Goatgolfer and I went to to SLD today for the first time. Actually, I should say that he bought me lunch today, since that's what happened. Decent first experience.
I ordered the salmon entree, and GG had the Birmingham burger. The salmon came with mashed sweet potatoes and either a cup of soup or small salad, and I chose the house-made chicken noodle soup. That soup is absolutely *nothing* to write home about. It was edible, and because I was hungry, I consumed it. Make note, though: it's not good. It's plain, underseasoned, and looks pretty dreary. No crackers, either. Not the best of starts.
However, there's some redemption, here: the salmon was actually pretty tasty, and nicely prepared. It had a nice taste, if kind of an odd look. It came atop those mashed sweet potatoes, so you had an orangish-colored fish on top of bright orange sweet potatoes. Presentation here is a very, very low priority, and it's pretty evident. GG felt so bad about the appearance of the plate that he took some of his burger's lettuce and put it on my plate, just so there'd be something a bit more visually appealing. The mashed sweet potatoes were a bit too mushy/liquidy than I would have preferred them be, but still tasted good. Like I said, though, they got the salmon right, and that's important.
GG's burger (served with ordinary potato chips...nothing of consequence, but fries were another $2 if you wanted them) was good as well. He asked for it medium-rare, and the kitchen delivered on the request. No hands-wringing morons who're afraid to serve something with a bit of red in *that* kitchen, I should say. That's actually something, in this day and age. His Birmingham burger came topped with Gruyere (yuck...why?) which he must have liked. It also came with bacon, which he graciously allowed me to have a slice of, and credit where it's due: the slice I had was very nice. Still warm, with the correct crispness, and nice flavor. He also gave me his pickle spear, which I enjoyed.
Service was pretty good, but our server messed up when tallying up the bill. She accidentally (I'm pretty sure) charged us separately for my cup of soup, which is supposed to come with the entree. When it was pointed out, she apologized for her mistake and paid GG back for the mistake in cash, which I thought was pretty quick thinking on her feet. I think that the servers were just a tad overworked/stretched thin today because of the multiple newspaper writeups...our server told us that it was the busiest day they'd ever had to this point, so a mental error like this is pretty forgivable. I just hope it was a mental error, and not an attempt to inflate the bill.
One thing they really need to do is change the online menu and prices to reflect the actual menu and prices in the diner itself. That seared salmon entree I had? Online (www.squarelakediner.com) it says that it's $13.99 and comes with a mustard creme fraiche sauce, served with crispy garlic potatoes. In actuality, it's listed at $15.99, it has a honey mustard glaze, and those crispy garlic potatoes aren't available, or at least they weren't today when I asked about it, and we were there at normal lunch time. Even Molly Abraham says that they should have had the crispy garlic potatoes. So, $2 more, no creme fraiche, no potato substitute, and they tried to charge us for the soup. And, I think, for $7.29, the fries should be included with the burger, or that the upcharge should have only been $1, but that's just a trifle.
So, all in all, it was pretty good. Certainly nothing that would rock anyone's world at all, but to be fair, it's still early in the life of the place, they've obviously got some kinks to work out, and they're getting the most important things right. We both left feeling pretty good about the experience, and as time winds on, I think the overall performance has a good chance of improving. The setting certainly is a step or two above the average diner setting, and it's actually kind of interesting that they have a full bar in there. Service will improve, plating (I'm almost *dead* sure) will improve (seriously: it'd almost *have* to...), and if they work at it, they should be a pretty nice destination for the "Costs a little more, but it's worth it" crowd, which I'm definitely a part of.
Thank you again for lunch, GG!
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