Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Off The Hook

12636 State Route 21
De Soto, MO

The heat was building, it would be getting worse. With the mix of ninety-plus degrees, no breeze and humidity in triple digits, the air was thick and hot enough to hang and cook meat on. Angel tended to the dogs most of the day, letting them out for only fifteen minutes or so at a time, putting frozen water bottles in the outdoor watering buckets. I stayed indoors as much as possible. Unlike Angel I’m a cubicle dweller by trade and do not manage well outdoors in such ridiculously stifling, soul-sucking weather.
It was Adam’s turn to pick the eating place, he chose well.
The Place:
Off The Hook is a large, locally owned family style restaurant, a free-standing building on a large lot between Hillsboro and DeSoto. It’s quite a popular place, generally very busy. The large parking lot sits on small, rather steep hills, not a slot on it would be a good place to let go of a shopping cart or bowling ball. Angel parked the SUV on a significant slant and we slid out. The heat met us there as well, slapping us in the face like we’d just jerked open the door to a pizza oven.
The lot was not even half full, we went in and were immediately seated at a table. The motif/d├ęcor is river/pond nautical, and not entirely consistent, certainly not professionally designed but not obnoxious either. The menus were handed to us by the hostess. I made a cursory once-over, though I’d pretty much decided what my meal would be. Angel didn’t seem to be having any trouble either. Adam looked content, of course he should have been, he’d chosen OTH after all.
By the time the waitress finally stopped by again we were ready and gave out our orders, drinks, appetizer and entrees all at once.
The wood table was topped by a thick laminated ad space, local builders, flower shops, tanning salons each had simple ads glued down and glossed over. In the middle was a list of twenty or so trivia questions, the answers were randomly spread around the various ads. Adam took note and started reading them off.
“How many feet in a mile?” He asked his mother.
“Why would I need to know that?” she responded.
“Five thousand, two hundred and eighty.” I answered, not really thinking much about it.
“Why would you know that?” She sounded irritated.
I slumped in shame. “Uh, I read a lot?” I wasn’t sure why that would be a satisfactory answer but she left it alone. Adam fired off another one. “How many U.S. states have ‘West’ in their name?” Angel looked at me.
“Two” I said, sounding confident.
She furrowed her brow, Adam cocked his head like a baffled mutt.
“West Virginia and West Dakota.” Angel frowned, Adam snickered.
Adam jumped to the next one. “How many states have four letters in their name?”
I sat quietly and confidently as the two of them conferred, they both came up with Utah but forgot Ohio.
“All of them. All fifty states have at least four letters in their names.” I corrected them. They did not accept this as the correct answer, nor did the table, though I remained steadfast.
The Food:
Our Drinks came quickly, Tea, Pepsi and Diet Pepsi. The tea was weak, cloudy and flat, they don’t serve beer. Our appetizer arrived, Fried Corn Nuggets, corn poppers. These are basically small hush puppies with real sweet corn blended in and deep fried, a family favorite. While munching on these an attractive young lady at the next table started making overt passes at me. Staring, grinning stupidly, cooing and spitting. I waved to her and made a face. She squeezed her fingers into her sticky palms in an effort to wave back, blowing a decent saliva bubble while she was at it. Her young parents seemed amused, encouraging her to wave. She rocked back and forth in the high chair and cooed some more. Her round face and nearly bald head made her raven-dark eyes pop, the drippy near-toothless smile went easily from ear to ear. I waved some more, she cooed some more, our eyes locked and we telepathically conspired to make trouble.
“Leave the baby alone.” Angel scolded. Too late, the tiny thing was still smiling, but now refusing her spoonfuls of applesauce. Yet another corruption mission accomplished.
The food arrived, Angel and I had both ordered the catfish plate. It came standard with hush puppies and fries and two ‘sides’. I chose baked beans and slaw, Angel opted for white beans and green beans. The sides were contained in small half-cup ramekins, one of which, toppled off its precarious plate-edge perch, spinning, spraying and spilling the entirety of it’s holdings. Sticky and tiny cabbage shreds spread out on the carpet at my feet. Fortunately no one was seriously injured. The waitress sighed and offered to fetch me another batch.
Adam’s plate held his beloved country-fried steak, mashed potatoes and corn; all made it safely to the table.
We dug in, it was to be quite an uphill battle. Four filets and two hush puppies each, fries and two sides is a lot of food. We knew this going in though. As we did last time we simply ate until full then asked for boxes, two meals for the price of one.
Armed with only a broom, the waitress struggled for several minutes to clean up the mess, essentially chasing down miniscule cabbage shards one at a time into the dustpan. She eventually gave up, it was obvious that too-noisy power tools would be required to complete the chore properly.
The food was simply awesome. The catfish was moist, flaky and fresh. The hush puppies tender and fresh, as were the fries, the beans excellent, though possibly straight from a can. The slaw, not so much. It was vinegar style, not creamy, I prefer the latter. So there’s a certain irony to the spilled slaw. I didn’t eat much of the replacement at all. The waitress seemed to notice this, though she was a professional and said nothing to my face about it.
Adam’s plate emptied fast, not a crumb remained. Angel and I both managed to eat half the fish, She donated her fries to Adam. We refused desert and asked for boxes and the check.
The food, except for the slaw was exceptional, the best catfish I’ve had in the area. The service was timely and except for the spill, quite professional and efficient. The cost was exceptional, thirty eight dollars and change for more quality food than we could ever eat in one sitting. The place is kept clean, except for the slaw in the floor, it was well staffed and quite busy. This isn’t the best restaurant in the area, but it is close, inexpensive and quite satisfying. As a comparison I’d say it is more like Cracker Barrel than Ruby Tuesdays, more rural in offerings and style. We will go back, and would not be the least bit embarrassed about taking guests, if we ever actually had guests, even though the tea is simply lousy, even worse than Kim’s.

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