Monday, November 25, 2013

Steak and Shake

999 Veterans Blvd.
Festus, Mo.
On the Interwebs

        I wanted something quick and simple. (and cheaper than last week’s $98 feast) I was fresh out of ideas. I’d been hoping the new Chinese buffet would be open by this weekend, it wasn’t.
So I thought about it for about five minutes throughout the day and came up with this place.
My last burger at Gordon’s Stoplight Grill got rave reviews from the entire family. I knew S&S served a similar style burger, thin and smashed and thought it a good idea to compare privately owned vs. franchise. 

 The Place:
On a hill sharing acreage with a dozen other franchise eateries, above highway A, near the interstate.
There was a big banner touting “Kids eat free all weekend!” that I didn’t pay much attention to when we approached. I did at the time say “Hey, Adam gets to eat free!” as a joke of course, but he’s old enough to vote, drink, and die in a war, even though he’s never done any of that. He does live with us and he’s on our medical insurance,(Thanks Obama) so I thought it would only be fair to still enjoy or at least partake in some of the few benefits of parenting. But no.
Inside, the place was humming with busyness. There were only about five or six tables/booths open, but three of those had not been bused yet. We were instructed by a sign to wait to be seated, so we did. So did three other groups behind us for the next five to seven minutes.
At one point a mature, manager looking man, wearing a blood-pink long sleeve dress shirt behind the counter told us that somebody would be with us soon. He did so without even looking up from whatever he was working on. Several servers squeezed by us on their way with refills and trays.
Finally when there were about ten people total waiting they seated us at a table in the back, behind the un-bused three tables that had been scooted together for a large group. It looked like the beginnings of a landfill. It was another ten minutes or more before three staff members banded together and hurriedly cleaned it up.
There were still people waiting to be seated.
At more than half the tables/booths there were small children, really small, six months to maybe three years old. Immediately next to us was a young couple with the six month old who didn’t fuss much. Three pre-schoolers at another adjacent table were not so restrained. This struck me as odd at first, that many tiny, sticky, slimy kids at a burger joint, but then I recalled the ‘Kids eat free’ banner. Note to self. . .
Our unnamed (you know what that means) server approached and queried us about drinks.
I decided to go out on a limb again. Tea, unsweetened. Angel went sweet, Adam pulled out all the stops and ordered a Hershey’s Special Dark Chocolate Shake. My gag reflex kicked in. I’ve cut back on sweets a great deal the last year or so, way back, and anymore the idea of something that sweetly decadent sets off a physical reaction. When you cut back as much as I have, you get very sensitive to sugar.  I suppose it’s like cocaine that way. Not that I’ve ever cut back on cocaine. . . wait, that’s not right. . . I’ve never actually given up on cocaine since I’ve never (to my knowledge) tried the substance. Cocaine could be like moonshine though. I didn’t think I’d ever tasted that either until someone reminded me that they served me some once but had told me it was American Corn Vodka, so I had actually tried it, I just didn’t know it at the time nor did I 
even recall it. So that’s exactly like never trying it isn’t it? So sugar is like just cocaine and moonshine, only legal.(and cheaper, so I hear)
What were we talking about?
The place was shiny and brightly lit. The tiles and walls were black, white and red all over. It tries to mimic a fifties diner, but only succeeds in looking like a kitschy, over the top, idealistic reproduction.
There was plenty of staff on hand, all smartly dressed in white shirts and black pants. More on this later.

The Food: 
The teas and a glass of water arrived pretty quick, we were ready to order.
Bacon Frisco Melt
Me: Wisconsin Buttery Double and fries, Angel asked for The Prince Royale (a single served with a fried egg), fries and a cup of chili. Adam predictably ordered the Bacon Frisco Melt, because . . . bacon. That came with fries as well.
The babies kept arriving, the littered table still remained littered. I took stock of the large number of workers behind the counter and in the kitchen, more people certainly than you'd see at a McDonald's since S&S has servers, but it still seemed like a lot, especially  considering the line of people waiting to be seated and the unkempt tables.
Adam's shake eventually arrived, dark, chocolaty, thick. His face caved in with his first attempt at drawing some up the narrow straw. "Too thick?" I asked. "It's a problem that will take care of itself." He smart-assedly responded. Several bustling minutes passed and finally our plates arrived. Real plates, not paper or Styrofoam*.
The fries were thin, almost petite in girth, shoestring style.

I grabbed the ketchup and squeezed, the bottle farted and red sauce splattered. I shook it and tried again, same thing, the bottle was nearly empty. I squeezed out seven or eight or nine more ketchup farts and passed the bottle. It sat amid our own fledgling debris pile, napkins, straws, straw wrappers, the check. No one else grabbed it right away. Our server stopped by and asked if everything was okay, I told him about the ketchup. Normally I'd
Buttery Wisconsin Double
just grab one off another table, but except for the burgeoning landfill in front of us, and I didn't want to dig through that mess, all the other tables were occupied. The server brought it back in a couple of minutes, and set it, not in the un-populated space beside Adam, but right back in the pile of litter. It wobbled when he let go of it, as it had come to rest on a straw. This baffled me.  Why would he add it to a growing pile rather than set it in the three or four square feet of empty table space? Maybe it was my blinking camera and my notebook. I make no attempt to hide them and they are clearly logo'd. So maybe the server was worried, scared of being being evaluated. I let this awesome power go to my head for a few hours.
The burgers were thin and smashed, not industrially preformed. This made them comparable to the Stoplight Grill's burgers. My bun was buttered, as promised. There were no toppings other than a healthy dose of cheddar cheese and a dollop of caramelized onions. I'd farted just a little ketchup on the bun, there was no mustard on the table. In the first bite, I noticed something, well a couple of things actually. The burger, like the fries were not very hot. If I were to guess I'd say they'd been cooked then left to sit for several minutes. Angel and Adam did not say anything similar about theirs. The burger was good, though the onions might have been a little over-caramelized, just shy of burnt, and I'd left them in a small pile in the middle of the patty, they would have been better spread out a little more.
Prince Royale
The cheese wasn't as pronounced as I thought it would be, but it was there. The meat itself was lacking something though. "It was a poorer quality meat than Stoplight." Angel said of it later, "But still better than fast food burgers." I agreed with her assessment.  It was better than almost any other chain-burger. She'd finished her chili first, I'd tried it before and thought it was pretty good. I even bought a canned version of the stuff, not bad, but the in-store was, unsurprisingly, better. I'd thought about ordering some myself but I'd had chili twice during the week, and wasn't very  motivated.
By the time I got to the last couple of burger bites, the thing was pretty much at room temperature. STILL better than McDonald's, BK, Wendy's, etc. though.

 The tea was a great deal better than I'd expected. A +4 on the PJTea scale. The food ranged from Adam's 'Good' to Angel's  'better than . . .' comment mentioned earlier. They did not share my observation about tepidness, so maybe mine was first off the grill and it had to wait for Angel's egg or something. (she'd added that the egg would have been a little better if it were cooked 'over medium', still a little runny.) The price was satisfying, the bill totaled just under twenty five bucks, Adam observed that this was cheaper than any of the three of our dishes at Terrazza grill the week before. Sure, it wasn't steak or lobster ravioli, but the price was about the same as one would spend at the less tasty chains.
Spoiler Alert: If you see this,
you are being reviewed.
As far as the service though, Angel had noticed the same things as me. There were a lot of people working there, but the crew seem troublingly inefficient. There seemed to be a lack of coordination, organization and training. It was taking too long to seat people and too long to clear tables. Even the manager's comment about being seated soon was, not exactly rude, but dismissive. The server's fumble, the fact that it took three staff members working together to finally bus that one table and the fact that Angel said there were a few occasions  that she observed several of the workers just standing together talking are indicative of less-than perfect floor management.
"They were pretty busy." Adam defended. I agreed, they were busy. Then I said something that will probably be repeated by the great chefs of the Food Network, the guys that go in and fix troubled restaurants. But let it be known, I said it first: "When it comes to poor service, success is no excuse."
Can't you just hear Gordon Ramsey screaming that at some broken down, weeping waitress? (He'd drop a few f-bombs in with it, I don't need to though since, unlike the chef, I know more than twenty three words.)
Seriously though, it is true. The only reason to go out for a burger is to enjoy

someone else doing the work. I can make a better burger, for even cheaper than this, burgers are easy. We buy them at places like this only because we want to be served. We're buying labor and service not just food. Besides there are dozens of other places in very easy reach that make decent burgers. A bad or even lackluster experience or two is bound to eventually demotivate customers. Just because you are serving a full house does not give you license to be sloppy. I've certainly had worse service, a lot worse, but I'm trying to call this thing before it gets out of hand, while it is still easily fixable.
So Steak and Shake, take my criticisms herein seriously, but not too dramatically.  It was far from a walking out the door deal. I'm simply pointing out a slightly troubling set of symptoms. Like when your kid gets the sniffles, you may not need to rush the toddler to the emergency room, but you should certainly keep your eyes and ears open. This was all small stuff though.
Overall, in spite of the negative comments, this wasn't a bad meal at all, they didn't quite earn a place on my Raven List ("Nevermore!") And yes, there is such a list.


* Styrofoam is a trademarked brand, owned by Dow Chemical Company, and thus, should be capitalized, like Kleenex, Xerox and Toad the Wet Sprocket

Steak 'n Shake on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 18, 2013

Terrazza Grill

249 Arnold Crossroads
Arnold, Mo
On the Web
On Facebook
Adam told us about  this place, he's in Arnold more than the rest of us. I don't like Arnold, the roads make no sense. Being just across the river from St. Louis County, Arnold is more like suburban city than Jefferson County. Sure it's got lots of restaurants, shopping,etc. It also has more people, a lot more people, and their cars.
But once in a while we tunnel our way out of the back woods, gird our loins and head into this town to take advantage of its wider diversity of offerings.

The Place:
A towering stone facade welcomes you. This is no hidey-hole bistro. It is a beautiful modern building, inside and out, but it could just as well be a southwestern steak house as an Italian joint.
The vaulting ceilings and concrete floors, the dark-stained heavy tables and trim and rafters are artfully crafted, heavy and substantial, like a ski lodge. A large fireplace sits in the middle, within a stone framed chimney. We were greeted warmly and immediately led to the back, near the drink station, across from the bar.
The modern bar sported a frosted glass panel that changed color like those old aluminum Christmas trees with the revolving color disk. Angel was fascinated and soothed by it, saying she couldn't take her eyes off of it. I told her that there seemed to be a color for every one of her moods, they just didn't change as fast. It was pretty though.
There were some TV's on over the bar, we could only see one, it was showing NASCAR. Hours and hours of rough, fast traffic in tight, but competitive formation, each jostling for a better position. The occasional fender bender, a fire or two, noisy, monotonous. I don't watch NASCAR, it's too much like my daily commute.
This is a neatly-folded, white cloth napkin kind of place. Tidy, neat, upscale compared to our usual  haunts.
Terrazza Grill is owned and operated by the same family that has had fine restaurants (Lombardo's) in St. Louis since 1934. As such, it's menu boasts 3rd generation recipes. That of course includes the ubiquitous St. Louis appetizer, fried ravioli.
The Food:
Fried Ravioli
I'd previewed the menu. I'd pretty much decided ahead of time what I wanted but Scott, our waiter, spoiled it for me. As he deftly explained the day's specials I heard the words 'lobster ravioli' buzz by. This flushed my brain of everything else. We'd already asked for our drinks, and were easily talked into the appetizer. I had tea, Angel asked for sweet tea, without ice, Adam a cola. Angel likes her tea without ice in colder weather.
The tea was excellent, at least a +4.5.
Scott came around again later and we placed our orders. Me: Lobster Ravioli and house salad, Angel, the Eggplant Parmesan and Adam manned up and ordered the Filet Mignon, 8 oz. with a baked potato. He'd wanted mashed potatoes, but apparently only the Sunday chef knew how to make those.
A basket of rolls were delivered and soon the appetizer was presented. Pretty, very pretty. A bit larger and thicker than store-bought ravioli. The frying gives it a toasty crunch. This was much thicker and meatier than the typical bar version of the stuff, TG is quite proud of them. We all thought they were pretty good. Not necessarily a lot better than other places, but they were certainly better than most. "Better than frozen" Angel said.
Lobster Ravioli
The salads came soon. I tore open a roll. It was lighter than it looked, definitely fresh, also much better than frozen. The salads were pretty, fresh greens of two or three types, red onion rings, and lots of white cheese. This was not common, deli counter cheese, this too was obviously a cut above. The dressing was conservatively applied and blended in with, rather than altered the taste of the fresh salad ingredients. Pretty good, definitely fresh and crisp, but not really Italian-y, if that is what they were going for.
Eggplant Parmesan 
It wasn't long before the entrees arrived. Clean, tidy plates, slightly garnished offerings. My five lobster raviolis were again large and plump, swimming in a creamy sauce. Angel's eggplant parm was served on a bed of angel-hair pasta and topped with cheese and the rich, bright tomato sauce we'd had with the appetizer. She offered a chunk, I accepted. "Doesn't even taste like a vegetable." She said of the eggplant. "Yes, yes it does." I responded, explaining that I could tell it wasn't meat or fish, it had the texture of squash.
 It did not have the taste I associate with such things, the eggplant itself didn't seem to have a distinct taste at all, but I could tell it was veg rather than meat. It wasn't bad at all, the
Filet Mignon
sauce and cheese blend was quite good. Then Adam offered me a pretty good chunk of his steak. It was plump, beautifully charred and the taste was spot-on. No heavy sauces needed, just a really good cut of quality beef, salted, peppered and grilled. TG had performed this plate perfectly. I carved into the ravioli, they were big enough that each needed to be cut into three to be eaten without looking porcine-like in habits. There was definitely lobster, seasoned simply, and the sauce did not overwhelm it. The pasta was thick, maybe a little doughy in spots, but not far from perfect. After the salad and the roll, I thought finishing the pasta would be a snap, It wasn't I only made it halfway through the fourth one when I had to call it quits. By this time Angel and Adam had already finished.
The food was quite good, maybe even better. Angel appreciated that we were not served pounds and pounds of pasta. There was enough to act as a vessel for the sauce, and to fill us, but not enough that it would be wasted. The sauces themselves were excellent, the marinara sweet, fresh and not over-spiced, nothing was too garlic-y, too salty. The steak was perfect, the eggplant sliced pasta thin, the ravioli was plump and filled with fresh lobster. The service was top-notch, Scott didn't miss a beat. The folks refreshing the drinks remembered that Angel didn't want ice.
Angel also said that this was easily her second favorite Italian place. The biggest differences between number one, Trattoria Giuseppe in Imperial and Terrazza grill was the salad, Giuseppe serves up a more Mediterranean version with olives and artichoke hearts, and the ambiance. Giuseppe's is smaller, tighter, older, the floors slant a little, but it feels more like an Italian Bistro  than the new, modern, urban Terrazza Grill. Other than that though, she said they were pretty close.
The bill was an impressive eighty three dollars, about the same as we spend at Giuseppe's. The food matched the price though. This is not an every day dinner place for most of us, but it certainly is the kind of place if you want something special, something a cut or twelve above most eateries.

Terrazza Grill by Lombardos on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 11, 2013

Bob Evans

1003 Veterans Dr
Festus, Mo

 This is one of the most difficult reviews I've done. The last time we went to this place We were terribly disappointed. So much, in fact, that we have not gone there in nearly two years.
The only reason we went this time is that Angel had noticed that they'd just reopened after a major remodeling. Sometimes that means nothing, sometimes that means they are trying to make improvements. I never really had a complaint about the decor or the layout, it's always been the food that I thought needed re-thinking.
The decor had indeed changed. Entering we immediately noticed it was brighter, fresher. In the center, between the two dining areas, they had set up a bakery area. They seemed to want to emphasize/capitalize on this. There were donuts crullers, etc. It looked tempting, but we were hungry for actual food.
We were seated and introduced to a young lady, whose name I was going to mention, but I have decided not to since I do not want any of the somewhat negative things I have to say later to be tagged to her. She was polite, friendly, professional and she got our order right.
I had a little fun with her since she seemed to be in pretty good spirits. "Could I start you off with some tea or lemonade?" She made the mistake of asking.
"Why yes, yes you can." I answered and went back to scouring the menu. The look on her face a few seconds of silence later was priceless. I of course ordered tea, she upsold it by suggesting a lemon. I relented. Angel asked for sweet tea, Adam, the cola.
The menus were shiny and fresh, they'd capitalized on the effective use of white space and that made them seem brighter as well. Angel pointed at the lower left hand image on the burger page. It showed a sparkly glass of ice tea and the promise: "Our all-natural, long leaf black tea. Brewed fresh throughout the day."
Challenge accepted!

The Food:
BE sells comfort food, hearty, wholesome, southern/mid-western fare. Nothing fancy or spicy, nothing extravagant. This BE sits at the foot of a large hotel, it's a perfect location for a place that sells this sort of thing. Seasoned, weary travelers often want something other than fast food. I know when I was a road warrior, I eventually sought out a place that at least mimicked home cooking.
Coincidentally, we all ordered the same exact thing we did at our last visit, two years prior.
Me: Meat loaf, mashed potatoes and green beans.
Angel: Country Fried Steak, mashed potatoes and green beans.
Adam: Deep Dish Chicken and Noodles.
We were offered a selection of breads, rolls, biscuits, etc. We chose rolls.
The young waitress and her trainee scampered off.  Our drinks were in front of us.
I was impressed. The tea sparkled as only fresh brewed tea does. I took a cautious sip.
It had taste, it had substance, it was actually very good. They'd not been merely boasting, this was exactly as advertised. I awarded it a +4 on the PJTea scale.
This seemed to me a very good omen. Perhaps they were trying to improve. A fresh bakery, fresh tea, things were certainly looking up.
 The plates arrived quickly, very quickly, too quickly.
The rolls were not delivered. We were told that they had just a couple more minutes before they came out of the oven. Not a problem in my mind.
The plates were simple, no garnish or flair, simple, clean, to the point. The portion size was modest by many restaurant's standards, but just right in my mind. The Meatloaf is offered in two versions, one slab or two. I opted for the single and once again appreciated the option. Not everyone wears the same size pants, why would you only offer up one size of food portions?

 The meatloaf, made with ground beef and sausage, had a dense texture. It was not as dense as I'd found it on my last visit, when I'd compared it to tofu and dog poo. It was still more dense than meat loaf is typically made. The taste was not bad, although once again the flavor of the gravy was stronger than the taste of anything else. But not near as bad as I'd said about it before.
Angel in fact made a lukewarm pronouncement about her food. "Pretty good, not too salty. Adam seemed to like his noodles as well.
About halfway through the meal, the waitress returned, told us that the rolls were still in the oven and asked "Do you still want them?"
It was this question that caused me to decide to not use her name. It's the wrong question, at the wrong time.
I said we did, since I now was now a little annoyed. The rolls did finally arrive, fresh from the oven, after two of the three of us had already finished our meals.
Adam and I both buttered one up and wolfed them down. It was not exactly the delight I had been anticipating. I wrote a word down in my official eatandcritique notebook.
I waited for Adam to finish chewing his, which took a little longer than one would think such a thing would take. He took a big swig of his cola and said "Doughy". The exact word I had just written down. The d*%$#  things were not in the oven long enough.
This is where it gets tough. I want to be fair, but thorough here, so please bear with me. The tea was outstanding. The service was, for the most part, quite good. The food, well, as best as I can manage is to say that it was mostly improved. Unfortunately, that's a pretty low bar. It was bad enough the last time that I actually wrote a scathing rebuke to Bob Evans HQ and then we didn't go back for nearly two years. So to say it was improved is not really an A+. It's more like going from a D- to a C- or a C.
The bread thing is no small point, because it was allowed to needlessly spin out of control.
As I'd pointed out the new Bob Evans showcases its bakery. That's a bold move. That a simple roll was not thoroughly cooked, not ready in time to be served with the meal is not exactly a trophy winning effort. I appreciated they were fresh-made, but the fact that they weren't well-made, and that they weren't available at prime time dining hours is almost inexcusable.
The waitresses error may not be entirely her own. I can't excuse management and training from this.
The meals were served very quickly, and why not? It's all batch made stuff. In the back there were probably meat loafs, CFSteaks and noodles being heated in steamers and pots. All they had to do was dish it out on a plate. If the rolls were not ready, then why blow the natural order of things by not waiting for them? OR, offering us an alternative. They offered several bread choices when we ordered, surely something was ready. This was an error. The waitress's question ' Do you still want them.' should have been way down the list of options when it was obvious that the rolls were not going to be ready. Thus, one small problem quickly escalated from understandable to annoying, to frustrating and memorable.
I really wanted Bob to be better. I really thought it might be happening. But as I polled the table, things darkened.
"Good at first, but then it got too salty." was Adam's critique."And the gravy didn't taste real, like it was made from a kit."
Dagnabbit, these are simple things to fix, mostly. I think BE over-thinks their meatloaf, and their gravy is too strong in taste, and the taste is not that of  house-made.
The waitresses should be trained in how to handle unavailable product situations, because, hey, it happens. And the back of the house expediter, if there is one, should not rush out a meal until it is complete.
That's all.
Unfortunately, even though the place looked fresh and bright, the waitress was mostly spot-on, and the price ($34.28) was not bad, I still can't recommend this place until the rookie mistakes are fixed. This is a long-established franchise in a prime location. It should have these sort of things sorted out.

