Saturday, December 02, 2006

Visiting the over-hyped

Last night we went to a long-time Austin institution and a brand new, institution (although it will never quite be “Austin”). We were a little disappointed in both.

First, we went to Dot’s Place. For those who don’t know the story, Dot’s was a little, tiny diner that for years, served home-cooking to a crowded restaurant during lunch. I will admit that we had never been to it for two reasons, 1. we thought it was only open for weekday lunches and 2. it was tucked away and we could never find the place. The restaurant was in this old building, which burned down in 2004. Unfortunately, due to the high cost of insurance, the restaurant didn’t have any and couldn’t afford to rebuild. It took two years, and several community fundraisers, to get Dot’s back in business. She opened in October in Pflugerville, not far from our house. Since we now knew where it was, and since she was open for dinner on Thursday and Friday nights, Doug and I have wanted to try it. However, there always seemed to be long lines. Last night we decided to go.

Normally, we don’t go out to eat when we do home cooking. Occasionally we like to go to Hoover’s and we do take out-of-town guests to Threadgill’s (we like to tell them the Janis Joplin story). Normally, I figure that I can just as easily cook this stuff; then again, we don’t cook it too often because the grease just smells up the kitchen. It’s this strange dichotomy I have being a southern girl who has moved away; I like the idea of home-cooking, but reality is, given a choice I would rather have gourmet Italian, French, etc. than eat collard greens.

Immediately, I saw chicken ‘n dumplings on the menu and was excited. I love me some good chicken ‘n dumplings, especially on a chilly night. I got that and peas & carrots; Doug got chicken fried steak. We thought the pecan pie looked good, and since everything is cafeteria style with a long line, we decided to get a piece to split so we wouldn’t have to go back through the line if we wanted dessert.

First, what I got was not chicken ‘n dumplings, it was chicken and dumplings. I got a serving of dumplings with a chicken leg and thigh. This makes a ton of difference. Cooking the dumplings with chunks of chicken is what gives it flavor. My dumplings tasted like a big floury gob of dough. No veggies, no meat, just dough the thick, gravy-like broth. It had no flavor. I finally cut my chicken off the bone, added it to my dumplings, and added salt and pepper (and I NEVER usually salt my food – I had to here, just to give it flavor). My peas & carrots were cold, with the carrots being mushy (so you know it was true southern-style). Doug also said his corn was cold. I tried his chicken-fried steak and it reminded me of all the reasons I don’t like chicken-friend steak – it was tough and tasted like battered shoe leather. The pecan pie was decent, but you could tell it was something they bought from their distributor; it was not home made. Overall the food was pretty bland and boring and at $20 for both of us, the price wasn’t anything special. We did, however, like the rolls. Seriously, we thought Dot’s Place was seriously over-hyped and don’t plan to go back any time soon.

Not ready to go home, we decided to go to the new Ikea. It’s only the third in Texas and the hype about it opening has been huge.

Pulling in the parking lot, the enormity of the place was a bit daunting. I had not been into an Ikea and thought it would be a bit like Crate and Barrel, with all sorts of cool kitchen gadgets and neat home furnishing ideas. This was not the case. The first part of the store focused on furniture, with several rooms set up. This was great if you want to buy a whole room of furniture, but looking at the design took away actually noticing things like the candlesticks or other possible Christmas gifts. The kids running around, jumping on the furniture didn’t help either. Ikea has the store set up like a big maze – you have to walk along the path they set out for you, meandering through the different sections of the store. You can’t just walk in and go look at lamps, you have to go through all the rooms, then past the couches, bathroom ideas, kitchens, etc. before you finally get to the lamps. There are short cuts to different sections, but you have to be quick to catch them.

We thought the prices were pretty good, but really, none of the merchandise was “oh wow.” Actually, Doug and I agreed that if we were back in our 20s and just starting out with our first apartment, we’d like the store. But for where we are now, it’s just not what we are into.

I think today we’ll focus on low-hype places. I think our big plan is to go to the gem show to look at beads for jewelry and then tonight we’ll to a friend’s house for chili.

No comments: