Category: Restaurants

Baldanza at the Schoolhouse

Baldanza at the Schoolhouse

Baldanza moved into the Schoolhouse restaurant last August and we decided to give them a try now that they have presumably settled in. According to their web site, this is a family business with Sandy Baldanza at the Proprietor, Angela Baldanza as the chef de Cuisine and Alex Baldanza as the General Manager.

The layout of the restaurant is much the same as it was before, with banquettes along the windowed walls and about 16 well-spaced tables within. The hosts are gracious and quick to seat you when you arrive. Water comes right away, and some very good bread and butter soon follows. We particularly like the pecan bread with raisins.

The dinner menu consists of 10 appetizers (mostly Italian), 7 definitively Italian pasta dishes and 7 entrees which seem to be much more American: hamburger, salmon, halibut, strip steak, pork chop, chicken Milanese and tuna au poivre.

There is a one-page wine list, with one prosecco, 2 rose’s, 5 white wines, and 16 red wines, many of them Italian and all but 3 available by the glass or full bottle. We chose the Montepulciano D’Abruzzo 2016, but would try something else next time.

If you’re looking for a single sentence capsule review: Everything we ordered was excellent, and we’ll certainly go back.

Fritto misto

One of our appetizers was an outstanding Fritto Misto ($21). It contained fried calamari, rock shrimp, and fried zucchini with a marinara sauce and a red pepper aioli, The portion was enormous and completely greaseless. It was excellent but save room for your main course!

Beet salad

Our other appetizer was an amazing composed Beet Salad ($18), with red and golden beets, tangerines, pistachio, green beans, apples, fennel, dates and goat cheese. I don’t think we’ve ever had a better one. What a great combination of flavors!

Shrimp risotto

One of our pasta dishes was Risotto with Jumbo Gulf Shrimp ($39). It was served, or course, with arborio rice, along with asparagus, cherry tomatoes and saffron. The flavors were outstanding, although the shrimp were so large that they were a little difficult to cut.

Tagliatelle Roma

Finally, our other entrée was Tagliatelle Roma ($28), which was their house made tagliatelle served with prosciutto, peas, mushrooms and a cream sauce. The waiter added some grated cheese as well. It had a smooth texture with little spikes of prosciutto throughout.

We would have like to tell you about their desserts (several are pictured on their web site) but we were much too full to order them.

However, next time, we are sure to try their Caesar salad and their meatballs, either as an appetizer or in their Rigatoni con Pallotine. Their Chicken Milanese looks interesting too….

Our bill was $143.95 with tax but before tip.

All in all, this was a delightful evening, and we welcome Baldanza to Wilton!

Galley Beach: how a top restaurant navigates COVID

Galley Beach: how a top restaurant navigates COVID

Galley Beach, under chef W Scott Osif has been a high end fixture in Nantucket for many years. With its setting on  a beach point, you can admire the food and the sunsets almost any night.

This year, they have moved to an two-course prix-fixe menu for $89, with several dishes having supplemental charges. They also have taken a big step and added the 23% gratuity to every check, which means the prix-fixe is really over $109. Oh, and they charge $15 for valet parking, an almost unavoidable charge since street parking is pretty difficult.

We’ve written about Galley Beach in 2019 and in 2015, praising its cuisine and service. This year, the service remained of high quality, but the food seemed far less successful than in past visits.

We started with an appetizer of Caesar salad, described as having white anchovies, parmesan croutons and creamy garlic dressing. As you can see from the picture there is one huge anchovie and one crouton, and the shredded cheese may ore may not be parmesan. We didn’t taste any parmesan, garlic or egg in the dressing, nor any lemon, vinegar, mustard or olive oil. We called this a “perfunctory Caesar salad.” We also note that it was served on some mixed greens rather than on romaine.

The right hand picture shows they one they served in 2019, which was very good.

