No, it is not a hard-to-find restaurant, but a new column for AdVantage News! Each week the Secret Diner will post a review of a River Bend eating establishment. The Secret Diner will not review chain or franchise restaurants, only privately owned ones. About the rating system: zero stars would mean avoid at all costs, one star is pretty bad, two stars is merely fair, three stars is OK, four stars is good, and five stars is perfect! Before posting a negative review, the Secret Diner will give the establishment a second chance at a different time of day. See if you can determine the name and location of the restaurant under review! The answer will appear in next week’s column.
Did you figure out the restaurant that was reviewed last week? It was High Flyers Grille, located at 16 Terminal Drive in East Alton, on the grounds of St. Louis Regional Airport. The photographs on the brightly colored walls are all of famous people standing near planes, or of famous pilots. My dining companion enjoyed his B-52 burger and cheesecake, and I exulted over the soup (in spite of its tiny little bowl) and delicious whitefish. I just needed more napkins and a spoon for my dessert. We recommend High Flyers Grille and awarded it a four-star rating, which is very good!
My dining companion and I were tired after a long and busy day, and decided to stop at a restaurant where we had eaten many times. Business was brisk, and it took a while to find a parking space. Walking in, there was a whiteboard in the tiny foyer listing the breakfast specials, which were very reasonable and available for all hours that the restaurant is open.
There were two dining areas, one of which is long and narrow on the outside wall. All the seating there was booths. This area had oil paintings on display for sale. The other room was L-shaped and had both booths and tables available. There were decorations on the walls and it always seemed to be busy, busy, busy!
The hostess told us to sit anywhere and we chose a table close enough that we could see the two whiteboards that advertised the day’s specials. There were several all-you-can-eat offers, along with regular meals that were a dollar less than the menu prices.
We were directed to a table in the middle of the main room and our server came to take our drink order. I immediately noticed, to my dismay, that she was coughing, and not covering her mouth when she did so. We had water with lemon, per usual. My dining companion and I both ordered the half-chicken special, with one side item. For my side I ordered the chicken soup.
We were each given a knife and fork, wrapped in a napkin, but each table had a napkin dispenser, so there were as many napkins as needed. There also was jelly, jam and apple butter in single-serve packets, which is getting to be unusual now. While we were waiting, we saw a gentleman request a particular table, but it had not yet been cleaned from the previous patron. The hostess asked to him to wait at another table until “his” table was ready. While he was waiting, a server cleaned the table and gave it to a different party who came in a little later.
I was a bit shocked when my soup came out, because it was just given to me in a bowl with nothing underneath it. The server had to hold it by the extreme upper rim of the bowl, which, not only being unsanitary, put her at the risk of being scalded. Soup should always be served either in a wide-brimmed soup plate or on a small plate under the bowl.
As I mentioned, we each had a knife and fork when seated. I tried to let my server know that I had no spoon. She replied that she was looking for one (?) Then she presented me with a teaspoon. I asked, “Don’t you have a soup spoon?” Her reply was, “I can’t find one.”
I began to eat the soup with the teaspoon, which is not deep enough for soup. It was a full-size portion, at least a cup, unlike the soup at my most recent review. The soup was delicious, hot and savory, but I had to keep crumbling crackers into it so that I could get it to my mouth.
The chicken arrived in four nice big pieces and smoking hot. It was very good. We were each given a hard, flat, little biscuit. Opened and covered with jam, it tasted better than it looked.
I had to flag our server down to get a refill on my water. We were done for a while before our check was given to us. Many yummy desserts were available, but we were both too full to even think about it. When I went to the cashier to pay, I mentioned that there had been no soup spoons available. The cashier seemed irritated and mumbled something about the servers throwing them away when the plates were cleared. Then she said, “Isn’t a teaspoon good enough?” I replied, “Not for soup!”
The restrooms were at the back of the main dining hall, in a little alcove. There always seems to be something stored there, such as a mop bucket or highchairs. The two all-white restrooms always appeared to need cleaning. Perhaps it was the floors that show every scuff, but they never had that just-cleaned feeling.
Toothpicks were available at the cashier’s desk.
As I said, my dining companion and I have eaten at this restaurant many times. If I was writing this review when it first opened, I would have given it five stars on everything. Now, I just can’t do that. However, the food is still excellent and reasonably priced.
Suggested improvements – If the server has to cough, it should be away from the diners and contained with a tissue, a paper napkin, or at least an elbow! If soup is served, it needs to be served properly with a small plate under the bowl to prevent the server’s fingers from touching the food and protect him/her from scalds, and a soup spoon should always come with it. Last, if a diner has a suggestion or complaint, he or she should be listened to respectfully and the issue seriously considered.
Cleanliness – four stars
Attentiveness of wait staff – three and a half stars
Food – four-and-a-half stars
Price – $7.99 for a half-chicken and one side, on special
Over all – three and a half stars
Can you guess the name and location of this restaurant? See the next issue of AdVantage News to see if you are correct!
The Secret Diner