Monday, September 30, 2013

Fountain City Grille

207 E Main St
De Soto, Mo
On the Web
On Facebook

I've described De Soto before. Historically it's a railroad town. In 1859 the St. Louis Iron Mountain Railroad built a repair center there, today it is owned by Missouri Pacific. The tracks are still in use, the repair shops still functioning. Main street runs along the tracks, the old buildings reminiscent of an earlier time, which the city works hard and proudly  to maintain.
I took this photo from the parking lot of Fountain City Grille. Directly behind the guardrail in the foreground are the tracks, the buildings are on main street. Directly behind main street, the land and city rises quickly and steeply. The various streets behind Main terrace the community.
The Place:
Fountain City, De Soto's nickname of old, reflects the many small but ornate fountains that can be found around the town. The Fountain City Grille is located across the tracks from Main Street in a big, old building known as the Arlington Hotel. Yes they offer rooms for rent, pretty nice ones I am told.
The first floor of the Arlington though, is the Grille itself.
You enter from the front and walk down a hallway filled with antiques, most of them more industrial than delicate, reflecting the iron horse industry.
We were seated and told that Heather would be waiting on us. Sure enough, this prediction was accurate. A young lady with long black hair twisted into a ponytail and pulled forward draping her left shoulder arrived. She welcomed us, brought us rolls in a cloth napkin covered basket and asked about drinks and appetizers. Looking around I was pleased to see that they'd stayed with the decor, walls painted black, the old trim in white, the rough wood floor painted a very dark brown. Sitting in this place makes you feel like you're posing in an old black and white photo.
We declined the appetizer, but asked for tea, Pepsi and Pepsi. The drinks were delivered promptly, we were ready to place our meal orders.
The Food;
I was intrigued by the second most expensive item on the menu, the prime rib. Fans will recall that a few weeks ago at Tanglefoot in Festus I'd ordered prime rib for the first time I could recall.  I didn't care for it one single bit. The prime rib at the Grille was listed as the evening's special, and described as 'melt in your mouth'.  For the sake of my fans I felt obligated to give the meat another try, to see if it actually was the cut I didn't like or just Tanglefoot's version of it. I sided it with mashed potatoes and also like at TF, green beans. This would be pretty close to an apples to apples comparison.
Angel asked for the seafood fettuccine and a side salad. Adam ordered a filet mignon with corn and mashed potatoes.
I had one of the rolls in case the meat was awful. They were light, fluffy, and delivered with actual butter.
Angel's salad came soon, a small, simple thing, yet fresh and crisp. The dressing she opted for was a sweet vinaigrette, and it lived up to its title, it was very, very sweet.
Sometime during the twenty or more minute wait for the main courses, someone pointed out the silverware. It was a mix of several different old patterns. Quaint, charming.
The wait was indeed rather long considering that they weren't really terribly busy. The music didn't help much, a local radio station 'Fresh' 102.5 out of St. Louis. An eclectic mix of pop music from the 70's through the 00's. Frankly I think a pop radio station playing at a pricey restaurant is a bit tacky, but I guess it's not that big of a deal. There would be live music later, outside on the patio.
We chatted and watched people come and go, the staff was all dressed head to toe in black. Tasteful and consistent with the decor.

