Wife and I tried this relatively new eatery at the former La Cruda spot just west of the busy corner at 26th and Clinton. The main space is smallish with half the kitchen open and maybe 5 or 6 tables and a bar with a few more seats along the front window. Through a door is a bar space with more tables.
The menu is filled with comfort foods from spaghetti and meatballs ($11) to meatloaf ($10) to mac & cheese ($9). The appetizers include items like meatballs ($5), shrimp cocktail ($7), and waldorf salad ($6). The most expensive item is the skirt steak at $13.
My wife and I ordered the fried cheese curds ($5) and Caesar ($7, $10 with prawns, chicken or steak) to start. It's a pretty good pile of the little mishapen spheres. Each tastes like a grilled cheese truffle, with the mild cheddar as the ganache and fried breadcrumbs as the shell. Some were a bit salty and some had the cheese leeched out, but overall: yummy.
The Caesar had a very traditional flavor. The dressing was more lemony than anything else. I couldn't taste anchovy or garlic, really. My guess is that it did have Worcestershire, however, from the flavor. I do wonder if they were using mayo as the base; it seemed like it and tasted like it. Was really lacking parmesan. Just a light sprinkle of finely grated cheese. The "croutons" were a bit annoying: two slices of toasted baguette (perhaps flavored with garlic as is traditional, but not strong enough to be for sure; more just tasted a little burnt) set atop the salad. Are we supposed to break these up by hand? Are we supposed to top the toast with lettuce? It's one of those cases of putting form ahead of function. Not a bad salad, but I wouldn't order it again.
For entrees, my wife got the burger with cheese and fries ($9, $8 without cheese) and I got the grilled skirt steak ($13). You have the choice of substituting soup, salad, or something else for the fries. There's also a veggie burger option. You get the choice of blue cheese or Wisconsin white cheddar, which is what my wife chose. Terrible bun. Horrendous, really. It might be as bad or worse than what you get on McDonald's cheapest burger. They had toasted the hell out of it, though, which kept it from dissolving, but it squished into two little bread disks around the meat. Meat was underseasoned (since it's Cascade Natural Beef, I assume that was the problem) and not crusted enough to give it much flavor. Decent fries, though. Like good fast food fries, but with the skins left on. Not as crispy as my last trips to Wildwood, Bluehour, or Carlyle, but close. No crunch, so nothing like Castagna's. Huge pile of them.
The skirt steak was somewhat small, though fair for the price, I guess. (Although skirt is obviously a really cheap cut.) For skirt, it was relatively tender, though because it was given in a long strip against the grain, it was a bit of a pain to cut up into the thin slices cross-grain that it needs to be. (I realize I'm not explaining this well, sorry.) The plate was really small, too, which exascerbated this problem. Way underseasoned. No salt at all, I would guess. Also could have been crusted more. It was topped with "Mississippi steak butter" -- whatever that is. Seemed to be some butter with maybe red pepper pureed in, or something else that made it orange. Came with a choice of two sides. I picked greens and mushrooms, both of which were tasty.
We finished with the Devil's Food Cake ($5). I found it a little dry and heavy, though I'm not sure "dry" is quite the right word. But it had a little bit of that effect peanut butter has when you eat it straight off a spoon (admit it, you've all done this). It sort of gets in the back of your throat and sticks there. Fudgy flavor. Served with a side of whipped cream.
Overall, I think it's a decent place. The prices are really good. Cheaper than most national chains making that sort of food. But the items seem to be hit and miss. They're competing with Mother's, Ken's, Three Square, Noble Rot, etc. I don't like Three Square much, but I'd say the others do a better job (based on only one meal). However, they're also more expensive. So I guess it depends on how much that extra $5 per entree matters to you.
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