Tuesday, April 17, 2012


343 North Creek Drive
Festus, Mo.

It had rained earlier, April showers, but the evening opened up to sunshine and damp air. Angel, as is usually the case on Saturday’s, had rushed around all day, classes, dogs in the park, go, go, go. By dinnertime she’d announced she was in the mood for a po’ boy, this time I didn’t assume she meant me. Po’ boys meant Taytro’s .
The Place:
 One of our favorites. Up on the hill above the produce market, around the curve from Ryan’s (yuck) Steakhouse. There were only a few patrons ahead of us, they were at the bar.  The young lady showed us a table right by the door, Angel asked for another. There were plenty available so we got one by the window.
She took our drink orders, recommended the Sam Adams Spring Ale. Sounded good to me, especially since the tea at Taytro’s is not really any better than other places. Angel asked for a Diet Coke, Adam a regular Coke.
Small signs and chalk announced there would be live music later, Patrick Thomson. We were too early once again to check it out.The evening's specials were 'Bourbon Glazed Chicken', or a crab-stuffed portabella, tempting, but we were on a mission.
The Food:
Selection was quick. The only debate was over the appetizer. We, and by that I mean Angel and Adam, agreed on Chicken Tenders. They’re made like buffalo wings, just without the boney bits. I had no preference for appetizers, they all looked okay, nothing to telegraph home about though. We’d already tried the ‘gator bites’ (tastes just like gator) and of course they offered fried ravioli, since we’re near St. Louis. I sipped my beer slowly, it was cold and quite tasty.
For the main course, Angel indeed asked for the shrimp po’ boy and fries, as did I. She didn’t really necessarily want fries she’d said, but the only other choice was in-house chips. Adam asked for a po’ boy as well, chicken, with his fries.
Chicken Tender
I was nearly a third of the way through my beer, and starting to feel it, when the tenders finally arrived. The wait was a bit long considering there was only one other food-ordering table there. Yeah, a bit too long for a simple appetizer.During the wait I watched a local cop down the hill issuing a ticket to a middle aged man (assumed) in a shiny black late-model Camaro. Captivated by the flashing lights and getting impatient over the wait, it was the only thing worth looking at. The TV's were tuned to a sports channel, hockey maybe. After a few minutes the cop returned to his cruiser, the Camaro rabbited away, fancy after-market muffler growling as if the contemporary Camaro was anything like  it's late-sixties' ancestor.
The tenders finally arrived. Angel and Adam fussed over them. I pulled one skinny one into the little plate, tore off a piece and sampled it. After their comments of ‘fresh!’ and ‘just right!’ I declared them to be too spicy. But that’s just me, I’m not a hot wing fan, so if you are, you can just ignore my judgment, Angel and Adam really enjoyed them, even when dipped in (blech) ranch dressing. "The best in the area" was among their accolades.
The appetizers were gone, my delicious beer was half gone and warming. Finally the sandwiches arrived. No surprises, we've had them before.
Shrimp po' boy
Lots of the thick, lightly breaded critters sitting on a spread of citrus-chipotle-mayo under a bed of lettuce and tomato.
The mayo was spiced just about perfectly. I'm usually leary of 'chipotle' but Taytro's reins it in, getting the flavor, the smokiness in with just a tip of the hat to the heat.
Angel's plate was delivered with chips instead of fries. The server noticed this as she sat the plate down and immediately apologized and offered to bring out more fries. Angel tasted one of the chips, and told her not to bother, these would be just fine. They were thick, fresh and crispy, I tried one and thought it to be quite good. As you recall Angel wasn't that passionate about fries anyhow. The fries and the chips were seasoned, once again with a little, but not too much heat.
The sandwiches hit the spot, pretty much exactly what we wanted and expected.
Adam gobbled up his chicken, when I asked if it was good he simply replied 'Yeah'. He's a real Chatty Cathy.
Near the end Angel proclaimed, but only mildly, that the spiciness built up over the course of the meal, I agreed. It was not unpleasant, but it did build. My only other concern with the po' boy was the bread. It was not bad, in fact it was fresh and tasty. It was too thick. This is one of my complaints about a lot of trendy sandwich shops, like Subway. Too much bread. The bread was twice the thickness of the rest of the sandwich ingredients. My jaws popped on the first ravenous bite, and by the end I'd discarded large chunks of it to better enjoy the shrimp.
Taytro's is better than most other places. It's not perfect, but the atmosphere, the food, the service is all pleasantly top-notch. I'd like less wait time, especially for the appetizers and the bread was thicker than I like it, but all told, I was not really disappointed at all.
The bill came in at around forty one dollars, this is not a cheap fast-food joint. Since this included an appetizer, the tab wasn't bad at all.
Angel's already looking forward to a return trip, by then she'll be craving the Etouffee.