Caesar 2021
Caesar 2019

We also had a Crab Cake for our other appetizer, which required a $15 supplemental upcharge, or $18.45 with the mandatory gratuity. It came with tomato, cucumber & mint salad. champagne beurre blanc. It certainly had plenty of crab and little filler, explaining the upcharge, but very little flavor. Now Maryland style crab cakes always contain spicy mustard, or sometimes just hot sauce, but this contained none of those, and was just kind of bland.  We had the same dish in 2015 and praised its flavor.

Crab cake

Our entrée was Pan roasted halibut with duck fat Brussels sprouts. summer squashes. sunchoke puree, and a $10 upcharge. The halibut was perfectly cooked, but without much flavor from the minimal puree. The “duck fat Brussels sprouts” were supposed to be sweetened by browning in duck fat. Actually, they were burned. You would think some head chef would be checking plates before they go out the door and catch things like that. We were not impressed.

Halibut

Our other entrée was housemade orecchiette. rock shrimp. buttered corn. capers. lemon. old bay. midnight moon. Not a lot of shrimp. Tasted like mac and cheese, but we’ve had better mac and cheese.

The waiter suggested desserts and there were only four rather standard choices, each $19:

  • Warm chocolate brownie with ice cream and salted caramel
  • Crème brulee with macerated blueberries
  • Turmeric Panna Cotta (Come on! Really?)
  • Strawberry shortcake

We chose to skip the dessert. Our bill, including 3 glasses of chardonnay, tax and a $57.50 service charge was $325. It’s not that we begrudge the inclusion of the service charge, but for an indifferent meal, this was an awful lot of money. Even so, it was cheaper than the Company of the Cauldron!

The Proprietors: an excellent Nantucket evening

The Proprietors: an excellent Nantucket evening

We’ve been to The Proprietors Bar and Table several times since it opened. Chef Michael LaScola has crafted a small plates/large plates menu made up of fascinating small dishes and some larger ones. This year, they changed the focus a bit, with there being three large plate entrees at the bottom of the menu, inviting you to build your dinner around several appetizers and finish with a main course sized entrée. These entrees currently include Roast Chicken [for two] ($48), Chicken Fried Trout ($37) and Korean Short Ribs ($41). This approach is a really successful change and we had a terrific evening with our appetizers and entrée.

It is perfectly possible for two people to share any of the small plates and certainly they can share the roast chicken, and that is what we did last night.

The waiter was cautious in suggesting that we really didn’t need to order more than two small plates, since several of them that we suggested were quite rich, and suggested that we might consider the Red Lentil Falafel with roast garlic achaar, sumac yoghurt and salted cucumbers ($18) as a lighter alternative. We ended up choosing two others and thinking seriously about having three, It just depends on your appetite.

We started with the Roasted Beets ($19.50) with Vermont Burrata, roasted strawberries, garam masala and chickpea crackling. There was plenty of this for the two of us: happily spreading the burrata on the chick pea “bread,” and topping it with beets and the occasional pistachio. Even people skeptical of beets will probably love this preparation. We certainly did.

Our second appetizer was Bijou Goat Cheese ($23) with apricot mostarda and green onion “biskits.” This hot appetizer was amazing. You could cut the biskit in half or thirds and spread it with the hot cheese, making it easy to share, but I didn’t want to: it was so good.

Finally, for our entrée, we ordered the Roast Chicken. It was served with a Farro Risotto, mushrooms, little roasted onions and a gooseberry agrodolce ( a sort of sweet-sour condiment). There were two quarters of chicken on the platter, one of leg and thigh and the other of breast and wing. This approach allowed the kitchen to cook them separately, so the dark meat is cooked and the breast not dried out. This was completely successful: all of the meat was tender and juicy, and we finished every bite.

Finally, since we ran out of small plates, we ordered the fabulous dessert: Blueberry Sorbet ($15) with whipped coconut cream, a sesame/blueberry crumble and basil. This was probably the best sorbet we have ever been served.

This new approach at the Proprietors is a winner: we really had the best meal of our entire visit there last night. The Proprietors is at the corner of India St and Center St, and is open from 5pm Thursday through Tuesday nights, and closed on Wednesdays. You definitely should make a reservation.

