Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Taytro’s Bar and Bistro

343 North Creek Dr.
Festus, Mo

Adam’s choice. Some suggestions you just don’t argue with. We’ve liked it every time we’ve been.
The Place:
Atop the hill near the intersection of Highways A and 61/67. In a shopping center next to a Verizon Wireless store. The place has only been open a year and still looked clean and crisp. It still had that new restaurant smell.
There were no other diners, it was early, the live music wasn’t going to start for three more hours. There were a few patrons at the bar. The hostess, the one that always reminds me of Kirstin Dunst, seated us in the very back, against the wall where the entertainment would be staged later. On the wall behind us were several guitars posing as art. Alongside them was a picture of a lobster, or a large shrimp, or maybe a crawdad, playing an upright bass. It was pretty dark in the back, there were decorative oil lamps on each table, though none of them were lit.
The menus were familiar and simple. I wanted a Po’ Boy, a sandwich, Angel was unsure. We ordered our drinks, tea, sweet tea and Coke. We discussed appetizers a bit. Angel wanted to try the Gator Bites, Adam refused to accept the notion that gator might actually be edible. The drinks were delivered quickly, we shooed away the waitress for a little more time. The tea was heavenly, perfect.
The Food:
Gator Bites
Angel finally decided and we ordered. For appetizers, the aforementioned gator bites, made from the tail meat from an alligator, breaded and fried in little strips. We also got the wings, which by default are fried, then glazed in a honey and butter sauce.  We considered getting an appetizer sampler that had both of these, but at $18 it cost more than two individual appetizers, at $8 and $7 each.
For entrees, I asked for a catfish po’ boy and fries, Angel returned to a favorite, crawfish etouffee, with a salad served with the house poppy seed dressing. Adam asked for more chicken, in po’ boy form, with fries.
As we waited I looked around and noticed the wall-mounted TV’s were showing college football, no one seemed to be paying the games much attention. The sound was muted. Delta blues played in the background, not too loudly though. We chatted about typical things, schedules, plans, each other’s deficiencies, and the latest funny thing we saw on Facebook.
The appetizers arrived, two shallow bowls holding the proteins and in the center, a ramekin of sauce. Ranch dressing for the wings, a remoulade* with the gator. The gator looked like breaded and fried clams, which made me reluctant. I let Angel try one, she nodded and didn’t drop dead or fall into a twitching seizure. I tried one, without the remoulade, to get the real deal. It was denser than chicken, and had a taste only a bit more earthy, maybe a slight seafood taste, but only very slight. If I had been told that this was indeed chicken, just prepared slightly differently, I would not have thought anything of it. The remoulade made it even better. A bit of heat, a bit sweet.
Catfish Po' Boy
Angel and Adam shared the wings, which were declared sweet and crunchy, not hot, though the glaze looked deceptively like other places’ hot wings. I tried a tiny portion and concurred that they were quite good. The gator bites disappeared, as did the grilled toast that accompanied them.
In short time the entrees arrived. The catfish filet on my po’ boy was enormous. I had assumed that they would make the sandwich from small strips, but no, they went for a big fat filet. Knowing I would likely not eat all of it, I cut it in half.
Adam had no such reservations, even though the large chicken filet, like my fish, exceeded the size of the hoagie on which it was served and was glazed the same as the wings.
Crawfish Etouffee
The fish was very moist and quite thick. The fries were lightly seasoned and crispy. Angel ‘yummed’ quite a bit as she dug around the rice and sauce to find every morsel of crawdad  and andouille sausage.
It was pretty quiet as we ate, too busy enjoying to say much. The citrus-chipotle mayo on the sandwiches was a delight. We did talk about a new TV show we had watched. “Boss” Starring Kelsey Grammer on STARZ. Kelsey’s had a bit of a struggle finding a new show since his ‘Cheers’ and ‘Fraisier’ days, but this vehicle, a drama, sets him as a ruthless, corrupt, and quite beloved and feared Chicago mayor. We hadn’t had much hope for it, since his last few sitcom efforts were awful, but the new show was edgy, rough, in-your-face, and his character, though typically intellectual was not at all worried about getting his hands dirty, really, really dirty.
Chicken Po' Boy
Sure enough I was full after finishing only half my sandwich and fries. Angel leaned back and moaned, Adam, though pretty much finished, said little.
I asked them for their opinions:
Angel: “Yummy!”
Adam: “My foot’s asleep.”  Then he added: “Don’t write that down, seriously, do not . . .  I can’t believe you wrote that down.”
“Anything to add to your assessment?” I asked.
“No complaints.”
“So even though your foot’s asleep you have no complaints?”
He glared at me.
“I just report the facts, you don’t want me to quote something silly, then simply don’t say anything silly.” I added.
Seriously though, the meal was great. The price was acceptable, but the appetizers were, in my mind, a bit steep. The total came in at $55 and change, around the same as a sports-bar chain, maybe a little less. The food is very good, it always is. The place is well staffed and friendly. I too have no real complaints. HIGHLY recommended.


