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 recognize the restaurant that was reviewed last time? It was Johnson’s Corner at 2000 State St. in Alton. The experience was much better than my previous visit, and it received my very first five-star rating for its excellent service!
I don’t know if this will count as a second chance or not, because this restaurant moved out of town since the last time I was there. The location seemed to be jinxed and I wasn’t impressed when I visited.I wasn’t very satisfied with what I had ordered and some of the dishes seemed to be too salty.
I was leery to return, but thought I’d give it another shot. I hoped things had changed in the kitchen.
The parking lot was crowded and the large dining room was well-filled. The foyer was delightfully decorated with pictures of movie stars. In spite of a sign that said to wait to be seated, a pleasant server told me and my dining companion to sit anywhere we pleased. I chose a table near the white board that described the specials of the day.
We were greeted warmly by our stylishly dressed server. She had menus and flatware in front of us within moments. Another minute and the ice water with lemon that we ordered was before us, along with a basket of crackers. The flatware was not wrapped in a napkin, but was inside a narrow paper sack. There was a napkin dispenser on the table, along with coffee creamer, sweeteners, pepper, salt and jelly. Few places provide jelly on the table anymore. However, there was no butter or margarine provided.
I chose ravioli with meat sauce and a salad as a side order. For a dollar more, I could have added another side. The ravioli came with breadsticks. I asked if the breadsticks were dipped in garlic butter and was told that they were. I substituted Texas toast. My companion ordered catfish, coleslaw, and beef and barley soup (because the chili was sold out.)
My salad arrived with a small bowl full of poppyseed dressing. It had iceberg lettuce in the middle of the salad bowl, cubed croûtons on one side, yellow cheese on the other, two grape tomatoes, two thick cucumber slices and bacon bits. My companion said that the soup was good, but still wished it was chili. I was pleased to see that it was served in a real bowl and not a little four-ounce cup. The coleslaw came next, by itself. I was still eating my salad when the ravioli and catfish arrived.
The ravioli were covered with meat sauce and slices of white cheese. After a little digging, I was able to uncover one and saw it was a fluted circle as big as the palm of my hand, and there were LOTS of them. Delicious! I was a little nervous about trying the Texas toast, but it tasted just as it should. My companion made short work of the two catfish fillets.
The restroom I used was clean and had warm water. The other restroom needed attention and the trash can was overflowing. The restroom door would not shut all the way, which was aggravating.
For dessert, my companion had sugar-free chocolate pie and I had sunshine cake. This was a large slice of orange cake with lemon buttercream icing topped with lemon curd. We both enjoyed our desserts, but if mine had been one bite bigger I would not have been able to finish it.
I never had to ask for a refill even once; our busy server took good care of us.
Toothpicks were available at the payment counter.
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