The Company of the Cauldron: Beef Wellington

The Company of the Cauldron: Beef Wellington

This venerable Nantucket restaurant was a popular high end fixture of Nantucket dining when Chef Joseph Keller took it over from the retiring Kovalencik family in 2017. It has the same style: warmth and friendliness it always had, and still provides one single 3 course prix fixe meal each night. Each meal also includes one of Keller’s famous popovers, that he developed while the chef at the Woodbox. Here in the late season, Keller has only one seating a night: in high season there are sometimes two seatings.

We went last night (Wednesday) for an elegant meal featuring Beef Wellington. You nearly always will require a reservation here, because there are only 28 seats inside, where there were nearly 50 in pre-COVID days. They also have three 4-top tables under a tent just outside taking up a lane of India Street, as several other restaurants are also doing. You can see each week’s menu online to decide what day you might like the best.

We were seated right away for our 7:00 pm reservation, fortunately at a center row table at the end, where we had a good view of the open kitchen. Keller and his sous-chef produce all these meals in a kitchen smaller than some home kitchens, although he does have much better ovens.

We ordered a bottle of a 2017 Michael Pozzan “Annabella” cabernet ($69), which came with an interesting story from the wine waiter about how Pozzan became a winemaker and grower.

Soon after that they began distributing the popovers: one per person (sometimes you can get a second one if they aren’t too busy).

Popover

Soon after that, the waiter began distributing the Bartlett’s Summer Garden Heirloom Tomato Salad, with local lettuces. Cucumbers, picked red onions and the Company citrus vinaigrette.  We watched the chefs assembling the salads, taking the mixed lettuce from an enormous bowl where they had tossed in the vinaigrette and olive oil. Then they put a serving in each bowl and distributed the tomatoes, radishes and cucumbers into each bowl. 

Summer garden salad

It looked beautiful, but that citrus dressing seemed awfully sour to us, and the tomatoes not very flavorful compared to what we have in our home garden right now.

The Beef Wellington was Snake River Farms tenderloin of beef in house-made puff pastry, local organic mushroom farce and a house demi-glace. We watched Chef Keller take the long puff pastry “loaves” out of the oven, check their temperature and return them for just a bit more time. You can see one of those puff pastries in the background. Meanwhile, they laid out the plates and poured the demi-glace onto each of them. Then, Keller sliced them into almost 2-inch slices and plated them, with his associate adding a bit more mushrooms to each plate. Then, the waiters worked with a pile of folded white napkins to pick up the very hot plates and began delivering them to the diners. All of this took about 45  minutes, so we were glad we could watch the show.

Beef Wellington and green beans almondine

The beef was uniformly tender and delicious, and it was certainly a substantial portion.

While we were eating, we could watch Keller and his sous-chef laying out the crème brulees, sprinkling sugar atop each of them and then torching them to melt the topping. You can see this at the top of the article. They then added a shortbread cookie to each and served them.

Creme Brulee

This last course was served about 8:45pm: we ate it eagerly and paid the bill.

The prix-fixe cost for Beef Wellington is $135 per person, bringing the bill with wine and tax to $347. With tip, two people would easily spend $400 here for a 3-course meal with an added popover. This is just too expensive, even for Nantucket, and we don’t recall paying that much anywhere else on the island. So, the food was very good (well, except the salad) but be prepared to carve a new hole in your credit card!

Company of the Cauldron is open Tuesday through Sunday with at least one seating each night. You can find the menus (and their varying prices) on line. Sundays have become Chicken and Waffles night. We had that a few years ago. That price is currently $95 per person.

Cauldron outside the door
Dune: always a favorite

Dune: always a favorite

We try to dine at Dune almost every year, because the cuisine is always imaginative and the service excellent. The cuisine certainly impressed us this year, with an excellent menu of seafood, veggies and meats. It consists of seven appetizers and eight entrees, as well as several imaginative vegetable side dishes.