Taytro's Bar and Bistro on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Romano’s Macaroni Grill

4125 Lemay Ferry Road Way
Mehlville, Mo.

Adam’s choice. I remembered that we’d been there before, and that it had been quite a while. I checked, and sure enough the last time we were there was before we started reviewing places. I suppose this means that this counts as a new place. All of us remembered being there, but not much more.
Mehlville is one of the dozens of towns that make up St. Louis County. The county, which does not contain St. Louis, the city itself, is very heavily populated and these towns edge up against each other almost seamlessly. I suppose you have to actually  live in one of them to know where one stops and another one starts. For us outsiders, we just call the area South County.
There’s a lot of shopping, a mall, several big-box stores as well as large car dealerships in  the vicinity. Traffic is heavy most of the time.
The Place:
A free standing place, quite elaborate, a Mediterranean/adobe look. As big or bigger than a Chili’s or a TGI Friday’s. This one is within earshot of all that traffic I mentioned. Inside the place was pretty busy, dark, with subdued lighting. We were greeted at the door and Angel answered ‘three’ when asked.
“Would a table be okay?” The young host asked her.
“As opposed to what, a sandbox?” I whispered to Adam.
Angel had accepted the option and the young man showed us to a table near the back. There was too much sun glaring down on that one so she asked for one a little further back.
One of Macaroni Grill’s gimmicks is the large paper table covering they put over the tablecloth. Every table is furnished with a handful of crayons as well. It’s a sports bar/grill so it’s not like it’s Chuck E Cheese where it’s wall-to-wall snot-nosed children, so the crayons are for the adults.
Our server, Kellie, introduced herself and asked if we’d like wine. We thanked her, no, and explained that though we like a good boxed wine very well, that we had better not. She smiled and grabbed up the wine glasses from the table, making a little more room. I asked for tea, Adam Coke, and Angel asked about the different kinds of lemonade Kellie had said were available. I was still trying to absorb the notion of ‘different kinds of lemonade’ when Angel asked for ‘Raspberry’. Okay. . .
Kellie was an outgoing and pleasant woman, cheerful with great customer service skills. We were endeared immediately.
Adam started drawing on the paper, stick people. Angel scolded him. “Your stick people are never smiling!” She said. He grumbled and proceeded to draw an angry storm cloud over them. Angel grabbed up the orange crayon and drew a bright, cartoon-y sun to the side of the clouds. I suggested to Adam that he extend the sun's rays to represent a planet-killer solar flare. Angel barked at me as well.
I don’t draw very well, I prefer to describe my artistic skill as very, very primitive. The simpler the better, as nuances are never recognizable. So I drew a plate, life-sized, some silverware at the side, then I filled the plate as best as I could. Unbeknownst to me, Kellie had returned with our bread. “Hmm, looks like you want a chicken drumstick, some mashed potatoes, and what is that green peas?”
She had guessed correctly, that is what I’d drawn, but only because I lack the skills to draw a recognizable fish sandwich.

