Monday, August 8, 2016

Rate Your Restaurants: The Midwest Edition

Between June 2016 and June 2017 the four Ferri plan to dine at each of Spoons University's "45 Places to Eat in College Station Before You Die". Which meal we eat will depend on each restaurant's specialties, meaning we won't visit a steakhouse for breakfast or a donut shop for dinner. We (Tom, Will, and I) have committed to choosing menu items on which the restaurant earned its reputation, meaning we won't order a hamburger at a seafood restaurant or chicken fingers at an Italian restaurant. 

We plan to individually rate each of the restaurants on food, service, and atmosphere. We have no experience as food or restaurant critics, but we'll do our best and hopefully give BCS readers a little insight into where they can get great food but also enjoy a meal with the family in tow.

If you're new to this series, check out our previous posts by clicking on the links below:

We had gotten into a groove with our restaurant reviews, so we decided to keep the ball rolling and rate at least one well-known restaurant in each of the cities we visited throughout our July travels. When others joined us and wanted to participate, we took their rankings into account as well; it was this decision that led to the addition of a new category - "how closely do the restaurant's waiters resemble hollywood actors" - courtesy of my mom. Yes, we've really stepped it up a notch.

The primary scores are an average of our rankings. The scores in parentheses are our individual scores, and unless otherwise noted, are listed in the order of Tom, me, Will, and Hallie.

1. Polecat & Lace, Minocqua, Wisconsin
  • Food: 8.25 (8, 7, 8, 10)
  • Service: 8.5 (9, 7, 9, 9)
  • Atmosphere: 8.5 (6, 9, 9, 10) 
Though we have vacationed in Minocqua every summer for the last nine years, we had never set foot inside Polecat & Lace until last month. We stumbled upon it, and only poked our heads in because the holiday crowds had filled up and created extraordinarily long lines at our regular watering holes. The restaurant felt like an old supper club, with cozy booths, an expansive wooden bar, and kitschy chandeliers and we decided to give its simple but generous menu a try.

Midway through lunch we started talking about what our rankings might look like. When asked for her tentative numbers, Hallie declared the atmosphere a 10 and - as the waitress refilled her water glass RIGHT NEXT TO HER - the service only a 9. Can't take that girl anywhere...

2. Michael's, Washington, Illinois
  • Food: 8.75 (7, 9, 9, 10) 
Michael's received only a food score because we always order carryout. 

I eat at Michael's at least once every time I visit my sister and her family in Washington, and I also require her to bring their incredible spaghetti, tortellini, and buttered garlic sweet bread to me whenever we meet. In Wisconsin, in Arkansas...she's a trooper: buying the food, packing it on ice, and then driving it to me.

3. Greenbush Bakery, Madison, Wisconsin
  • Food: 8.25 (7, 10, 9, 7)
Greenbush received only a food score because their hole-in-the-wall shop has little service or atmosphere of which to speak. 

Greenbush Bakery stays open until 2am so University of Wisconsin students (and/or night owl parents who love donuts, ahem) can grab one or two - or a dozen - on their way home from an evening out. I don't consider myself a connoisseur of much, but if I had to pick a food on which to be considered an expert, it would be donuts. And these donuts, friends, deserve my first perfect 10 of this project. (Tom and Hallie aren't huge fans of donuts in general - as Hallie just explained to me, "I like the word 'donuts', but I don't like the food very much" - which explains their lower scores.)

4. Hubbard Street Diner, Middleton, Wisconsin
(Rankings are me and my mom.)
  • Food: 8.5 (9, 8)
  • Service: 7.5 (7, 8) 
  • Atmosphere: 8.5 (8, 9) 
When my mom and I popped into the Hubbard Street Diner for lunch, I ordered a diner staple: their chocolate milkshake. I asked to have the shake divided into two glasses so my mom and I could share; after eating all of those donuts, the last thing I needed to consume was a large tumbler filled to the brim with ice cream, whole milk, chocolate syrup, and whipped cream. Shortly after our waitress dropped off our shakes, we discovered they had been made with Oreo cookies and not chocolate. They tasted incredible though, so we sipped away and didn't bother to report the mix-up. A few minutes later, just as both my mom and I leaned back in our chairs after taking a drink, our waitress ran - literally ran - up to our table. In the span of under five seconds, she exclaimed, "THESE AREN'T YOUR SHAKES", grabbed both glasses, spun around, and emptied all that Oreo goodness into a garbage can. Then, just as quickly as she had arrived, our waitress disappeared and our table was shake-less. Not sure how to react, my mom and I burst out laughing...we were still laughing three minutes later when our waitress returned with two chocolate (and not as delicious as the Oreo) shakes.

5. Rock Hound Brewery 
(Rankings are me, my mom, and my dad.)
  • Food: 6.67 (6, 8, 6)
  • Service: 6.67 (5, 7, 8)
  • Atmosphere: 6.67 (5, 8, 7)
Though the Rock Hound Brewery's menu items looked and sounded pretentious, the four appetizers we tried went well with the different beers we sampled. The service and atmosphere didn't live up to my expectations though: the brewery was completely full of patrons, so we dealt with (understandably) slow service and a volume level that made it difficult for us to talk, even just across the table from one another.

My mom thought our waiter looked like Peeta/Josh Hutcherson from The Hunger Games, so she gave Rock Hound Brewery an 8 in the Celebrity Resemblances category. I agreed with my mom only to the extent that our waiter was a male and had brown hair, so I gave Rock Hound a 3 in Celebrity Resemblances. My dad asked, "who's pita?", so I guess his Celebrity Resemblances is a 1.

6. The Village Bar
(Rankings are me, my mom, and my dad.)
  • Food: 8 (8, 8, 8)
  • Service: 7.33 (6, 8, 8)
  • Atmosphere: 7.33 (6, 8, 8)
Looking for a cozy, friendly bar that serves tasty burgers, delicious french fries, and cold beer? One where you feel welcome to stick around when a severe thunderstorm rolls in and strands you two miles away from home? If so, check out the Village.

The menu is basic - all of the entrees (if you can even call them that, given their simplicity) and sides fit on a small marquee on the wall - but EveryDay with Rachael Ray included its burger on their "52 Burgers You Gotta Try!" list.

While we had fun dining out in the Midwest, the four Ferri are excited to return to eating our way through College Station!

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