Recently, my sister paid us a visit and she had a hankering for lobster. We’re a couple of hundred miles from the coast and I wouldn’t recommend the local Red Lobster. So on our jaunt to Charlottesville, she treated us out to dinner at the Downtown Grille which is in the historic district. The location is a nice pedestrian mall with lots of outside seating for the many restaurants that line the main walkway. I usually don’t frequent expensive places like these but my sister wanted her lobster (and steak). There is a formal dining area but we decided to eat al fresco. I found the main dining area a bit stuffy and we were casually dressed. I didn’t want to ruin the dining experience of some of the patrons.
The staff was very courteous although I felt that they were shorthanded that evening. We were seated by the hostess and there was a bit of bird poop on the table which my sister had to wipe off with a tissue. We ordered some fried oysters and they were pretty good and meaty. The accompaniments of pickled veggies was very tasty. My sister ordered their Surf and Turf, and the rest of the orders were Steak Diane Pan Seared NY Strip with Fried Oysters and a Stone Ground Mustard Cream Sauce, Yorkshire Heritage Pork Chop with Mango Orange Marmalade, and Broiled Seafood Platter with Flounder, Two Scallops, Three Shrimp, and a Crab Cake with Old Bay Butter.
We were told that the entrees did not come with sides which had to be ordered separately. Okay, then. So we ordered Creamed Spinach and the Vegetable of the Day, which turned out to be collard greens. I thought it was a bit odd and somewhat plebeian but sure, I like collard greens. The server assured us that the sides were generous portions, enough for the four of us. Now I have a gripe against this practice, which I noticed in fine dining establishments. I mean, how much does it cost to throw in the sides? At the prices they were charging, I should get three sides.
My sister’s order looked fine. It was a decent-sized lobster. Good thing because she’s paying. The Steak Diane and Yorkshire Pork Chop looked okay with the exception of plating that looked incomplete because there were NO sides! But what really got to me was my own order. It had a thin fillet of flounder, averages-sized scallops and the shrimp. What about the crab cake, you say? What was supposed to be a crab cake looked like someone gotten a tablespoon and scooped some crab mixture and plopped it on the plate. It wasn’t even round. The top has a bit of browning but the bottom did not not. Was it scooped from a casserole – I don’t know. The saltiness of my dish ran from bland to super salty depending on which seafood I was eating. The shrimp was the only one that I really liked. And I forgot to mention that my dish was also swimming in butter. I had envisioned that the butter would be in a ramekin. Presentation-wise, I would give all the plates a thumbs down.
Places like these give me impetus to cook my own gourmet meals. I would rather buy high quality ingredients and prepare them myself because every time I eat at places like this, I feel like I’m being robbed.