Tuesday, June 28, 2011

d. Dooley’s 026 Grill

568 Old Smizer Mill Road
Fenton, MO

We’ve been busy the last couple of weekends and didn’t really eat out together. We’re all back now and ready for some more saucy, hard-hitting and articulate reviews.
The day was hot and humid, threatening early evening storms. I'd spent the morning saying a final farewell to a long-time hobby. For years I have been rescuing old computers, taking them home, fixing them up, making them do things together. In just the last five years since we last purged excess junk (moved) I'd still managed to accumulate quite a pile. About a year ago is the last time I recall even visiting the basement area where I kept my dusty pile. Somewhere along the line I'd simply lost interest in old computers and the tricks they could be taught. There's no market for the stuff, all of it at least ten years old, several generations behind contemporary usefulness. So I put an ad on Craigslist under 'Free' and watched the emails pile up. I called a guy who indicated that he was in the refurbishing/recycling business. He seemed legit and we lined up a Saturday morning pickup. I sprained several muscles lugging the junk upstairs, even with a trailer. He showed up promptly and loaded it up, filling to overflowing the small pickup's bed.
"We'll DOD wipe the hard drives." he assured me.
"Not necessary, I pulled the personal hard drives."
"Oh, Okay."
I had.  Old hard drives contain old data, like your SSN, your phone numbers, your frequently visited web sites. I don't let those things loose into the wild. Instead I perform a technical task on them commonly referred to as 'shooting the drives'. It's actually a quite simple process if you happen to live out in the country and own a high powered rifle or two. A handgun doesn't quite have the penetrating power needed, they're better suited for keyboards and monitors. I know this because, yes, I have shot a hard drive with a .45 Colt 1911. A Czechoslovakian M1922 Mauser is much better for this particular job.
I felt no regrets seeing the stuff disappear. Angel seemed pleased, more room for her junk now.

The Place:
The little ‘d.’ is for Dan, the proprietor, I don’t know what the ‘026’ is about. It’s been in business since 2005, located just off highway 141 on the far side of I-44.
It’s in a large new-ish strip shopping center, a handsome place though it completely lacks pub-like character. It emulates a modern sports-themed Irish eatery, like O’ Charley’s though without the backing of a national chain.
Angel had found it on the interwebs, we’d not heard of it before. The menu was enticing, something for everyone. Steaks, pasta, seafood, pizza, the whole nine yards.
It wasn’t too busy, we were led immediately to a booth in the back. The dark, charcoal carpet was very worn, the tables and chairs themed in red and black, the booths added a hunter-green. Cheap blond wainscoting went up from the floor to a beige/tan/gray-ish painted wall, the color was so neutral that I couldn’t even figure out how to describe it. The obligatory high, open ceiling was painted rust-brown, exposing pipes and vents and a few large ceiling fans. Each booth had a wall mounted tin lamp with it’s own dimmer switch.
The menus were single large-page, double sided and locally laminated, also well-worn.
Our waitress took our drink order, Beer (Sam Adams), tea and Pepsi. She was not amused at my original request: “I’ll have a beer.” and absently demanded specificity. Her obvious lack of humor canceled my plans to ask for sauerkraut later.
The drinks were delivered promptly and we placed our order.
The Food:
Me: Philly Strip steak (cheese, onions, peppers) with a baked potato and a side salad. I asked for a dressing recommendation and accepted the house blend ‘Ranch, Bacon, Parmesan’.
Angel: Nine inch ‘Gerber’ Pizza with side salad.
Adam: Chicken Club sandwich, hold the tomato, curly fries.
The wait for the food was not terribly long, though something was missing. We’d also ordered an appetizer, pretzel bites with cheese sauce. We waited and waited, made fun of each other and made terrible remarks about other people in the restaurant. Finally the salads arrived. The waitress was just about to walk off when I inquired about the appetizer. She had obviously forgotten because, though I’m no mind reader I can tell the difference in facial expressions between “Hmm, I’ll go check on them” (which is what she said) and "Oops forgot all about them”. Which is what her face showed. She was back in less than a minute with the pretzel chunks.
The salads were small, simple and fresh. The house special dressing was smoky, bacon-y and not overly sweet or tart. The salads only contained lettuce, onion and grated white cheese.  There was so much cheese that it ended up in the bottom of the bowl all bound together by the dressing. A little less would have been better.
Shortly our plates arrived, delivered by someone other than our waitress. Some places do this, I do not approve. I like single points of service, the delivery person did not know who got which plate, so she asked and we pointed.
She left quickly. In about fifteen seconds I determined that the butter knife I had was not going to carve through the thick, medium-rare steak. It took a couple of minutes to flag down someone, our own original waitress as it turned out. She returned with what resembled a bowie knife. It was sharp enough for the job though, so what if it made me look like Crocodile Dundee. My potato was massive and was served with four condiment tubs of Country Crock faux-butter and a half cup of sour creme. I glanced around for my Doctor. I didn’t spot him so I piled it on.
The steak was covered in what at one time had been melted cheese. By the time I cut into it though it had partially re-assembled itself into a warm blob. It did not cut well with the steak so it got mostly left behind. The onions and peppers were fine, just not enough of them.
Angel offered me a chunk of her little pizza the ‘Gerber’ which was ham, garlic butter and cheese, thin crust. It wasn’t bad but my problem with St. Louis cheese blends is that they seem to be a bit too sweet. Angel admitted that it was very rich.
Adam’s sandwich and fries disappeared quickly, though he remarked that the chicken was okay, but not noteworthy. I was the last one done, too much food again.