I fully realize that in the greater scheme of things, that my criticisms are pretty trivial. My life did not alter its course because the rolls weren't ready. I doubt that anyone has ever slammed their fists on the table and demanded a refund or filed a lawsuit over a little thing like this.
I point it out because the food service industry is very, very competitive. Multiple little things, fixable things can add up easily and become lack of repeat business and lack of good references. Sometimes little things like this, especially the food quality, can be all it takes to have people, without them saying a word, staying away in droves.

Bob Evans on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 4, 2013

Off the Hook

12636 Highway 21
DeSoto, Mo.
On the Interwebs
On Facebook

For the second weekend in a row, my mind was elsewhere. I had scheduled work planned for the middle of the night. A lot of IT system maintenance goes on in the overnight hours. This time it was the time change. Every autumn we shut down some of our systems to let the time change smoothly, else the system will think it is seeing into the future and become confident that it has super-human powers. Should that ever be allowed to happen, well, you've seen what happened with SkyNet (Terminator).
Earlier in the day I'd gone out with a friend, Dan, to solicit door to door. We're gathering petition signatures to get a Hillsboro Library on the ballot again. To say that I don't enjoy door to door canvassing, is like saying I don't enjoy massive trauma or jumping out of airplanes.  There are people that handle that sort of thing well, like Dan, he actually won a seat on the local school board doing this sort of thing. Me? I don't like walking up to perfect strangers and asking them for favors, especially when the rejection rate is exacerbated by intense political passions. I went along though, even rang a few doorbells. I was never comfortable doing it, but it was for a good cause and I'd promised to help out.
So by the time dinner time came around, I was way off my rhythm. I had a headache,  felt drained, and just wanted to crawl into bed. But it was my week to choose a place.
I had nothing in mind, not even a food type preference. Somehow though I eventually decided I wanted fish, preferably catfish. That meant one thing. Off The Hook.
I reviewed my last review of the place and made mental note of my concerns. I occasionally do this to see if there have been improvements.
We piled into the family truckster and took off. I mentioned my symptoms, saying that I thought I was coming down with something. Angel dismissed it as allergies. She dismisses everything I suffer as allergies. If I hopped into the house carrying my severed left leg in my hands she'd say it was allergies.
Luckily, this time, she was not completely wrong. I feel much better now that that weather front has moved through. Still though, just because she's been right every time up until this point, doesn't mean she will be next time.
The Food:
OTH means a couple of things. First, to me, catfish. More importantly, to Angel, it means corn poppers. We love these things. It's almost embarrassing that we love them so much, it's so stereotypically midwestern. Flour batter, whole kernel corn, balled up and deep fried. Absolutely no nutritional value, yet terribly addictive.
OTH offers these as an appetizer, we always order them. For me it's a test of brute willpower. They represent everything I've been trying to eliminate from my habitual diet, yet they are so darned tasty. I look at them and wonder; Gee, maybe just one hit of heroin today?
We ordered our drinks, tea, sweet tea and Pepsi. Angel also ordered the appetizer, plus another platter of sweet poison, crab rangoons. Oddly enough this quaint, homey, fishing themed place, in its remote and rural setting, makes better rangoons than most of the Chinese restaurants in the area.
Two deep fried, heavily breaded treats in front of me. I imagined myself crawling around on the floor of a bus station restroom sniffing out just one more hit of these magical, marvelous treasures. I was finally able to limit myself of one of each though, through sheer, super-human determination.
After the appetizers arrived we ordered our meals. It was then that something amazing happened.
