Friday, October 5, 2012

Half a Skillet Short of a Full Pan - 3 Skillets

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So, it's been a while, and by a while I mean almost 4 months.  To my regular readers I apologize; life can have a pesky habit of getting in the way sometimes.

But back to business...

In September, I found myself attending a conference in downtown Huntsville with an old friend from college.  Being adventurous eaters who appreciate local quality, we decided to check out the new downtown eatery, The 3 Skillets, during one of our lunch breaks.

Nestled between a popular pizza parlor and a swanky speakeasy style bar on the "north side" of courthouse square, the unassuming, glass-fronted, lunch counter style venue sits in promising location.  Unfortunately, the meal and service were utterly without promise.

We chose to sit at two of the many seats lining the long counter.  After a considerable wait, a member of the waitstaff finally acknowledged us and took our drink orders.  The quaint mason jars in which our drinks were delivered verged on cliche, but were appreciated for their considerable volume.

Like any good dinner, the 3 Skillets runs a rotating blue-plate entree  menu with an assortment of sides, ranging from German cucumber salad to roasted carrots to mashed potatoes and gravy... You know good dinner grub.

Now for anyone who has never eaten at lunch counter, patrons can see everything.  They can see how the food is prepared, how your kitchen staff is dressed, and even who washes their hands and who doesn't.  As someone who occasionally works as a guest chef, opening your kitchen to general public takes a great deal of courage and I sincerely admire the brave owners for attempting to do so in their restaurant.  However, in this particular environment preparations must be taken to ensure a successful dinning experience for your patrons.  And the failure of this establishment to do so is probably the precipitating factor for my dissatisfaction as a dinner.  

During our visit, the special of the day was euphemistically listed as "roast beef."  When the line cook removed the cover from the the large roasting pan sitting on flat top, what awaited us was nothing more than a dry-roasted slab of beef brisket.  In addition to lacking any seasoning, the beef was dry and poorly trimmed (it still contained the massive fat cap characteristic of the cut), resulting in an very gristly mouthfeel.

The sides with our orders were equally disappointing; bland cucumber salad (with the though skins still attached to the vegetable) and under-cooked carrots.  The only thing of any culinary significance, were the mashed potatoes, which were hearty, creamy, and packed with flavor (order them without gravy, trust me).

Back to the primary problem with a lunch counter-esque setting.  For the entire duration of my meal, I watched their cooks and waitstaff with both professional curiosity and admiration.  Their skill wasn't without merit, but was unfortunately lacking in cleanliness.  As I was walking out the door, I took a final look back toward the line, when I caught a glimpse of the line cook... while this wouldn't have been out of place, his hand certainly was.  It was elbow deep in a jar of pickles.  After emptying his hand full of pickles into a holding container on the line, and still dripping with pickle juice, he proceeded to prepare the next order.  While I'm sure this action didn't endanger the clientele, it made me question the hygenic nature of their preparation area.

Note:  The burgers and breakfast items do look terrific.  But the roast beef is definitely to be avoided.  Oh, and remember to order your burger sans pickles.

Eat good food.  Drink good beer.  And above all, stay classy!

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