One Star

Let me begin with the service, which is abysmal. On more than one occasion, I have arrived at the establishment to find our table unprepared and cluttered. More appalling, during these same visits, the kitchen staff has charged myself and a fellow diner, Caitlin, with clearing and setting the table ourselves. Often, upon a dinner’s completion, patrons are tasked with bussing their own dirty dishes and aiding the dishwasher—a harried man who works at the beck and call of the chef. The simple rituals of this job seem to lie beyond his apparently limited capabilities.

The menu, while broad, varies in quality. As each night’s fare is decided upon by the chef, be wary in planning your visit. Spaghetti, the lone dish of Italian origin, is served with a frequency bordering on the lazy. It is cooked al dente, with an uninspired meaty sauce that reads as distinctly inauthentic, yet passes muster. Be sure to add extra gobs of Parmesan cheese to the dish, though only if the chef allows you to do so and/or is distracted with other matters. The tacos, cooked with a spicy Tex-Mex twist and served buffet style, are more satisfying. Do try the guacamole, a house specialty. And don’t dare miss the signature dish: cheeseburgers, a seasonal favorite prepared by the aforementioned dishwasher on an outdoor grill and, thus, served only during warmer months.

Note that the kitchen is inconsistent when addressing dietary restrictions. For instance, during the two-month window that Caitlin was experimenting with vegetarianism, her eating habits were painstakingly accommodated. On some nights, the prix fixe menu was even altered, so that her fellow patrons were forced to forsake meat and poultry against their will. However, during the same period, when a second, smarter diner announced to the wait staff that he would be eating only those foods derived from the chocolate family, his diet was dismissed out of hand and even mocked.

On a similar note, be mindful of the establishment’s quirks. I can think of no other local eatery that forces its patrons to fully consume a (revolting) side of brussels sprouts before being allowed to proceed to the dessert menu. Despite much vehement lobbying from the clientele against this monstrously unfair edict, it seems likely to stand.

The atmosphere is homey and quaint, and the dress code decidedly lax. On religious holidays and other select evenings, patrons are served hors d’oeuvres—standard issue cheese platters, crackers, and dips—before retreating to a more formal and rarely used dining room. On these occasions, a sommelier, Uncle Donny, is present. He is knowledgeable in all matters of wine, beer, and liquor, much to the dismay of the chef.

Some words on sanitation: Whether or not the kitchen is up to code remains in doubt. The proprietors have flagrantly neglected to display a lettered grade, which is an odd development in light of their excessive concern regarding the grades received by others. Were a sanitation inspector to visit the premises, he would encounter a Labrador retriever freely roaming both cooking and dining areas; Caitlin and her annoying friend Stacy refusing to wear shoes or socks while eating; and a cook who dons neither hairnet nor disposable plastic gloves. So eat at your own risk.

Although getting a table is never a problem (reservations are not required), the kitchen’s hours of operation prove erratic. At times, it seems as though service depends entirely on the schedule of the dishwasher, who works a second job. Furthermore, the chef—who has the volatile temperament of many in her trade—is known to erupt at those patrons who drift into her kitchen seeking chocolate appetizers while dinner is being prepared. Indeed, despite the odd culinary triumph, the inherent lack of professionalism from the staff makes it difficult to recommend frequenting the establishment at all.

The prices, however, are quite reasonable.