I loved Ashley Christensen at Enoteca Vin and I've had excellent food at Poole's Diner, although I dislike the ambiance there. I've also eaten at Chuck's and Beasley's and the best I can say about the food at either of those places is that it was okay. Just okay. Not close to acceptable for the price or attitude.
My first (and probably only) meal at Beasley's left me with a poor impression. The food came out nearly instantaneously, suggesting that it all was sitting around pre-made. The vaunted meatloaf was just meh. Both it and the accompanying mashed potates were badly underseasoned, as was my dining companion's chicken. The mac and cheese was rather good, easily the best dish on the table. There was no salt or pepper on the tables, as I'm sure the chef/staff doesn't feel that their food needs it. Wrong! When the check came, my companion looked it over as he was sure he would be charged extra for the requested Tabasco sauce. He was serious. And no, there was no extra charge. Still, that goes to show how Christensen seems to have us trained. The atmosphere both at Beasley's and Chuck's is univiting to anyone over 45 or with any kind of mobility impairment. The seating says, "Don't stay a second long than necessary," and "Don't even bother if you expect any level of comfort." The music level in the afternoon with less than a quarter of the tables occupied was such that I still had to speak very loudly to hold a conversation with someone sitting 2 feet away. We didn't even bother trying to talk.
So what's the deal? Ashley Christensen can most certainly cook and she knows how to run a decent restaurant. I have to wonder if she's running an elaborate social experiment, trying to see how far she push the envelope by serving horribly average food in a wannbe hip setting at grossly inflated prices and waiting to see how long it is before there's a pushback. In other words, how much can I make them swallow?
Considering the kudos she received this week at the SFA conference, all from people who should know what they're talking about, it's clear that she knows which end of the spatula goes in the skillet. I really, really want to like Christensen. She's served me some meals in the past that have made me very happy. So what is going on now? Any ideas?