*Remoulade: A mayonnaise-based sauce or spread, originally French, often similar to tartar sauce.  Styles vary, I asked and was told that Taytro’s was made with red onions, peppers and maybe a dash of horseradish.

Taytro's Bar and Bistro on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Paul Mineo's Trattoria

Westport Plaza
St. Louis (Maryland Heights) Mo.

One of the perks of being a contractor is that though I work at one company, I work for another. My contracting company, my pimps*, handle my actual paycheck, insurance, taxes, etc. The company I actually work at, the one that owns my schedule, my cubicle and the systems I administer, sends my contracting company a single check each month, based on the approved and actual worked hours I put in, no responsibility for deductions or benefits. For this reason I only get a percentage of the amount that I am actually valued at, but my contracting company manages all the paperwork and accounting.  So on my ‘employer’ block on tax forms, I enter my contracting company, even though I’ve only ever been to their offices once, and I don’t even talk with the nice people there very often.
Since the contracting company wants to make sure I’m happy, healthy and comfortable, they take me out to lunch once in a while, three or four times a year.  I work alongside a few other worker-bees from the company but only a very few of us make it to the lunches regularly. Tuesday was special; I was the only one of the small group that could make it.
The two ladies, who I will refer to cryptically as Cori and Haley, were waiting for me when I arrived.
The Place:
Located in Westport Plaza. If you are from the area, that’s all you need to know. It’s a Hotel/restaurant/comedy club/office complex, sleek and modern. It has an open courtyard surrounded by some very good restaurants. Baseball phenom, Albert Pujols’ eponymous eatery is there, as is ‘The Funny Bone’ comedy club.
Paul Mineo is regionally well known based on his father’s long-standing Sicilian restaurant. Paul opened up this large, reasonably upscale establishment in 2007.
The weather was cold, gray, windy and wet. Though the local thermometers said 44, it seemed colder. Not a good sign for the first game of the World Series, which I was told, was occurring downtown later in the day.
The place was tastefully decorated, not really themed, just nice, dark carpet and walls, ensconced dried flowers and tasteful, though forgettable artwork hung on the walls. The large windows on two sides looked out on the courtyard. The tables were kitted with cloth napkins, artfully folded, silverware and heavy stemmed glasses filled with ice water. The menu was a simple single page. This was a lunch menu, so the more upper-scaley dinner items and prices were not available for review.
Both Haley and Cori are quite garrulous, they have to be as they are essentially salespeople. I am comfortable around them though, able to relax and crawl out of my comfortable, quiet shell. Cori had her first child five months back, so all I had to do was inquire as to its well-being and that took care of 80% of the conversation. For some reason, lots of first time moms like to talk about their offspring. I don’t mind this really, as I was a parent of young ones myself as best I recall, and can hold up my half (or less) of the conversation. Unlike when I’m around sports people where, as I mentioned before, I tend to drift off into my own thoughts.
We waited for one more guy to arrive, but after about fifteen minutes decided he would be a no-show.
In the meantime, we’d pretty much made up our minds and treated ourselves to the warm French bread slices that had been served in a wicker basket wrapped in what could have been a cloth diaper. Delivered along with it were several condiment packets of butter/butter-like spreads. They were hard as a rock. The bread was warm, so I scraped the butter out of the little tub and let it warm up on the bread. It never did melt completely. (I hate that.)  The tea was fantastic, perfect. Clear, fresh and a bit on the strong side. In comparison, the tea at Mineo’s was a hardy stout vs. a domestic ‘lite’ beer served by nearly everyone else.
The young man that was charged with refills (and doubled as the fresh-ground-pepper guy)  did a fine job of keeping my glass topped off.
The Food:
I ordered from the non-menu’d specials. Tilapia**, lightly breaded and broiled served in a garlic and herb butter sauce, with a simple pasta on the side and the house salad. Haley ordered the same thing, Cori fancied a dish featuring eggplant along with the soup of the day. I lost interest in her choice at ‘eggplant’. I can no more be objective about dishes that contain eggplant than I can if asked about my favorite Kardashian. Both are so anathematic to me that I have nothing at all nice to say about them regardless of how they are presented.
The bread was excellent, a crispy crust and pillow-soft middle and was quite good in spite of the iceberg of butter that still had not melted completely.
Service was slow for worker-bee lunch. Executives and salespeople might be able to routinely get away with a ninety minute lunch, but those of us that are on a schedule, and only get paid for the actual time we are working, much less so. They serve lunch like they serve dinner, paced, with lag-time between courses.
The salads and soup arrived first. This was a Sicillian/Mediterranean style salad, greens, tomatoes, onions doused in a olive-ish vinaigrette. I had to compare it with Trattoria Giuseppe’s and Poppy’s Ristorante. It was very good, but not quite as good as those other places, the vinegar was a little too pronounced.
We finished those up, Cori oozed lavishly about her soup, something-tortellini and beef stock from what I could tell.
There was another extended wait before the main course arrived, long enough that each of us, while still engaged in conversations about babies and dogs and Haley's constant and complex home improvement projects, could be seen searching the floor for the wait staff.
It was worth waiting for though. The fish was lunch-sized, not too big, very thinly breaded and sitting in a small puddle of herb-y butteriness. To one side was a small serving of penne pasta, (medium length tubes with ridges, cut diagonally at both ends) topped with only a spoonful or so of red sauce and garnished with a thin sprig of some Mediterranean weed or herb. The fish flaked apart perfectly and when tasted with a single lightly-sauced penne, was exquisite. Smooth, tender, buttery with a slight tomato-y kick. Not too much or too little of anything. More tea was poured, more cute baby stories gushed, and before I was aware of it I was full. I’d managed to get through three quarters of the fish before my brain said ‘stop’.
The meal was overall, excellent. The salad dressing was a bit strong, but not to the point of being bad. The service was slow, but I think that was how it was designed to be. The staff was attentive to detail and usually there when needed. The atmosphere was quite nice. As for the price, well, I can’t really speak to that. Haley picked up the tab and I forgot to peek. I do know that from reading the menu that each meal was going to be at least ten to fifteen dollars with drinks, which is not terrible, but it is a bit more than I care to pay for a typical lunch. Casa Gallardo, across the courtyard serves a sub-ten dollar lunch that will have you busting wide open at the gut, and next to it ‘The Trainwreck’ serves a cheddar cheeseburger that will literally explode your arteries for about that much as well. As for dinner prices, I can only imagine.
So if you want a pretty darn good meal, Italian/Sicilian-style, and your pimp is picking up the tab, I strongly recommend Paul Mineo’s.

