I paid my first visit to Allen and Sons in about a year, and found it as I remembered it. The cue and the slaw were excellent (A); the fries, though fresh cut, were flaccid and soggy (C); the hushpuppies were oil-soacked and dense to the point of inedibility (D); the blueberry pie was okay (B-); the bread pudding was like a tasteless wet sponge (C-). And, to boot, the meal was not cheap by cue standards: $30 for two. I left the restaurant feeling mildly annoyed. Why -- with such good cue as the centerpiece -- was the meal so mediocre when taken as a whole? For one thing, I noticed when glancing behind the counter that the hushpuppies were not served fresh from the oil. They were pre-cooked and lying in a giant pile, and then either refried or reheated under a lamp. The same may have applied to the fries. What's the excuse for such lousy versions of such simple dishes -- hushpuppies, fries, bread pudding -- when an earnest homecook will have no trouble making exemplary versions of these basics? Why is it that every bistro in France can make perfect fries -- toothsomely crisp on the outside, fluffy on the inside, fragrant with the scent of earth -- but in America such fries are an occasion for hosannahs and roadtrips? I recur to my old explanation: the American restaurant culture is suffused by a subtle laziness. Plain and simple.
I'll return to Allen and Sons for its fine cue, but next time I'll skip the extras that would have lent the meal a pleasing completion.
Changing my tune, let me again extol Taqueria Superior, where my wife and I had a wonderfully cheap and piquant meal last week: six tacos al pastor, a beef quesadilla, chili-marinated carrots and fixings on the house, and two diet cokes (it seemed a bit too hot for horchata), all for $12. We left with unqualified smiles.