RSS Feed

Other Than That, Mrs. Lincoln, How did You Enjoy the Play?

To say that this is not a restaurant town would be an understatement of elephantine proportions.  Although Ann Arbor, a college town barely an hour’s drive from here, has more than their share of high quality dining establishments from cheap and interesting to white tablecloth and superb, we have nearly nothing. Every chain in The Big Book of Franchise Success is established here, and there are a handful of very good, inexpensive dives and ethnic eateries, but there is almost no place in this town where one can have an attractive room, an interesting and thoughtful menu, good service, and great food. (There are exceptions, but this is a rant and I’m not in the mood).

On Friday night, my parents took my family and my visiting mother in law to a local “fine dining” establishment called Hershey’s. To its credit, Hershey’s is not a chain restaurant, and it has survived here for 23 years while many others have come and gone. Their independence makes me want to like them, and say that everything was great, but I just can’t do it. Let’s think of this particularly abysmal review not as a kick in the kidneys, but as a challenge to do better.

The restaurant is attractive, and our waiter was both skilled and attentive. We ordered, Mr, Annie and my father choosing the Halibut Sandwich, my mother in law selecting a chicken sandwich, Sam picking a New York Strip, and my mother and I opting for an appetizer and the salad bar – Baked Brie for her, Baked Goat Cheese for me. Although Mr. Annie is a major red meat eater, and Hershey’s is, well, “Hershey’s Steak and Seafood,” he had a bad run in with a steak on his last visit, and was (I believed at the ordering stage) cutting off his nose to spite his face by ordering a fish sandwich, instead.

We sat outside, because (owing, I think, to the Steakhouse theme), the inside is dimly lit, and it was a beautiful evening. It became immediately clear that, despite the umbrella over the table, two of the six of us were going to be blinded by the setting sun at any given moment. The waiter obligingly tipped the umbrella, which left only one of us blind and simmering. The manager then came over and lowered the awning over the tables, which solved the problem. While the response was satisfying, the amount of dithering over the fact that there was sun and it was setting, as it does every day on that patio, was somewhat bizarre.

The salad bar was fresh and good, offering the usual lettuce, vegetables, potato salad, ambrosia, and other Midwestern standards. I added points for the presence of freestanding bottles of Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar and roasted red peppers, and subtracted for the mysterious presence of whole, rather than chopped, hard-boiled eggs, and a glutinous vat of what appeared to be canned apple pie filling.

So the “real” food started to arrive. Although the menu referred to the Halibut Sandwich as, well, “The Halibut Sandwich,” the waitress sent to deliver them referred to them approximately five times as “Halliburgers.” (Which reminded me of Halliburton briefcases, which probably taste quite similar). They were, in fact, more like compressed wads of Kleenex baked in breading. The fish squares, reminiscent of The Gorton’s Fisherman cooking for an elementary lunchroom were thin, dwarfed by the breading, and baked rather than fried so that the outside “crispy part” was dense and fairly tough. The oven fries served on the side (Hershey’s does not have a deep fryer, which is commendable but undoubtedly contributed to the misery that is the Halibut Sandwich dinner) were burned. On the positive side, the remoulade sauce was tasty, but did little to balance the awfulness. Fortunately, Mr Annie had also ordered the salad bar, so he filled up on salad.

My mother’s Baked Brie arrived, topped with the cinnamon apple stuff from the salad bar, and served with little rounds of peppery bread. I went in with an open mind, thinking that apples and cheese go well together, but the combined effect of the VERY sweet and thick apple goo, the Brie and the sharp peppery flavor of the toast rounds had some sort of violently negative impact on me at a molecular gastronomy level. It was just wrong, and it tasted bad. Trying the cheese and apple on a slice of plain bread was an improvement, but I would still not have paired the creamy, mild cheese with something so bland, thick and sweet. Strike Two.

My own personal dinner of Baked Goat Cheese was not bad; it was served with roasted garlic, roasted red peppers, toast rounds and (oddly) celery sticks. I might have tweaked it; I probably would have preferred crackers or crisper, unbuttered and unflavored toast rounds, but the cheese was nice, and the garlic was well-roasted, and they paired well.