Prime Rib
 Finally, the meals arrived, Heather packed all three on one very large tray. She unloaded the tray deftly and we all stared at the prime rib. It didn't look at all like Tanglefoot's. This was dark, charred and juicy looking, like a very big, very competently cooked steak. The green beans looked tasty as well. Green beans are not hard to make right, and these looked spot on. Take note Tanglefoot, this is what green beans and prime rib should look like.
I pushed the serrated knife into the meat, a portion fell away as if fallen by the mere suggestion of being sliced with a knife. The whole steak was that way, tender, moist, meaty. Buttery tender, it did indeed melt in my mouth. Now I get what all the fuss is about when it comes to prime rib. The potatoes were perfect as well, a little bit of rough texture. The green beans were sauteed very well, a little tooth, a simple flavor, I actually wanted more.
Filet mignon
  Adam's filet, smaller than my slab of meat, looked just as good. Angel's plate looked a bit odd, a thick, bright orange sauce over the pasta. It was described on the menu as "Creamy Vodka shrimp sauce with lobster meat tossed with fettuccine."
She said the sauce had a tomato-soupy taste to it, but she didn't know what a vodka shrimp sauce was supposed to taste like. She really liked the big shrimp and lobster chunks but would have preferred a simpler sauce, maybe an Alfredo. She ate most of it, but said she'd probably not order it again.
Seafood fettuccine 
My meat was terrific all the way through, I went on and on about it, sharing chunks of the massive meat slab generously. "Comparing this prime rib to Tanglefoot's is like comparing a baloney sandwich with . . .with. . .  with something I don't like!" I told them. I absolutely loved it.
Heather stopped by and refilled our drinks, I almost switched to water, but she'd already filled my glass. The tea was not very good. Old, a little bitter, and I detected an old, stale perfumey aftertaste.
Chef Tremyane (see the Grille's Facebook page) made an appearance. When he asked, I told him I liked his food very much. I wasn't lying, this meal was quite delightful.
The food was flawless, except for maybe the pasta sauce, but since going in we didn't know what it was supposed to taste like, maybe it was something quite good to someone else.
The meat was astounding. I don't think I'll order the prime rib often, it is quite pricey and quite large, but at least I now know what it is when it is done well.
Heather did a great job, she'd even responded confidently when I ordered and had asked for her recommendation for the done-ness level. Adam did the same, her recommendations were spot on, she knew the menu and the capabilities of the kitchen. She was friendly and quick to smile.
The service itself was a bit slower than I generally like, but we don't do fine dining very often, it may just have been the chosen pace.
Although the dress code was casual and the place is more folksy charm then stuffy, snooty, high end dining, the price put this place clearly on the high end. The bill came to a shocking seventy one dollars and change, making this clearly one of the more expensive places we visit.
At twenty two dollars each, the two steaks certainly drove the price up, but I have to say, it was worth it in quality.
The drinks, at two dollars each, should have been of pretty good quality. The tea simply was not. I've had worse, but not by much. On the PJTea scale I'm going to give it a -3. I sort of expect that at a fast food place, a fine restaurant though, I expect much better. The drink is a palette cleanser, when it is awful it does not help an otherwise great meal.
Great food, seriously good. A bit pricey, service a bit sluggish, but certainly not a waste of money.

Fountain City Grille on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 23, 2013

