Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Stormy Night Behind Us

A few years back Peggy and I were heading “Up North” to my parent’s cabin in Three Lakes, WI. We were getting hungry and decided to stop in at an truck stop somewhere in Wisconsin which name will remain anonymous to protect the innocent. I am not a truck stop aficionado, but I would say this place was decent by truck stop standards. When thinking of comparable restaurants Denny's, Perkins, and IHOP come to mind. Unfortunately, as we found that night, looks can often be deceiving.

As we entered the hostess seated us promptly. Looking around the dining room I would say it was a slow night with ¼ of the tables occupied at best. A short time later we were approached by our server, a young woman, 20ish in age, skinny yet with a pregnant belly, chewing and snapping gum as she asked “Can I get you something to drink”. Peggy ordered water, and I ordered a Coke. As she walked away Peggy and I smiled at each other as if we knew we were in for an interesting dining experience.

Our server returned, prefaced by several snaps of her gum, and brought us our beverages. As she haphazardly set my Coke on the table the liquid was sloshing back and forth over the edge of the glass. “Sorry I slopped on your table, can I take your order?” she said while coughing and wiping her runny nose with her finger. After placing our order we watched our server walk away…and she was never heard from again…at least at our table.

From that point on we waited…and waited…and then waited some more. We could see her, behind the counter in the back by the kitchen door talking to the cook and the dishwasher. Then a new group of people were seated in her section. She approached, gave them menus, took their drink orders and did not even look our way. At this point we were so amazed by the lack of service and incompetent treatment that we decided sit quietly and wait to see how bad it could get.

The server came back to the other table gave them their drinks and took their dinner order. Again, not even looking at us which was a feat in itself since we were right next to the table she was serving. Meanwhile, another table came in and same story, drinks were brought, order taken, etc. She brought food to the table that came in five minuets after us and then to the table that came in ten minuets after us. At this point, most people would have demanded to see the manager, but not us. We were determined to see how bad it could get. But to what extent? How long would we stay? Until the end of her shift? Overnight? No, we decided not to be that extreme, but we would wait until the table that came in after us had finished and left. That is exactly what happened. They finished their meals paid and were on their way. All this time the ne’er-do-well we formerly referred to as our server never even made eye contact with us.

After enduring the hell of being hungry and having no service at all we got up and went to the cashier to report our awful experience. When asked who our server was we told her the skinny brown haired pregnant girl. The cashier immediately rolled her eyes and said “Oh, that’s Stormy” giving us the impression that this has happened before. Unfortunately that did not seem to make a difference because the cashier did not even apologize for the service and proceeded to charge us for the coke that I had purchased 45 minutes earlier. I looked at Peggy in disbelief and suggested we pay thus putting the icing on the cake to the worst dining experience (or lack their of) ever!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Most ridiculous fortune ever!

Last night Peggy and I ate Chinese take out and my fortune read: "Just believe it. Water and oil cannot be mixed." That has to be the most silly fortune I have ever read. Wait, it is not even a fortune, it's a statement. Come to think of it over the last decade I have noticed the slow demise of the fortune cookie. It seams that they are no longer fortune cookies but "statement cookies." (and lame statements at that)

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Lone Spur Grill and Bar - Minnetonka, MN - Review

Lone Spur Grill and Bar
11032 Cedar Lake Road

Minnetonka, MN 55305



“Tex-Mex Cooking Served with Southwestern Hospitality” are words that occupy the menu cover at the next restaurant we are going to review. Lets see if they live up to their self proclaimed slogan.

Located in yet another suburban strip mall, the Lone Spur Grill and Bar is a popular spot in the Western metro. They draw a good crowd in both the Bar and Restaurant. The theme is what you might expect when you think Tex-Mex; painted murals on the walls, southwestern style pottery, ox skulls, tapestries, cactus, etc. Not a bad job of decorating for a strip mall.

After being seated, we were greeted by our friendly server. We both decided to try a drink special called the “Perfect Margarita” ($7.95). This margarita is made with upscale tequila served table side in its own shaker. You receive a small salt rimmed martini glass adorned with a lime and a full sized metal shaker with ice and margarita inside. I would say there is enough to pour about 3-½ - 4 drinks (keep in mind the small size of the martini glass). After the first couple of sips, I must admit I had a hard time stopping. It was so smooth and sweet. It reminded me of the way I drank Kool-aid or Tang when I was a kid. I didn’t want to just sip, I wanted to slam the whole glass. So beware and bring a designated driver.