We started with a stunningly beautiful roast beet salad ($19.50) with whipped goat cheese, beet vinaigrette, pistachios, and balsamic vinegar.

Roasted beets with whipped goat cheese

And for our other appetizer, we picked the pork and mushroom dumplings ($19) with citrus ponzu, pickled carrots and daikon, sesame fried garlic and cilantro. While this is in the style of Chinese dumplings, these were far more imaginative and flavorful, and they disappeared in moments!

Pork and mushroom dumplings

Both of our entrees were spectacular. The Pan-seared Atlantic Halibut ($48.50) was extraordinary, served with a buttery coconut lemongrass broth, shiitake, purple potatoes,  boy choy, romanescor (those little Christmas tree broccoli relatives), basil, fired garlic and lime. Every bite was a treat.

Pan seared Atlantic Halibut

And finally, or other entrée was Grilled Prime Sirloin Steak ($49.50) served with crispy garlic fingerlings, Bibb lettuce and cherry tomatoes, bacon vinaigrette, blue cheese butter, and “D1” sauce, which seems to be more or less bearnaise. Steaks are sometimes variable, but this one was outstandingly tender, and easy to eat. We both loved every bite.

Grilled Prime Sirloin Steak

Every restaurant on Nantucket (and everywhere else) is having staffing problems you have to allow for, and Dune is no different, but we know how difficult COVID has been for the restaurant business, we are not about to criticize any of their difficulties.  Go to Dune and enjoy excellent, imaginative meals!

Via Mare at the Greydon House

Via Mare at the Greydon House

This is the third season for Via Mare at the Greydon House and we returned to enjoy another meal after our delightful visit two years ago. The menu suggests that Via Mare is a Venetian style restaurant, with Cichetti (tiny bar bites), Small Plates and a few Secondi (main course entrees).

It is perfectly possible to make a meal out of a selection of small plates, or have a few small plates and perhaps split an entrée: they consist a Fish of the day ($44), Rib-eye steak ($79) and Roast chicken ($34).

For the two of us, having a series of the small plates seemed like a fun way to go, since each small plate would give a small serving to each of us.  For larger parties, you could just order a larger variety of small plates, as the group of six diners next to us was doing.

No matter the order on the menu, the staff will bring each plate when it is ready, although one at a time for the two of us, but in clusters for larger tables.

Our first plate was Jonah Crab toast ($26), with celery, apple, jalapeno and parsley on a slice of their house-made bread.

Jonah crab toast – one of two poritons

The photo shows one of the two portions of the crab on toast. This came first, probably because it is served cold. It was, as you can see, really diminutive for the price, and wasn’t our favorite.

The next serving was our favorite: the Hot Chicken Milanese with Moroccan pancakes. While as hot as Nashville Chicken, (children, beware) it was really delicious. Since it was only $9, we should have order several and made a meal of them!

Hot chicken Milanese with Moroccan pancakes

Next to come was the Stracciatella Crostini ($14) which the menu describes as crostino: hand-pulled stracciatella / our bread. This differs markedly from the description in 2019 “Hand pulled straciatella, olio verde and flakey salt,” and was not particularly flavorful.

Stracciatella crostino

Our final plate, was called Crispy Taters, twice fried & smashed / straccino / prosciutto crumble / chilis ($14). This was delicious: crunchy and a little spicey, and in another world, we’d just eat that and the chicken.

Crispy taters

We’d reached a decision point here. We could have ordered the Rigatoni Shrimp, Calabrian Chili, lemon and breadcrumbs, or we could have ordered and split the roast chicken. We saw both on neighboring tables and thought they looked great.

Or, we could try out the desserts. There are only two: Chocolate Budino, which is essentially a rich, dark chocolate pudding, with toffee caramel, cinnamon meringue and whipped cream ($13), or we could have the Peaches and Cream rice pudding ($13) with peaches, lime tuile (a butter cookie) and saba (an Italian syrup). We got one of each. Even though we favor chocolate desserts, we really think this peach dessert was outstanding.

