Thursday, July 9, 2009

Date Night at Bar Symon

Finally, after less than a week of being open, I couldn't stay away any longer. I wanted to see what all the hype was about. Was Michael Symon just another celebrity chef who lent his name to a less than stellar restaurant experience? I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I wanted to experience a dining experience you couldn't get at a T.G.I. Friday's [or is it just plain Friday's now?] with it's 13 or 14 pieces of flare. I wanted to go to a restaurant in my hometown that wasn't Italian [Fratello's and Stella's] and I didn't want to go where we always go.

I am always up for adventure. My marriage with Jenn is much like a Yin and Yang of life. I like to live on the wild side and explore what I have been too scared to eat. Jenn usually plays it safe with her choice of cuisine, where as I will gladly try a fried plantain on a prime rib sandwich with chipotle mayo. I am willing to take the road less traveled just to see where we end up, rather than play it safe on the highways. This was apparent in our drive on our honeymoon.

So what was Bar Symon all about? It's a beer joint, plain and simple and that is thrust right in your face as soon as you walk into the restaurant. Just to the right you can see all 40 taps staring at you, daring you try every single one of them. There isn't a hip tour [Winking Lizard] surrounding the beer selection which is something I knew would be absent, and for good reason.

Now, before I get too far into the guts of the restaurant, I want to just make an observation about the location. The new Bar Symon sits in a carcass of a once thriving part of Avon Lake. Since the implosion the Tops Supermarket chain, that part of my hometown has never been the same. Many places have tried to hack it in that plaza, but somehow they fell short. Now with Bar Symon, it's nice to see cars in the parking lot and people walking through the doors. I really hope that this is just the beginning of a revitalization, rather than another failed attempt. I think my rose colored glasses look great on me. [We'll get back to this.]

The wait ran up to a 60-90 minutes, which is something I was expecting, so we put our names on the list and ran to Wal-Mart to get some things for the baby's room. It also helps to know the hostess, which I did, because she was ready for us when we got back about 45 minutes later. Perfect timing, or knowing someone? I would like to think it's because I knew someone, but then again I am more than likely wrong about that.

We sat down near the kitchen in the back of the house, away from the bustling bar which had a certain electricity to it. Not really loud, but it wasn't quiet. I guess it's just plain old fashion atmosphere. The servers were attentive, the bus boys invisible, and most importantly, everyone was polite. I may not be a food critic, but I am certainly a critic of service. I work in sales for a living, and a big part of sales is customer service. I was not disappointed in this, although it must be mentioned that our server did forget the bread and butter, but then again, I didn't know I was getting it, so until he said, "Oops, I forgot..." I wouldn't have known.

Jenn and I both ordered the same meal. The Bar Symon burger. Jenn knew that a burger wasn't going to mess with her delicately balanced machine of a baby incubator. I have no doubt that after the baby is born, Bar Symon will play host to many more date nights, and maybe double date nights, [Carrie and Josh; Shelly and Chris; Julie and Dave; I am talking to you]. I said in a previous blog, I love a good burger so I would be a fool to pass up this burger.

It took me longer to order my beer [the list is HUGE] than it did to make a decision on dinner. By the way, I ordered a Great Lakes Brewery variant called Grass Roots. Delicious. Sweet. Paired with the Burger perfectly. The beer played off the rosemary in the fries. Oh yeah and it's brewed right here in good ole Cleveland, Ohio.

There is something about red meat, bacon, cheddar, and an egg on an English Muffin that gets me energized. The fries were seasoned with rosemary and had a great ketchup with them. Delicious isn't the word, but it's close.

The yolk of the egg drenched the hamburger meat and fries in the basket below; It was a touch of rustic, yet the flavor of the refined. It's like wearing and Armani sport coat while rocking a pair of worn out Levi's. Maybe an overstatement, but you get the point.

I smashed that burger, and finished the fries and the server didn't have time to come back and ask if it was cooked correctly. I have the line from Ratatouille going in my head, "Just don't HORK it down..."

Well that's what I did. The hostess said when she seated us that we needed to same room for dessert. That is one thing you don't have to tell a pregnant lady twice. I made a decision on dessert about as fast as I did with dinner. Leave it to Bar Symon to serve Guinness Ice Cream with Pretzels and hot fudge. Jenn ordered the strawberry shortcake and made quick work of it. Like me, with the burger, Jenn is, with desserts [First trip to Kentucky with Jenn I witnessed her family condoning dessert with breakfast, and also dessert AS breakfast].

So what is the over all verdict? It is very very positive. Call me overly enthusiastic but, you would not be disappointed to visit. Jenn's remarks on dinner were, "The English muffin was so much better than a bun because it was less filling and delicate, but hearty enough to hold a burger. The portions were perfect, not too much, not too little." I do want to mention that she thought the Strawberry shortcake she ordered for dessert could have been bigger, but we need to take this with a grain of salt because let's face it, she's pregnant.

After the entire night, we ordered two burgers, two desserts, and a beer, and our bill came out to about $42.00 with a generous tip. This was less than the last trip we made to Red Robin. The food was way better.

Now on the drive home, I shared with my brother that I visited Bar Symon. I told him it was fantastic. He asked if the food was really that good or was it the name that I was admired with? He said that he wasn't impressed with Michael Symon. He said that he was greedy. The only reason he moved Lola downtown was because of the money. He, 'turned his back on Tremont, the area that made him'.

This must be his Cleveland pessimism coming out of him again, because where others saw greed, I saw opportunity. Why wouldn't Michael Symon want to make money? Isn't that what it's about. Principles don't feed your family. Instead of thinking like it was greed, look at what it has done to the Cleveland Food scene. We have a lot to thank Michael Symon for.

I thank him for putting a bright light in a dark plaza, and for a great meal with my wife. I will expand my ideas about the Cleveland food scene in the next Podcast, ready to air on July 14th. A local Cleveland foodie will be joining me this Sunday to record it.


Julie said...

Oh, Oh who's the foodie for your show?? and BTW I think we need to make Bar Symon a group thing (I can't get Dave to walk into that place) I've seen the menu and read it to me and (his words not mine) I can get a burger anywhere. What's the point of eatting at a Michael Symon resturant if you are going to take everything off of the burger?

Shawnee's Girl said...

We so want to go. I think the truth is not if we will go next time we are home but how many times. LOL You can certainly count us in for a night out there.

Cali said...

I think it was because you knew someone, I think they tried to seat you before that but you were at walmart... But I can't be sure, what do I know? Annnnnd yeah Micheal moved Lola downtown and opened Lolita in it's place... he didn't abandon Tremont. That is just silly. oh and ps... the burger is one of my favorites and so is the beer and pretzel sunday.

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