Main Street BBQ

1620 Highway Z
Pevely, Mo.
On the Web
On Facebook

The Place:
Just East of I-55 In Pevely. Big sign, you can't miss it.
I saw this on their Facebook page:
FACEBOOK FAN APPRECIATION DAYS!!! Show us this post on your mobile device, or print at home like a coupon and we'll take 10% off any order today and tomorrow. PLUS, we'll give you a FREE bottle of sauce with any order $20 or more (pre tax, pre discount). WAIT, THERE'S MORE! Leave a comment about your favorite Main Street item and three random folks will win t- shirts! 
Unfortunately I saw it after we were there, not before.
Which leads us to today's tech tip:  If you are going out to eat, fancy or simple, check the social media sites before you go. This sort of offer is not unusual for places that are social-media-savvy.
When you step in to MSBBQ you immediately encounter the counter. On the front of it is the menu in big red letters painted on white boards. There are also printed paper menus and some places to sit for a while to figure it out if you're not familiar with the offerings. We'd been there a couple of times before, but not recently, so it took us only a few minutes.
The Food:
I knew they made good meat, very good in most cases, but I was on a mission. I'd looked at the online menu earlier in the week and had decided to step off the comfy smoked meat grid. I ordered a bowl of 'Beef Brisket and pulled pork Chili', with cheese and onions.
Angel asked for the half chicken plate, BBQ style. I reused my brilliant joke about whether she preferred the front half or the back half of the bird. She sided hers with red potato salad and corn, cob-style. Adam ordered the Main Street Special, brisket, with kettle chips and baked beans. We paid up, were handed our cups and I poured my 'fresh brewed' tea. (more on this later). Angel took a taste of the sweet tea then stepped over to the Dr. Pepper. Adam poured, to no one's surprise, Pepsi.
Since the meat is already slow cooked and just needs to be plated, the wait for the food was pretty short. My chili arrived first.They served it with two packages of oyster crackers and two wedges of Texas toast. I don't like oysters so I didn't even open the crackers.*
I stirred the cheese and onions into the nearly overflowing soup. It was chunky, quite chunky. Beans, meat chunks, tomatoes in good quantity. Once I decided it had had enough time to cool a little I took a sip of the broth.
Savory, smoky, meaty.
Usually chili is made with ground beef. I have had it with other proteins though.  Many years ago I was stationed in Northern Japan and was invited to be on the judging panel for a chili contest, sponsored by none other than the base's quite sizable Hispanic Club.
Oh baby, there was some variety there. Deer meat, tofu, fish, foul, pork and beef of all cuts. I recall that as a fact, not as a taste though. The Hispanic club chefs as a rule, were very generous with the various chili peppers, that I remember well. I think I belched and burnt internally for several days afterward.
Since then I've left competitive chili making behind. I prefer a milder mix. I don't mind loosening my sinuses or breaking a little brow sweat, but the idea of making it so hot that it should be registered as a weapon of mass indigestion I simply don't find appetizing. The broth in MSBBQ's chili was just about right in that regard.
Angel's luscious plate arrived. I bore the heavily sauced and slightly charred starboard side of a chicken. Small bowls held the potatoes and the corn, there was also some fancy cut pickles and Texas toast. I tasted a little of the chicken. The meat was very juicy, tender and perfectly cooked. I also stabbed a small bit of potato. It was creamy and I detected a hint of dill, I liked that. I used to take new potatoes and boil them in water along with a head of dill. It gives them a bright, fresh, earthy taste. Angel threw herself into her meal with the usual gusto. Adam pushed his beans around in his bowl then set them aside. He found onion chunks. His  brisket though was 'not bad'. He did discard the bread after a while though, and just savored the meat. I tried it, a little drier than the chicken, but not too much. Brisket is one of the hardest things to get right at a barbecue joint. This tough cut of meat is quite a challenge for anyone, any style. MSBBQ was pretty good. I've not had enough brisket to give it a rating though.
I couldn't finish my chili. There was so much meat and beans that it filled me pretty quick. It was pretty good, not my all-time favorite, but the meat made for interesting and pleasant textures. I'd add more chopped bell pepper and maybe some celery myself. But there was nothing wrong with what they served. Chili is a very subjective thing, very hard to judge one against the other.
Angel was on her fifth or sixth napkin when she complained "I'm out of chicken!" Sure enough there was nothing left but a few scarred bones and some slivers of skin.  I tried some of the skin, it was sweet, wonderfully sweet.
The bill for this complete meal was only twenty eight dollars and change, less than ten dollars each. For generous portions of quality cut and cooked meat, this was a bargain. The food service was fast, we did have a guy stop by and check on us, so the service was pretty good. This is not a fine-dining facility so not much service is actually required or expected. This is barbecue, not haughty French cuisine on white linen tablecloths.
The tea. Oh well, even though their signage boasted 'fresh brewed', I could only infer that they meant, at best, 'same-day'. It was cloudy, murky and muddy tasting.  On the PJTea scale I'd give it a -1 to -2. Maybe we'll call it -1.75.  I knew it probably would be.  I saw the coffee pot when we were pouring our drinks, it looked old and over-baked. If coffee isn't poured out and restarted every hour at worst, then the likelihood that the tea will be fresh is very slim.
The food though was pretty darn good. I was quite happy with the risk I took ordering the chili. Their real specialty, the meats, were excellent. This is good since our nearby beloved Bandanna's burned down we've missed slow cooked meat. Main Street barbecue is an excellent alternative, and a worthy competitor.


*That's a joke. I know oyster crackers contain no actual oysters.

