Monday, March 5, 2007

Another Lesson Learned Through the Power of Chicken

If there’s one thing in particular that I struggle with as an aspiring food critic, it’s prejudging restaurants before I even walk through the door. I usually grant favor to smaller, locally and privately owned restaurants with limited and focused menu.

In contrast, larger chain restaurants with a novel for a menu tend to turn me away – as they’re usually overpriced and underwhelming. And thus, this past Saturday, another lesson was learned: don’t judge a restaurant by its façade.

Sweetwater Tavern, located west of the beltway in Centreville, Virginia, looks like your typical mall parking lot restaurant. A large single story structure pretending to be from the old west, the inside of the restaurant is simply huge. Upon entering, you’ll find a small micro-brewery to your left, and a waiting area to your right. Ahead of you is the massive dining area, split in two by a large sunken bar.

At the far end of the dining room, extending the entire width of the restaurant is the open kitchen, where an army of cooks with red hats add dressing to salads and grill all varieties of protein.

Arriving at 5:50, our party, over a dozen people, had to wait over an hour for enough seats within proximity to be found – luckily the bar had some standing room, and those who wished to commenced with the drinking.

When we finally sat down, the service was crisp and attentive, which was quite impressive considering the number of people in the restaurant.

For an appetizer I had a “Tex-Mex Eggroll” – which was essentially a small burrito filled with chicken, cheese, corn and beans, served with a side of “avocado dipping sauce”, aka guacamole. Surprisingly slight and very flavorful, the dish, which came with four of these eggrolls, was enough to keep four of us held over until the main course.

Along side the appetizer was a wonderful bread basket with some sweet butter rolls and some slices of some sort of cheddar sourdough bread – all warm and served with a nice whipped butter.

For my entrée I ordered the half young chicken, which was served with a side of mashed potatoes and couple spoonfuls of corn salsa. The chicken was very tender, and complimented well with a pool of brown butter sauce, that in my opinion made the dish. The potatoes and chicken was surprisingly warm for such a large restaurant with so many people eating at once – so often when a restaurant is busy, especially with a side dish, food comes out at room temperature when it’s supposed to be served warm or hot.

Kyle, the man of the hour, the reason for dining out that evening, got the short smoked salmon filet, which was well seasoned and wonderfully tender. It’s very easy to overcook salmon – especially since I am one who prefers it raw, but the kitchen defiantly did a good job with the piece Kyle was served.

For dessert, skipping the sadly traditional and abhorrent practice of waiters and waitresses singing happy birthday, our waitress presented Kyle with a complimentary plate of the warm flourless chocolate waffle – which tasted more like a waffle/brownie hybrid. Served with a sizable scoop of vanilla ice cream, I didn’t have much of it, but Kyle certainly seemed to enjoy it.

In the end, while it’s not the type of restaurant I’d wonder into on any given night, the food on my plate more than made up for the noisy atmosphere and hour long wait. I don’t make it out to Centreville often, but I might just have a reason to now.

Sweetwater Tavern
14250 Sweetwater Lane
Centreville, Virginia 20121
Sweetwater Tavern

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Look at how pretty that birthday dessert! Very fun!