The Food:
Bread and EVOO-Pepper dip.
As Kellie was remarking on my art project, she was also preparing the dip for the bread. Olive oil poured into a saucer, followed by fresh, coarsely ground black pepper. The bread, a six inch square loaf sat in another saucer. It looked good. It was more than that, it was great. “Crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside.” Adam joked.
We rattled off our orders.
Me: Lobster Ravioli.
Angel: Veal Saltimbocca.
Adam: Fettuccini Alfredo with chicken.
Kellie offered salads, we declined. Salads cost extra at the Macaroni Grill, and are prepared in the kitchen. We prefer to roll our own and to not pay extra for them, besides, the bread was excellent and we’d have to be careful to not overdo that.
I relaxed and listened to the background music. If I were more of a fan of music, this was the stuff I’d be inclined to have in my own background. It was big band plus vocals. Billie Holliday, even a little Sinatra. Not remakes, the original stuff.
    The tea was fresh and bright. It could have been a little stronger, but that’s just me. Angel’s raspberry lemonade made her happy. They seemed to make it by pouring some syrupy raspberry stuff in the bottom, then covering it with lemonade, it was left un-stirred. Angel took a swig, a bit strong as the tip of the straw was in the raspberry puddle at the bottom. She swished it around lightly. We tore at the bread, Kellie brought us two more loaves. I had to replenish the dip, easily accomplished as each table in the place had been set up with a pint bottle of olive oil. Olive oil is my favorite edible oil, and I have some knowledge of that stuff, the company I work for makes edible oils, among other things.
The food was delivered between the second and third loaf of bread. Along with the food we were given a spring-lidded, frosty bottle of water. “Just plain ol’ St. Louis County tap water.” Kellie told us. Angel asked for another lemonade.
My plate looked great. Eight or so large ravioli with a creamy chardonnay sauce and big loose chunks of lobster meat. Adam’s oddly funnel-shaped bowl was laden with about a pound of pasta. Angel’s plate had a pile of pasta alongside the veal, which looked more like pork chops or chicken breasts.
Adam and I dived in and got exactly what we wanted. Neither of us at all disappointed. ”I like my cheesy noodles!” he announced.
Fettuccine Alfredo, with frowny face drawing.
My raviolis were large, so I cut them up. Inside were slivers of lobster and some white cheese. I had no trouble finishing it at all and was quite satisfied with the taste and the portion size. Adam’s bowl was quite large, he decided to ask for a box rather than risk suicide by pasta.
Okay, that’s out of the way, great stuff, really good.
Oh yeah, what about Angel’s?
In this week's episode, things turn unexpectedly ugly. Angel is rarely ever very critical of meals. Once in a while she’ll be less than pleased with a thing or two and just push it aside. On this night things were quite different. She explained. “There’s absolutely nothing on this plate that I can bear to take another bite of.” (paraphrased)
The whole place seemed to go silent.
She explained. “I don’t think I like veal. I’ve never had it before, but if this is what it’s supposed to be, I'll not order it ever again.”(also paraphrased*)
Eyes popped, jaws dropped.
“It may be this ham they put on it, it’s awful.” She peeled off a thin layer. Adam and I tasted it. “Blech!” was the unanimous verdict.
Veal Scaloppine; Blech.
The dish was billed as; “veal scaloppine; rosemary ham, garlic, roman artichoke pasta.”
The ‘rosemary ‘ was probably the problem, it was pungent. Rosemary is something that a hint, a whisper of is all that is ever needed. This was more like rosemary syrup, thick, too earthy, too flowery. What the ham itself was like we have no idea.
“The veal itself is bland, like tofu, with the same texture.”
I agreed upon tasting that it needed something, just not that awful ham.
But wait, there’s more!
“The pasta is wrong, it’s rubbery, doughy.” Adam and I tried this also, she was right.
“I bet it’s fresh pasta, something’s just not right about it, and it and whatever these green sprinkles are in it are completely tasteless. There’s some green peas as well, can’t taste them either.”
She added, almost apologetically: “I found a few bits of artichoke, that was okay.”
When Kellie swung by again, she noticed that Angel’s plate was largely untouched. Angel reluctantly told her about it. Kellie offered no debate. She handled it very well. When she returned with the bill a few minutes later, she told us she had deducted the cost of our drinks in acknowledgement of Angel’s displeasure. She also asked if we wanted desserts, we declined. Not that we were too full, but having tasted that disgusting ham, the taste in our mouths, especially Angel’s, would make turn subsequent sweet dish offering into an abomination.
Angel enjoys trying new things and she knows there's an inherent risk to that sort of risky, edgy lifestyle.  Like I said, she's not one to complain much, or be passionate when something new just doesn't hit the mark. But this meal was exceptional, Angel’s meal was bad, so bad that we’ll never ask for anything like that again. HOWEVER! My meal was very good, and Adam’s satisfied him completely. We can’t suggest that Macaroni Grill is awful, just that some of their dishes are.
The tab, with drinks deducted, came to $53.46, I added a big tip for Kellie, she was simply awesome. In fact the wait staff all seemed eager and dutiful. 
Two out of three tasty plates is not terrible, so I can generally recommend the place, but only with an asterisk. *Caveat emptor! Avoid the veal!

As dutiful as I try to be, I don't always have exact quotes in my nearly-illegible notes. In this case when Angel was reviewing this critique prior to it being posted, something I benevolently allow, she made the remark "I didn't say that!"
So whenever you see quotes in these things, it is safe to assume that those exact words may not have been actually spoken. However, what is there is in this review is what Angel would have said if she were more articulate and had more time to organize/edit her thoughts. And perhaps a little coaching.
She didn't disagree with what I said she said other than the fact that she didn't actually use those exact words. Her sentiment toward her meal, however, is accurately represented.

Romano's Macaroni Grill on Urbanspoon