Chocolate budino

Peaches and cream rice pudding

Since the day’s menu is different from that on the internet, we post a copy below.

Menu from August 31, 2021

Via Mare is located in the Greydon House Hotel at 17 Broad Street, and is open for dinner from 5:30-9:30, Tuesday through Saturday. They also serve brunch 11:30-3 on Saturday and Sunday until September 5th.

The Sea Grille is always excellent

The Sea Grille is always excellent

The Sea Grille has always been an outstanding Nantucket restaurant. Locate mid-island, near Stop and Shop, it has been serving visitors and locals for thirty years. The fact that it is still run by the same family explains not only its longevity but the quality of food and of the service. And in these troubled staffing times, that is quite a compliment. Our waitress was hard working, cheerful and experienced and made the whole visit that much more fun.

The menu lists appetizers, salads and Simply Prepared Seafood, as well as Island Favorites and Creative Coastal selections. Even though we have tried a lot of their menu over the years, we keep gravitating to these last categories, because they are so very good.

One of the specials last night was a Fried Clam appetizer ($26), served on a salad base of pickled onions. Since fired clams cam be kind of heavy, this was a welcome change to try a few without committing to a whole meal of them. They were greaseless and really flavorful: just the right amount for an appetizer.

Fried clams appetizer

Our other appetizer was a little more elaborate: Lobster Bisque ($16), baked in a dilled puff pastry. It arrived piping hot, but with delightful pieces of lobster in the bisque. This dish has apparently been on their menu since the very beginning. It is very impressive.

One of our entrees was Grilled Lobster and House-Made Fettucini ($44) [shown above], with roasted tomatoes, garlic, marinara, and beurre blanc. We hadn’t had this one before either, and there was a lot of lobster, and excellent fettucine. The mixture of roasted tomatoes with the marinara and the beurre blanc made a delicious sauce for the pasta and enhanced the lobster’s flavor.

Our final entrée was their Free Form Ravioli ($37), a sort of playful version of the dish where the ingredients are cleverly hidden under a sheet of ravioli pasta. The dish includes lobster, shrimp and scallops, served with mushrooms, roasted tomatoes, garlic, and topped with crispy leeks. Odd though it may seem, it is outstanding.

Free form ravioli

Finally, we had to try one of their desserts, although frankly we didn’t really need it after this delightful but filling meal. We decided to split an order of the Chocolate Brownie Sundae ($14), which comes with vanilla ice cream and copious caramel sauce. It was a great finish, though.

The Sea Grille is at 45 Sparks Ave, and is open Monday through Saturday from 5pm till close. You should make a reservation for sure!

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Hoodoo Brown Barbecue in Ridgefield

Hoodoo Brown Barbecue in Ridgefield

We’ve been thinking about visiting Hoodoo Brown since before the pandemic, and now that we and they are more open, we thought we’d give it a whirl. It’s right at the intersection of Route 7 and Route 35, with a fair amount of parking behind as well as some in front.

We first attempted to have dinner there Saturday about three weeks ago, leaving Wilton about 5:15pm and getting there before 5:45. They politely told me there was a 1-1/2 hour wait, and maybe we should come back on a week night. So we did.

We got there last night (Thursday) about 5:45pm, and were able to park right in front. There was no crowd at all. The really friendly hostess seated us right away, mentioning twice where the bathroom was. Either we looked like we needed it or she thought their food did.

Our waitress was really helpful with their beer list, which was way longer than was printed in the menu. We ordered an IPA she recommended., and it was great While the menu itself is not large, it can be daunting, since so much of it seems to be quite large portions of meats. It features meats by the half pound including: brisket, pulled pork, pork belly, pastrami, pork ribs, smoked chicken, smoked sausage and beef rib. Their special that night was smoked prime rib 1 lb for $35 and 2 lbs for $44. It seemed a bit much for us.

There were also several appetizers, including BBQ Nachos, Texas Poutine, Fried Green Tomatoes, Chicken wings (several sauces are offered) and Burnt End Deviled Eggs. We got the chicken wings with barbecue sauce and the deviled eggs.