About the time I started eating my meal, Sam received his steak, and began to cut it, complaining that it was kind of tough and fatty. Since he is on the verge of adolescence, and somewhat paranoid about meat fat (as I was at his age), I pretty much ignored him. His dinner looked fine; the steak was flanked by two scoops of garlic mashed potatoes, and there was a monkey disk of broccoli in cheese sauce with a crumb and butter topping. In the midst of lively conversation about shame and the Chinese national identity, Sam, who generally doesn’t interrupt adult conversation, interrupted to say that he had discovered a staple in his steak. And he had. It was either a straightened staple or a random piece of silver-colored wire, lying tidily on the edge of the plate. We speculated on the circumstances under which the cow was stapled, called the waiter over to share our good fortune, and tried to avoid thinking about the damage that might have been caused by ingesting a piece of metal wire with two sharp ends. Strike Three.

Although Sam’s dinner was replaced cheerfully, and we were not charged for it, the skies were not blue again over our mealfeasance. In the replacement meal, the adequate looking broccoli with cheese sauce was replaced by a monkey dish with three spears of broccoli standing in approximately 1/16 inch of cheese sauce,a bit dessicated, and without butter or crumbs this time. Also, despite the fact that the manager was visibly on the premises, and that the waiter had asked him permission to remove the charge for the dinner due to the staple debacle, he never came to the table to apologize for the offending object, even in a noncommittal/non sue-able sort of way.

I want to support the little guy, the local guy, the guy who survives the onslaught of Smokey Bones and Applebees, and keeps trying. Really, though, Hershey’s has to try harder. The prices are high for this area, and for the price of the salad bar I could have eaten a filling and wonderful meal at our favorite Thai restaurant, or had a Greek omelet with fresh tomatoes and imported Feta at our favorite greasy spoon. It just wasn’t good, and neither an attractive decor nor a good waitstaff makes up for food that is ill-conceived and carelessly prepared.

Hershey’s Steak & Seafood
2682 East Grand River
East Lansing, Michigan 48823

Advertisements

About imagineannie

I feel like I'm fifteen - does that count? I'm lots of things, I get paid to be the Managing Editor for a local news publication, and I love my job. I am also inordinately fond of reading, animals (I have four), elephants, owls, hedgehogs writing, tramping in the woods, cooking India, Ireland, England, avocado toast, Sherlock Holmes, Harry Potter, Little Women, Fun Home, Lumber Janes, Fangirl, magic, Neil Gaiman, Jane Austen, YA books, not YA books, classical music, Salinger (OMG SALINGER), Brahms, key lime pie, indie music, podcasts, sleeping in, road trips, marmalade, museums, bookstores, the Oxford comma, BBC, The Miss Fisher Mysteries, birdwatching, seashells, kombucha, and stickers. Not a huge fan of chewing gum, jazz, trucker hats or dystopian and/or post-apolcalyptic fiction (but I'll try anything).

17 responses »

  1. Ouch! Not even the old “condemned by faint praise” tactic–I wonder if Hershey’s reads your blog (they should, obviously, if they care). Funny, I don’t remember this restaurant at all, but I’ll pass, now that I know the manager is apathetic. You’re the Michael Bauer of East Lansing, now, Ann. Restaurant reviews are serious business here in SF and a bad review by SF Chronicle Michael Bauer can mean a shut-down of a new restaurant. I’ve even heard of restaurants posting a picture of Michael Bauer in their kitchens in case he pops in so the staff knows who they’re dealing with. I enjoyed reading this.

    Eric

    Reply
  2. Ann,

    Mealfeasance? I thought we had worked through this with Brobdingnagian.

    Im just glad you weren’t hungry, too, when you got home and typed this…..

    Robert

    Reply
  3. I am so sorry your dinner was not a pleasant experience. Been there .. Done that. Alas we don’t have fine dining where I live either. We are well stocked with Eastern Barbeque…. but sometimes a good ole red barbeque would be nice. Our nearest “big” town is Raleigh…. there is a lot of good food there. I just don’t want to drive an hour! Take care. Christina

    Reply
  4. Eric mentiions San Francisco’s Michael Bauer.

    I have seen the photo flier he mentions, except the one I saw reads:

    WANTED ! ! DEAD OR ALIVE ! !

    (it was posted in the kitchen of an Embarcadero restaurant)!

    Reply
  5. Sorry to hear about your miserable dining out experience. My last “nice” restaurant meal one month ago was lousy too. And don’t get me started on $10 glasses of wine. I still regret the money we gave the place – half my weekly grocery money. Thankfully, these kinds of meals fuel our desire to cook. I enjoy your posts. Glad your mother is feeling better.

    Reply
  6. Eric, I can only aspire to be Michael Bauer. I’m glad you enjoyed the post; writing it was a great deal more enjoyable than eating the meal of which I write.

    Robert, you do this whole “I’m just a country boy” thing, but you are sharp as a tack. I like “mealfeasance,” it makes me smile. Besides; I’m a lawyer.

