Saturday, October 27, 2007

Black Hawk Down

I read a review of the Black Hawk Grill in Barboursville, West Virginia before calling for reservations, even though I have been there before and was reasonably impressed with it. I did that because it’s been a while ago that we were there, and I wanted to refresh my memory about the place. The review said that entrees ran from $12 to $2o, which seemed pretty much as I remembered it, though perhaps a couple of dollars low for the high end entrees. So, I called and asked the guy who answered the phone, “How are you for Friday night?” Now, that probably wasn’t the best way to begin a conversation, but given that it was a restaurant, it didn’t seem a totally dumb opening. The guy responded, “I’m good for Friday, how are you for Friday?”

That should have tipped me off that something was amiss, but I went ahead and reserved a table for three at 7 p.m. on Friday night. We arrived a minute or two early to find the bar area, where the entrance is, crowded, and told the young lady at the desk my name. She couldn’t find the reservation, but did seat us … eight feet from the bar, where there were lots of people talking and enjoying themselves. Loudly. It was difficult to talk over the din.

The waitress, Jill, brought menus, and things immediately got worse. Several of the entrees were in the $30 to $40 range, well above both how I remembered things, and what the review said. I’ve been in lots of different restaurants, good, bad and mediocre, and due to my experience my expectations rise geometrically when prices rise above about $28 for the priciest entrees, like surf and turf. Most of the time, the food quality doesn’t impress me as much as its price; I get really picky, figuring that anyone charging $32 for a six ounce filet, or $38 for a crab-stuffed New York Strip must be a culinary genius. Usually, they aren’t.

This was a semi-special occasion, so I determined to (pardon the pun) swallow hard and go ahead with a wonderful meal, the price be damned. Having trouble finding something that really suited me I told the waitress that the 14 oz. strip was too much food for me, but the filet would be about right if it only had the accompaniments that the strip had with it. She said they could do that, and wrote it down.

The baked brie appetizer was very good, although the wine was less than it ought to have been. But, the wine didn’t arrive until after we had finished the appetizer, and the bread didn’t get there until the salad was finished. “I’m sorry; we’re really busy tonight,” Jill said. Hmmm.

Finally, the entrees were delivered, and the steak was cooked pretty much as I requested, and was very good. Unfortunately, the accompaniment was neither what was on the menu, or the alteration I had ordered. It also didn’t thrill me.

So, the Black Hawk Grill did not make my “I can’t wait to go back there” list, and may be added to my “I won’t go back there list.”

When you go out to eat, you expect well prepared and tasty food and decent service at a reasonable price. That is the least you should get; the basic contract between diner and restaurant. If a restaurant asks higher than usual prices, say in the $20 to $30 range instead of the $12 to $20 range that was in the review I read, then the restaurant has the obligation to provide something for that extra money, and if the restaurant dares to charge more than $30 for most of its entrees, it had damned well better make your experience a memorable one. Black Hawk Grill failed to meet that standard; failed to meet the high expectations set by the grossly overpriced menu.

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