Believe it or not, this silly exercise called Eat and Critique began five years ago this month. Nearly 250 reviews written! Whew, that's a lot of mindless, pointless drivel.
For those of you not familiar with the story and too lazy to go back into the archives to check, I'll summarize.
We had settled into a familiar rut. We'd go out to eat once per week, but only to the same four or five places. One of those places was Ruby Tuesday. The food was pretty good, but more expensive than the other joints we settled for.
At RT I would get a steak, mashed potatoes and green beans. Almost always it was good. Then one Saturday in September 2009, it went foul. Almost everything was cold, cooked wrong, and courses served too quickly. Even the tea was bad, old and stale.
I was furious. I had come to count on consistency there, I was certainly paying for it. I swore to never go there again. We decided to try some other places.
Apparently I couldn't shut up about it. I wanted to let somebody know, but whom?
Thus the birth of this site.
A quest to find other places, experience other tastes and locations. To try to objectively articulate what made the experience great, mediocre or terrible.
We've learned a lot in the last five years, learned to expect certain things and manage those expectations for real world situations. We've seen some great places come and go, it's a brutal business. We've also been astounded when genuine, certified crap can outsell and outlast places serving decent, fresh food at the same price.
We don't have all the answers, not at all. We've learned a lot of things though and are looking forward to learning more, experiencing more.
This site has had over 125,000 views. Not bad for a site that doesn't advertise itself, it's pretty much word of mouth and social networking.
We wish to thank all of our regular readers and even the visitors. We enjoy your feedback, in whatever form.
On behalf of the entire staff and family here at Eat and Critique headquarters, Thank you.
Like I said this all started because of one lousy experience at Ruby Tuesday, this very location, off Highway A, overlooking I-55.
It's changed a bit inside since back then, they've gotten rid of all the kitschy sports artifacts that were once popular in places like that. There's still sports on TV at the bar, but not in the dining areas. It is now decorated more modestly, more fashionably, modern art, muted colors.
The hostess met us at the door, there was no wait.
She led us to a booth, very near every booth we get every time we go there.
We were met shortly by a cheerful young lady that did not have a name tag.
"What's your name" I asked as she passed out the menus.
"I was just about to tell you." She laughed. I'd interfered with her process.
"Hi, My name is Angela and I'll be your server. Could I get you something to drink?" She spoke as if it were rehearsed, or the fiftieth time she's said the exact same thing that day.
She was still cheery though.
"Un-sweet tea, no sugar." I responded, her brow furrowed, but she wrote it down.
Angel asked for sweet tea, Adam, some pop.
She looked at me. "You said no lemon for your tea?"
"I said no such thing."
"Of course!" I smiled
She took it in stride, like a pro. She left us alone to look over the menus. When she brought the drinks, and those marvelous cheesy biscuits, I was happy to see that the tea was bright and clear.
The menu hadn't changed much since our last visit. Not that it mattered, I knew what I wanted.
But I blew it. Let me be clear about that, I ordered the wrong thing. I wanted steak, specifically the Petite Sirloin, but I thought it would be even better with a little surf on it. They offered coconut shrimp or lobster tail. I thought about the lobster, but saw how much more it cost, and settled on the shrimp. I added the mashed potatoes and traded in the second side for the salad bar.
Angel was up next, Low Country Shrimp and Grits, pus the salad bar.
Adam asked for the Asiago Peppercorn Sirloin, No salad bar, but I was sure he'd be plucking some of his mom's croutons.
For an appetizer, Adam and his mom asked for the mild hot wings.
I was methodical, just a little of this, a little of that. Two kinds of lettuce, spinach, peppers, cucumber, onions, mushrooms, cheese, fava beans (makes slurping noise), bacon bits, a little apple salad, a little potato salad. Top that with a dollop of blue cheese and a couple of smears of thousand Island dressing. No croutons.
By 'no croutons' I mean two different things, first, I didn't want any, second there were no croutons.
"They're fixing some now." I heard from a staff member talking to the family in front of us. Angel and Adam would be disappointed. They love RT's dark croutons. Personally I think they taste like tires.
Adam said they were fine, Angel said they were a bit spicy. The mild form of this offering is a compromise for Angel and her son. He'd like them a bit hotter, her, a little less so.
My salad was, of course, awesome. I love the salad bar at RT.
Soon enough, but not too soon the main courses arrived. Angela, our server, and another server swept in and delivered the plates. As they sat mine down I instantly recognized the egregious error I had made. Coconut Shrimp is a bold choice for a guy that cannot stand coconut.
More like Coco-NOT!
"Peel it off." She said, I hadn't heard her say that in many years, so for a moment I was a little distracted. Then I peeled the coconut coating and tried the actual naked shrimp itself. It tasted like coconut. Feeling bad for me, Angel handed me one of her shrimps, which was delicious.
Angela had insisted I carve the steak in her presence. It was fine. The mashed potatoes as well were very good, creamy and buttery.
Angel's grits plate had a lot of andouille sausage. Andouille is of French origin but showed up in Louisiana by way of German immigrants. It is pork based and usually spicy. It's a favorite in New Orleans
Grits, even though I am allegedly a southern boy, I have never liked, at all. Angel doesn't get this.
"These have lots of cheese though, you might like them covered in cheese!"
I sighed. "I don't care if they are covered with gold and prostitutes, I don't like grits."
To me, grits taste like sand.
Overall she liked her meal, but the spiciness of the sausages and the richness of the cheese soon overwhelmed her.
When he finished his meal, he grabbed a couple of napkins and wrapped up the four remaining cheesy biscuits. Those things are awesome, famously awesome.
Angela, our server was a real trooper. She seemed to handle a well intentioned ass-hat, me, like a pro. She didn't stumble, got everything right and stayed cheery and attentive throughout the meal. As did Jessica, or Stephanie, I forget which, handling the tables in my view, cheery helpful, almost like they were instructed and trained to maintain an upbeat demeanor. I was quite happy with the service. The shrimp was my mistake. The price, more than many places we go, was a reasonable sixty bucks (we had a coupon). Reasonable for the quality of the food. All the food was properly and professionally prepared, cooked to order.
The only ding RT's gets this round is the crouton shortage.
So, for our fifth anniversary, at the place that angered me enough to take on this trek originally, we were well pleased.
Once again, thanks to all our readers for making this journey fun and interesting.