 From Cori: "I really liked the décor and ambiance.  I think the food is good for the price. I like that it’s a family owned business too. The service is good, not great."

From Haley:
"I have dined at Mineo’s several times and the food is usually much better than it was this week. I thought the salad dressing was just red wine vinegar and they forgot the olive oil. The tilapia was okay and the service was a little slow. I was not impressed this week."

*Pimp: In this context this is not an insult. It’s just a ground-level, contractor standard term. Contracting companies connect people in their employ with certain skills and talents to companies that are seeking out those very services. The contracting companies take a percentage of the income of those providing the service, you know, like a pimp. (I do not know if they will bail us out of jail.) I mean no disrespect. Of course, to extend the metaphor, if my contracting company is my pimp, then that makes me a . . .

** Tilapia: A freshwater Cichlid, originally found in African lakes. They require warm water (78-82 degrees F.) and thus are only commercially farmed in the U.S. in southern climates. They are omnivores and unlike other fresh water food fish will eat floating vegetation, such as algae, and thus are used as non-competitive pond and lake cleaners. They breed fast and grow fast so they are to edible fish what pine is to lumber.

Paul Mineo's Trattoria on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Ginny’s Kitchen and Custards

7022 Highway 61 / 67
Barnhart, MO

It was my week to choose, I’d done some homework. I focused on and printed out addresses and menus for three or four places in the Barnhart/Imperial area. We don’t get out that way often. I printed out more than one because I knew nothing about any of them. The potential was quite high that one or more could be biker bars in disguise, we don’t do biker bars. Not that there’s anything wrong with bikers, or the seedy, dirty, violent bars that cater primarily to them, just different strokes. The ambience of most of them is just not comfortable to us. We’re introverts. Biker bars cater to extroverts; big, loud, drunken extroverts prone to breaking out into multiple felonies at the drop of a hat. I’m actually glad these folks have places to go to have a good time and we would not want to water down that party for them.
Sure enough, a couple of the places I’d printed out had more giant Harley’s parked out front than the local dealership. No Japanese crotch-rockets or two-wheeled RV’s (Gold Wings), just loud, greasy, extroverted Harley’s. I naturally assumed the bikes and their riders were concealing weapons; knives, broken bottles or shivs fashioned from introvert femurs.
One place looked a little seedy, but advertised itself as a wine and beer garden, so we went in, even though there was a Harley parked out front. Inside it was dark, smoky and there were two or three large, loud people playing pool and swigging cheap beer. We were greeted by a big, reluctant, tattooed man in a sleeveless shirt and were told that the fine dining facilities weren’t actually completed yet. Good luck with that conversion, pal.
Fortunately the last place was a little different. Instead of thuggish motorcycles, in front of Ginny’s was an enormous ice cream cone at the top of a twenty foot pole. There was no way gangs of big, ugly brutes would ever assemble there.