Wings with barbecue sauce
Burnt ends on Deviled Eggs

Of these, the chicken wings were tender and flavorful, but the deviled eggs just plain weird. The little bits of burnt ends were variable in tenderness and the deviled eggs themselves pretty flavorless.  They would be better if they added some mustard or horseradish to the egg filling so they rose to the flavor profile of the burnt ends.

Oddly enough, the waitress said there was no pork belly (not ready yet) and no bacon or sausage. This was disappointing since pork belly is featured in several of the menu items.

We ended up ordering their copious sandwiches, made up of brisket, pulled pork, pork belly and chicken in various combinations. We settled on the Hogzilla, made up of shaved pork ribs, pulled pork, pork belly, fried green tomatoes and supposedly Hoodoo Voodoo sauce. It also comes with copious French fries as well. The waitress said they’d add extra puled pork to make up for the missing pork belly.

The French fries were quite good, but the pulled pork was dry with no barbecue sauce within. We did each get a small 1 oz cup of sauce with our place setting, and we probably could have asked for more, but it would have been better if it had been mixed into the pork.

Hogzilla

If you look at the two pictures of the sandwich, you will see an odd orange square of something or other. The waitress identified it as pork belly crackling, but we think not, as it was hard enough to break a tooth on. And you could play a tune on your metal tray by banging it with that square, which I finally decided was more like petrified bacon. Luckily, we didn’t bite into one! We wished we’d stuck to ordering the ribs.

Hogzilla interior

Their dessert menu looked sort of interesting, especially the Carmelita Sundae, but we didn’t partake. Our bill with tax, but before tip, including 3 beers was $72.

Hoodoo Brown is at 967 Ridgefield Rd and is open T-Th 4:00pm-9pm, F-Sa 11:30am-9:30pm
Su 11:30am-8pm, and takes phone orders up to half an hour before their closing times.

We try ‘Freshly’: delivered meals of little distinction

We try ‘Freshly’: delivered meals of little distinction

Freshly has been advertising heavily on TV and the Internet, promising “meals cooked by chefs and sent to you fresh.” The meals aren’t terribly expensive, amounting to $8.99 per meal in small quantities and $7.99 per meal if you commit to 12 per week.

We too advantage of an introductory offer and ordered six meals, figuring that we would order the second six after we’d tried them out.  As you will see, we never got that far.

We placed our order on March 30 for 6 meals: two each of

  • Slow-cooked Pork and Herbed Gravy with Skillet Kale and Roasted Potatoes
  • Steak Peppercorn with Sautéed Carrots and French Green beans
  • Homestyle Chicken with Butternut Mac and Cheese

We got an acknowledgment that they would be delivered on Friday April 3, and they did come late that afternoon, but after our dinner plans had already been decided as homemade pizza.

The meals come packed in an insulated box surrounded by two sheets of frozen gelatinized water-ice. The meals were cold but not frozen and we quickly refrigerated them. Their literature says that they should keep for at least 5 days, or you should freeze them to keep longer. They also noted that we should use them fresh by the Use By dates, which were April 9 and 10. You can heat any of them up in the microwave in around 3 minutes.

Pork

Saturday April 4, we decided to try the Slow-cooked Pork and Herbed Gravy. We supposed there would be real pieces of pork in the dish, but it was for the most part present only in very small granular pieces, like bits of ground beef. These meals are not for hearty appetites, the pork dish was rated at 420 calories, and the portions were small. But we are dealing with the old Catskills joke here: “The food is terrible and such small portions.”

