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Monday, December 15, 2008


Black and Tan Grille: An OK Meal Tonight

Had a business dinner tonight at the Black and Tan Grille, one of Appleton's more upscale and pricey establishments, right next to the trendy Coppperleaf Hotel. When I have dinner at a place like this, I always hope to be wowed or inspired by something I encounter. I was wowed a couple years ago when I tried them at their old location on Highway 47, but tonight was a slight disappointment. Perhaps my high expectations were the problem. The meal was good, the service was fine, the decor was pleasant - but the "wow" wasn't there for me in the food this time.

Before our orders came, there were three or four kinds of French-style to choose from, including the seemingly exotic red pepper and garlic bread and a green and black olive bread. They were OK, but I didn't like the texture or the not-so-crusty crust. The waiter brought them in a large basket that only he could see into. He described the various kinds and asked us what kind we wanted, the used tongs to place bread on the plate. Would have been nicer to have a small basket placed on the table so we could see and choose ourselves. Would have been even nicer if the bread was warm. I assume this bread was fresh, but it wasn't very exciting.

My house salad was OK, but not great. It was a nice pile of spring greens with a tart balsamic dressing. At least one of the leaves should have been thrown out -- had that unpleasant "overly aged" taste one gets from wet lettuce that is beginning to decompose. This can be hard to catch, but it was a glitch. The salad also had cherry tomatoes that weren't suitably ripe or tasty. There was little else to the salad. Some croutons, cheese, olives, or other additions would have been nice. And while I'm a big fan of vinegar, the vinaigrette was too tart for my taste.

I think most people would have loved the main course I chose, the halibut. With my high expectations, based partly on frequently cooking fish just the way I like it, I am easily disappointed at restaurants - probably should have ordered the lamb or another "safer" red meat dish. When ordering, I expressed my general concern to the waiter that seafood is often overcooked in this area. Not wanting to have rubbery halibut, I asked how the chef fared on this task. I was assured that he would cook it right. Unfortunately, it was slightly but distinctly overcooked in my view. It was good, and perhaps most people would have thought it was just right, but it was a little too tough. The spaetzli bed and red cheese sauce accompanying it was pretty good, and the strips of red pepper and onion were perfectly cooked and delicious. No lemon came with it - might have helped. The waiter wasn't around when I realized lemon would be helpful.

When the waiter came by later and asked how it was, I mentioned that it was just slightly overcooked, and he offered to have another one prepared. I probably should have done that, but was halfway done or more and didn't want to bother.

The other two people enjoyed their meals for the most part (though one had only one taste of his tomato soup then stopped - didn't like it). The lamb shank was said to be very good and looked well prepared and presented. The steak also looked tasty. Deserts were rich and good, but the selection was rather limited - several heavy cakes or tiramisu. With a little peer pressure, I tried a chocolate ganache. Heavy, rich, good dark chocolate flavor - but not quite something to blog about.

It was a good meal for the others, an OK meal for me. Just barely missed being delightful - maybe next time.

The decor is pleasant but not really interesting or distinctive. A few paintings scattered around, nice wall coverings, a few winter holiday decorations in low levels of light.

Would I try it again? Sure, as long as someone else is paying! Hope to give them another chance in the future, because I know a lot of people like this place and they do have some interesting items on the menu (but only one vegetarian dish - stuffed peppers). Wish me better luck next time!
Thank you for this review. My wife and I, who aren't particularly well off, celebrate our wedding anniversary every year by going out to eat where we normally can't afford to. Every year we have chosen Lombardi's steak house in the Radisson Paper Valley Hotel. After a disappointing meal experience there one year, we were thinking about going to Black and Tan. After seeking advice from friends and family, the reviews for the Black and Tan were all mediocre at best. After years of Great experiences at Lombardi's we decided to give them another try. The experience was great again!
Very interesting! It is always handy to be informed about what you might get for the money.
I've also heard that Lombardi's is on the rebound. Would love to try it again. Maybe for some really special occasion....
I've had amazing, amazing meals (salmon to die for) here and also a just OK meal (plain steak) here. the last amazing meal was on a hopping Friday night, and the just OK was on a dead night right before a major holiday. it might be that the "A team" is only cooking on busy nights.
I've eaten here a few times with my wife. We make sure to request Craig as our waiter and are always taken care of. If you ask, they will prepare other vegetarian entrées.
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