    Christina, I am ashamed to say I don’t know what Eastern Barbecue is or what “red barbecue” is. Will you clue me in?

    Tony, I’ve heard that Mr. Bauer arouses pretty strong emotions on the SF restaurant scene. He should spend a month eating around here, which would cause him to be overjoyed and charitable about the worst SF has to offer…..

    Martha, Thanks for coming by, and I’m glad you enjoy the blog. I don;t mind a $10.00 glass of wine if its good, and I don;t mind spending on a meal that’s thoughtful and well-intentioned, even if I don’t love it. I mind paying for the sloppy and the yucky.

    Reply
  7. I like mealfeasance, too, cute and you should trade-mark it if that were possible. I’m glad Robert mentioned it, though, because I missed it on my first read-through, causing me to re-read the whole post and I’m glad. I caught a lot of things I missed the first time. I’m as guilty as Hershey’s, this post has a lot of nuances I missed, but glad I caught later–the funniest “since he is on the verge of adolescence and paranoid about meat fat…I pretty much ignored him.” I don’t know why this struck me as so funny, but I laughed out loud when I read it looking for the word “mealfeasance.”

    Good stuff

    eric

    Reply
  8. Eric, have I told you lately that I love you? Oh, wait – i have!! 🙂

    Reply
  9. and you just keep me hangin’ on…

    Reply
  10. Oh, Eric; I’m trying…..

    Reply
  11. Anne, like I really needed another blog to follow religiously! Don’t you know I’m swamped with good Internet reading already?

    But this blog is great and I hope you’ll keep reviewing places in this restaurant wasteland we live in (or if you’re like that–“in which we live.”)

    We went to Hershey’s about 5 years ago and the meal was so bad (especially for the price, but even disregarding that) that we still shake our heads as we pass by. I’m with you on avoiding the national chains, so if you want to point out your other favorites in town, please do so. Which Thai place is your favorite? Which greasy spoon for the greek omelettes (sounded a bit like that one on Cedar with “diner” in the name that I know when I see it but can’t remember the name.

    I’m forwarding the link here to my foodie niece who’ll enjoy it. Too bad she lives in Minneapolis (especially too bad because we now rarely get a taste of her amazing baking skills…)

    Reply
  12. We recently tried a local “classic” known as Cannon Brewpub and were disgusted by the food. The prices seemed high once we got the food which looked frighteningly like cafeteria lunch slop. The “homemade” root beer was like syrup and served lukewarm without fizz. Above us was a fascinating paddle fan cooling system which squeaked, groaned, and rattled above the eighties mix tape playing through scratchy speakers. Throughout the meal, we sensed that the paddle fan was about to fall from the aged plaster ceiling and come crashing down on our heads — and probably greatly improving our food.

    None of us dared try the beers having sipped all we could stand of the root beer. If they could ruin root beer and basic food items like burgers and fries — what would they do to a pale ale?

    Yes, supporting the little guy is the Right Thing to Do but does it have to be so ding dang miserable?

    Loved your post.

    Have you seen the new blog?
    RazorFamilyFarms.com

    Blessings!
    Lacy

    Reply
  13. Amy, thanks for checking out the blog! The Thai place we like is Thai Kitchen, and the greasy spoon is Sparty’s. Come back when you can; I’m just coming out of a long dry spell.

    Lacy, your story sounds painfully familiar. I’ll still try to support the local guy, but I will not pay to eat cruddy food again. I am on my way to check out your new blog right. this. second.

    Reply
  14. HI Anne!

    I stumbled over here from Runs With Spatula and when I saw your mention of a staple in the steak, I had to read the story.

    It’s amazing how the highest caliber (alleged) restaurant won’t do much but you go to someplace a little lower of brow and they bend over backwards to take care of things. We ate at the truck stop out on Lansing Road near 96 one night and discovered a tiny speck of mold on the bottom of a burger bun. In a flash, entire meal for two on the house plus an offer of free pie.

    Reply
  15. genie, thanks for coming by! I absolutely agree with you. I keep thinking they’ll see this and send me a “we’re sorry” e-mail….and still nothing. In contrast, one of the small Chinese Buffets in the area was very quick to set things right a few weeks ago when my husband found a screw in his eggroll. (We apparently attract foodborne metal…).

    Reply
  16. Pingback: Pretty is as Pretty Does « Forest Street Kitchen

  17. Pingback: Other Than That, Mrs. Lincoln, How did You Enjoy the Play … | Hunger Hut

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: