And with that, servers all over the city breathe a sigh of relief. Of course, I was one of the people who waited a bit too long to book my reservations and ended up going in the weeks after the official “restaurant week” had ended. And to be honest, with all I’d heard, I was a bit nervous. Were my experiences going to be awful because the servers and cooks were just tired of it? Apparently the answer was both yes and no. I visited both Hector’s on Henderson and Dragonfly and let’s just say one left me with great anticipation of when I would return and the other left me with great regret. Jump to hear about the good and the bad….
My first venture was to Hector’s on Henderson with a group of friends. Everything started out well enough, but just one course in, the disappointment began. I ordered the avocado as this was my first time to visit Hector’s and I’d heard wondrous things about this signature dish. What I expected was an avocado split and stuffed with melted Wisconsin cheddar and chunks of lobster, lightly fried to perfection and topped with a mound of pickled onions. What I got was a tiny avocado stuffed with not-melted cheese and one piece of lobster so small I practically needed a magnifying glass to find it. It was topped with three puny onion slices. It wasn’t awful, just a little sad.
For my main course, I opted for the Hector’s stack. Everyone else at my table had already claimed something different and I was trying to avoid ordering another item with an up charge. (What’s the point of the three course prix fixe menu if they have insane up charges for their best items?) The description sounded delicious and I was intrigued. It arrived with the sirloin stacked on grilled bread and hash browns, topped with a fried egg and surrounded by a cayenne hollandaise. It probably would have been noteworthy had my steak not come out medium-well instead of medium-rare. It was tough to cut and even tougher to chew. The portion size seemed to mirror my appetizer. My fiance ordered the sea bass (for a $9 up charge) and what came out was neither aesthetically pleasing, nor did it have much flavor. Plus, the piece of fish was so small, it was gone in the blink of an eye.
Dessert was just a disaster and I still don’t understand what I got. I ordered the white chocolate banana moon pie. One of my biggest criteria for a truly great restaurant is if they can take something I would never think to eat and create something that I can’t put down. This was not the case. However, my dinner companions thought the dessert was wonderful, so maybe I’m just not a moon pie kind of gal.
As they scooted us out of the restaurant, I felt the money I had spent on food and drinks could have been spent much better elsewhere. Although I’d be interested to go back sometime other than restaurant week, my fiance said he was not. I wholeheartedly agree with Nancy that most of the servers were probably tired of restaurant week and therefore service may have been lacking near the end. But most of the food on the Hector’s restaurant week menu was the same as the regular menu. So, what’s the excuse? I guess my question is, if you’re going to half-a** something, why do it at all?
Restaurant week at Dragonfly was a completely different experience. I never felt rushed and our server was chatty and helpful. We started with the crispy calamari salad, plentiful and extremely addictive. The calamari was tender and tossed in a Thai chili dressing that was the perfect blend of spicy and sweet. They could have served me another helping as my entree and I would have been perfectly content. By that time I had sucked down my peach jalapeno martini, which our server suggested, with no problem and longed for another. (Warning! It gets spicier the longer you leave the jalapeno garnish in.)
The Windy Meadows chicken arrived next, poised on a bed of mashed cauliflower and served with chickpea fritters. The chicken breast was so tender I could cut it with my fork and the portion was so large I was unable to finish it. The fritters tasted like tiny falafels creating a nice contrast to the simply seasoned chicken.
Desserts were straightforward, a peanut butter layered cake and New York style cheesecake, but satisfactory. At that point, I had enjoyed everything else so much, I could overlook the fact that the desserts were lacking some pizazz.
I was thrilled that I hadn’t been burned again by restaurant week. I was curious, so I asked our server if she was ready for restaurant week to be over. She said, “Honestly, yes.” She explained that it’s not because of the people who come to the restaurants, but rather the lack of specials. She said that was one aspect she loved about working there–how the menu constantly changes. Restaurant week, or month in the case of Dragonfly, prohibits that. Though she finished her slight diatribe by saying she still appreciates restaurant week because it gives her the chance to hit spots she could normally never afford.
The bottom line is that many of us may moan and groan now, but this time next year, we know we’ll be picking up the phone and making plans to visit as many restaurants as we can. Maybe the lesson is to hurry and make reservations for that first week and not wait until the last minute…like me.