Thursday, February 18, 2010

The End of the Raindancer. 12-16-75 to 2-17-10 RIP

 ****UPDATE:  Raindancer is BACK!!  Hubby and I had dinner with another couple on our last visit to Florida and I am delighted to be able to tell you that they have corrected the problems that marred our last two visits and the packed dining room showed that they are having success again. I was heartbroken by the thought that my favorite steak place for more than three decades was going the route of so many and I am thrilled that once again the Raindancer sets the bar for steak restaurants in the USA and around the globe!

***UPDATE: After reading my review, the Raindancer (unasked) proactively removed the charge for the dinner from my husband's credit card, called me and apologized.  I will have to go back and see if they have gotten back up to par when I visit Florida again.  This was a very classy thing for them to do and they've always been a class act.  Stay tuned for the next review--they WANT to be the best!
It's been a wonderful ride dining at the Raindancer in West Palm Beach.  Everything was perfect every time I dined there--from the service to the food to the atmosphere from my first visit in 1975 when I was celebrating my 17th birthday but sadly I've now made my last trip to the restaurant that was my favorite steak house for an astounding 35 years.  When I first visited I was a 17 year old kid in college, on my last I was a 51 year old Republican Congressional Nominee.  I was hoping to celebrate being elected to Congress at the Raindancer, just as I've celebrated about 90% of the memorable occasions in my life at the venerable establishment.  What changed?  The steak that no other restaurant could match for quality or preparation was sadly lacking.  Not only was it way overcooked, but the burnt Pittsburgh crust that I so love was absent.  The service was way under par too.  There was no butter on the table for the bread and my iced tea refill was served  with a lemon instead of the requested lime and I had to ask twice for refills on drinks.  This is something that has never happened in 200 visits--I've never had a steak that wasn't perfect or service that wasn't flawless.  The potato had the unmistakable flavor change of a refrigerated spud which tells me they are keeping potatoes longer than they used to.  The steak was full of gristle which has never happened before--and shouldn't have happened this time as it was $38.95 for a 12 ounce NY strip.  I am devastated that it has fallen so far so fast but the half-empty dining room told the story of how far the quality of food and service has dropped.  I was used to waiting an hour for a table during the winter season but no more. The service standards are lax as well--a sad thing because the service could always be counted upon to be flawless.  I've always been able to count on the Raindancer to provide the perfect backdrop of food and service to impress anyone I was ever closing any kind of business deal with--the ambiance, food, service and class of the place sold everything and everyone.  No more.
There's no pot of gold at the end of the Raindancer--just a very disappointed 35 year customer that loved everything it used to be.  Rest in Peace and thanks for the memories!

Friday, February 12, 2010

George's The Best Little Dive on the Planet--Po'Boy Heaven in Baton Rouge

For at least 30 years (and possibly much longer) George's has been a Baton Rouge institution and favorite dive with an offbeat location, extensive menu of po'boys and other Louisiana classics.  Located underneath an I-10 overpass which gives covered parking to early arrivals, George's doesn't look like much although the display of neon beer signs in the windows send the message that there will be a wide selection of beer, which proves to be the case. The inside is a triangular room decorated with hundreds of dollar bills stapled to the walls and ceiling with the names or nicknames of the people who 'donated' them to the decor written on them.  The food is unbelievable--gumbos, etoufee and the Louisiana classic po'boy sandwich in many varieties.  The french fries are from fresh potatoes and are actually crisp which is a technique that no one seems to be able to do--most places with fresh potato fries serve a soggy and greasy product. The po'boys are made with the best French bread I've ever tasted along with generous servings of meat and cheese for a memorable sandwich experience.  The crawfish etoufee is as good as any I've ever had in New Orleans and the gumbo is the classic style as well.  Service is at the bar and they give you a kitchen check to write down your order and they call you to the bar when it's ready for pickup.  The eclectic crowd was everything from LSU college kids to executives in suits along with casual locals, and the occasional tourist who lucked into a great meal for a reasonable price.  Interstate 10 goes over the top but there is no traffic noise to speak of, so I'm guessing they have world class soundproofing in the roof.  The bartenders are friendly and since the customers write their own kitchen checks, special instructions can be added. The chairs are decently comfortable as are the barstools and you can get your order to go.  The owner, "Smokey" is on the East Baton Rouge parish council so politics are not a taboo subject, and any guy who owns a great dive like this must be a man of the people!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken, Memphis, Tennessee

Just off Interstate 55 is a little restaurant called Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken (which is touted to be hot and spicy but isn't any spicier than Popeye's mild) is serving the best fried chicken in the world.  Elvis would be proud of this Memphis chicken joint, the crowds beat a path to the door and every time I pass through, it's a treat I look forward to having.  It's without a doubt the BEST fried chicken I've ever had in my LIFE and I've eaten a LOT of fried chicken.  It has a thin layer of some sort of coating with a tingle of spice--no thick, greasy breading here.  It is very crisp and when bitten into gives a satisfying crunch followed by the tender and juicy white meat and the perfect blend of spices.  The only thing I can say is WOW!!  It's the most delicious fried chicken on the planet (or at least so far in my 51-and-counting years) and we stop there for lunch coming and going to Louisiana to see the family.  Memphis is almost exactly the halfway point and the location right off the Interstate makes it a quick off-and-on for travelers and although the place is packed, the line moves quickly.  You can also get your order to go if you need to get back on the road.  Service is very friendly in the traditions of Southern hospitality, the ambience and the appointments are picnic-in-a-park but the incredible chicken trumps everything.  As a bonus, the sides are also very good, the iced tea is fresh-brewed and refills are swift and the waitresses are as friendly as Southern gals are reputed to be.  Well-worth a special trip or a 40-mile detour to Memphis and a bargain at twice the price, I give Gus's Fried Chicken my highest rating and can't wait to eat there again!