Saturday, September 11, 2010

Better Than Ezra?


Are there places I like Better than Ezra? Yes. But it does hold some promise for another try next time I am down in Bradenton. My first trip to this little place, hidden off one of the main drags was a study in contrasts and irony. I decided to give them a try based on my research on Urbanspoon and a conversation I had with one of the Marriott foodies who knows the area very well and actually lives on Anna Maria Island, the lucky dog.

So off I went and less than ten minutes from the Marriott I found the place, well hidden of the main road. Looked pretty much as expected from the outside and really when I got inside, it was a bit better than my mind had it pictured. It had a nice bistro feel with bar up front and the dining room spread out over the rest of the place. No separation but that suits the space fine.

I chose to sit over against the wall at a two top. The restaurant had a nice crowd at just before 7 PM and I was greeted promptly by my friendly server. I asked her the beer selections and as we chatted I learned that HH was still on for a few more minutes and one of the specialty cocktails was a Lolita......Margarita with chili pepper honey as a finish to it. Be still my beating heart. Beer? Not when this is available. Rather than cover service piecemeal I will handle it near the end as it was a major part of the yin and yang of the visit.

The menu is pretty varied and lots of the items looked great. I was told by my source at the Marriott to try the Calamari salad but was not in the squid mood tonight. Two other salads really caught my eye and I started trying to put together an app and salad meal. Nice start on my diet. So when the server came back with my drink I asked her about a few things I was considering and found out they were out of oysters so the Po-Boy was not an option and they were also out of one other menu item which I had no interest in.

Once I ordered I chose the Caesar salad, smaller portion and an app that could have been called Crabcake Sandwich as it was two lump crabmeat cakes with a fried green tomato "sandwiched" in between and a couple of nice complementary sauces too. They had bread and butter but I politely declined since once I start on bread I tend to finish. My server told the crabcakes were MARYLAND approved, meaning no fake crab or snow crab meat,ONLY the blues were good enough.

This is where it really gets to be a contrast. Two things, one was connected to the owner or someone high enough up in the eatery to have a table eating and carrying around two cute little children all over the restaurant. In and out the doors, sitting in the elegant front "lobby", at the table. Not obnoxiously loud but enough that even a Jimmy Buffett personality began to notice. It did take away some from the dining. Second thing was interminable waits in between everything during the meal despite what appeared to be a normal crowd and ample staff to cover it all. More on that later.

Crabcake & Fried Green Tomato "Sandwich"
The food arrived and I enjoyed my salad and the bits of fried green tomatoes that were interspersed in the dish. Hearts of palm too and the dressing was tasty and not too heavy on this one. I did  not finish it though as I waited on the app. It came and it was by far the star of the meal. I think I ate it in about five minutes and scraped some of the sauce up too. The tomato was not mushy and had some bite to it in contrast to the lush softness and sweet taste of the crabcakes which were nicely blended with herbs and spices. They were a decent size as well making this the perfect entree for a single diner.

After the meal I waited........and waited.........and waited.......for the server to come by so I could get the check and be on my way. When she appeared I handed her my card and she said, be right back.

I waited......and waited.......and waited....................and waited some more only to have her show up and say, I will take this when you are ready, only to be informed I had already given her my credit card. Ooops, sorry.

So.....I waited.....and waited.....and waited and she finally showed up and let me reclaim the balance of my life here on God's green earth.

On my new five starfish rating scale, here goes......ATMOSPHERE 3.25(dinged for the children all over), DRINKS: 3.75, FOOD 3.75, SERVICE 2.25 ( Friendly but being there for one hour and 23 minutes to eat a salad and app is unacceptable) OVERALL 3.25.

A return trip is warranted.

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