Monday, September 15, 2014

Concord Grill

11427 Concord Village Ave.
Affton, Mo.
On the Interwebs
On Facebook
The Menu

Earlier in the week Adam suggested we go back. It had been several months. We tried to go there a while back but work issues prevented us.
I decided to give Debbie, the owner, a heads-up. I don't usually do that sort of thing, but Debbie and I have chatted a few times and is someone I like and respect.
Our previous review was quite positive. Unlike most restaurateurs, she replied to it by emailing me a long and sweet thank-you note. I was quite touched and saw in her messages that she genuinely cared what people thought about her establishment. That sort of thing is more rare than you might think.
About that same time, I had 'suggested', via their web site, a new burger. They are renowned for making a great burger, lots of great burgers, from the savory to the quirky.
I can do quirky. So I suggested a Shrimp Alfredo Burger.
Since then it has been kind of a running gag. Speaking of gagging, when I tell people about this that's pretty much the reaction I get most. I seriously thought it might be pretty good. I also checked the Google machine and could not find anyone, anywhere, that offered such a thing.
After I sent her the heads-up, she replied saying that if she heard someone order a Shrimp Alfredo Burger, she would know it was me. She also mentioned that she just happened to have some shrimp on hand.
So, the stage was set.
The Place:
A small joint just as you turn onto Concord Village Ave. off of Lindbergh. You might miss it if you're not looking for it. But not many people miss it. There's overflow parking in the back, it was about half full when we got there.
There's a patio with tables and chairs, but we passed it up, even on this lovely day. Because we're civilized. We prefer eating indoors, like intelligent  humans, not outdoors like squirrels and terrorists.
It feels cozy to walk into. It's not all shiny and modern, but it has older world class to it. I think it feels like a neighborhood pub might feel in Scotland or Ireland.
It was already filling up, lots of locals, couples, families, small groups. Young, old, thick and thin.
The lady that greeted us told us to pick a table, any table. We found one in the far back corner that appealed to our inner introvert.
We were told that 'Jamie' would be with us shortly. She was. A cheerful young lady stopped at the table and introduced herself. She took our drink order, unsweetened tea with no sugar, sweet tea and Pepsi, and dashed off. We also ordered an appetizer, the toasted ravioli, because. . . St. Louis.
I didn't need to look at the menu, but I did anyhow. Best to have a backup plan just in case they couldn't or wouldn't make the Shrimp Alfredo Burger.
I also played with Angel's IPhone. I had forgotten my tablet and I would have to use this dreadful little Apple product to collect the evening's images. It behaved similar to my tablet, just with fewer useful features.
The Food:
Angel and Adam studied and debated the menu offerings. They finally settled.
As if by magic, Jamie arrived to take our order.
I started. She looked at me with a furrowed face. She had never heard of such a thing.
"I'm not sure we. . . " She started.
"Yes you can, I have it on full authority that you have the shrimp and other things on hand."
"I'm not sure if the shrimp. . . " She started again. I could tell she didn't want to tell me 'no', she was trying to find a way to steer me away from this order. I didn't mind that at all, it showed confidence, experience and competence.
I finally smiled. "Tell Debbie that some idiot just ordered a Shrimp Alfredo Burger, she'll know what to do." I reassured her.
"Well, she's my mom, so I can say something to her. . . " She still seemed to struggle, like she was being set up for a prank. ". . . I'll pass it along, now how would you like that burger cooked?"
A real pro.
Slightly embarrassed at this point, Angel ordered the Breakfast Burger, Adam the Chipotle Burger.
They all come with fries.
The Ravioli was delivered, big, puffy round, breaded and fried, meat and cheese filled. We didn't recall these. I scanned back through my notebook and found the March review notes. "Ravioli: traditional." It said, no other comment. This was different. If they were house made on our earlier visit, like these in front of us, I certainly would have made note of it.
I knew they would be hot, so unlike my two dinner-mates, I cut one open with a knife and fork. They each bit in and screamed in searing pain. Raviolis do that, you bite them, and the lava-like filling erupts into your mouth. It always happens, always. It's still funny to watch though.
And they were very, very good. You  can tell house made from frozen, these were definitely house made, fresh. We asked Jamie about it later, sure enough CG started making these a few months ago. Bravo!
