Thursday, April 26, 2012

How Did I Miss This One?

As you know, I am an avid fan of Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives on the Food Network. So one afternoon I am playing FreeCell on the computer with half an ear tuned to the TV and an episode comes on that I have seen numerous times. The first segment was about Harry’s Roadhouse in Santa Fe, a place we have visited twice. And then Guy starts talking about Surrey’s Café & Juice Bar in New Orleans. I don’t remember having seen this. What’s the scoop? How could I have missed a local café that makes their own bagels and has a bagel, lox, and cream cheese plate?

A quick “Google” showed that Surrey’s gets 4.5 stars (out of 5.0) on yelp.com, urbanspoon.com, and tripadvisor.com, plus was the recipient of a glowing review in Gambit (a local free independent newspaper).

The original episode was shot at the Surrey’s on Magazine Street in the Lower Garden District. Since then the owner has opened a second, which is also on Magazine, but in what is called Uptown. “When independent restauranteurs want to expand in the same market, they tend to diversify. Yet when Greg Surrey decided it was time to grow, he essentially duplicated his casual breakfast and lunch joint, Surrey's Cafe & Juice Bar, in a new location just 3 miles up the road. He wasn't worried it might siphon his own customers from the original—in fact, that was the point” (Ian McNulty at bestofneworleans.com).

We surmised that the Uptown location would have more convenient parking (which it did), so proceeded out one day for a mid-morning breakfast.

Surrey’s Uptown is located in a converted single-wide house and provides three outdoor dining locations—under an oak tree in the front yard, on the front porch, and on a long and narrow porch on the opposite side of the building. We elected to eat inside and a wise decision that was. About mid-way through our meal it began to rain—heavily. Very heavily.

The main dining room offered little in the way of decorations unless you consider the condiment “baskets” mounted on the walls to be decorations.
These do serve a purpose because the two-seater booths and tables are so small that there is barely enough room for your food once it arrives.

In addition to the great reviews and Guy Fieri’s imprimatur, I was attracted to the interesting breakfast menu. Just a few of the
items available are: a Crab Meat Omelette stuffed with avocado and Brie cheese and topped with a creamy lump crab sauce; the Montana Plate with two eggs, a biscuit with sausage gravy, ham, bacon and sausage, and hash browns or grits; Scrambled Eggs with smoked salmon and cream cheese., topped with capers and green onions; and Shrimp & Grits with Louisiana Gulf shrimp in New Orleans style BBQ sauce over a bowl of grits and garnished with bacon, green onions, and French bread croutons.

Chuck gave some con-sideration to the monster Montana Plate, but since he wanted one of Surrey’s house-made bagels, opted to go “light” with the biscuits and gravy and a side of hash browns. Surrey’s prepares their bagels New York style,
first boiling them for about ten minutes before baking. And this was a first class bagel—light and slightly chewy.

And that’s where breakfast should have ended. We have often had good sausage gravy served over so-so biscuits. We have often had so-so sausage gravy served over good biscuits. Here we hit a two-fer. Bad biscuits and bad gravy.

Surrey’s menu proclaims that they make their own bagels, biscuits, and focaccia. I wouldn’t be so quick to claim responsibility for these biscuits. Heavy doesn’t begin to describe them. Doughy might be a more appropriate term.

And then there was the gravy. Why does it look brown? I am not quite sure. In addition to the sausage, I could taste thyme and sage. All right. That makes sense. Breakfast sausage sometimes contains both of these herbs. But what was the other flavor? And why was it there?

And the “hash browns” were really home fries. That would have made Chuck happy had they not been over-seasoned with some form of Creole-like blend.

In addition to making their own bagels, Surrey’s also cures their salmon in-house (shown on Triple D), so I was prepared to make the bagel/salmon/cream cheese plate my choice. Only one problem. I failed to notice that this appears on the lunch menu and not the
breakfast. My bad. So I decided to order the third menu item Guy featured—the hash made with corned beef, andouille, and boudin and served with two eggs and a biscuit. (This biscuit was no better than Chuck’s)

The first thing I noticed was that the hash was sitting in a pool of grease. Lots of grease. Some of this probably came from the corned beef which contained an abundance of fat. And some probably came from the andouille. Since the pork in boudin is cooked before being mixed with rice and being stuffed into casings, it should be held harmless. And mixed with the meats were the same over-seasoned potatoes.

The food—or at least the food we ate—exemplifies one of my pet gripes about a lot of contemporary restaurants. They don’t know when to stop adding ingredients. My description of this food is
“overwrought.”

And while I am on gripes, here is another. And Surrey’s is guilty of this sin also. I hate it when the staff come out to clear tables and, in the process of cleaning, start spraying some form of chemical-laden product. The smell of ammonia does not add to an enjoyable dining experience.

Well, Surrey’s may get raves from other diners. It may have been featured on TV. We didn’t like it and have no plans to give the place a second chance. Professional food reviewers may be required to make multiple visits before writing their reviews. Not so me. So I’ll give Surrey’s 1.5 Addies based on the good bagel, but man can’t live on bagels alone.

1 comment:

humtv said...

Diners, Drive-ins and Dives (DDD, The Triple D) are a United State American food television series show. The host of this show is Guy Fieri.