely. The tomato and lettuce were fresh, the thick bacon was crispy the fries were brown, crispy and plentiful.

Angel’s CF Steak and potatoes were covered in white gravy. I didn’t even have to ask. The fastest and most sure way to Angel’s heart is with a gravy boat.

It was all clanking of forks, chewing noises and occasional mmm’s and ahh’s.

Kim came by and offered dessert, but we were just too full. She laid down the check which carried her trademark ‘Thank you!’ written in neat cursive with the ‘u’ connecting seamlessly to an exclamation point.


The bill came in at twenty eight dollars and change. Sweet. The gift certificate was for thirty. I realized that the remainder, less than two bucks was not sufficient for a tip, so I polled the family for cash. I was the only one that admitted to having any, two paltry one-dollar bills. So Kim, it wasn’t as if we were deliberately shorting your tip, we would have given more if any of us actually had more cash on us.

The experience was great. We’re at home in places like this. Everything I’ve ever had there is good, solid good, and Kim and staff are always friendly and approachable. She even pointed to a small boy (same one or not I don’t recall, they all look alike) and introduced him as the future owner of the place.

Despite what Chad might think, I like this place and will go back, again and again. Whether I blog about it or not, it’s just a good, down-home style diner that has never disappointed.


* Chad. I kid Chad a lot. He’s actually a smart, capable and quite charming young man in spite of his many, many faults. Some would say he’s fiendishly handsome, and quite witty. Despite his inability to correctly identify quality food, he is a good guy and I believe ladies, still unattached. You can find him at almost any DeSoto gas station in the evening, slurping a two quart, blue Slushie as he salivates at the rotating fine-dining options, torn between the three-day-old dried-up pizza slices and the wrinkled, shriveled hot dogs of questionable constitution.

** Firefly. Undoubtedly the best TV series ever made. A Sci-Fi story of a future where Star Trek meets Gunsmoke. New outlying planets are the new frontier, the often hapless crew of the space ship ‘Serenity’ smuggles, steals and evades the authorities through the outer planets, the newest frontier. Nathan Fillion (Castle) was the captain, Ron Glass (Barney Miller) a priest, Summer Glau (The Cape) played a crazy smart girl, and Adam Baldwin (Chuck) played a muscled, short tempered and slightly stupid hired gun. Check it out on Netflix or where ever you go to find older TV shows.