Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Hitless in Oregon

Unlike Chuck, I have not embraced the fog (see yesterday's blog). In fact, it has probably colored my attitude about the three weeks we have spent along the Oregon shore – including the quality of restaurant food. I might go so far to say that I have never visited an area with such mediocre food at such inflated prices.

Our first Florence, Oregon, stop was at Abby’s Legendary Pizza – part of another Oregon local chain, this time with thirty-five outlets. Abby’s pizzas are made with hand-rolled dough, sauce made from their own recipe, and toppings that extend to the outer edges of the crust. Their specialty pizzas include a cheese steak pizza, a roasted garlic and chicken pizza, a Greek vegetarian pizza, and four different southwestern (taco, fajita, BBQ, and chicken BBQ) pizzas. We were more traditional.

We arrived at about 2:00 p.m., and the very spacious restaurant was almost empty. Chuck’s eyes were bigger than our stomachs, and we ordered the sixteen-inch “giant” (I had suggested the thirteen-inch “large”) cheese and sausage. And, as you can see from this photo (below), this was a giant meal.

The pizza had been baked in a gas oven and had a medium thin, but very crisp, crust. It was topped with a generous amount of good Italian sausage that was light on fennel. The sauce reminded me of the slow-cooked South Philadelphia Italian gravy (their term for this type of red sauce) that becomes cloying after a while. I prefer more acid in my tomato sauce and less sweet. And again, there was far more cheese than either Chuck or I prefer. This pizza was so filling that enough returned home with us to provide me with two mornings of cold pizza breakfast.

This was a pretty average pizza and Abby’s gets a pretty average 3.5 Addie score.

Our second dining foray was to the Brown Hen Café for breakfast. This restaurant is reputed to be one of the best places for breakfast in Florence and gets great web reviews. Our first impression was encouraging. This small café was beautifully decorated with walls that were painted either dark taupe or what Chuck calls burnt sienna (his favorite box of crayons color) with stark white trim and crown molding. The crown molding was accented with recessed lighting that reflected off the white ceiling. Along one side of the dining room where three stained glass window panels depicting Florence scenes: the historic bridge crossing the Siuslaw River (right), a lighthouse, and fishing boats.

The breakfast menu included among other dishes: three egg omelets, regular and thin pancakes, “stackers”, breakfast burritos, and egg/meat/hash brown combinations. Chuck’s choice was the short stack (two) of regular buttermilk pancakes with a side of bacon.

Now, who wrote the rule that pancakes must now be BIG and the BIGGER the better. Do you know what often happens with BIG pancakes? They don’t get cooked in the center and such was the case here. When Chuck was finished there was a circle about three inches in diameter of uneaten pancake left on his plate. And he characterized his bacon as OK.

I ordered the half order biscuits and gravy and half order hash browns with sausage gravy combo. Did I fare any better? No. The biscuit bottoms were so tough that you couldn’t cut them with a knife and the amount of gravy for the mass of biscuit was skimpy. And the kitchen tried to “gourmet” the gravy with an overabundance of dried thyme. So much thyme that I was left with a harsh aftertaste. The hash browns would have been quite good without the gravy.

So to rate the Brown Hen Café. They get a 4.0 Addie rating for atmosphere and a 2.0 Addie rating for food.

Our final Florence experience (before deciding to eat at home from then on) was Bliss’ Hot Rod Grill. Yes, we were sucked in by the gimmick – the classic 50’s cars and the neon. But this is a place that needs a lot of TLC. The carpeting was torn. Few of the tables had a level eating surface, and most had giant chips out of the turquoise formica-like surface. One fellow diner almost fell off his chair when one leg ended in a depression in the floor.

On a bright note, the car in the front dining room seemed to be in good shape--with seating for four.

Still, the food was decent. We decided to play it safe and order half-pound specialty burgers – the Three Alarm Burger (pepper jack cheese, grilled jalapeno peppers, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, 1000 Island dressing) with regular fries for Chuck and the Guacamole Burger (pepper jack cheese, salsa, guacamole, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle) with X-treme cracked pepper fries for me.

Both of our burgers came on jumbo buns – so jumbo that the bun extended a half inch beyond the burger patty. But the beef was cooked medium and had the crusty surface and edges that we both like. They were good, but certainly not among our top five burgers of all time.

My rating is just the reverse of the Brown Hen Café – a 2.0 for décor and a 4.0 for food.

As we were leaving, we asked ourselves, "Why is Bob with his Big Boy double-decker cheeseburger hanging out at Bliss' Grill?"

No comments: