Saturday, July 23, 2016

New Sammy's Cowboy Bistro, Talent, Oregon

The photo presented is not the bistro, obviously. No, we took a little road trip up the coast for K-Ron's birthday, which was lovely. We dropped off some black pudding and clotted cream at my uncle's in Eureka, played some golf at the world's worst course outside Crescent City, and consumed vast quantities of exceptional seafood in Newport before K-Ron discovered she really enjoys pub trivia night.

Up the coast to Devil's Punchbowl, through the valley to the wineries at Maysara and Brooks, and on to PDX for some Powell's, a trip out to the house I grew up in, a reunion with my mentor, and a seriously good dinner at Ava Gene's. Stayed with our friends Nancy (former boss, landlord, psychologist) and Al (resembles Hodor to a surprising degree) before heading back down I5, with a detour to Grandma's. Good to see her. She's 98, after all, and she's really into JUNO, the new Jupiter probe, so now I know where the astronomy gene comes from.

But all that is not what this post is about. This post concerns a small restaurant in Talent, just up the road from Ashland.

K-Ron found it, and the Yelp reviews are mostly favorable, which means it's time to stop trusting one or both of the above. I'd done my best to make reservations prior, but no one answered the phone and apparently they've not heard of the Internet. Somehow, K-Ron got through from the road and asked for 7:00. Would 7:30 be okay? Sure. So they marked us down for 8:00.

How do I know this? We arrived at 7:15 and were offered seats at the bar. There was no one else at the bar, but there were three full tables out of ten looking completely exasperated. The bar featured no barkeep, a huge rack of neatly arranged and empty wine bottles, a surly waitress, an old man who seemed like he'd wandered in from the local clinic, and a reservation pad that had us listed for 8:00, though we'd made 7:30 reservations just hours before.

Usually this kind of thing isn't a problem. The bar is all too happy to ply early arrivals with their 200% markup wine. But that wasn't happening. Instead, we were admonished for being early, informed that our table had not been set because they have a policy of not doing things until they need to be done, and offered nothing. No wine list. No bread sticks. Not even a menu we could peruse.

It got better from there. The surly waitress apologized a bit, like that simple act was sucking out her soul, but we learned that the kitchen only serves one table at a time. Then another customer, who'd probably been there for an hour, came to the bar and tried to order a bottle for his party. He was immediately turned away because restaurants aren't, you know, in the business of selling things or making customers happy. Meanwhile, another table's food emerged from the kitchen, but it was left on the bar to get cold as it was only half the order. So wine customer comes back, noting he has another commitment and could they please get some Pinot, when he's informed by mister adult diaper pants (I'm not kidding) that no wine will be served until the mains hit the table.

This is the moment, dear readers, when you have to make the call. No matter how much you want to be part of Gordon Ramsey's film crew, no matter how fascinating it is to watch a clusterfuck so enormous you can't look away, this is the time and place that will determine your near future and the only relevant question becomes, "Is this the arena in which I meet my fate, or is this the establishment that will feel my wrath, with all apologies to Ridley Scott." Are you not entertained?

We split. And had a light, delightful dinner back in Ashland, with enough leftovers--augmented with some Rogue Creamery blue and a bottle of rosé--at the first rest stop south of the California border. I think it's at milepost 768, on the Klamath river. No reservations required.