The door to the kitchen opened and a different lady, who only slightly older than our young server, peeked out at us, directly at me. "I guess I finally get to meet the owner." I whispered to Angel.
I looked back to the lady I knew to be Debbie, smiled and nodded. I stood as she approached and introduced her to the family. I stood, because I'm a good southern boy, all filled with manners and respect and such.
Even though Debbie and I have communicated a few times, we'd never actually met. This time, ordering a Shrimp Alfredo Burger rang alarm bells in the kitchen. She knew I had arrived. Apparently there's not a big calling for the cheesy surf and turf offering. We chatted for a few minutes until Jamie stopped by. "Told you so." I rubbed it in. She smiled, her mom smiled.
"So, straight up Shrimp Alfredo on a burger eh?" Debbie asked.
I thought about it for a second and said yes.
"Well, let's do this." She replied, and like a trooper on a mission, marched back to the kitchen.
Meanwhile, the bulk of the dinner crowd started showing up. The ladies that run the front of the house scurried about. Orders were being brought out of the kitchen in regular order, I saw no plates go back, no unsatisfied customers.
We chatted among ourselves about evening entertainment options. Saturday nights, once the meal is consumed, we head home and go about our own business until about nine, when we reconvene in the living room and if we've agreed on a movie, we watch it together. Adam was pitching a movie I'd never heard of but it sounded awful. "It's called 'Snowpiercer'. It's about all the remaining living people on earth are on a nuclear powered, eternal train, the earth has frozen from global warming and they live on the train which never stops, it just circles the globe. There's warring inside the train between the privileged people  up front and the poor people in back."
"It sounds terrible, like one of those awful SciFi channel things like Sharknado, or Hippo-cane." I replied. "Or worse, this sounds pretty much like that awful TV series from the '70's
'Supertrain'." Adam was of course too young to remember that nine episode train wreck that nearly bankrupted NBC.(It shows up in most lists of 'Biggest  TV Blunders' alongside 'Manimal')
"It has a Rotten Tomato rating of 95." He said.
"How is that possible?" I asked, I respect the Rotten Tomato.
"It has a Korean director." He answered, knowing I like books and movies with from an Asian perspective. Adam knows how to bring a convincing debate to our table.
Speaking of bringing things to the table, the food arrived.
And there it was. Piles of cheesy shrimp on top of a thick burger.
When Debbie asked me about wanting it straight up without other toppings, I had answered properly. Traditional toppings like ketchup, mustard, pickles, etc. would not work with this. I ate it like you see it. There was plenty of flavor. Between the grade-A beef, perfectly cooked to order and slightly peppery, and the salty, cream, butter and Parmesan cheese sauce,(she even remembered the parsley!) There were not many extra toppings worthy of those tastes. There was enough shrimp to cover the patty and more. A few escaped, but were recaptured. I shared a couple of the jumpers with Angel. Yeah, it was good. It was actually better than I thought it might be.
Between the richness of that burger and the rich, fancy shrimp, I knew I would be hard pressed to
finish the whole thing. I went sparingly on the fries, but it still stretched my limits.
Angel had asked for the egg on her breakfast burger to be over-medium. As she bit into it, it did precisely what she intended, the yolk burst open drenching the whole thing. That's exactly what she wanted it to do. The Breakfast Burger includes bacon, egg and a hash brown patty.  She'd ordered the smaller 5 ounce version of the burger, but it was still a lot of food.
"Very filling." She said between bites. "Maybe less hash browns." She critiqued. "It would be great with country gravy." She concluded, predictably. Gravy is Angel's most sinful food delight. She likes it a lot and doesn't get to have it often, so she orders extra when we're splurging.
Adam's Chipotle Burger was very pretty as well. He opened it up and exposed the orange Chipotle sauce and the pepper cheese. He likes things spicier than his more reasonable and experienced parents. About the only thing he said about it was that it could use just a little more sauce and a little more heat. That means it is probably fine as-is for most consumers.
He came closest to actually finishing his burger. The standard burgers are pretty big. Angel's 5 ounce looked almost as big, but a little thinner. We equally enjoyed them, the fries as well. CG doesn't  skimp on portions, quality or freshness.