The Place:

Right on 61/67 in Barnhart. This road predates and runs almost parallel to I-55 in this area and serves as a main drag for several towns in eastern Jefferson County. Festus, Crystal City, Imperial, Barnhart, Herky (Herculaneum), on in to Arnold, the county’s largest town. Once it crosses into St. Louis County it is is also known as Lemay Ferry Road, then it joins with Highway 50 and is more widely known as  known as Lindbergh Blvd.
Ginny’s is a free-standing building, modern, yet reminiscent of places my dad used to refer to as Dairy-Dips. An outdoor, walk-up ordering counter, picnic tables. There used to be a place like this, though not so well maintained, on the road between our humble abode and Kentucky Lake. I recall looking forward to stopping there and getting a burger, or ice cream cone. I also recall my horrible sister getting more scoops than me. She was (still is) my dad’s favorite. To be fair, she’s much, much older now and a little less annoying.
Stepping in, I was quite happy to see how bright and clean the place was. The walls were glossy white, the booths were bright blue. The counter was spotless and the kitchen was cluttered, but organized and busy. The posted menu was expansive, burgers, sandwiches and 43 flavors of ice cream/custard in various formats. Music played from overhead speakers, decent music, a bit eclectic. At first I thought it was all 70’s pop, then came U2, a song from the Joshua Tree Album. It eventually reminded me even more of the old Dairy Dip in that this was not Muzak, it was an actual radio station. Who does that anymore?

The Food:
Offered were three simple meal combinations, ‘specials’; a double burger with a drink and fries, a double burger with a shake and fries and shrimp, shake and fries. I was suddenly in the mood for a burger. We all ordered #1’s with tea for me, Sierra Mist* for Angel, and Pepsi for the boy.
We paid up and found an empty booth. The place was squeaky clean, no puddles on the floor, no crumbs or sticky spots on the table. An ad on the radio finished up and a familiar song started up. Warning buzzers went off in my head. I like the J. Geils Band as much as the next fellow, but this particular song simply infuriates Angel. “My Angel is a Centerfold” is the name of it, it’s about a guy who’s ‘Angel’ poses naked for a magazine, for money. Why she doesn’t like this song, I’m not quite sure.
Fortunately this song was followed by Journey’s front-man Steve Perry, whipping out his “Just a small town girl. . .” Which has almost the completely opposite effect on Angel than the previous song.
They called our number from the counter, we sent Adam to pick up the trays.
The fries were shoestring style, thin, crispy and generous. The burgers were grilled, home-style. Unlike McD’s or BK the meat was not pre-formed into perfect, even discs. It had been balled up and flattened with a spatula, leaving the edges loose and ragged. This made it more cozy, more like the old place back home. We had chosen different cheeses, Swiss for me, Pepper Jack for Adam and ‘processed American cheese-like product’ for Angel. Adam and I struggled for a bit to determine which was the Pepper Jack and which was the Swiss. They’d tomato and onion’ed the wrong one, so he disassembled them and put them back together properly.
They were delicious. Two imperfect beef patties, fresh onions and tomatoes, the fries were crisp and salted just right. The tea was okay, not bitter or cloudy.
The portions were just right, not too filling. This meant that Angel and Adam would have room for an Ice Cream treat. I abstained since I’m lactose ambivalent. Angel handed the boy some cash and sent him to the counter. He brought back two sundaes, small bowls of vanilla ice cream covered in hot fudge sauce and sprinkled with a deal-killer, nuts. She ordered this knowing for sure I would not ask for any since even though I’ve been known to have ice cream and nuts (separately), I can’t stand nuts as an ingredient in anything other than certain candy bars and peanut butter itself.
They seemed to enjoy their treats and finished them quickly.

I left the place feeling full, and happy. Ginny’s had actually improved my mood. That doesn’t happen in most places. The price was fair, twenty bucks for the burger combos, less than five for the two treats.
We will be back, Angel even decided to bring a dog with her on a nice day since you can order and eat outside. Adam said it was very much like a non-Dairy Queen, Dairy Queen, more personal, less commercial.
Why this place made me smile, I can’t be sure. . . Maybe it was the harking back to pleasant childhood memories, maybe it was the simplicity of the offerings, maybe it was the atmosphere. Perhaps it was the clean brightness of the place, or the upbeat nature of the patrons and staff. Maybe it was all of that, or maybe the place is just magical.