The Lone Spur always seems to have good coupon deals consistently throughout the year. You will find these in the neighborhood circulars if you live in the area or you can find them online by CLICKING HERE. Since we were ordering two entrées and two drinks, we were able to take advantage of a free appetizer coupon (up to $7).

For our appetizer we chose the Moppo Wings ($7.99) which are whole battered chicken wings with Moppo seasoning. To use internet lingo OMG, these wings are out of this world! Six whole wings served crispy and piping hot seasoned to perfection. The seasoning is so good, like regular seasoned salt, but with cinnamon and nutmeg overtones. I once had a friend from out of town visit and he thought they were so good he took two orders to go and brought then back to Menomonie, WI with him.

When ordering our entrées I decided to go with the Bourbon Steak ($14.95) an 8 oz. top sirloin rolled in dry rub and topped with sautéed mushrooms and bourbon sauce served on a bed of crispy fried onions. The server took my order and later returned to let me know they had run out of that particular entrée. I asked if they had the Carne Asada ($10.95) an 8 oz. top sirloin marinated in chipotle sauce, pan fried with tomatoes and green onions, served on a sizzler with Mexican rice and refried beans. She had to check. The manager returned and informed me it was the 8 oz. sirloin that they were out of and that they would be willing to make either of those entrées substituting two 5 oz. sirloins instead. I declined and went with the Texas Size 12 oz. Smoked Beef Brisket ($15.95). The beef brisket is smoked for 14 hours, thinly sliced, and served fanned out on a plate with homemade barbecue sauce on top. I have to admit the brisket was cooked to perfection and I did not need a knife at all. It literally melted in my mouth and when paired with Lone Spurs amazing sweet/spicy barbecue sauce it sent culinary shivers down my spine. It is worth noting that all dinners include Texas toast, choice of coleslaw or cup of soup, and choice of seasoned steak fries, ranch house beans, cornbread or baked potato (after 4 PM). I had the coleslaw (creamy and crunchy and quite tasty) and the ranch house beans (smoky and spicy with barbecue flavor).

Peggy had the Chicken Fajitas ($12.95) served on a hot sizzler with red and green peppers and onion, accompanied with a builder platter of salsa, sour cream, guacamole, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, Mexican rice, refried beans, and hot tortillas. At risk of using an oxymoron Peggy describes them as extremely average. The meat and veggies were cooked through, but seemed a bit bland. Lets face it, fajitas are not a rare find anymore. Many restaurants serve them and there is a certain standard of quality that we have come to expect. Usually when fajitas are grilled they get that nice smoky taste and the meat and veggies are blackened by the grill. Well no smoky blackened goodness here. Since this is listed on the menu as their house specialty, we will give them the benefit of the doubt and say the chef was having a bad night. They must be better than this to be a specialty.

As we finished our meal we discussed our dining experience and overall felt satisfied. The atmosphere was decent, service was prompt and friendly, drinks were fantastic, and most of the food was very good. We both recommend checking out the Lone Spur if your travels take you to the Western Twin Cities suburbs. Should you make a special trip from across town to try this place out? It depends…if you like good drinks and smoke house barbecue then yes, if you want good Mexican food we suggest you look into other alternatives.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

To water or not to water? That is the question...

Is anyone old enough to remember the good old days of going to a restaurant and not having to ask for water with your meal? Think real hard…a server approaches your table for the first time, greets you, hands out menus, and finishes with “I’ll be right back with some waters.” Most restaurants even had the water glasses right on the tables ready to be filled without as much as a mention on your part. Call me nostalgic, but I miss my water.

Today this is not the prevalent practice. In fact at most restaurants if you don’t ask for water, you will not be served a glass, period. This practice scares me about what the future has in store for us. Maybe no menus unless you ask. How about no silverware? Maybe you eat with your hands. Napkins? Why bother? The diner might use their shirtsleeve.

I know there are several reasons why water is not a sure thing anymore:

*People like their bottled water and would never be caught drinking that scary tap water.
*Restaurants can make money by selling bottled or sparkling water.
*Some people don’t drink water and restaurants don’t want to dirty the glasses and wash them if they don’t need to.
*It helps save the environment. (no wasted water, dish soap, energy for the dishwasher, etc.)

OK, there are a lot of reasons why water is not served automatically. This still is not going to stop me from asking for it each time I go out to dine. Ahhhh, I can hear it pouring out of the pitcher right now…clink, clink, splash, splash… This post is making me thirsty…gotta go…