Friday, October 28, 2011

Howlett’s Tavern

Festival Park Plaza
Chester, VA 23831
(804) 930-1034

*** Due to a recent experience at Howlett's Tavern, where I had a great time, had great service and excellent food, I hereby change the overall rating  from one star to three stars. I even think that I will revisit there in the furture.

            Last week I bought a Groupon for Howlett’s Tavern. I paid $25.00 for 1 appetizer and two entrees (a $55.00 value).  So this Tuesday, after a very stressful weekend, Amanda and I decided to use my Groupon and unwind a little. Little did we know that we would leave twice as frustrated as when we entered.
            Walking in Howlett’s, located in the Chester Village Green, it was well decorated and very inviting. The soft lighting and candles on each table created a very romantic atmosphere. We were seated and the hostess lit the candle on our table. It had all of the makings of a very pleasant dinner. Our waitress and a trainee arrived at the table quickly to take our drink orders.  I explained to them that we had a Groupon, so that there would hopefully not be any confusion.
            In a matter of minutes our waitress was back with our drinks and a loaf of delicious bread.  Because the Groupon included an appetizer we ordered fried calamari. I ordered the surf and turf with prime rib and the so called “Best Crab cake in Chesterfield County” with cole slaw and onion rings. Amanda ordered the New York Strip with steamed broccoli and onion rings. After we ordered, Amanda’s best friend Amy Sordellett walked up, she just happened to be eating at Howlett’s and noticed us. I had to use the washroom so I excused myself and let them catch up. When I came back Amy had rejoined her family. This was the end of the pleasant part of the evening.
            Our food arrived rather quickly. We received our Steaks and sides but did not have our Calamari yet. When, I asked the waitress what happened to our appetizer she informed me that I had not ordered an appetizer( I knew that I had because it was part of the ) but she would gladly put an order in for me. She apologized for me not ordering an appetizer at first. I was a little upset about this but let it blow by since we would still receive what we paid for though be it in the wrong order. 
            I was thoroughly underwhelmed by the food in just about every aspect, save the onion rings but honestly it’s almost impossible to ruin onion rings. My prime rib was very large but extremely flavorless. If it had not been for the au jus sauce it would have had no taste. The “Best Crab Cake in Chesterfield County” was the biggest lie I’ve ever heard. Not only was it not the best crab cake in Chesterfield County, it might be one of the worst crab cakes in the county.  It did not have jumbo lump crab meat but thin stringy pieces held together by a lot of filler and then deep fried. I would bet the crab cakes at Captain-D’s taste as good if not better.  Talk about false advertising. The cole slaw was very creamy and tasted of nothing but mayonnaise. The onion rings were the only part of the meal that was enjoyable. They were large, with a thick cut onion and a perfectly fired exterior. When we were half way done with our entrees, we were served our calamari appetizer.  Not only was the calamari served late, it was also extremely chewy so much so that some pieces were almost inedible.  It was served with marinara sauce and a white sauce both of which tasted excellent.
            Normally after such a lack luster meal I would be very upset. But I thought to myself, it wasn’t very good but at least Amanda and I both ate for $25.00 or so I thought. I knew something was amiss when the waitress came to the table to explain the bill. I knew that I had to leave a tip and pay for Amanda’s glass of wine but what she told me blindsided me.  She informed me that the “surf and turf” was not one entrĂ©e but a steak with a crab cake added on and add-ons do not count on the Groupon so I had to pay an extra seven dollars for the “Worst Crab Cake in Chesterfield County.”  To add insult to injury she also explained to me that there is an automatic 18% gratuity added to Groupons. Neither of these were explained to me until I received the bill. So on top of the $25.00 I paid for the Groupon, I had to pay another $25.00 for a total of $50.00.
            I should have saved this one as a Halloween Special because it was that ghastly, horrible and terrifying. Not only will I will never go back to Howlett’s Tavern but I will actively tell everyone I know to never frequent the establishment.  The food was bland, the service was horrible and they totally ripped me and everyone else who ever uses a Groupon there off.  Please never go to Howlett’s, I know it advertises very good specials and from the outside it looks very nice but it is truly a terrible restaurant with very low scruples.  You’ve been warned!!!


