High Ridge, Mo.
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It was nearing the end of the four days off from work for the New Year holiday. We're not partiers, so we had no plans for celebration other than snack-type munchies, veggies, dips, chips, those 'Little Smokies' in barbecue sauce... some of us didn't even manage to make it to midnight. At that magic time I was watching TV, I don't recall what, maybe Mythbusters, probably Mythbusters, I saw a lot of that over the four days. They were running and end to end series marathon.
The weather was mostly chilly and cloudy, I took advantage of the lack of goings-on and dark, dreary weather to luxuriate in a glorious languor.
I insisted that Angel should pick us a place to go to on Saturday. I can be a jackass like that at times, especially if I'm wallowing in a long period of downtime and too lazy to think about, or plan things much.
She surprised me when after a couple of hours she came back with "Jilly's."
"You mean the Salt Palace?" I responded.
That's what jumped to mind immediately when she said it. The two times we've reviewed the place, we came away feeling salt-licked.
If we were going to do this right, we'd have to keep our minds open, besides, we hadn't been there in nearly five years.
High Ridge is actually quite a distance from our compound outside Hillsboro. There's no good way to bet there.Choice 'A' is barely-shouldered, narrow and curvy/hilly Highway BB, over to Highway 30, then half the county north.
Choice 'B' is more drivable, 21 to M then up 30, for not nearly as far. To get there we took Choice B. It seemed to take forever. The restaurant sits on a hill amongst and behind other shops, so you have to look for the signs. It was all lit up this post holiday time, the patio and gazebo held tasteful, not wasteful simple white lights.Overhead the blue neon sign read "illy's". Which by definition means the sign wasn't filled with neon, which is orange, more likely mercury gas.
The place can hold a lot of people, so it didn't concern us too much to see that the lot was about 2/3 full. We just marched in like we owned the place. The main dining area has booths along the perimeter. The center of the space is lower than the perimeter, sort of a ballroom configuration. In the center area there was a group of forty or so besuited middle aged people that appeared to all be part of a single group. A reception of some kind. They were already being served their main courses.
We were shown to a booth in the back, pretty much the same booth we've gotten twice before.
The decor is classy. By that I mean classic. Dark wood paneled walls, 60's style booths and tables, the artwork depicting martini's and Manhattans in cocktail glasses. Almost like you wouldn't be surprised to see a half sloshed Don Draper sitting at one of them with his hand sliding up some buxom blonde's skirt.
Overhead, old style blues rang out, one of my favorite restaurant music types.
Yeah, a steakhouse/blues club/cocktail bar. A bit of odd fusion, but certainly unique. Nothing Diner/Drive-in/Dive about it.
I pretty much knew I'd be getting steak. I hadn't had one in quite a while. So I scanned the menu as the server asked about drinks (tea, tea, Pepsi). I heard Angel ask for an appetizer, cannelloni bites. They are prepared similar to the regionally ubiquitous toasted ravioli, by that I mean breaded and deep fried.
I struggled with the steak selections, I was looking for a small steak. I wanted a baked potato as well, no need to waste a big, pricey slab of meat that I wouldn't be able to finish. The only small one (6 oz.) they had was a Petite Flat Iron. I didn't know what that was, but it was a steak and it was the right size. So after our drinks arrived I asked for it, the potato and green beans.
Angel asked for 'The Ribs' with Spinach Salad and Baked Potato. Adam a Grilled Chicken Club Sandwich with House Chips.
Pretty soon the cannelloni arrived, twelve of them, more than you get as an appetizer in other places, with a tiny ramekin of marinara dipping sauce sprinkled with Parmesan cheese.
I dipped a cannelloni into the sauce too soon, it was blistering hot. I let half of it rest and cool before trying it again.
We agreed that we liked cannelloni better than ravioli, more meaty filling, less noodle. The treats and the sauce were pretty darn good. The cannelloni was crunchy, meaty, savory. The sauce was not too sweet, but maybe a little too much Parm.
There, I said it, without really saying it. Parmesan cheese comes across a bit salty. I was on my guard looking for too salty tastes, the very thing we'd dinged Jilly's about in the past. There are several things besides salt itself that can come across salty, Parm is among them.
I had reviewed the previous write-ups before we went out. I recalled the saltiness so I tried, deliberately to avoid things that might be victims of a heavy hand. Notice no one asked for mashed potatoes? A baked potato is safer, They aren't seasoned on the inside. The mashed potatoes was definitely something I'd pegged before as being over-'seasoned'.
Angel's Spinach Salad showed up pretty soon. A fresh, healthy looking thing, all green and crispy. She'd asked for the house 'Mayfair' dressing on it. I wouldn't have. Mayfair is also a St. Louis creation, anchovies, oil, egg, champagne, garlic, mustard. . . see where i'm going here? Considering the venue and our past experiences, I would have chosen a sweeter dressing to cut back on the salty potential of everything else.
But I didn't get a salad. Sure enough, Angel didn't really care for the dressing.
The third person to wait on us this far delivered the main courses. Hefty, nicely plated offerings. Angel's pile of meat and bones looked as though it weighed twenty pounds or so.
We dug in. My steak cut like butter. The potato was piping hot and soft inside, it took the sour cream and butter perfectly. Yeah, I pretty much turned it into mashed potatoes, but I controlled the seasoning. A little pepper was all it took.
The green beans were firm and surrounded by a generous portion of cooked onions. I like onions, a lot.
|Petite Flat Iron Steak|
Angel piped in somewhere that the ribs were not what she was expecting, they had a taste and texture that didn't match her expectations either. She said it might be from the wrong animal, but we had no way of knowing without asking.
There was also a lot of meat there. She had to get a box to take about half of it home. The ribs had been served with two ramekins of sauce, one was decidedly barbecue, the other was up for debate. Both Angel and Adam tried it, but they couldn't agree. Angel's final word was that it might be a form of Buffalo sauce, but in the end it didn't really matter because it went unused.
Adam's response about his sandwich was a fairly tepid 'pretty good'. Of course being a chicken sandwich, there's not a lot to either screw up or make sparkle. The bacon helped, the tomato and lettuce discarded, so it was basically just a grilled chicken breast, some bacon, some mild provolone and chilpotle sauce.
I know you're dying to know, the tea was . . . blah. Not bitter really, but definitely on the south side of fresh.
Though I can't say that the main complaint this time was saltiness, we'd effectively dodged that bullet, but the consensus was that though not really bad, it was a bit disappointing in that nothing really stood out as being really all that good. With my steak, it could have been the cut, but I don't think that would have made so much of a difference. The ribs were not falling off the bone tender, but that's not always a bad thing. It was the taste and texture, and the lack of knowing what animal it came from that will keep Angel from ordering it again. Discussions later concluded that there just wasn't any real pull for the place, nothing that would motivate us to drive that far to take visitors to.
It seems to be busy and successful though, so maybe we're just ordering the wrong things. I'd love to hear from someone that found something there that they find really good.
As I mentioned, we were served by no less than three different people. All of them were nice enough, friendly and professional, but at the end of the meal I wasn't clear who I would be tipping.
So, bottom line, it was okay, but it might be another four and a half years before it occurs to me to try it again.