Earls vs. Joeys
After the rash of suburban restaurant posts we saw a few weeks ago, I wanted to revisit both of these places and explore the current state of box store highbrow nosh.
Earls. Saturday night.
We found ourselves in Earls after a long day at a convention. Upon arrival, we were greeted by the backs of the trio of over-candied hostesses. They were excited by some sort of dramatic activities in a section of the restaurant that appeared to be a high school function of some kind. It began to feel a bit agonizing until we were eyeballed by an alert waiter who snaked us into his section and rescued us from getting off to a bad start. I decided to order entirely off the feature menu.
An entire box of spinach was brought to the table with figs and goat cheese with a balsamic dressing. It was good, but so ludicrous in scale that eating figs was like rustling through a leaf pile. Maybe that was part of the "Fall" theme? As my tolerance for raw vegetables is fairly low, I did my best to clear off a reasonable amount.
A massive pork chop came to the table before a moment passed - It had a bacon and apple chunky gravy on it. Undersalted, somewhat overcooked, but not intolerably so. Somehow bacon and apples didn't really come across in the flavour but it wasn't bad - a semi-sweet, semi-boozy with animal fat in it sort of way.
Despite my rebelling stomach, I really wanted to believe that the feature pumpkin pie would be either cheesecakeish with a nasty cross hatch of squirt bottle sauces, or an interpretation of diner style done a tad more upscale. Neither appeared - merely a cracked wedge of canned pumpkin with an undercookedcrisco crust.
Our waiter was so good I want to believe that dinner was better then it was. Maybe that's part of the Earl's plan. The price-point seems to have come down a touch from the high water mark of the last few years. The "Alberta Size" portions were ridiculous, and the ingredients weren't exactly bottom rung, so I hope they scale down the weight on the plate a touch and spend more money on love. You could really see so many moments where a decent recipe stumbled in execution. The door staff make it harder for the waiters, and then the waiters deal with the expectations of the customers - the kitchen staff fail to execute or in assembly mistake generosity for quality.
Joey Tomatoes - Chinook. Weekday. Early Evening.
Started off with a better seating experience. Our happiness was quickly erradicated by our horrific waitress. She complained about her shoes (they were expensive but making her feet sore), her shift (not a lot of happy customers), her bracelet (she just got it, it was expensive and kept catching on her sweater, also expensive). We ordered a bottle of wine, but not by name, rather, by number, from a list of maybe 20.
No appetizers, just entrees. I had a roasted chicken thing, as I heard they were all pre - roasted and heated sous vide. I couldn't really tell. As with so many restaurant roast chickens, it was not an experience, but just a complicated way to ingest calories.
If there is any conclusion to come to - it's that a good waiter made me order more bad food, and the bad waitress had me ordering less bad food. I don't know who to thank, but in either case the food lost.