* Sierra Mist is a faux, lemon-lime Pepsico product and boasts ‘only five ingredients’ Those ingredients are (I looked it up):
Carbonated water, fructose (sugar),citric acid, ‘natural flavor’ and potassium citrate.
Potassium citrate by itself is widely used to treat urinary calculi (kidney stones). I suppose that makes it a health drink.

Ginny's Kitchen & Custards on Urbanspoon

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Hive

609 N. New Ballas Rd.
Creve Coeur, MO

Though I live in Hillsboro, I work in Maryland Heights, which is a western St. Louis County suburb. It is just under forty miles from my rural compound and vastly more suburban.
Occasionally a small group of us go out to lunch together, places that I’d never go with the family since the drive is too far for a casual Saturday evening outing. A few of my co-workers have in the past asked if I was going to critique the places we lunched at, I’d always said no, I didn’t want to mix business with hobby.
But I’ve changed my mind. We’ve been to some really excellent places, why spare them from the wrath of my formal critique? I may not critique every outing, but I will be reviewing some.
The Place:
The Hive is a two-story bar and grill, an old, repurposed building, maybe even a house. The stairs are steep and the poor waitresses must develop thighs and calves otherwise restricted to marathon runners and ballet dancers.
There are bars on both floors, but a kitchen on only one.
We walked into the lower level and were greeted by a tall, tanned, toned, bare-midriff’ed bartender who seemed quite proud of her cleavage.
For the purposes of this review I’ll call the co-workers I was  with  Rob and Doug. I’ve worked with Rob for over five years, we worked at that beer company for three years together, then, six months apart, we both jumped over to where we are now. Doug has been at our current company for around a decade. Both are great guys, hard workers, smart and funny. Doug knows more terrible jokes than any one person I’ve ever come across. Rob, like me, is rather quiet, focused, and not prone to frequent outbreaks of chit-chat.
The place was crowded, a Friday lunch in an area filled with office buildings. Lot’s of khakis, a few ties, and only occasionally a pair of jeans. The place packs them in for afternoon happy hour specials as well.
The Hive is unapologetically a sports bar. Posters and memorabilia everywhere, TV’s mounted on every wall, all flashing one sort of sports or another.
I’d heard that the local professional baseball team is in some sort of playoff, and the mood of the place seemed to be full of talk and excited chatter about stats and players; RBI’s, ERA,s and someone called ‘Pujols.’ (unfortunately pronounced ‘poo-holes’)
The menus were already on the small table as were the requisite drink lists and condiments. Looking around I saw the place was filled with cheap black metal chairs and small, crowded tables covered by mismatched tablecloths. There was barely enough room between them to move around, and no discernable aisles. I supposed that’s why they only hired skinny women to work there.
The menu, a laminated tri-fold, was no-nonsense and un-illustrated. No need for pictures or lengthy explanations really, the food was all straightforward bar and grill fare. I wanted to eat light, I normally eat little or nothing at all for lunch, as doing so often leads to the two-thirty groggies. I scanned the entirety of the menu, the choice was obvious. BLT.
We ordered our drinks, tea for Doug and I, Rob, being cheap, asked for water. I should have as well, as the tea cost two bucks. I suppose that’s because of the quantity, The Hive serves up its non-cocktail drinks in quart-sized plastic pitchers. No glasses are offered, you drink straight from the small pitchers. It’s a gimmick, quaint, cute.