In the previous review I'd complained about the portion sizes and meal makeup. I'd ordered the catfish plate, which ended up being four big filets, two hushpuppies and a pile of thick fries. It was simply waaaay too much deep fried starchy stuff for one plate.
The last time I ordered the Catfish
The young lady taking our order stopped both Angel and I after we asked for the catfish and asked: "The two piece or the four piece?" I was impressed, we both asked for the two. It got really amazing then. "Do you want the fries with that or not?"
In that last review I'd mentioned that I didn't eat any of the fries because it was simply too much fried breaded/starchy stuff.
Both of us declined the fries.
For sides, I asked for baked beans and a salad with sweet onion dressing. Angel sided white beans and Ranch for her salad.
The reduced portion version.
Adam asked for the Chipotle Ranch Baked Chicken with corn and mashed potatoes and gravy.
The salads came pretty quick, I plucked out the croutons and slipped them onto the rangoon platter. The salads were simple, yet fresh and crispy. Iceberg lettuce, julienned carrots and shredded cheese.
The entrees arrived soon enough, I was giddy. Though the plates looked nearly empty and lacked garnishments, knowing how heavy and delicious the food was told me that I would actually not be wasting much at this meal.
There are people out there that can eat four filets, a pile of fries, hush puppies two sides and a couple of appetizers, I am not one of them. Seeing this simple plate indicated to me that either OTH had read my review, or they'd been monitoring the trash.
The fish was excellent, as Angel put it, "perfectly crisp and flaky." Catfish has a stronger, earthier fish taste than cod, salmon or tilapia, but for some reason I prefer it. It may be because of my southern, river roots. Though I don't recall ever eating catfish when I was a kid. In fact, the only fish I recall from my charmed youth were frozen fish sticks. I liked them, especially with ketchup. I've mentioned before, my childhood was not a gastronomic  festival, we had simple food that was easy to prepare. My mother is a poet, a musician, a minister and a teacher. She just never got passionate about the more domestic pursuits. We always had food, it was just never upscale, fancy, or delicious. I don't blame her, not at all. We all, except with the possible exception of my sister, turned out just fine. We can all cook too, we learned early.
Baked Chipotle Ranch Chicken
The hush puppies were good as well. The chef at OTH is a master deep fryer, nothing tasted greasy.
The portions turned out to be perfect. I applaud OTH for overtly offering the option to pare down.
Adam liked the little roll that came with his meal, he asked  me if there was a name for that kind. I told him I didn't know, but this indicated to me that it was a hit with him. He liked everything else as well.
I couldn't quite finish my meal, I was still feeling a bit queasy. Angel again blamed it on my allergies, again, she was apparently correct, this time.
It was all good, in fact, it was very good. I didn't feel intimidated or weighed down by the portions. The only non-positive comments I could dig out were about the salad, Angel said she didn't like having to cut up lettuce, it was a bit large. Adam said the gravy didn't seem real. Maybe a pre-fab mix or something, it didn't taste like it had actually been made with natural, in-house meat au jous. (gesundheit!) Also, my baked beans were a little too sweet, not a big deal, but noticeable.
The price came in at a reasonable forty two bucks, that for three meals and two appetizers. the service was great, refills timely, the only exception being at the meal's end, it took a bit long to get the check.
I can't say enough how pleased I was that we'd been offered smaller portion options. This is huge in my book. I wish more places did this. I'm especially thinking of Italian places at this moment, where dishes are served with nearly a box of pasta per plate. I hope more places start offering this simple option. It will drive down costs and better serve a 'struggling to slim down' public much better. Also, the price was pared down as well. Offered on the menu at $9.99, we were only charged $6.49 for our catfish dinners. Bonus!
Oh yeah, a couple of more things.
1. The tea. Fresh but week, on par with Pizza Junction.
2. Suzy does indeed carry a checkbook. I told you so.

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