grade: b+ and a-
sample room as a whole is almost to the mythical 'there.' many of the menu premises are interesting. you can can order tasting flights of many kinds of wine, you can sample many menu items for not a lot of cash with their small plates, plus they have some more traditional items as well and many vegetarian items.
service is all that and more, pretty much (they broke the check out by person without asking. impressive. water was never more than half empty. the art on the walls revolves into other collections, so if you're a regular, you get a different look. periodically. most of the food is really quite good. it would make a nice neighborhood hangout. though as interesting as it is, i can't say i'd make the drive to get there again. it's a bit out of the way unless you're there for a reason.
to start i got the st. pete's blue cheese, which was the best out of all the cheeses i tasted. aalas, for the good sized chunk of cheese it was, three grapes didn't really seem like enough for the plate. after, i had the grilled rachel, with real roast turkey, not deli style (major points for that), gruyere, caraway sauerkraut and homemade thousand island dressing. i think it needed a bit more cheese, but i think most things do. it also needed a bit more grilling. it was more of a kinda toasted rachel than a grilled one.
some other standouts were the garlic mashed potatoes. they tasted like potatoes with a hint of garlic and were not all dairy-heavy like many versions are. the dry aged sonoma jack was good, and the cremini mushroom dish was all that and more. the potato chips that came with my sandwich- homemade, seasoned heavily, and wow, tasty and addicting. one of those things where you finish it anyway even if you are not hungry. i would love to be able to buy some for home use.
the sample room folks make their own condiments, which i applaud (though i liked hell's kitchen homemade ketsup more, this one had an odd hint of cinnamon in it). but it's quite kickass that everything they serve, they make, so i've heard tell.
alas, a few details are escaping them, which get in the way of it being a stand out place.
some examples- you can't see the sign on the ladies room very well at all. raisin bread was an odd choice to stick in the bread basket- there were about 5 different cheeses ordered at the table, and it didn't seem to pair well with any of them. no one thought the smoked gouda went with the dill mustard it was paired with. it's not a place that can accomodate parties of more than four or so very well. they don't take reservations.
and if you're coming here for some conversation, don't. it's very very loud in here when there's more than a few tables filled. i mean, it's nice to see that they were pretty packed on a random tuesday, but with the music on top of the crown noise... it was really hard to hear anyone. (what?)
we didn't make it to the patio there in the heat, after, some people went to psycho suzi's, a few blocks down, to get patio time and heavily alcoholic drinks.
the brief guest review: we loved it, tho. would give it an a minus. a for cheeky menu copy, great atmosphere, and creative drinks. minus for sometimes aloof servers. (you can see a bit more on it in bite me though the grade is a bit lower as we ate some of the food... some of it ain't too tasty. some of it is.)
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