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.
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.
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?