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Leone's Italian Restaurant

5234 Oaklawn Blvd
Hopewell, VA 23860

This dreary little restaurant is one of Amanda’s family’s favorite places to eat. It seems perfectly at home sandwiched between an ABC store and Tops China in the desolate Crossings shopping center in Hopewell.  If the location does not scare you away the interior of Leone’s just might.  With a large finger print covered mirror on one wall and faux wood paneling with faded beer advertisements and pictures of what appears to be Italy on the other it has all of charm of an abandoned house. The only cheery decoration in the whole establishment is a sacred heart of Jesus picture way in the back of the restaurant which seems eerily out of place.
Leone’s tries to pull off the same scam as many other Italian restaurants in the Tri-Cities, Hispanic people pretending to be Italian. I really don’t think that this has any bearing on the quality of the food, although my favorite Italian Restaurant, Pino’s, is run by actual Italians, I just thought that it is funny.  Honestly, you have to respect any person or family willing to open and operate a restaurant especially in these trying economic times.
Leone’s menu is just about the same as any other Italian Restaurant in the area but it lacks specialty Italian entrees that make others stand out. It is especially lacking in the seafood department. But it does have all of the classics like spaghetti, lasagna, various pastas and subs and pizza. It is all done decently but nothing stands out or has any sort of “WOW” factor. The prices are competitive, but there are far better Italian restaurants in every direction.
Last Saturday night, Amanda’s parents invited us out to dinner and since we were already out with nothing else to do we figured it would be nice to have dinner with them. Since Amanda adamantly refuses to eat at El Nopal, her mom’s favorite restaurant, we went to their other favorite restaurant, Leone’s.  While I always enjoy spending time with her family I never really love eating at Leone’s.  It has never been inedible or totally disgusting but it’s just very average Italian fare.
This time I ordered a calzone and added pepperoni, it was $7.95 plus $.99 for the pepperoni. The calzone arrived quite some time after Amanda and her family received their dishes. The calzone was about the size of a medium pizza flipped in half. While it was pretty large it was very thin and did not have a lot of fillings. It was filled with mozzarella and ricotta cheese and the pepperoni I added. If I hadn’t the pepperoni it would have had practically no flavor at all.  I will say that it was accompanied by a large saucer of marinara sauce which was more than enough to last the whole calzone, which is unusual. Although it was a sufficient amount of marinara sauce it was watery and tasted canned and premade.
I’ve had the same experience with Leone’s every time I go there. It has all of the standard Italian dishes and is edible but nothing stands out as great or even really good. If there were no other Italian restaurants within 20 minutes I would go Leone’s on my own accord but since there are far better Italian restaurants within five minutes in either direction I will gladly drive the extra few miles for a great Italian meal. With that being said, I’m sure I will be going back to Leone’s in the future; not because I want to but because it is one of Amanda’s parents’ favorite restaurants and because I love her and them I will keep going back.  

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Longstreet’s Delicatessen

302 N Sycamore St
Petersburg, VA 23803

 This last Saturday Amanda and I were in downtown Petersburg at the Festival of Grapes and Hops. The Petersburg Chamber of Commerce did a very good job with this event. There were a lot of different wineries from around the state offering tastings.  Virginia truly has some awesome wineries. The only critique I could give is to have a few more breweries and food vendors next year. After a very good time and many, many “tastes” of delicious wines and beers we decided that we needed to get something to eat to help us sober up a little.  There are numerous delicious places to eat in downtown Petersburg but we felt that Longstreet’s would do the best at sobering us up.
Longstreet’s Deli is a very rare eatery; it is as good of a bar as it is a restaurant.  I can go to Longstreet’s for either lunch or dinner or for drinks and have just as good of a time either way.  They have a pretty good selection of beers on tap including some of my favorites, Woodchuck cider, Blue Moon and Shock top. During lunch it is more of a deli than a restaurant. You have to go to the back and order from a smaller menu than there is for dinner. No matter what time it is a waitress still waits on you bringing your food or refilling your drinks.  Both the lunch and dinner menus have a very good selection of sandwiches, Paninis, burgers and salads. In addition to the lunch items, the dinner menu also offers pizzas, pastas, and entrees.  No matter what your taste is Longstreet’s will have something you will enjoy.
Because it was not quite dinner time, Amanda and I ordered off of the lunch menu. Amanda got her usual, the salad plate. As lame as it sounds, the salad plate is actually a very good deal and is quite tasty.  It comes with salad, chicken or tuna salad, pasta or potato salad, fruit and a dessert for about $7.00. Amanda loves it and almost never orders anything else.  I decided to go with the Italian Panini but asked for it without olives and with Italian dressing instead of pesto. They were more than happy to accommodate me.  I chose from a wide variety of sides to accompany my Panini, everything from pasta or potato salad to onion rings and homemade chips. I went with the frips, very thin French fries.
            It was not long before we received our meals, just long enough for us to know that our meals were freshly prepared. As always, Amanda was extremely pleased with her selection even though they were out of chicken salad and she had to eat tuna salad. She said that the tuna salad was actually better than the chicken salad. My Italian Panini $7.97, was also very delicious and made exactly how I ordered it without olives and Italian dressing instead of pesto. It was nice and crispy on the outside but the meat, cheese, and peppers inside were still juicy and moist. What I was most impressed with the ideal amount of Italian dressing they used. It is very easy to under or over use Italian dressing but they managed to do so expertly.  The frips were also cooked perfectly. Thin and crispy but not burnt. Amanda is a French fry diva. They have to be the perfect crispiness for her to eat them.  This time they must have been cooked to her liking because she almost ate all of my” frips.
            Longstreet’s Delicatessen is always a fun, enjoyable, and delicious time.  It has great food, a very fun vibe and reasonable prices. The only flaw that the restaurant has is the picture of President Obama on the wall.  If it was just the President staring at me it might be enough to keep me from frequenting this delightful establishment. Luckily it is of President Obama with the owners inside of the restaurant. I can’t blame them; I don’t care what your political leanings are, if  any president came into your restaurant to eat you would put their picture up on the wall too.  With that being its only major fault, I highly recommend Longstreet’s Deli to anyone. Go for dinner and stay for a few drinks and socializing.