Main Street BBQ on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 16, 2013

Ruby Tuesday

1120 Shapiro Dr.
Festus, Mo.

Updated:   See the note from Ruby Tuesday Corporate at the bottom of this post! * * * * 

That's right loyal fans, this is our 200th review.
Four years.
It was no contest, we had to go back to where it all started, Ruby Tuesday. Our first review was not at this place, it was instead because of a truly disappointing meal at Ruby T's that we decided to start going other places. Thus, eatandcritique was born.
Ruby T's has proven to be able to pull off exceptional meals. Even their worst effort is better than many places, but they set the bar for themselves very high.
The Place:
Above the interstate and below Lowe's. Not as kitschy as some chains like them, not anymore anyhow. A big bar, lots of seating, a couple of TV's playing sports.The music was safe, from the 70's and 80's a little too loud. Loud enough that it was hard to ignore the lousy songs.
Fortunately there weren't very many of those. One song, U2's "Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" from the album "Joshua Tree" is still about the only thing worth listening to to ever come out of Bono's mouth.
Elton John's iconic 'Rocket Man' tossed me back to my high school years, when I was introduced to the John/Taupin sound, the early stuff, back when it was good. Bernie Taupin wrote the lyrics, including 'Candle in the Wind' as well as the rewrite of that song customized for Princess Di's untimely death. Good stuff. Still a little too loud though.
We were greeted and seated. Brittany would be our server. Young, but not too young, she seemed polished and confident.
She took our drink orders, tea, sweet tea and coke. We sat back and looked through the menus, the drinks arrived in a couple of minutes. That was all the time we needed.
The Food:
Remember the salad bar, remember the salad bar. You have to do that when deciding on what to order here. The salad bar is routinely the better bar around, anywhere. You're going to pile it on, so pick a less than heavy meal. Fortunately they offer that

The tea arrived. It was beautiful. Look at it. It almost sparkles, no cloudiness, bright, crisp, fresh. Note to other restaurateurs: If your tea doesn't look like this, it is not going to be very good. Not all sparkling tea is great, but if it isn't this clear, I guarantee that it will not be very good.
We placed our orders.
Me: Petite Sirloin. The recommended sides for that were grilled zucchini and spaghetti squash. I laughed. I gagged, I insisted on a substitution, mashed potatoes and green beans. Seriously folks, zucchini and squash? Nobody actually eats that crap. Brittany assured me, with a smile, that it was no problem.
Angel asked for the tilapia and lobster. She sided it with squash and zucchini.....just kidding, mashed potatoes. Adam took the Asiago peppercorn sirloin.  He added mashed potatoes as well.
Brittany had barely enough time to safely clear the area before the three of us charged the salad bar like sea-weary sailors hitting the docks for a lusty weekend liberty.
My salad
Angel's (blech) salad
They've got everything for a monster salad that you could want, it's all fresh, and most of it is plentiful. This time the crouton supply was a little low, but that didn't concern me. I piled on a little lettuce, a little spinach, bell peppers, red onions, mushrooms, beans, a little cheese, egg and bacon bits and a teaspoon of potato salad. I drizzled a small amount of blue cheese dressing and then a a larger amount of thousand island. During the week I would call this, by itself, a meal. Thus the reason for the 'petite' sirloin steak. Angel and Adam created their own salad versions. The lovely wife poisoned hers with broccoli, Adam punched the lights out on his with French dressing. Then came the biscuits. Mmmmm, cheesy and garlic-y biscuits, soft, fluffy. Those things are dangerously good.

We had time to finish our salads, I finished early since I'd accidentally over-dressed mine. I'll have to start paying more attention to that.
Brittany stopped by with drink refills, I fell in love with her. I simply said "You know this is the best restaurant tea around don't you?" She smiled then looked toward Angel, as people often do when I make bold and brilliant statements.
"He is highly critical about tea." Angel responded, somewhat dismissively. Brittany slammed her back.
"I get that!" she said. She picked up one of the glasses and said "This is what tea is supposed to look like, you don't see that very often!"
She went on to say that she too was critical of sub-par tea and would often not order it in places that she knew to do the job badly. We then started discussing brands. Tea nerds....
"I have one more question. " I said.
"Sure." She smiled.
"Are you, by any chance, married?"
Seriously, I said that. Angel went all old-school wife-furious. Not really though, she knows that I value a good glass of tea and that I take it very seriously, much more so than her. Brittany laughed it off, or pretended to out of respect for my family. On the newly instituted PJTea scale though, I'd easily rate Ruby T's offering a +4.
Petite Sirloin
The meals arrived, exactly as ordered.
The first thing I noticed was the brightness of the beans. As was covered in last week's review of Tanglefoot, it is indeed possible to ruin something as basic as green beans. This small pile was proof they can indeed be prepared simply, yet properly. They still had 'tooth' but were sauteed perfectly. The potatoes were garlic-y but not too much so. The steak... Oh, the steak.
Tilapia and Lobster.
 A great cut of meat, properly tended to, lightly seasoned, grilled to the exact point of being beautiful. Juicy, a little char, tender, smoky. As planned, I was able to finish it all and was not disappointed with a single bite.
Angel gave me a fork full of her lobster topping. It was simply to die for. The first thing I tasted was the lobster, the chunks absolutely melting in my mouth. She managed to finish most of it, but there was a certain richness and a heaviness to it. The fish, she said, was moist and flaky . Tilapia is a very mild fish, it accepts accompaniment just fine, in fact it begs for it. This lobster and cheese concoction took it up quite a few notches.
Asiago Peppercorn Sirloin
Adam didn't say much about his, but it was obvious that he was pleased. The corners of his mouth were in the slightly-up position. "Very good." was his final evaluation. He manages to say things succinctly with a lot fewer words than I can.

Most of the time Ruby gets it right. Occasionally they don't, but on this occasion they hit it out of the park. Brittany was outstanding. The meals were all exactly as ordered, timely and our drinks stayed refilled. She was pleasantly chatty when engaged, but otherwise left us to enjoy the meal. I noticed her at other tables as well, very consistent and professional. Ruby Tuesday's is lucky to have someone as professional and competent as her. She really should be paid more though.
The bill came to a few cents under sixty dollars. Remarkably, a couple of bucks less than we spent at Tanglefoot, but at Ruby's we got a much, much better meal.
The salad bar at Ruby T's is simply outstanding. How often do you order a slightly smaller entree just so you can accommodate a bigger salad? We do this regularly here, nowhere else that I can recall.
Once again, the tea. It's a simple thing, or at least it is generally treated that way. Most restaurants treat iced tea as an afterthought, or with no thought whatsoever. In my mind that's a shame. All I ask is that the tea served be given as much consideration as a frosty beer, a mixed drink, or a cup of coffee. If it is old, cloudy, or bitter, pour it out and make some fresh.
As we were leaving, Brittany said that she was glad to meet someone on the same page with her about the tea. Well Brittany, we are indeed on the same page now, this one. Thanks for making the 200th review a pleasant and memorable one.

Fans: I haven't forgotten you. Thanks to all of you for making this silly little blog so successful. You've apparently been spreading the word, I come across new readers quite often.
And please, don't be shy, let me know what you think. Or at least tap one of the ads that show up on the page. I get a couple of cents each time someone does that, just think of it as a 'tip'.
Thanks again!

***** The email from Corporate:

First - congratulations on your 200th post! We are proud and humbled to be the recipients of your fine review.
Also we are always happy to hear that our guests appreciate our team members as much as we do! Guest satisfaction is our number one priority, and we are committed to ensuring gracious hospitality and incomparable service. We will proudly recognize Brittany for providing you with such fine service.
Thanks again for your words of praise. We look forward to serving you again soon!

Valerie Dee
Manager of Guest Services
Ruby Tuesday

Ruby Tuesday on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 9, 2013


1198 Gannon Drive
Festus, Mo.
'Tanglefoot' refers to an early name for the city of Festus. The story is that Crystal City, (then known as  'New Detroit') being a company town based around the large plate glass factory there, didn't allow alcohol to be sold in the town. Festus rose up just outside the city's limits and boomed in the industry of booze sales to the factory workers. They would, according to the story, get so wasted that they would stagger and fall several times on the way back, as if they had tangled their feet. I'm not making that up.

The Place:
True to its legend, the restaurant known as Tanglefoot Steakhouse serves alcohol, a wide variety of beers, big name and craft. It is located across from the Home Depot.
It's a large place with a  separate bar/bistro section and main dining areas. I wanted to go there because I didn't want pizza or burgers, and because we hadn't visited in quite a while. Our recollections were not very positive, we recalled sparse portions and high prices for them.
We were led to a booth which, like the other booths, looked odd. The tables were four foot by four foot squares. This meant that those across from you at your table were quite a distance away. The place was packed, the din of the other patrons, mostly family groups, was loud enough that we had to practically shout to talk to Adam. Whereas Angel and I could hear each other at normal conversation level, he could not.
I didn't like this, at all.
The Food:
I glanced through the menu, I was in the mood for a small steak, the aroma of charring meat as we entered aroused a primal urge. No, not that one, it was the the hunger one, though sometimes I do confuse the two. I wanted charred meat.
Phyllis took our drink order. She seemed experienced and focused. Sometimes younger waiters seem distracted, confused or just stupid, Phyllis was certainly not. Tea, sweet tea and root beer.
By the time she brought our drinks we were ready to order. Angel announced she was going to dine on an appetizer followed by a dinner salad.
Phyllis recited the daily special, prime rib with shrimp, a baked potato and a side salad. I couldn't recall ever having prime rib. I was originally going to have something similar, a small filet with shrimp and Alfredo sauce, but I decided to step out to the edge and go with the special. I asked that the potato be replaced with green beans. I'm trying to cut back on the massive amount of carbs that normally make up most of my meals.
Angel ordered the Lobster Rangoons, an appetizer I recalled being quite good. She added a steakhouse salad, which came topped with onion rings and fried portabello mushrooms. Adam opted for the pork steak with mashed potatoes and green beans. Why not? You can't go wrong with a simple thing like green beans. (or can you?)
Around us, on the walls were several TV's, all the old CRT type, all tuned to sports. Fortunately they were all muted. Also on the walls were several nice framed and matte'd  B&W photos of Festus in the past. Angel and Adam turned the massive table top into a field for an impromptu tabletop soccer game, using a crumpled up straw wrapper as the ball. This embarrassed me intensely.
Lobster Rangoon
The tea, well the tea was not very good. I'll give it a minus one on the newly instituted PJTea scale.*
The Lobster rolls arrived first. At $8.99 that was more than a buck each. However, they were worth it. We fell in love with these things when we first had them a few years back. It amazes me that a place that can turn out such a wonderful, complex item like this could stumble so badly on other, simpler things.... more on that later. The Rangoons were wonderful, rich, creamy, crisp and flavorful. You could taste the lobster. I had one, just one. Angel got the rest since Adam and seafood don't like each other.
My side salad
My salad arrived a few minutes later. Simple, fresh, perfectly adequate. Well, except for the tomatoes, there were none. I plucked the croutons off and gave them to Adam, because. . .unnecessary carbs. I also asked for my salad dressing on the side since that's what dieters do. Sure enough, I only used a little. I had to cut up the handsome, but too big to eat in one bite, cucumber wedge.
Prime Rib
The main courses arrived in good time, I'd finished off my salad and Angel had devoured the Rangoons. What was placed in front of me was quite less than beautiful. Under the ramekin of beans (in the picture, between the beans and the lemon wedge) was a napkin, probably there to soak up the juices from the steak. It was not pretty, saturated soggy and brownish it was not appetizing at all. The prime rib looked pale, a sickly beige and dull pink slab of meat with generous fat and gristle sparkling in the light.  They had also provided a ramekin of au jus (gesundheit!) that only tasted greasy and salty. The green beans were thick with bacon bits and onions. I tried them first, my second bite of them was my last, same for Adam and his beans. They tasted like under-cooked frozen green beans. Even though there were generous portions of bacon bits and diced onions, they were incredibly bland.
Steakhouse Salad
I struggled to cut a piece of meat, struggled more to separate the strip of fat away. It was tough, chewy and had a taste that I recalled from childhood when mom would boil up a roast. It was not a pleasant taste. It  too, was bland. The texture, tough and chewy were more pronounced than any discernible taste. Even with a dousing of the au jus (gesundheit!) I felt no urge to finish it. So I didn't. I ate about half out of the middle. The off-putting appearance, a sickly pink, like 50's phones and toilets, did nothing at all to make it more appetizing. I really wished I'd stuck with my original choice, the small filet. The shrimp were garlic-y, big and also rubbery . A couple were cold.  The flavor was good, but they'd been over-cooked.
Pork Steak
Angel's salad was loaded with shredded steak of some kind, there were several onion rings and mushrooms. Both being breaded and deep fried the salad was actually pretty high calorie and very filling. The breading on the mushrooms was heavy and hard, she suspected they were of the frozen variety. She only finished about half of it, boxed up the rest. She remarked that my plate, lacking anything deep fried or breaded, actually looked much healthier than hers.
Adam tore out the fat from his pork steak, there was a lot of it. Overall the sauce slathered meat received a 'not bad' from the boy.

Disappointing. At sixty two dollars and change, very disappointing. The only excellent dish was the appetizer, the lobster Rangoons. Everything else was mediocre to lousy. The green beans were easily the worst I've had at any restaurant.
As for the Prime rib, I can't really completely condemn it until I've had the dish somewhere else. I don't recall ever ordering it anywhere else, so maybe this was exactly what it was  supposed to be. . If it is typical of the type, I doubt if I'll ask for it again. I really wish I'd stuck with the filet.
Our server, Phyllis, did an excellent job. Substitutions were correct, service was quick and complete. She checked on us a couple of times and refilled our drinks promptly. Thanks primarily to her efforts, I can't say anything bad at all about the service.
Angel shook her head as we left. "I just can't see what the draw is." She said. I looked behind the restaurant, and saw a large hotel. Maybe that was it.
Unlike the last time we went, the portions this time were generous, they were overpriced and just not very good.
Please comment or email if I'm calling this wrong.


*PJTea Scale

Last week at Pizza Junction, Steve, the manager, was the first person ever in a restaurant to ask what I thought of his joint's tea. I responded that it was about average. In honor of his asking, I have named the new grading system the PJ (for Pizza Junction) Tea scale where all other tea will be judged as being either better or worse than Pizza Junction's. I have also found perfect zero. In Hopkinsville, Kentucky last week, I went to a Godfather's Pizza. The self-serve un-sweet tea dispenser there served straight water, no tea at all in the tea.

Tanglefoot on Urbanspoon

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Pizza Junction

Hillsboro, MO.
On Facebook

Angel’s son Tyler, his lovely wife Tonya and their terrifyingly adorable and outgoing young daughter were in town for a visit.
They wanted to try Pizza Junction, the place I recently reviewed, and where Adam has been working since its opening.
Tyler is a foodie, even more so than me. He’s a decent and curious cook, always trying new things, most of which look great but seem way too complicated for me to try. I was curious to hear his assessment.
Since Adam works at the Junction, I can’t ethically award it official rating points, that wouldn’t be fair to all the other places I’ve reviewed, especially the good ones. The awful places are still awful though, on their own merit.
Last time we went, I did not introduce myself, either as a famous restaurant critic, or as Adam’s father.
This time I was unable to maintain anonymity, Adam was with us. Sure enough, we were noticed immediately.
Barely had we even sat down when a man of obvious authority came to our table. He looked me right in the eye, and seemed to be almost pleading.
"Please, I’ve got to know,” He asked. “How is our tea?
I took a sip, and gave it a thought, no need to lie, I have my credibility to maintain.
“I’ve had a lot worse.”
He seemed to accept that answer.
Apparently I complain a lot about the tea served at places we review, I hadn’t noticed. Then again, about the only tea I don't complain about is that which I make for myself. I can't expect restaurants to serve made-to order tea (or can I?). Adam, knowing the available offerings chose a root beer. Not just any root beer, but a dark, rich number called Sprecher's. Brewed in Wisconsin, this brand is recognized as among the best in the country, THE best in 2008. We all tried it. Angel switched her sweet tea order to the root beer. I liked it, it had complexity and taste. Still too sweet for me though, so I stuck with my 'about-average' tea. Tyler and Tonya asked for water and the toddler had some milk. She offered no decipherable opinion of it.
Rib Tips
Our appetizer arrived, the highly recommended rib tips. I was surprised to find out that the dish, which I had been hearing about from Adam, was actually 'rib tips.' My hearing of it somehow had turned the phrase into something a little more lude and lascivious. Served up was a small plate with two inch long chunks of rib. Kansas City style, wet barbecue sauce. They were indeed quite tasty, moist, not too sweet and in this small format not nearly as messy as standard ribs. Everyone at the table enjoyed them. Much more satisfying than the St. Louis area traditional appetizer, fried ravioli.
The Artist
The Food:
We decided to get a couple of large pizzas. Angel ordered a Junction, a standard with pepperoni, peppers, etc. We also got a bacon-cheeseburger, which caused Adam to chuckle. It turns out that that particular pizza is built differently, more labor intensive than the other more traditional styles. For one thing, they forgo the standard sauce and use instead a combination of ketchup and mustard.
As we waited, the baby noticed the overhead train circling the track in the entry. From her vantage point it only came into view for a moment each circuit. This delighted her immensely, and also disappointed her greatly when it would quickly disappear again. She'd fuss and point and spit and hiss, until it came back around again and she'd clap and sing out "choo-choo", then sullen up again when it disappeared. This went on pretty much the entire time we were there. I told her mother that she should use this experience as a teaching moment, that though railroads make for fine and efficient transportation of goods and people, they are not an on-demand transit option. 
The Junction
The pizzas arrived, pretty and thick with toppings. I tried a bit of the cheeseburger. It indeed tasted like a fine cheeseburger, perhaps a little heavy on the mustard. They even served some dill pickle spears alongside it to really complete the experience. To me there was a disconnect between the taste, very much like a cheeseburger, and the texture, which was like that of pizza. I like things to taste and feel like what they are. Beef flavored Jello, or fish flavored ice cream may actually taste good, but it's just not right. Tyler liked it really well though.
Bacon Cheeseburger
The Junction was a known winner, we'd had one before. It was nothing less than perfect. Sauce and toppings all the way out to the edges. Barely any naked crust. The cheese was thick and gooey, real cheese, not that St. Louis style hybrid. The sauce, made in house, was subtle yet tasty. Not overpowering.
We'd ordered regular crust this time, which is thin, but not cracker thin. Tyler remarked that he liked a simple crust, just a flat bread to hold everything together, not stuffed with this or that or flavored heavily with herbs or spices. This one, he said, was excellent.
The baby ate and colored at the same time, still obsessing about the overhead train. Her artwork would later be taped to the restaurant's gallery of fame amongst the other youthful works of art. Hers can best be described as minimalist, mere, seemingly pointless and random swipes of blue. I think it shows a deeper understanding of the world, though shaded and scarred with anguish by the comings and goings of the choo-choo. When asked by her grandmother what her favorite color was, the toddler replied 'pizza'. We decided that that was a fine, even inspired answer. Who doesn't like the color pizza?
Steve, the manager stopped by again on his way out, telling us about the previous day's official grand opening. He boasted about the live music, an ad-hoc four banjo band.  He played tuba. Yeah, tuba. I admired and respected that, someone not on the traditional path, someone not afraid to live out his choices and be comfortable with his own bold definition of musicality. I also applauded the four banjo choice. Being from Kentucky I always thought that it takes a minimum of five banjos to make up a proper orchestra.
The pizza at the Junction is awesome, easily the best in the area. All at the table agreed. Tyler said he wanted to open up a location back in Springfield, Mo. I suggested that my younger brother would probably like to open one up in Cerulean, Ky. Both he and Tyler are very picky about pizza, that Tyler really liked everything about it said it all.
Kayleigh, our server, stayed busy the entire time checking on us and making sure refills were always on time. My only problem with Kayleigh was the gross overabundance of superfluous letters in  her name.
I didn't say anything about it to her though, sometimes people can be sensitive about their names, regardless of how weighted down they are with extra and unnecessary characters.
The price for the two large pies and the appetizer and all the drinks came to a mere forty six dollars and change. We fed six hungry people with that and still needed a box for the leftovers.
As far as atmosphere, this is a family friendly place, every table had small kids, happy kids, though none as artistically talented as the one at ours.
This place has been doing quite well. I've heard lots of positive comments. Even though they still don't provide napkins at the table, Kayleigh made sure we always had enough, including enough for the sloppy, messy, sticky child.
Like I said, because of family connections I can't award official points, but I assure you if I didn't actually like this place I would not lie about it. I might say nothing, but I would not lie and call it good/great if I didn't honestly think it so.

Personal note to Steve at the Junction: Shangri La Tea

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