24. August 2010 18:19
The dudes juicing at the health club rarely remember that the roids will only make them look big. To get strong they actually have to lift big and suffer like the rest of us. Fat Smitty’s burger is the roid-head who does 12 sets of forearm curls.
No other time in dining memory has there been so great a chasm between the way a burger looks and the satisfaction it bestows. Or takes away. The Fat Smitty builds us up so high with something looking so delicious and then drowns the tasting center of our brains with large portions of horrendous mediocrity.
The restaurant itself is a novelty – that wore off after one visit. The 5-foot burger in the driveway, the menacing “keep off” signs, the thousands of dollar bills stapled to every surface everywhere all scream: “Look at ME! I’m the most uniquest (sp?) dive-bar ever!” And in that, they have a point. Never before has a burger looked so good and tasted so average. It did not help that the patties were grotesquely overcooked and drowned in not-so-secret ranch dressing. The “Freedom Fries” (yes, there are still people who think this play is cute) are ok but honestly, when they’re cut as large they just don’t cook through as well without making the outside overcooked. The service is downright rude and the fizzy sugar sodas don’t come with refills.
How many strikes is that? Cuz here’s another: you know all those dollar bills stapled to the walls and ceilings and every other damn place? Well, they’ve been there for a while. This means that whereas the average restaurant that has, oh, I don’t know, 4 walls to clean, Fatty’s has 10,000 times the surface area all sitting there catching dust. And releasing it into your food every time someone opens the door or walks quickly to the bathroom. 5-minute rule does not apply to that collection of filth. Is there a 5-year rule? I don’t imagine the rude relics working there bust out the feather-duster all that often.
Anyway, if you really want to come here, have the clam chowder and watch your friends be disappointed by themselves. Sneak a bite of their patty and you’ll thank me for saving you the blow.
21. August 2010 21:04
To those who said Seattle can’t do a perfect meal (like the author) Toulouse Petit gives a big four-fingered shocker. And those who still quote the tired grandpa-ism: “do one thing and do it well” TP knocks into the future by excelling in so many places. One could, and should, eat here for a week.
Who is anyone to say that a restaurant must have a narrow specialty just because most do? It’s rarely a lack of imagination or ability but constraints of the real world. Money, space, time and staff are all limiting factors in a restaurant’s ability to redline the chef’s creative engine. So most run at cruising RPMs. Chefs are artists to the core and will, given time and capital, throw 10 thousand things out on the tables and let their customers decide what soars or sinks. Indeed the biggest source of friction in food service is the push outward from the kitchen against the push inward from accounting. Guess who always wins? But Brian Hutmacher, Toulouse Petit’s owner seems to not shed a single tear for accounting’s sake. Enter an owner who has decided that the quest for quality is a higher cause than turning a dollar into 2. Luck is the story of his chef: Eric Donnelly. Tragic that of his accountant.
Who serves Duck Confit for $14? Huge bowls of soup and salads for less than 10? Who remains in the known universe that offers a quality NY Strip for $25? Even Outback charges more inflicting mortal fright upon the Big Mac crowd on “downtown night.” And so, the evening began with apprehension – apprehension that died a first-bite death. The fried-chicken gumbo and French Onion soup could have been, for their pittance of a price, much worse and still scored well on the value scale. Some claim that French Onion Soup should only be served in little fired crock-pots with overflowing cheese. Some also claim that gumbo should be a thick-as-honey stew. These were neither and yet still delicious. Donnelly has an opinion and it isn’t cliché programming. It’s nice to get a unique perspective.
Main-course consisted of Big Easy Jambalaya and Jumbo Barbied Shrimp. The former promised “unapologetic spice” and but needed no apology. Then again, the author orders 5-stars from Mae Phim and pours Habanero Tabasco on eggs. Point is: it’s easy to hide behind heat and TP has no need. The flavor was as terrific as the portion. The shrimp was similarly tasty but not quite on the level of the Ivy. The grits however, were absolutely divine. Just remember that the Ivy will charge you double for a very small improvement and again we’re back to the whole value thing. No matter what you think of the meal, remember that 2 people will waddle out of the restaurant spending less than a C-note.
TP isn’t perfect. Their online menu’s prices don’t always concur with the receipt. Can you say nit-picking? Its bar is slow-to-notice you but nothing compared to most of Seattle. Also, such an affordable meal should not dunk you headfirst into a $12 price for a martini (at least they overfill it). But with prices and options like these, we can afford a little trial-and-error.
All should hope for Toulouse Petit’s success. I am tired of talent being pigeon-holed. Wouldn’t it be great to see Bayless’ roll on sushi or Trotter’s toss on pizza and still have enough to pay your underwater mortgage? Well, they should all send a spy to get a job with Hutmacher and learn how he keeps the prices low, the menu vast and the CPAs out of the damn kitchen.
13. August 2010 17:46
In the universe of margarita, the difference between decency and excellence is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug. Big Star serves up lightning in a pitcher.
It all starts with good intentions. “Let’s go out for a margarita” someone will propose. Calling the proposed “a margarita” is supposed to imply unary but is actually a bunch of optimistic bull-poopy. No afternoon starting with “A Margarita” ends there. Like those who watch a “little football” the notation is false before the activity begins. And as good as Big Star’s drinks have been no one is going home with one.
And thus, all participants who that afternoon went out for a margarita, wound up with a pitcher down their collective and expanding belt. The few memories that remain are of sweet taste but grainy texture. It did not matter that people had BBQs to hit or birthdays to celebrate. Some had the wherewithal to take the train only to awake well beyond their stop. Others may as well have driven sideways. Still others felt like reversing digestion’s course but could not remember if that had already been accomplished. For reasons obvious only in-the-moment, two porcelain prayers would have simply felt unclean.
The food at Big Star is not predictable. Neither is service – but not because the staff is anything other than hard-working. They just need 2x-3x during summertime because the crowd they squeeze into the outdoor area is simply too big a numerator for such a paltry denominator. But no matter. The margaritas join Matchbox/Silver Palm and The Ivy in Beverly Hills as some of the best this crew has ever had and they put it in a pitcher costing $30. At the Ivy, that’ll buy you 1.79 drinks. With those prices, you won’t be day-drinking and missing any birthday parties. Big Star, however, well…you’ve been warned.