Sunday, September 28, 2008

Country Cat is so fired.

The first visit to the hipster restaurant "The Country Cat" was okay. Mediocre bloody Mary, but attentive service and pretty tasty food (lemon preserves in their hollandaise were unusual but very good.) Somewhat on the high end for prices, so I never went back. The second visit was awful.

Loni and I did our traditional pre-hike breakfast, and chose this place again as it was almost on the way. We had a tattooed waitress with reddish Betty Boop style hair who was...attentive, but colder than ice. It didn't seem very busy, but she seemed really put out when pressed to provide service.

It all started to go downhill when we asked for EXTRA SPICY bloody Marys. We got the same ones as last time, if not weaker. Also, the last time we were here, the waiter/bartender guy suggested the Indio wasabi vodka because we were discussing local liquor. Took a bottle of it to a little party, thinking it'd make an interesting addition to the mix. As it turned out upon sampling, this vodka bears more than a slight resemblance to diesel fuel. You could see what they were attempting with this blend, but they failed badly... Oh well, hopefully it got drunk eventually. The guy making this recommendation would probably be the same guy mixing your Mary.

Our entrees were the huevos rancheros. When you pop $11 for a plate of the absolute cheapest down home ranch food you can imagine, you'd expect a lot of food, right? Or that it would be the most amazing plate of beans and eggs on tortillas you'd ever had, right?
    Not so much, either way:
  • Two tortillas.
  • Two eggs, over-poached (sigh.)
  • Some cheese.
  • A smattering of beans.
  • An ocean of mediocre green sauce.
  • Some mediocre salsa.
  • A dollop of sour cream.

I just priced this out, and the actual food cost of our meal was approx. $0.92 per plate. I just spent an extra $10 a plate for the vibe of having brunch in a stupid hipster cafe for an unsatisfying meal with an irritated waitress? That's one strike for the price, one strike for the food, one strike for the service. I don't even have a strike left for the drink.

Okay, that's as mean as I can be to this place. It'll succeed anyway. We need more breakfast places in this town.

Below is rambling, for my future reference. I'm just saving my thoughts on this visit, and it is pure blahblahblah. You should run away before your brain dissolves into the vapid essence of "my theory of what happens to restaurants", part one million.

I figure what happened is this: someone had an idea for a nightclub and breakfast cafe that was cool. Really cool. Awesome decor, awesome space, awesome staff. Everything would set the right mood, and be attended to so that everyone was happy. Drinks, food, music, it would have it all!

They pulled it off. It's called the Doug Fir.

Everyone else has been distant second comers for that competition, unfortunately. D.F.'s got a hotel on site, the best location close to both hipster SE and downtown, and they've been up for a while and getting better (fortunately!)

The Country Cat seems like a D.F. that could have been. It feels like it's getting burnt out and overloaded. They've lost the attention to detail that make a place stand out. It's attracted all the wrong folks (me and mine), real people, who aren't awesome! We're not the hung-over hedonist hipsters holding down semi-grown-up jobs who spend slightly too much money who frequent the night life part of this restaurant scene. We're just good food people, and normal folks, and neighborhood locals. On the menu, you make like your food is the bomb. But it's not. It's just fairly well executed regular food on a larger and faster production scale. For the prices, I could be eating at Francis or Genies or the Doug Fir or even Screen Door!
They all do it better and they're all bigger operations! I'm not sure what the Country Cat folks pay in rent, being that close to Stark's finest oddball storefront set. Tan-n'-tub (Your [sic] going the wrong way!), Foam Products, Ya Hala (my mind has a conscious association Ya Hala=Good), and a farmer's market. Maybe some of their food is from there? I can only hope...

I feel the same way about the Screen Door as I do about the Doug Fir. They've been up for a while, and they keep getting better! How is this possible? They get more expensive, but not really, and not by much more than the rest... I just have to give props to the places that make it, and that stay true to their food. It makes me want to eat out ALL THE TIME, just to see what'll come up as a special on the chalk board.

Francis also goes in this category. Their message is something like this: "You can always come for standard breakfast fare! Our specials are very well constructed. Eggs, good bacon, excellent breads, potatoes, pancakes, french toast, etc. But today only, you can try *THIS*!" Usually it's amazing. At Screen Door, it's always a meat or seafood dish, rarely anything vegetarian unless it's on their small plate list. Their breakfast standard fare involves fried chicken and waffles, which is AWESOME, just don't even think about going up Hamilton Mountain at speed if you eat the whole thing. I wanted to vomit several times during the ascent, and may have suffered minor strokes during the hike due to congealing fat in my brain.

It took, literally, half a bottle of weirdly watered-down Tabasco to bring the bloody Mary at Country Cat up to snuff. We even had to ASK for the Tabasco, like they were surprised it wasn't spicy enough... Their Mary has beef jerky on the skewer with a non-pitted olive and some sweet pickled green beans. Big deal. Save your jerky, pit your olive, and sweet has NO PLACE in a bloody Mary! Bring some HEAT, peeps! We ask for extra spicy, the appropriate response is "Would you like scalding, scorching, or face melting?" and that's it! Better yet, why don't you pit your olive and stuff it with an habanero, so you can shut up numb-skulls like me when we ask for it? Not too much to ask, I'd think, unless the rest of your clientele are completely wankers.

The best response I can think of from the house, when asked for a bloody Mary, Extra Spicy would be to offer the equivalent of a Salvador Molly's Great Ball o' Fire.

Those things are no joke, I ate the whole set of five with ALL the sauce at the old S.M. off Belmont only to find out the jerks had no film for their Polaroid camera. Later that night I felt like I was dying from the pain of the capsaicin-laced cheese passing through my body. I can handle one of these, no major problems. I even find it sort of exciting! No more than one, because that's when life gets all ugly. I'm pretty sure I was hallucinating for a bit after eating them.

Anyway, WAY too many words later, I arrive at this: Nobody makes a super-hot bloody Mary. I think it should be a mark of pride for a breakfast place to offer a superbly crafted and extremely remarkable Mary, virgin or otherwise that BRINGS THE HEAT. If nothing else, purchase a vial of Satan's Blood and throw a couple the drinks according to heat preference! My very first Genie's Bloody Extra Spicy was THAT HOT! Totally on fire in my mouth and brain, feeling awake and alive and fantastic. And on fire. Hot hot hot hot. Now, when you get a Genie's Bloody Extra Spicy you have to dump half a bottle of the Secret Aardvark sauce in 'em just to wake them up. Is that entirely me? I doubt it, I still have the same sensitivity to Tabasco I've always had. My spicy scale is still calibrated the same way. Maybe they aren't instilling their vodkas as long, or they aren't changing their peppers as often.

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