This is the place where I usually write 'Summary' and start wrapping things up. Jamie stopped by to gather our plates and made a startling, game changing announcement.
"My mother is going to make you a Twinkie, she wants to know what you think of it."
As one, our eyes popped out of their sockets and our jaws fell to the floor.
The words "I'd like a deep fried Twinkie." Have never, ever passed through my perfectly sized and shaped, masculine lips.
But CG makes several kinds of fried Twinkies. Deb's as proud of and as serious about them as her burgers.
Long time fans will recall that we rarely order dessert. Very rarely. Because we lack self control. We order main courses and then stuff ourselves with them which means we rarely have room or desire for dessert at the end of a meal. We might have something later, we've taken home cheesecakes from a few places, gone home, made some coffee and enjoyed it a couple or more hours after the meal.
We had done that again, stuffed ourselves on the main course. But we didn't have to eat it all, just enough to make a reasonable and professional evaluation.
Jamie pointed to the board where the different varieties were listed. A few of them sounded sane, many of them were obviously the result of a days-long alcohol or controlled substance binge. I can not imagine a sober person coming up with the idea of  'Maple Bacon Twinkies'.
Angel and I were leaning toward the low impact end, maybe strawberries and cream, but Adam would have none of that. We compromised on Peanut Butter and Chocolate. Yeah, a Peanut Butter and Chocolate deep fried Twinkie was a compromise. Definitely a first-world-only dilemma.
I asked Jamie whether this would be sort of like a Reese's Cup.
"As a matter of fact, we use only Reese's Peanut Butter." She beamed.
I justified this as being reasonable since I enjoyed a peanut butter cup once or twice a year. I could just skip the next one.
We were dreading this. I loosened my belt and sat firm, preparing myself for the inevitable shock. I have really, really cut back on my sugar intake the last few years. Heavy doses of sugar tend to throw my body into a staggering buzz. There was no way this nutritional abomination would be any different. But, I am a professional, willing to sacrifice my body for my craft, as is occasionally required by you, the fickle and demanding fans.
Jamie came back a few minutes later with a plate full of what could only be described as a product of satanic design.
We were staring at it in awe, wonder and fear. Unrepeatable words were uttered.
Two crispy edged deep fried Twinkies, slathered with chocolate sauce on a drizzled bed of peanut butter. The heat from the Twinkie was melting the chocolate and peanut butter. For reasons only a deranged pastry chef could possibly understand, they'd even dusted the thing with powdered sugar, I suppose to make sure that it was sweet enough.
This was no subtle dessert. This was a fist-pounding, head banging, heavy metal, HELL YEAH!!  kind of dessert. This offering is an in your face, middle finger extended to the heavens, Kamikaze dish. If you want this, if you eat this, it means that for this rare moment, you are just fed up with caring about anything and everything you're supposed to do, expected to do. This treat is a sin in any language, creed or culture. It is completely unjustified in the food world and in nature itself. It's the right-now, noisy, screaming, crashing, completely pointless excess and wasteful demolition derby of the pastry world.
"Can I get you anything else?" Jamie again, beaming.
"A defibrillator? Paramedics? Cocaine?" What could possibly go with this?
And lo, it was good. Of course it was. The crispy edges, swirling in quality peanut butter and chocolate. The sugars on the outer crust of the Twinkie had caramelized, thus the crunch, thus the amplified sweetness. We each could only handle a few bites. Had we had smaller main courses, we might have made it further into it. We tasted it, tested it. It was good in the carnal way that letting go of your inhibitions and timidity and just unleashing the raw, inner sinner, for a moment, is good.
If you have a weak spot for over the top desserts, this is about as wild and decadent as you're likely to find legally. It rubs against all the edges. Celebrate your existence and recognize your mortality at the same time. And you know what? Why not?
Of course after eating this thing, I felt the overwhelming need to rush home to savagely brush and floss my soul.
Summary:
Debbie came out of the kitchen and over to the table just as I stuffed a sizable chunk into my mouth. I was embarrassed to say anything since my mouth was full and I was pretty sure my ears were bleeding.
She explained, once my pulse settled back to triple digits, that she just couldn't offer my burger on the menu. "With the price of seafood going up like it is, I'd have to price it at $25."
I understand that. I had tasted a prototype, a one of a kind.
A high powered mutant of some kind never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live, too rare to die .   - (HST)
We chatted a bit more and I decided I liked her even more than before. A true, dedicated and diligent restaurateur and business person. A nice, somewhat timid lady though. At least around us. I pointed out that she looked a bit apprehensive and reserved.
"I'm afraid of what you might write." She answered, a reasonable and measured position. Her business thrives, survives on word of mouth and unfortunately, public reviews by ignorant, arrogant amateurs.  She cares about her food, her restaurant, her employees and her reputation. She has nothing to worry about, with me at least. The Concord Grill, small, busy, a bit dark and cozy, is easily one of my favorite eateries in the whole area. It's the complete package. I'd live there if I could. I probably wouldn't live long, but what a way to go.
The food and service at the Concord Grill is well above the norm. Friendly, comfortable, satisfying and yet also offering the occasional devil-may-care wildness.
I wouldn't change a thing.
Oh yeah, the bill came to forty something bucks, not that it exactly reflected what we actually consumed. She forced that damnable Twinkie on us.
And the tea was great.
Like I said, the whole package.

___________________

By the way, the movie 'Snowpiercer' was quite good. Very compelling with an unmistakably refreshing Asian perspective.





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