The pork mixture had an unpleasant aftertaste that grew with each bite. We found we had some leftover homemade applesauce in the refrigerator, and by alternating bites of applesauce with the pork mixture, we were able to finish eating it. The Skillet Kale was another story. While there are number of well-known techniques to reduce the strong flavor of kale, they didn’t seem to have used them. It allegedly contained turkey-bacon crumbles but we didn’t notice them. The taste was simply vile. We rated this dish as one of the worst dinners we had ever had.

steak

But we still had two more meals to try. Steak Peppercorn with Sautéed Carrots and French Green Beans seemed innocuous enough, so we had it for dinner on Tuesday April 7, long before the April 10 Use By date. The beef was actually Flat-Iron Steak, but their literature seemed to indicate that they had marinated it in something, so it was fairly tender.

beef cut opneHowever, by the third bite we knew we were in trouble. There was a taste and aftertaste that was so strong it began to make us feel nauseous, and we didn’t finish it. The carrots and beans were no better. My companion asked, “how can they screw up carrots?” They too had a different, unpleasant aftertaste and we ended up tossing both meals in the trash. The steak is supposed to be “topped with a creamy peppercorn sauce,” but we really didn’t detect this at all.

Since we hadn’t had much to eat, we broke out one of the Homestyle Chicken dishes, with Butternut Mac & Cheese. At first, we though this was going to be a winner, but by the third bite, the chicken tasted odd, although reasonably tender, and we couldn’t finish it either. The only thing we can say is that the mac and cheese was OK. But the green beans had the same off taste as the other vegetables, and we couldn’t finish them either. This may have been the “fragrant garlic oil” but we didn’t note any garlic flavor.

chicken

Now, we’ve eaten in lots of restaurants in a lot of places, and there have been a number of misfires in all those meals, but this is the only time we can think of where we really couldn’t finish the meals because they were absolutely terrible.

We immediately canceled our subscription to Freshly and they sent us nice polite acknowledgement. However, they’ve placed a cookie in our web browser’s database that keeps us from browsing their website further unless we renew our membership. This is unprofessional. Fortunately we have other browsers we could use to look up their prices and policies.

We obviously don’t recommend Freshly at all.

 

 

Ziggie and Mad Dog’s steakhouse—Islamorada

Ziggie and Mad Dog’s steakhouse—Islamorada

If you think that a steakhouse called Ziggy and Mad Dogs is not likely to be of interest, you may be partly wrong. According to the history on the menu, the restaurant was founded in 1952 as Ziggy’a Conch by Ziggy Stocki. And in 2005, Jim Mandich, who had played for the Miami Dolphins as “Mad Dog” Mandich purchased the restaurant. He and his partner Randy Kassewitz refurbished it and opened it as a steakhouse called “Ziggy and Mad Dog’s.”

While basically a steakhouse, the menu does include chicken, pork chops, veal chop and some seafood and pasta. The outside of the restaurant maintains the informality of the original, although the inside is somewhat more formal. But with ESPN playing on TVs in every room, it has a bit of a sports bar atmosphere about it, rather than the décor you might associate with charges approaching $200 for two (with tax before tip).

tables

Every few minutes a drop of water would fall on my head, probably from a leaking air conditioner in the ceiling, which I didn’t find endearing. The waiters are pleasant and knowledgeable, but as steakhouses go, we’ve had better for the same price range.

Our two salads: the Mad Dog Wedge and Mixed Baby Green with Goat Cheese (each $12) were good enough but not much better than you might find at Applebee’s. They also bore little resemblance to the photos on their website.

ribeye

Our Cowboy Ribeye ($40) had a crisp burnt crust and served with Bearnaise ($4 extra) was properly served medium rare. But with the crust obscuring the contours, it was difficult to delineate the bone to cut around it. However, the meat we found was juicy and tender.

medallions

The Smothered Medallions ($36) were easier to work with and more tender, as it was a filet mignon with caramelized onions, au poivre sauce and stilton bleu cheese. It was probably the better choice.

onion ringsIn our mind the Garlic Salted Onion Rings ($8) were the best thing on the menu. They were crunchy and dry to the touch and not a bit greasy. We were very impressed.

Our two scoops of gelato brought the bill to $189 before tip including two drinks and two glasses of wine.

Overall, this is a pleasant enough place, but we wouldn’t repeat the experience. There are so many better restaurants in the mid Keys to try.