Tuesday, June 30, 2009

DiningDiva Review: The Back Porch at Diamond Mineral Springs

With 5-star prices and a very appealing decor concept (even sans air-conditioning) The Back Porch at Diamond Mineral Springs Restaurant in Grant Fork started off with lots of goodwill as I have dined at both Diamond Mineral Springs and Blue Springs which is their sister restaurant off of the I-70 exit just past Highland and both were nice experiences--nothing fancy but good hearty dinner-at-Grandma's house fare and done well. Add in the amazing "foot-hi pies" and I was anticipating the Back Porch as a first-class experience in the Highland area as my experience with Popeye's Chop House in St. Rose was not impressive. The restaurant was moderately busy and the menu ambitious. The plastic Wal-Mart chairs seemed a bit out of place in a restaurant where the entrees are in the $20-plus range but the white table cloths and cloth napkins were a plus--until the incredibly cheap and flimsy flatware made it's appearance. I've used more substantial PLASTIC flatware and to have soup-kitchen quality utensils should have given me the hint that the Back Porch was going to fail to meet my expectations. The salad was premade and the dressing soaked into the greens giving them a wilted and soggy appearance that was matched by the wilted and soggy flavor. Here's a clue--leave the dressing OFF until the salad is served--if you are going to have Waffle House food then Waffle House prices should be in place. My entree of salmon with crab and hollandaise (usually named Salmon Oscar--which apparently the ill-trained staff didn't know) was lovely but very light on the hollandaise that had broken just a bit. Sadly, I asked the server for a bit more hollandaise and it took more than FIFTEEN MINUTES TO ARRIVE. I tried to cancel it, preferring to eat my food while it was still hot but she told me the chef was making it specially and I didn't have the heart to tell her I didn't want it. I'm so sorry I asked for it--what kind of restaurant has to make MORE hollandaise when the item is on the menu? I've never had to wait for a special batch of hollandaise--they grab it from the bain marie and bring it out in a good restaurant because it is made by the quart. When it finally DID arrive, eighteen minutes later, my salmon was stone cold because the ceiling fan had been turning like a plane propeller chilling my food nicely while I waited. Did I mention they don't have air conditioning? On the upside, the filet that my incredibly finicky husband ordered was delightful according to him--perfectly cooked and delicious and he was long finished with his dinner while I waited for sauce. When the sauce did arrive, it was perfectly made and delicious but it didn't do a thing for the now ice-cold salmon.
The server was oblivious to all of this as their waitstaff leaves a LOT to be desired--another thing that a restaurant in this price range should have: Competent Waitstaff. However, I sucked it up and wrote it off to my stupidity in assuming that they would not take nearly 20 minutes to get three tablespoons of Hollandaise. We decided to give it another chance since my husband had so enjoyed his filet mignon, and we went again. This time the salad was even worse but I had ordered the wedge of iceberg with bleu cheese, bacon bits and as it turns out little chunks of diced red bell pepper that didn't make it to the menu description because I wouldn't have ordered it if it had. Our server was different but just as incompetent as the one we had on our first visit and she brought out our entrees about 45 seconds after she served the salads. This was OK with my husband as he said his salad was terrible (again) but it wasn't with me (since there was a hefty surcharge for the iceberg wedge and I didn't want to have a cold entree while I finished my salad which was quite good after I picked off all the bell pepper bits) so I sent the entree back to the kitchen to be kept warm while I finished my salad. I should have looked at it before I sent it back because it was a LONG way from even being cooked and rare chicken isn't something I will eat! When you can't twist the drumstick (or the wing) away from the chicken
it's not sufficiently cooked and will almost certainly cause food poisoning. At this point, once again my husband was finished eating while the server offered me something else on the menu and when I declined, she offered me a free dessert which I also declined. The Back Porch has charm (and I didn't even factor in the loud and obnoxious crying baby 3 tables away or the out of control screaming 3 year old 2 tables away) but the devil is in the details. They need to train their waitstaff and work on their food consistency and for heaven's sake GET RID of the K-mart flatware!! If you want to open a place with 5-star prices, you need to have 5 star food, service and appointments to go with it--the homestyle food next door is 100 times better for half the price and is consistently good. The "chefs" at the Back Porch need to take some cooking lessons from the cooks at Diamond Mineral Springs--and for God's sake put in some A/C so that the ceiling fans don't turn the food to ice before it's eaten!! If you go, get the filet since they did it right twice in a row and hubby loved it, order the wedge with bleu cheese and ignore the details that are so sorely lacking and it should be pretty good--oh and bring about $50 in CASH per person since they don't do credit cards either--but they do have an ATM.