Monday, December 10, 2012

Taytro's


343 North Creek Drive
Festus, Mo.



 Sometime during the week I’d decided that this would be a great idea. We hadn’t been there in a while and we all like it. Without dissent we headed out Saturday evening. The day had been dark and dreary, December showing its true nature. Birthdays and holidays encroaching too quickly, associated stresses were building. I’d slept in and was late to my writers club Christmas party and arrived in an inexplicable and unforgivable asocial mood. Not harsh and rude or anti-social, just a-social, quiet and sulky. I get these moods once in a while and usually just have to wait them out.
I busied myself later by making my weekly run to Wal-Mart and engaging in a couple of other banal chores.
By Saturday evening the mood had subsided and I was coasting along in neutral. I looked forward to a pleasant meal at a nice place.
The Place:
The parking lot was pretty full but there were several good tables still available. I was pleased to see that Taytro’s hadn’t gone nuts decorating for the over-hyped holiday season. A single string of small lights entwined with a grapevine above the bar, I wasn’t even certain that it was holiday related.
We were led to a table in the front corner, a table that was too close to the occupied one next to it. We asked and were allowed to pull the table away. We sat and were told that Heather would be serving us.
The place, even near the window, was dimly lit, which is usually a good thing. Then we were handed the menus. There was a problem. The menus were black and lettered with small white type. Very classy, but nearly impossible for two middle-aged, bifocal-prescribed patrons. Angel and I struggled to read the thing. Adam helped translate, though his inherited eyesight wasn’t a lot better.
The offerings had changed a little since we were last there, maybe, some things seemed to be missing, though we could not recall exactly what.
There were specials being added to the chalkboard as we arrived. Fish and Chips and Chicken Picatta stir fry.
Taytro’s makes po’ boys, a great, simple sandwich. The  more I thought about it though, the more the fish and chips sounded pretty good.
The Food:
  Angel’s choice was hardly surprising. Crawfish Etouffee. Adam chose the Buffalo Chicken Po’boy with chips, I ordered the fish and chips with fries instead of chips which is what fish and chips actually means. In Great Britain, which is somewhere between England and the United Kingdom, ‘fish and chips’ is peasant food, street food, meant to be eaten on the go, like a hoot dog.  This is an important characteristic of the offering that I will get back to later.  Anyway the first fish and chip shop opened in London in 1860. This fact surprised me since I thought Long John Silver's had invented fish and chips sometime in the 1970’s, that's where I first heard of it anyhow.
For some stupid reason, the British call French fries ‘chips’. This is not really surprising however since the British are quite happy to butcher the language for no good reason. What we, God-fearing, freedom loving Americans call ‘chips’ are stubbornly referred to as crisps’ in the UK, even though the word ‘crisps’ sounds silly and is quite cumbersome to pronounce. An ‘s’ followed by a hard ‘p’ and then another ‘s’. It’s just much more oral calisthenics that is necessary. Go ahead, say the word. It’s a lot of work.
Angel got a salad with her meal, I did not. Too bad, Taytro’s salads are quite tasty, the house poppy seed dressing is rather sweet, though the salad is not drowned by it.
They also decided on fried ravioli, that St. Louis area staple, as an appetizer. I like it okay, but I’m not nuts for it. I had three.
To make them you take or make meaty, cheesy ravioli and boil it like you normally would. Then you let it dry a little, bread  and deep fry. Why deep fry? Because, like I said, this is America! They turn out as crispy finger food. Traditionally they are served with a marinara sauce for dipping.
Buffalo Chicken Po' Boy
Our drinks arrived before the appetizers and salads, as they should. Tea for me, Diet Coke for the lady, and root beer for the boy. The tea was actually quite good, a rare occurrence in the area.
Overhead the flat screens played sports, real sports, women’s volleyball. This was a college match and was taking place on a hard surface indoors. That of course takes a little something away from the purest form of the game, namely the skimpy bikinis that are worn by the beach-version contenders. It was still far better than football, baseball, basketball or that bewilderingly popular non-sport NASCAR.
The appetizers and salad came and went quickly. Quite good.
The place continued to fill at a regular pace. It was good to see a locally owned and operated joint doing so well.
The plates finally arrived. Angel’s etouffee was just as expected. Two bright red crawdads sitting atop a brown, saucy stew and two dollops of rice. Adam’s sandwich and chips looked good, he’d ordered his without onion and they complied.
Crawfish Etouffee
 My fish and chips looked. . . off… somehow. Small chunks of cod lightly breaded, fried and mixed among a plateful of fries, a small metal ramekin of sauce on the side. 
I’m used to fish, when served as fish and chips, to be thin filets, heavy-battered, fried crisp with the thick fried batter holding the flaky fish together, like at Long John Silver’s and every other place I’ve ever had fish and chips.
Then things started falling apart, literally. I picked up the first chunk of fish and the breading slipped right off, like knickers off a trollop . The cod flaked off and fell into the dipping sauce. I ended up using a fork to get it all out. The rest of the nuggets proved to be just as much a struggle.
Fish and Chips
The taste of the fish itself was bland. Not bad, in fact the amount of cooking was perfect, the fish moist and flaky but it had no flavor and the light breading offered up. . .nothing. The dipping sauce was wrong, all wrong. It was not tartar sauce, it was something else. Not sweet, sort of savory and maybe made with chipotle.  The taste of the sauce, the texture and frail mechanics of the fish made for a disappointing meal for me.
Angel and Adam though were quite pleased. Angel disassembled the crawdads and slurped down the luscious meaty bits. “Good as always.” She sighed. Adam’s only remark was about the amount of bread on his sandwich: “Too bread-y.”
Summary:
We really like this place. Most everything they serve is excellent. The service is great, the atmosphere is cozy and friendly, and Taytro’s offers dishes that no one else around does. The bill came to a reasonable $46.59.
My gripes about the fish and chips are serious, but not bad enough to keep me from going back. They offer many things I like quite well, I just thought I’d mix it up on this visit. I cannot recommend the fish and chips, it simply doesn’t work as served. Perhaps a more traditional approach would be better, and there’s really nothing wrong with plain tartar sauce.

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