Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Charleston's Restaurant

FLO decided to finish up 2008 with a visit to Charleston’s on 82nd street off of I-69. Fred had the pleasure of devouring one of the best prime rib sandwiches of his life thanks to a holiday lunch at work and insisted the whole FLO give it a go! And we are so glad we did!
From the outside, there doesn’t seem to be anything particularly special about the design, but from the moment you walk in the door, the feeling of dark, warm, and classy shines through. There are two main dining areas, the bar, well placed to your left, the kitchen straight ahead and the main dining area across from the kitchen with the hustle and bustle visible to the clientele. Interior elements include, exposed stone, brick, dark wood paneling and lattice, wrought iron, gas sconces, and high backed leather booths as the majority of seating options. The especially loud atmosphere definitely makes one feel just fine bringing the kids along, and somehow makes it homey.
We were fortunate enough to be seated in a booth adjacent to the kitchen scene…5-6 chefs running around the kitchen, a meticulous expeditor, and stressed waitstaff dealing with a very busy dining area. Although, you wouldn’t necessarily know it. Not only was our own waiter able to keep up with our needs, but another waitperson went out of her way to make small talk with Ozzy on a couple of occasions, adding to a real family feel.
Oh, and in case you hadn’t guessed already, the food was awesome! The menu is simple…a one pager shared between lunch and dinner with a nice variety of somewhat familiar dishes. FLO started with the Shrimp Escargot, then Fred chose the Chicken Piccata, Libby the Rigatoni Bolognese and Ozzy, hmmmm…the Mac ‘n Cheese? No?! Really?! All the entrées were home runs! Straight out of the ballpark!
Our starter was shrimp, escargot-style, covered in crispy melted havarti. It was accompanied by two slices of light garlic toast. A nice dish, very scampi-like, but the real proof was in the entrees!
Fred’s very tender chicken was smothered in a caper/asparagus/artichoke/tomato medley that was out of this world – almost a side-dish unto itself! Just the right amount of zest, a little crunch and a melt in your mouth experience. One of the best piccatas Fred has ever had!
Libby’s Bolognese was delightful. A robust, cream based sauce with a perfectly spiced sausage. Not only did the sausage add a warm-to-the-tummy experience, but the herbs and spices in the sauce gave it a real flavor punch. It was hard to decide who’s entrée was the best.
Ozzy’s Mac ‘n Cheese? Almost too good to be considered a kid’s entrée. Simple penne with a lightly cheesy cream sauce…yum. We were a little worried it wasn’t cheesy enough for a 4-year-old palate, but BOY did Oz prove us wrong! After he finished his penne, out came a HUGE complimentary two scoops of vanilla ice cream with a giant chocolate chip snickerdoodle cookie! Charleston certainly knows the route to a boy’s heart!


Wrap Up
-$$-$$$, Very affordable. Especially for the quality of the food!
-****, Deep and sumptuous.
Service-***, Very accommodating and professional.
- A+, High praise!! I'm not sure you could beat the quality of food combined with very reasonable prices. All I needed was a snifter of brandy and a cigar.
Libby - A+, Wonderful overall experience. As an avid people-watcher, being able to observe the kitchen and the pulse of the dining area served as entertainment in itself. The food overall was excellent and the decor, simply beautiful.
-B+, "Pretty good." "Cold ice cream and a giant cookie. It was a circle." :)

Charleston's on Urbanspoon

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Arni's Restaurant

Having opened less then 2 weeks ago, we went into Arni's new Greenwood location with low expectations. Not being a fan of the chain bar & grill's, FLO was prepared to be underwhelmed. Although still a chain, technically, Arni's is an Indiana-only organization based out of Lafayette and operating since 1965.

Problem #1. Location. They chose a very remote area on US135 where a previous Damon's had already perished. If you don't live south of Smith Valley, you'd never know it's there. With as many other open commercial spaces available in town, we hope the rent is darned near free. Not to mention Applebee's & O'Charley's are a mere 1/4 mile away and in better locations. Being as anti-chain as we are, we hope they can overcome.

But all is not lost, as Arni's provides people with good reason to look down the road from the "TGI-McFunster" mediocrity. (Thank you, Mr. Bourdain)

While the interior design is obviously still a work-in-progress (some lighting non-functional and all walls bare), the layout is sensible. They provide a good-sized entry, followed by a large front dining area with fireplace, a central bar & a large family dining area in the rear. It is obvious, even though they have a comfortable looking bar room, that this is a family-centric establishment.

Unfortunately, we noticed areas that lacked working lighting were still being utilized for guests. Not a smart first impression for those diners. On a better note, we observed that each server had been given a pager. A smart way, presumably, for the kitchen to communicate with the wait staff. Why is this not done elsewhere?

But we digress. It's about the food, right?! The menu is quite extensive. Appetizers, burgers, pizzas, pastas, wraps, sandwiches, salads and desserts. Nothing out of the ordinary, but something for everyone. Fred was worried he was in for a sub-par evening.
Libby was hopeful, considering it's roots. Ozzy's carb levels were low.

Upon searching, seemingly in vain, for something different, Fred stumbled upon the Chipotle Shrimp & Bacon tacos. They proved to be a super-spicy explosion! No McFunsters here! One criticism. Instead of a ranch dressing side, how about sour cream or blue cheese? The ranch didn't complement an otherwise incredibly flavorful dish. The accompanying caesar salad, while nothing to write home about, was tasty.

With the sign's proclamation of "Pizza and Stuff ", Libby opted for the pizza. While we find that restaurants usually can only do either the Pizza or the Stuff adequately, we needed a balanced perspective. Although there is an extensive ingredient list and some interesting specialty pizzas, Libby decided to go with a base pepperoni pizza. What makes this pizza a little different is that they are a thin crust and the pepperoni is diced. Not to it's detriment, Libby was initially reminded of Totinos. A huge fan of the spiced beef, or "monkey meat" Totinos, this offered an excellent dining out alternative. The crust, although thin, still had a chewy texture, slight crisp, and a nice spice to the pepperoni. It was definitely greasy, as they did not skimp on the cheese either. If only they offered monkey meat...

Ok, so guess what? Ozzy got the Mac 'n Cheese (Kraft variety, per the menu). No comment. But the fries on the side were "good". After a weekend of not eating due to illness, we were happy to see the boy enjoying sustenance.


Wrap Up
Price-$-$$, Very affordable.
Atmosphere-***, Assuming that the interior will be completed in due time.
Service-***, Fast. Although a generally young staff, they were very accommodating and well coordinated.
Fred -B, Variety is good. But not the SAME variety everyone else has, please....
Libby - B, Pizza wise, there's some serious competition in this city. A good pizza, but I'd like to sample more! The beer tap left something to be desired with Blue Moon as the only viable option.
Ozzy -B, Two bites of Kraft Mac and fries almost gone. Libby, "Is it good?". Ozzy, "Yeah."
Arni's Restaurant on Urbanspoon