We placed our orders through another slender young lady, clad in short-shorts and a barely large enough top. The Hive is apparently almost Hooter’s-like in it’s hiring of wait staff. Hey, it’s a sports bar, in order to compete you have to do what you must.
Fortunately Rob, Doug and I are all professional, mature and seasoned adults, amused perhaps, but ultimately immune to such obvious and overt displays of feminine wiles. While most of the other men in the bar were observed to be smitten with the ladies, the three of us remained in our perfectly chaste and sober state. We tsk’d the baser behaviors of some of the less mature men in the place, pleased that we were better than that.
The Food:
I ordered my BLT with whatever default side was offered, chips, as it turns out, and a pickle spear. I’ve said it before, BLT’s constitute a ‘light’ lunch in that a BLT doesn’t weigh very much compared to a sub or burger. It probably also weighed less than some of the salads I’d observed at other tables, they were served in what can only be described as mixing bowls.
Rob asked for the patty melt and chips, Doug went wild and asked for the Bleu Bomb burger, advertised as containing Bleu Cheese and bacon, and upped the ante by ordering the house-made kettle chips.
We waited, the TV’s showed hockey and baseball highlights. Doug and Rob started a conversation about sports, so I found myself drifting away into my own thoughts, nodding my head occasionally as if I were actually engaged in the topic.
I have nothing against sports, I just have very little interest. I often find myself drifting off when around groups of guys.
I took notice instead of the place; dark, rough wood walls, uneven floors and ceilings. The emergency lights were held together with duct tape. Somewhere there were speakers pouring out an almost too-loud phalanx of techno-music with simple, but fast-pounding, metallic bass-beats. I recognized none of the songs or artists since I really don’t keep up with music either.
Our baskets were delivered by the same barely-clad skinny girl, poor thing. The chips delivered to Rob and I were merely from-a-bag ripple chips, not even the expensive ones. Doug’s chips were thicker and darker. He offered a couple up for tasting. Next time I might get those instead as they were much tastier than the cheap chips in my basket.
The toast for my BLT was buttered, a leaf of lettuce, a rough-cut tomato slice, and a decent pile of bacon. It was just standard white bread, but that suited me better than a thick chunk of sourdough or something else heavy and fancy.
Doug’s burger looked like a burger, Rob’s patty melt seemed to be decently sized. Doug’s burger disappeared fast, not surprising though. Doug has raised five children. I imagine it’s a fight for survival at mealtimes. Eat as much as you can as quick as you can or risk going without.
Rob and I were more leisurely, Rob has a kid, maybe two, I forget, and there’s less competition for food. Doug did say that his burger was thoroughly cooked, but not dry and he found that pleasantly surprising.
The BLT fell apart quickly. The generous tomato slice was very juicy and the weak bread just didn’t hold up well. The second half fell completely apart and I ended up pinching out the bacon and tomato with my fingers, leaving a lot of the disintegrating bread behind. I didn’t mind, less bread equals less filling.
We all enjoyed our meals, I didn’t eat most of my chips but only because I’m not accustomed to that many calories and carbs in the middle of a workday. The bill came in, I didn’t see Rob’s or Doug’s, but I assume they were similarly priced. Mine was $8.60 and I added a $2 tip, hoping the poor girl could buy herself some long pants or maybe a shirt that at least covered her tummy. The service was pretty good, barely flirty at all, but professional and efficient. The food was pretty good, and not overly priced or pretentious.
We’ll go back I am sure, it’s not that far from work and it’s much better than those convenience-store hot dogs that Doug usually has for lunch.

