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 time? It was Fiona’s Family Restaurant at 595 East Edwardsville Road in Wood River. The food was very good and the desserts were great!
Today’s review is a second chance. When I dined there previously, I was disgusted by the poor way my fried chicken was prepared, with two pieces overcooked and the other two pieces still raw at the bone. A cheese spread and crackers were provided, but the cheese spread was spicy and full of garlic. The dining room was dark and gloomy, and the server was not at all attentive.
When my dining companion and I walked in this time, we were seated in the same room, but the lighting was much improved. I could actually read the framed advertisements from the early 1900s that decorated the walls. Two other dining rooms are available but usually are reserved for groups. Our server was friendly and energetic, immediately giving us a choice of a table or booth and taking our drink orders. We had water with thick slices of lemon, menus and flatware almost before we could get our coats off, plus a run-down on the specials of the day.
For some reason, I have been craving onion rings, so I ordered them as an appetizer. We were delighted when we were presented with a plate of BIG onion rings, smoking hot and so many that they were stacked up and nearly falling off the plate. I counted at least 15 but kept losing track because my companion kept making them disappear. They were so hot that it was a few minutes before I could pick one up to begin eating. Extra napkins and a bottle of catsup arrived with the rings.
We ordered from the sandwich menu. A friend had recommended the pork tenderloin, so I tried it and my companion ordered buffalo fish on rye. The menu stated that sandwiches came with chips and pickle, but lettuce, onion and tomato had to be requested.
My grilled pork tenderloin came on a large sesame seed bun before we were half done with the onion rings. It came with rippled potato chips, mayo in a little cup, five or six dill pickle slices, one half leaf of romaine lettuce and a small slice of pink tomato. The pickles were sliced thinner than I had ever seen, and the tomato slice was also. It fell off my plate onto the printed paper placemat, and I could actually see the print through it. The pork was very tasty, and the wonderful grilled aroma made my mouth water before I took my first bite. It had a bit of a pepper tang and was very flavorful.
The buffalo came with lots of onion slices, rippled chips, a little cup of tartar sauce and the thin pickle slices. My companion pointed out that it was cooked properly, separating in layers the way buffalo is supposed to. Unfortunately, near the end it still had several bones that could have been dangerous if swallowed.
As our server refilled our glasses, I asked about dessert. There were several selections, including cheesecake, pie, cake and ice cream. My partner ordered turtle cheesecake and I ordered carrot cake with ice cream. I wanted the ice cream because the pork tenderloin was really good, but I wanted to lose the pepper taste. The carrot cake was delicious. It had three layers with cream cheese icing and you could see that it was made with actual grated carrots. The serving was not as large as I had hoped. The rich vanilla ice cream was double-dipped in one of those little cups. I was given a fork for the cake and a spoon for the ice cream. I pointed out to our server that the ice cream cup had a crack in it (I didn’t notice it until it was nearly empty.) She apologized and discarded the cup immediately. My companion was nearly in ecstasy over the taste of the turtle cheesecake.
The restroom I visited was clean and smelled like air freshener. The water was warm and both paper towels and an electric dryer were available.
We paid from the table and I saw no toothpicks.
Cleanliness – three and a half stars
Attentiveness of wait staff – five stars
Food – four stars
Overall – four 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