Last week, Chris’s mom and family friend Carol came through Lansing on their way to Traverse City for a family wedding. Because they were traveling with a dog, hotel options were limited. We found them a place over in Okemos and met up for dinner after work.
I don’t know that area of town too well. I do know that we were all quite hungry and wanted to go someplace nearby. I immediately thought of Gilbert & Blakes or Stillwater Grill. I’d never been to Gilbert & Blakes and only to Stillwater once, about a year and half ago.
I knew that Gilbert & Blakes was meant to be a more upscale dining experience and they specialized in steaks and seafood. I mentioned both places and Chris’s mom went for G&B.I should mention this now: Chris’s parents moved to the Florida Keys a long time ago. Chris and his 2 brothers grew up eating fish and shrimp and lobsters caught with their own hands. As an adult, he’s extraordinarily picky about what he likes and avoids frozen seafood at all costs. We’ve had fish and shrimp shipped from the Islamorada Fish Company via overnight to avoid the scary frozen fish department at Meijer. We rarely got to seafood places around here, presuming the fish is frozen.
Gilbert and Blake’s flies the fish in daily. Which would explain why their Ahi Tuna entree was $30. Way more than I wanted to pay especially since I had no idea what I would get other than a piece of fish. When we arrived, we were seated and brought waters, given the regular menu and a slip with the current fish and shellfish offerings. No one ever explained what your options were for the Tuna, Snapper, Sea Bass or other items on the list. I’m sure you had your choice of preparation: pan-fried, baked, grilled, etc. But sides? Recommendations? None of that.
Our server was obviously a bit harried. The restaurant was not busy but not dead either. On one of her whirlwind trips by the table, she mumbled “someone …sick…in the kitchen… earlier today.” Now, does that mean someone who works in the kitchen called in sick? Or someone was sick in the kitchen? The implication was they were short-staffed which happens but I wish I’d asked for more clarity on that comment.
Being short-staffed, the service was not great. I know it happens and certainly the waiters and waitresses have no control over someone else calling in. And the manager can’t go haul a sick person out of bed just because. But a manager can help out by keeping an eye on drinks, coming by the table to explain and offer apologies, etc. Not at this place though. On several occasions I noticed the hostess and a man in his mid-60s standing at the front of the restaurant, looking at the tables but not actually doing anything.
So, the service was sub-par, let’s move on to the food. We decided to start with an appetizer or two. The waitress said the bruschetta came with 4 pieces so that seemed ideal. Fresh bread is also served with the meal so we stuck with just the one appetizer.
The bruschetta is served with a sun-dried tomato pesto and Parmesan cheese. When she brought it to the table, it was a little sad looking. Not a lot of topping and the pieces of bread looked limp, if not soggy. The flavors were fine but again, more fresh topping would have been nice.
For our main dishes, it breaks down thusly:
Carol: Steak Bites and Crepe Aubergine, both from the appetizer menu
The steak bites are chunks of sirloin sauteed with mushrooms, onions and peppers. Carol said it was a little too spicy.
The Crepe Aubergine is thin sliced eggplant inside a crepe with cheese, baked. This was different and pretty good.
Chris and Kathy: both chose the Grilled Duck served with Traverse City Cherry chutney. Kathy opted for the scalloped potatoes and Chris chose the rice pilaf. The dinner also included a side of mixed vegetables.
I wouldn’t say the dish got rave reviews but it was considered “all right” by both Chris and his mom. Kathy thought the duck was a little too fatty, or rather that the kitchen should have trimmed some of the fat off before serving. Chris liked his duck and the vegetables but thought the sauce was a little weak.
Courtney (me) went for the Seared Ahi Tuna from the appetizer menu and a Caesar Salad.
The tuna was exactly what I’d expect, rare sashimi sliced tuna with some soy sauce, ginger and wasabi. There was also a scoop of seaweed salad on the plate. The dish was served with chop sticks, a nice touch (and I used them) but at $11, seemed a tad over-priced.
When I ordered, I stated I wanted my salad and tuna together with the entrees for everyone else. Instead, I got the salad first so picked at that for 15-20 minutes, feeling bad that no one else had anything to eat. The dressing was non-descript and there was too much of it. The croutons were good and the sprinkling of roasted red peppers was a different but welcome addition. I have yet to find a place that makes a Caesar dressing quite like the one served at AppleWood Cafe, run by the students at Mott Community College’s business and culinary programs. Creamy and lots of garlic with no overt anchovy taste, its just delicious.
You’ll notice, no major seafood items on our tab. And the total, before tip, was still $89. And no wine either. The only non-water beverage was a Diet Pepsi. In looking for information about the restaurant after the meal, I checked out their lunch menu on-line. I’m intrigued by the Lobster Grilled Cheese sandwich so a return visit could be in order but I think I’ll stick to the afternoon menu.
Outdoor seating (pet friendly), private party rooms and catering available.