Hive on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Bobby Munzert’s

Hillsboro, MO

A rare Sunday dinner. We usually go out on Saturday, but couldn’t because of my ride-along with the Sheriff’s department. Angel pimped homeless doggies at Petsmart on Sunday and got home just in time to feed our own flock, clean up and head out with us. It was her week to choose. She said she did not want to experiment, she was too hungry. She wanted to go somewhere close that she knew she could get a good meal. That should tell you something about Munzert’s.   
The Place:
It hadn’t changed much since our last visit. The door opened into the center, smoking section on the left, second-hand smoking on the right. The low October sun shined into the doorway lighting up the haze inside. We were immediately greeted and seated in a booth under a large black and white poster of Audrey Hepburn. There’s lots of pictures of famous dead people in the restaurant. The booth behind us was under one of Marylyn Monroe, who was famous for dying famously. I hear she was found naked, by that I mean without clothing, an apparent suicide. I’ve never been able to figure that out, why so many women, especially famous women, get naked to kill themselves. I think I’d rather be wearing something loose, warm and comfortable, but that’s just me, I don’t exactly have a million-dollar body. I wonder if Mama Cass was found nude? (Actually she did NOT gag on a sandwich, she suffered a heart attack, but still. . .)
Anyway, the place was, as I said, a bit smoky. It was also about half full. There were a couple of TV sets fired up, noisily blasting a baseball game throughout the joint. Some sort of playoff I was able to determine, though I was soon able to ignore it completely.
  Once we were seated the hostess told us that our waitress would be with us shortly, so we casually scanned the menu. The waitress brought us our drinks, tea, sweet tea and Coke/Pepsi, as before served in heavy, stemmed glasses. We decided on an appetizer, teriyaki wings, and placed our order. I decided to have a bacon cheeseburger, and German fries. Angel asked for the fried chicken special with mashed potatoes and green beans, the meal also came with a salad, Angel asked for the Caesar.  Adam opted for the bacon-ranch chicken sandwich and steak fries.  
The waitress was rather busy, busing, taking orders, delivering orders at all the tables in the room. She was the only waitress we saw in the area the whole time we were there.
I sat and stared at the thin rolling haze, illuminated by the sunlight, which also highlighted a thick area of dusty footprints in the entry. This was probably dust from the huge construction site across the road. There’s a very large shopping center going up, construction has been underway since spring. We know the town’s premier department store, Dollar General, is moving and expanding to the new center, we’re not sure what else is planned, though we are genuinely excited about a bigger Dollar General.
The Food:
The appetizer arrived, chicken wings, breaded, fried, then coated with dark, sweet caramelized teriyaki sauce. I don’t usually order wings, except at Hooters. Not that theirs are any good at all, they’re not, it’s just that they are served by young, scantily clad, flirtatious women with prominent breasts. How can you NOT like that?
These were not hot-wings though. Instead they were almost, but not quite sweet, the sauce had been cooked on and the effect was a marvelous crunch on the outside, and tender and moist meat on the inside. They were also quite messy, which, like at Hooter’s is part of the fun. I had two, Angel three, Adam two or three. This left a couple that we would eventually box up and take home.
Angel’s salad arrived, with a roll that she didn’t really want. Adam and I both turned it down as well since we were getting sandwiches. The roll went into the wing-basket. Angel’s salad was small, saucer sized, which for us is optimal. Enough to sate an urgent hunger, but not enough to fill anyone up.
Service was not quick, due primarily to the one-person floor staff being so busy running from table to table. But even with that the wait was not extreme, the main event soon arrived.
Bacon Cheeseburger with German fries
Bobby’s burgers are great. He uses Grade A Angus beef. Angus is a breed of cattle, not a specific body part, so please, no childish jokes about the word ‘Angus’. The Angus breed was created in Scotland in the early 1800’s and remains highly favored because it is naturally polled (which means hornless. Horny cattle can easily and stupidly, savagely injure each other, which is not profitable, so less-horny cattle are more desirable to many ranchers.) They are either solid black or red (the cattle, not the ranchers), with the black being preferred in the U.S.. I don’t know exactly why American’s prefer the black, that seems historically contradictory, but the only other option was red, and history doesn’t exactly show an American affinity for that flesh-tone either.
All I know is this, Angus is mighty tasty. Bobby’s Angus seems leaner than most places that prefer an 80/20 lean/fat ratio. But the meat was thick, tasty, tender and perfectly cooked. I piled onions, lettuce, pickles and tomato on mine. No ketchup or mustard, it just didn’t need any. The German fries are a new favorite of mine. 1/8 inch thin slices of actual potatoes, pan fried to crispness alongside a pile of onions. When served the chopped onion is almost cremated, caramelized and smoky. The potatoes are perfectly crunchy on the outside . . .
Angel’s chicken was cut just like that I had at Kim’s a few weeks back. Four pieces, leg, thigh, breast and head….. Just kidding! It was a leg, thigh, breast and wing. Lightly breaded, very, very hot. Among us, there was not a thing we didn’t love. Angel was absolutely correct in her prediction, Munzert’s always serves good food.
The bill came to thirty seven dollars, less than I had expected. In fact it was a pretty good price for so much food. So much food that none of us finished. All three of us requested a box. I had half a burger left and a third of my German fries, Angel still had a large, untouched breast (I was going to put something really funny here, but decided against it.) and half a thigh. Adam was about halfway through his sandwich and fries as well, though he only boxed the sandwich, something about thick steak fries going limp when microwaved. The waitress had offered dessert, which we once again had to turn down.
Other than the light staffing, I have nothing at all negative at all to say about the meal. It was all properly prepared, tasty, and generous. The waitress was friendly and professional, no mistakes.
There’s a reason Angel chose this place when she wanted a certain excellent meal, Munzert’s delivers.

Bobby Munzert's on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Granny Franny’s

3191 Flucom Rd
De Soto, MO

Adam’s choice.  We had initially discovered the place while doing an active search for eateries on the Wide World of Web, drove by it once while we were in the general vicinity. I asked our silver haired waitress about the name, expecting a quaint and interesting story about 'Granny Franny'. As it turns out, the joint was opened by a lady named Franny who just happend to be a grandmother.
I said I expected it to be interesting, not that it actually was.

