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Tried the Black Walnut Cafe

klanch | Apr 7, 201707:18 PM

Today I tried the Black Walnut Cafe, on 2222 out near 4 Points. I went there about 1 PM and I found it a bit disappointing.

It has the ambience of a place trying to be all things to all people. It looks to me like they tried to build an upscale Schlotzky's. The food ordering/delivery process is just like Schlotzky's. You pick what you want from a menu, tell the guy at the counter, pay for it, and get a pager. When your food is ready the pager goes off and you go get it. If you want something to drink that doesn't come from the bar, they give you a plastic cup with ice and you get what you want from liquid dispensers in the corner.

The inside is lots of dark wood paneling and subdued lighting that looked to me like they were imitating a high-end steakhouse. Especially the main dining area to the right of the door, with its pressed-tin ceiling look and hanging lights.

The area around the bar is much more brightly lit. The surface of the bar is fake granite, made to look kind of like "uba tuba" granite. But the surface is rough and it feels as plasticy as it is.

There's an open seating area, with very small 2-person tables, immediately to the left inside the front door. It reminded me of the table area in any Starbucks outlet. But it is carpeted, so the echoes aren't as painfully loud as they are in so many modern restaurants. At least they had the decency to do that much.

There's an outside seating area up front. It's right next to the driveway into the parking lot, and right next to the street that comes off 2222. People sitting there get the full benefit of the noise and the exhaust from every vehicle that passes by. Behind the building there's a lot that hasn't been built on yet, so it's still wooded and has grass and shrubs, and that's on the north side of the building, so that area would be much cooler in summer. But they put the outside seating on the southwest corner of the building so it gets direct sunlight on two sides from 10 in the morning until sundown, guaranteeing maximum possible heat.

I sat at the bar and ordered a Manhattan; I wanted to see what they would do with it. The drink was acceptable but nothing more. It cost more than $11. The bartender used the standard well drink Maker's Mark, the most generic stuff there is (he didn't ask if I wanted to use something else). The bar bill was more than $11 for something that contains 3 ingredients and takes a good bartender less than 30 seconds to make. It took him about 8 times that long because he didn't know to make it and he had to look up the recipe.

The menu has half a dozen kinds of burgers but also a lot more. Lobster mac and cheese, steaks, chicken dishes. I decided to try the French dip sandwich. It was thickly covered with cheese sauce that I *think* was based on gruyere. It had obviously been browned under a salamander. The main effect of the cheese sauce was to make eating the sandwich a sloppy process in which goo was likely to drop out or spurt out in any direction at any time. Half the sauce wound up on the plate.

A secondary effect of the sauce was to taste strong enough to make it difficult to gauge the quality of the bread, or to tell if the well-done beef was any good. (For the serious French dip mavens, they did not ask me how I wanted the meat cooked, they just went with their default setting.) It also made dipping in the au jus kind of pointless. The food did not taste *bad*, but it was almost impossible to taste anything but the sauce.

The au jus contained strands of caramelized onion, which I believe I have never before seen with a French dip. Considering the sauce, I think they use the same ingredients to make both the au jus and their version of French onion soup. For the sandwich they just topped the sandwich with the cheese instead of the liquid. Good cost control, but in my opinion kind of second-rate cooking.

The sandwish came with fries. They were OK but they were just fries. They were irregularly dusted with paprika. By "irregularly" I mean some had no paprika, some had a little, and some had enough to scar my tongue.

Overall, I would not go back. The sandwich was not really any better than at Schlotzky's. Ambience-wise, it is Shakespearean - neither fish nor fowl nor good red meat. And the bar is WAY too expensive.

Black Walnut Cafe
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