Lunch time loves and laments | Rock Candy

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Lunch time loves and laments

Posted By on Wed, Jun 3, 2015 at 9:13 AM

click to enlarge Pork skins from Samantha's on Main St. are a tasty way to start a delicious lunch. - MICHAEL ROBERTS
  • Michael Roberts
  • Pork skins from Samantha's on Main St. are a tasty way to start a delicious lunch.

I've been doing this gig for a handful of years now, and during that time I've noticed that certain patterns arise. One that seems to crop up after a negative lunch review is the amusing idea that it's somehow "not fair" to review certain restaurants outside peak dinner hours. This idea is simply daft. We might as well do away with lunch altogether in that case. 

Reviewing a restaurant open for lunch hours, with a lunch menu, serving lunch food to people who arrive trying to eat lunch is not only fair, it's a responsibility. Ordering off the menu, one-tripping the hell out of the server and throwing paper towel on the bathroom floor—these are unfair things. If a restaurant is open and taking the public's money, the only unfair thing I can think of is to be dishonest, which is unfair to you, the reader. We love you, the reader. We want you to be happy.

Thus, lunch. I'll be honest with you all, there are some pretty lackadaisical lunch menus being served out there. And it's not hard to understand why: lunch is generally cheaper than dinner, eaten quicker and people are less-inclined to be picky about what it is they are using to fill their empty spaces so they can get back to their spreadsheets and smoke-filled board rooms. Our mighty captains of industry want, first and foremost, not to have an embarrassing growl interrupt their presentations about which widgets are sparking the imagination of the buying public this month. Tasting good just isn't a priority, right? 

Balderdash. If anything, lunch should be a daily personal celebration. You've worked hard all morning to put some scratch in the bank, and now you're taking a break to clear your mind and fill your belly. Just as your nearest junior high marching band's interpretation of "76 Trombones" would not be an ideal place to take a restful siesta, so too does sub par food mar the midday constitutional.

click to enlarge A Reuben from Dizzy's has lots going for it. - MICHAEL ROBERTS
  • Michael Roberts
  • A Reuben from Dizzy's has lots going for it.

So let's talk lunchtime choices. We'll do it from great, to decent, to not so great. Please bear in mind that any article that only features three dishes can't possibly cover everything good or otherwise served for lunch in the metro area. Throw in your picks and pans down there in the comments, and we'll do a follow-up in the future.

Yes, please more:

Samantha's Wood Grill and Taproom: Not only is Samantha's on Main St. a lovely spot for dining, they also serve up a heck of a lunch. My personal favorite is the Cuban Sandwich, featuring shaved smoked pork, ham, cheese and several slices of nice crunchy pickle with a spot of mustard. Heartier eaters will enjoy dishes like the grilled pork chops—one of the few pork chop dishes served commercially that features two thin-cut breakfast chops instead of a large slab of often-dry pork. Service is good and generally quick, drinks are numerous with a diverse selection (for those times when lunch time is lush time) and nothing is going to set you back more than it should. Treat yourself to some of their house-made pork skins to turn lunch up to 11.

Ok, that certainly didn't suck:

Dizzy's Gypsy Bistro: I'll be honest here—I like Dizzy's just fine, but I seldom eat lunch there unless it is chosen by others, which explains its middle-of-the-road ranking here. I have nothing against the place, and have passed several enjoyable meals their for both business and pleasure. Items like the Reuben are delightful to guide right into the mouth part of your face, but the frozen crinkle-cut fries just don't do it for me. I've always felt that Dizzy's was priced a dollar or three above where it should be, and service can be a bit chaotic (although generally friendly) so while the joint isn't my normal first choice, I certainly don't mind heading down there from time to time.

click to enlarge Copper Grill's enchilada plate isn't the worst, but...well, just look at it. - MICHAEL ROBERTS
  • Michael Roberts
  • Copper Grill's enchilada plate isn't the worst, but...well, just look at it.

Oh. That's...that's unfortunate:


Copper Grill:  Now comes the part of the list where someone will perhaps get their feathers ruffled and squawk about unfair lunch reviews. Like Copper Grill for dinner? Fine and good; this isn't about dinner. It's about lunch. And Copper Grill does a disappointing lunch. Case in point is the Chicken Enchilada plate. Oddly enough, talking about a chicken enchilada at a place like Copper Grill potentially opens this review up to a second of my favorite complaints:  that of ordering menu items that a restaurant shouldn't be expected to "do well." Copper Grill ain't Mexican, the reasoning goes, and therefore deserves a pass if their enchiladas aren't good. Again, balderdash. I have this bad habit of wanting items offered on a menu to taste good. It's crazy; but that's me. 

This enchilada platter doesn't rise to the challenge, though. The enchiladas themselves get the closest, with a tangy chicken-and-cheese filling that isn't inedible but doesn't save the dish. The tortillas may as well have stayed in the package for all the good they do the dish, though, and although it's hard to go wrong by covering something in melted cheese, the whole thing is pretty "meh." The real sins on the plate are those sad little lumps of beans and rice: desiccated black beans with only a ghost of a hint that there might have been an attempt at flavor and an ice cream scoop-sized ball of rice that had as its most interesting characteristic a large piece of aluminum foil tucked away in the middle like a stick of metallic gum in a pack of baseball cards made up of players who never made it out of the minors. 

Unfortunately, that enchilada lunch and its ilk are far too common. I get it: profit margins are razor thin for restaurants at the best of times and cheaper lunch prices mean that quality can sometimes suffer. Things like that enchilada dish take it just a little too far, while the cheaper grilled pork chop dish from Samantha's has never failed to please.

You deserve better, my friends. You deserve something that will help you fight the battles you wage for wages. You deserve lunch. And a damn good one at that.

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