The Place:
It’s a bit out of our normal search range, though it has a Desoto address, it’s actually seven or eight miles east of Desoto, at the intersection of Flucom Road and Highway 67. We rarely have a need to go that far in that particular direction, the population and number of businesses out that way are pretty thin, and it’s not even on the way to anywhere we usually go.
The building is shared with a convenience store, so this is like a traditional cross-road rest stop. Outside the noise was of high-speed highway traffic, there were only a few cars in the lot. The door opened up to a typical, diner looking place. The chairs were black, the tables were all covered with yellow-ish vinyl tablecloths. The walls were bare, brown brick up to halfway up, the rest was painted a reddish rust color. All the empty tables had wrapped place settings and paper placemats, and every setting sported an inverted, heavy white coffee mug.
Seating was segregated on two sides of the entry, though there was no visible apparatus to keep the smoke from the left side from wafting into the non-smoking right side. The aroma was there, but not overpowering.
We were escorted to a table by a silver-haired lady of obvious and significant experience wearing a red St Louis Cardinals jersey emblazoned with the number ‘7’ and the word ‘Holliday’ across the back. I’m not sure what it meant, probably has something to do with baseball. She was the only member of the staff we ever saw, the front was her domain. There were a few patrons on the left side, we were the only folks on the right. We picked up our menus which boasted ‘Hand-dipped Milk Shakes’ on the cover. (Adam and I naturally pondered the purported added-value of someone dipping their hands into milkshakes.) The menu listed the standard fare, chicken-fried steak, burgers, a few sandwiches, and lots of breakfast choices.
The Food:
I decided to go a little light since I’d had a solid breakfast at Kim’s Café earlier. (I was in DeSoto to title my unimpressive car and the place to do that, a furniture store, was just a few blocks down main street from Kim’s)
The BLT jumped out at me. I consider BLT’s ‘light’ since they don’t usually weigh too much. That was good enough for me, I’d let Angel and Adam do the heavy lifting.
We took delivery of our drinks, Tea, tea and as Adam ordered it; ‘Pepsi-Coke’. As I had mentally predicted, Angel ordered the Chicken Fried Steak (CFS). When asked for her choice of sides, she naturally demanded mashed potatoes with gravy, lots of gravy and was then told she still needed to pick a couple of veggies. The waitress rattled off a list of the usual ones, but one threw me.
“Did you say ‘beets’?” I asked.
“Yes I did.”
This confused me. Had we taken a bad turn and ended up in in the outskirts of Kiev?   Стара, принеси мені відро борщу!   (Old woman, Bring me a bucket of Borscht!)
“How is that prepared?” I asked, trying to cover up the reflexive gagging sounds.
She curled up her face like I was an idiot and simply replied “Pickled” as if that were the only possible method of serving them. There are in fact many ways of serving beets, all of them disgusting. They are very popular in many eastern European countries, along with potatoes because both are roots, and no decent vegetable would want to show its face above-ground in those dismal, bleak places. The national motto in Ukraine translates to something like “We’ve proudly become quite adept at being cold, hungry and politically oppressed!”
Smartly, Angel did not order the beets, and instead asked for green beans and fried okra. Yeah, Okra. Yuck. Sure some American cultures eat okra all the time, but I’m pretty sure those people are too ignorant or poor to know any better. I mean why resort to eating that bitter, slimy stuff when there’s so many perfectly healthy cats running around?
Adam ordered the CFS sandwich and fries. The lady asked him if he’d like anything on his sandwich so he asked her what was available. “Tomatoes, onions. . .”  He stopped her there. “Never mind, just the sandwich please.” Adam doesn’t like regular, wholesome sandwich toppings.
While we waited for our starter, fried ravioli, we watched as people came and went with take-out pizza. It’s another service provided by this crossroad business. The ravioli was good, served with a bowl of marinara sauce for dipping. You have to watch out for this St. Louis treat though, when fried, the meat and cheese inside remains at three thousand degrees for several minutes, and when bitten in to the innards shoot out with the force of a locomotive into the tender parts of your mouth, where it sticks like boiling tar. I think it’s what napalm is made out of.
BLT + Fries
The food arrived in good time. Mine, a simple sandwich and fries was well made, the bacon thick and extra-crispy, the fries generic but well cooked. I could not be disappointed. Angel’s plate was mostly gravy though she insists there was an actual CFS and mashed potatoes underneath. Adam’s sandwich didn’t have any gravy on it, so he took the bun top and set it down in his mother’s plate, coating the underside of the bun completely. She even spooned some more onto his sandwich later in the meal. She actually ate her okra, (after dipping it into the gravy as well) if only to make me angry.
All the food was well prepared, served simply, very tasty and satisfying. Angel had weighed herself down, I had smartly left room for some apple pie, which I had made at home earlier in the day.
The bill came to nearly twenty eight bucks, $4.79 of which was the ravioli starter. Which means that Granny Franny’s is on par with Kim’s and most other locally owned eateries of this style. A lot of food, good food, for not a lot of money. The staff, the silver-haired lady was quick, polite, and professional. The entire transaction was seamless and without error or mishap.
It’s not a place I will frequent, but only because it is well out of the way of pretty much everything I need to do, but it’s nice to know it’s there, serving that rural area of the county. If you happen to be traveling down Highway 67, though I can’t imagine why you would be, then by all means stop in and chow down!

Granny Franny's on Urbanspoon