          The food was pretty good, we decided to go back sometime but order something else. The service was the least impressive part. Not that it was bad, just inattentive. Very little follow-up, very little more than minimal service.
The bill came in around fifty-eight dollars, about the same as Ruby Tuesday’s or Chili’s, for similar offerings and theme. There was nothing outstanding about it at all, but nothing really bad either.  If we lived closer it might call for more frequent visits, but there’s lots of other (slightly) better places between Dooley’s and our house. I wouldn’t be ashamed to take guests there, but once again, there are several other places that fit that description as well.
D Dooley's on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Kim’s Café V

Desoto Mo.

Man it was hot, ninety seven degrees, humidity hovering around ninety percent. The last thing we wanted was something heavy. Adam was the chooser and he chose well. Kim serves big meals and small ones.

The Place:

Across from the tracks at the bottom of the hill, across the parking lot that used to serve as a mini-bank, pretty much a single teller/drive-through affair where Angel did most of the banking that required transferring actual bits of paper. It closed a month or so ago, and Angel has been fuming about it ever since.

When we got to Kim’s there were no other customers, it was not quite five P.M., so we’d beat the evening crowd. We sat down in our usual booth, after a short squabble about who sat where. A gentleman arrived with menus just as we’d sorted it out. He asked about drinks, and we replied, tea, tea, Pepsi.

I know, I know, tea at Kims, like I was just begging for trouble. When the gentleman delivered the drinks he made sure to say “I brought you some extra ice, the tea is fresh-brewed and still warm.” I kid you not, he upped the ante.

Without saying as much we were looking for something different, not that the stuff we’d had before was bad, quite the opposite in fact. But there’s really only so much one can say about an excellent BLT or burger.

Kim came out warily, cautiously, yet friendly. We called up our orders.

The Food:

I ordered the walleye fish sandwich with fries (crinkle-style) instead of chips. Angel called for the ribs, Adam the chicken fried chicken, mashed potatoes and corn. With her ribs Angel asked for mashed potatoes and the house salad.

The salad was delivered promptly, Adam snagged a crouton before the bowl hit the table. Adam likes croutons, often the bagged ones we usually have around the house end up as his snacks more so than as salad topping.

Kim’s croutons are light, golden, with a slight crunch. Adam likes them okay but he likes the dark rubbery ones at Ruby Tuesday’s better. I dug in for the story. “So do you like these croutons?’ I asked, he nodded. “But not as much as Ruby’ Tuesdays?” I probed. He squinted and attacked. “You’re just looking for something to write about, you don’t really care if I like these croutons better than others!”

I wrote that down.

“I’m just looking for critique points, that’s why we’re here.”

“Yeah, but you’re going to make an issue about me and croutons like it's a big deal.”

“Hey, you don’t have to answer, I already know enough about you and croutons to write three paragraphs about it, I just like hearing your opinion.”

He grunted, then added “I like the croutons in the bags we get from the grocery store better than Ruby Tuesday’s.”

I wrote that down as well. It wasn’t really all that fascinating, but it would make for good filler in case this review turned up short.

As it turns out I can write three paragraphs about Adam and croutons.

The salad was about half gone when the door chime announced the arrival of another customer. I’d seen the middle-aged man step down from his big white pickup. He was wearing new jeans that were rolled up, they were about three sizes too long otherwise. This look was popular in the 50's. He also wore a bright red shirt, large glasses, and a straw cowboy hat. In other words, he didn’t really stand out in downtown Desoto.

He stood in the middle of the floor, apparently unfamiliar with the layout. Kim kindly and politely asked to assist him, she did not appear to recognize him either. A new customer.

“Do you know what you want?” She asked him, pulling out her pad. He continued to look around at the overhead ‘special’ announcements.

“Do you have sauerkraut?” he asked.

The three of us immediately snapped to attention. We painfully choked our snickering and listened for what could possibly come next.

Kim, also looking a bit baffled played it as best as she could. “We have kraut that we put on our some of our sandwiches.”

Then it got better.

“I was thinking kraut cooked with a ham bone.” He replied as if that were a common diner option everywhere but here.

We were struggling to maintain ourselves, we had to whisper since we were the only other customers at the time.

“That’s the line I’m going to use at every restaurant we ever go to.” I told the clan. Adam snorted, Angel sighed. She sighed because she knows I will.

She knows this because of how I order beer.

Here’s a challenge for you. It’s not a big one it only requires that you watch TV. You’ve seen it a thousand times already, a guy walks into a bar and says to the barkeep: “Beer!” that’s it, just “Beer.”

Now you try it. Go to a bar and ask for “Beer.” Just like they do on TV. Go on, try it, it’s hilarious, or as Angel describes it, embarrassing. So she now knows at sometime, someplace completely inappropriate, I’ll ask for sauerkraut, cooked with a ham bone. Maybe at Trattoria Giuseppe’s, or Wendy’s or Waffle House. It’ll be hilarious!

Anyway, Kim masterfully talked the cowboy into a burger instead, though I now know what I’m ordering next time.

The food we got was of course, excellent. Kim is a splendid restaurateur, she doesn’t serve anything that isn’t good, and she offers much more than standard greasy diner fare. The fish was crispy on the outside, flaky inside, the fries were crinkly and crunchy, the pickle sour. Angel left teeth marks on the bared rib bones and Adam’s food disappeared quickly.

The tea? Well, that still needs work. It was clear and fresh, but either the ice or the cup itself had a flowery aroma to it that did not fit well with the drink. Hey, if I didn’t criticize something I wouldn't be earning my paycheck.*


Awesome good place! The price is fair and the food plentiful. The bill came in at thirty-two dollars and change, I bumped up the total to forty even. At the register Kim smiled and asked about the only thing she was really worried about. “How was the tea?”

“Kim, you’re just not going to win this one.” I answered.

“I have to try.”

That’s why I like her and her place so well, because she cares and she will try.


* There is, of course no actual paycheck with this gig.

Kim's Cafe on Urbanspoon