Friday, June 04, 2004

Pappa's Cafe

I am a confirmed east sider, as my father will be happy to tell you. As such, I have occasion to drive to ANM on the lake road, or as the maps call it Highway A. This means I have driven past Pappa's Cafe about a million times. I have never stopped to eat there before Thursday, when my two goals were "shop for books" and "eat at new restaraunt."

After finding a title or two at the PBX on Commercial, I thought there would be no better time to eat at Pappa's since they share the same nice blond brick building.

I was suprised by the layout of the resteraunt, which was different than the picture I had in my mind. There are basically three dining areas, one with the register and about four tables, one main area with about ten, and a rear area with a similar amount. It was clean and brightly lit, and soon filled with people eating lunch.

My food was very good, especially the Chicken Vegatable and Dumpling soup, which was somewhere between a standard broth and creamy soup, and was much better than the last family restaraunt soup that I had. This came with my dinner, the four piece Broasted Chicken. Also included were a roll, (which I was too full to try) some (previously frozen) peas and carrots, and a basket of french fries that would serve two at most other places. The chicken itself was very nice, crispy but moist, just the way broasted chicken should end up. There was a wide selection of pies which I was also too full to try.

The service was friendly but just a bit slow. At least two parties who arrived after me received food before my entree came. This might be because they broasted the chicken just for me, which would have been worth the wait. My waitress did take long enough to check whether or not it was available that the other waitress asked me if I had been helped though.

Overall, it was a great experience, a nice balance of a lot of food and quality food for a reasonable (although not cheap) price.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Let's go everywhere on this list

It's out, new for 2004!

Sunday, May 30, 2004

Brooklyn's Grill

Hi. I have been to six restaurants since the site started, and I will be endeavoring to review all of them as soon as possible.

I went to lunch with two business associates to the newly-opened Brooklyn's Grill on Wednesday, May 26. The restaurant has been through several iterations during my lifetime, this latest on seems to be as an upscale urban grill with a 'mobster' theme. The owner stopped by during our meal and said they had been open for about two weeks.

Brooklyn's is a promising establishment, but deeply flawed in ways that could probably be easily rectified with a little care and common sense. I am not optimistic that the changes have a chance of being made, but there's no harm in suggesting.

Brooklyn's is a long, narrow establishment, dominated by a long faux granite bar. The prevalence of the bar and multiple televisions mounted on the walls makes it seem to be more of a bar than a restaurant, though the menu and staff make that seem unlikely. The dining area consists of several tables that run the length of the main room, with the bar taking up about half of the other side. The drop ceiling is made of tiles that have been molded and painted gold to appear like a tin ceiling, a nice touch.

The waitstaff all dress in what I can only call mobster stripper chic - oversize coats and suits with tipped black hats. The service was poor, the waitresses seemed unsure of everything, even how to pronounce 'vinaigrette'. All of them babbled every time they came into contact with our table, which made dining more tedious than it needed to be.

The menu was a basic upscale sandwich grill, various burgers, chicken sandwiches, salads and wraps. Nearly everything was $7.95 for a sandwich, pickle and fried potato chips. I had a hard time following the order of the menu which had several spelling errors, trying to discern what side items came with each category of food was unnecessarily difficult. All of the menu items were named mobster-ish things like the "'You Talkin' to Me' Burger" which were not clever at all .

Being a vegetarian on Wednesdays, I ordered a Portabella Mushroom sandwich, which I ordered as such, not being one for cutesy names. The waitress was confused and asked me if I meant whatever silly name they had given the sandwich this routine was repeated for each member of our party who ordered a chicken wrap and a cheeseburger.

The sandwich was fine but unremarkable, a cooked mushroom on focaccia bread with swiss cheese and a few rings of red onion which could have used some sort of sauce for flavor. The bread was cut thin- juices from the mushroom continually seeps through a hole in the top of the sandwich.
Each sandwich came with what the waitress described as 'home-made thin-sliced seasoned potato chips'. I describe them as 'bland and crunchy.'

Overall, I would call Brooklyn's a poor experience. I say it's promising because a few improvements would make a dramatic difference.
1. Loose the over-the-top mobster thing: lose the costumes and name the food items things that make sense with what they are. The decor is open, bright and clean - you're already not going all-out with the mobster theme, so drop the kitsch.
2. Get rid of the televisions in the dining area (or turn them off during the day): The televisions distract from lunch and dinner conversation, Oshkosh does not need another place you can watch ESPNews while eating. If this is supposed to be a sports bar, they have the wrong menu and decor.
3. Train the waitstaff: After two weeks I don't expect them to have the menu memorized, but I do expect that they act courteously and have some understanding of how the serving process works.
4. Either improve the food by a full iteration or lower prices $1-$2 per item: The food was not nearly as ambitious as The Water City Grill's sandwich menu, but was noticeably more expensive.

With some serious changes like this, Brooklyn's could be a good alternative to the Water City Grill for slightly upscale, casual dining for business lunch or a nice dinner. But, unless changes are made, I would not recommend Brooklyn's to anyone over Jansen's, the Chalice or Friar Tuck's, all of whom offer more diverse menus, better service and better prices without as much half-done kitsch.
It may be unfair to compare after two weeks only, but the owners also run Razz Ma Tazz, so this is not their first restaurant.
I imagine the owners view their new endeavor as competition for the Water City Grill, but they have along, hard road to even belong in the same category.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Jansens Bar & Restaurant - Starting close to home.

I love Jansens Bar & Restarurant as if it were a cute boy in the tenth grade and I a shy girl in the seventh.
It is a small place on the East side of Oshkosh, about ten tables and a nice bar. Locally famous for its fish frys, don't go on a Friday night unless very long waits are your cup of tea. That said, any other time it is open is a delight.
Excellent meals I have had here include: Steaks, Fried fish, and maybe my favorite sandwich, a grilled chicken club with cheddar cheese and Neuske's bacon. They also make their own soups, and at several categories of desserts each day, pies, cheesecakes, tortes(!), and bread puddings(!!) which are all excellent. The service skips the fake friendliness and goes right to genuine friendliness.
I always tell my friends and family that this is the kind of place I hope to find when I go to another town and try someplace new. I am content, though, that Jansens is only three blocks away.

344 Bowen St
Oshkosh, WI 54901-5157