Monday, July 18, 2011

Sam Snead's Tavern - Your Grandfather's Restaurant?

Tucked away in Hillview Village there's a restaurant that's the epitome of the "Old Boy's Club." Not that I've ever been in an old boy's club. Cause I'm a girl. And I'm not that old. But it's what I imagine an old boy's club would look like. It's dark, decorated in green and brown with lots of wood paneling and has more golf memorabilia than you can shake a 9 iron at. Sam Snead's, named after the top American golfer who won seven majors, is the quintessential man cave. It's the furthest thing from a chic hotspot, and it's not even as hip as other sports memorabilia-type restaurants like Shula's, but I figured there had to be a reason people were packed in there like sardines.

We were ushered to a half-booth, half-table in a corner and had to squeeze in, making apologies to our neighboring diners. The service was spot-on and we were quickly asked for our drink order. We also asked for her recommendations and she, of course, suggested the House Specialty Baby Back Ribs. Well, you don't have to tell me twice! I hadn't had ribs since Christmas, so I ordered up a half slab. However, when you're from the home of the world's greatest ribs, there are high expectations to live up to. But first, I ordered up a House Salad with honey mustard dressing to start. At only a $2.95 add on charge, how could I pass it up?

Honestly, the salad was nothing to write home about. The dressing was tangy, as it should be, but I've had better. And the salad itself was the usual combination of lettuce, tomato, cucumber and onions. They sprinkled a few sunflower seeds on top, but it wasn't really enough to make the salad unique. Even just cheese and some croutons would have been nice compliments and would have made the salad a bit more substantial.

Okay, now back to the ribs. I honestly expected to hate them (as I hate most ribs that aren't Montgomery Inn). But they were actually a pleasant surprise. They were tender, devoid of fat and coated in a smokey-sweet, molasses-based BBQ sauce. The meat easily fell off the bone when bitten and the outside had that nice little crunchy texture. My only complaint is that I usually like my ribs to be served dripping with sauce, so that I have enough to dip my meat in (and let's face it, my fries too). I did ask for a side of the sauce after the fact, but my server was so busy that she forgot to bring it out. After about 15 minutes, hubby inquired about the sauce and she apologized profusely and ran off. When she returned, I had only one rib left. My advice - ask for the extra sauce up front. The rest of the plate was acceptable as well. The fries were golden and crispy and the coleslaw was crunchy and zippy. All in all, I stuffed myself.

Hubby went for the Shrimp and Lobster Pasta. I really thought there was no way that a joint known for their ribs would be able to pull off a decent seafood pasta too. But again, I was proved wrong. The combination of shallots, garlic, white wine and tomatoes made for a creamy, savory sauce with a little kick. And the shrimp and lobster were cooked perfectly - tender and juicy. Some places tend to overlook the seafood when it's going to be doused in sauce and covered with pasta. As if putting something wet on top of something dry will cover it up. But there's no sauce on earth that can cover up chewy, rubbery seafood. Luckily, it wasn't a problem for us here.

It was a solid performance - better than average, but not outstanding. Good enough to make you feel as though you had a decent meal. As the waitress placed the dessert menus under our noses, I was ready to shrug it off and just go home. But then I read the description for the Xango (pronounced Chango) - crispy fried pastry shells filled with warm cheesecake, rolled in cinnamon and sugar, garnished with raspberry sauce, caramel and whipped cream. SHUT THE FRONT DOOR! Please promise me you'll eat one of these. PLEASE. It's for your own good, I swear to you. Get up off your couch and go get yourself a Xango! Just one bite and you'll be happier than a pig in apricot glaze (well, I'm not sure if that makes the pigs happy, but it sure makes me happy!). I convinced hubby to get an order of Xango to go, and as the sugary sweet scents wafted through the take-out box, I could barely wait to make it home and eat the crap out of it. I mean, seriously, look at those things!

They're like a cloud from heaven, rolled in angel dust and coated with melted harp strings. More literally, they're like a churro wrapped around a cheesecake and drizzled with the sticky-sweetness of caramel and tart-sweetness of rasbperry sauce and fluffy-goodness of whipped cream. You are completely powerless to it's awesomeness!

I took one bite and instantly turned into a lioness protecting her kill (as if I could kill cheese and pastries, pshaw). I turned my back to hubby and told him the dessert was "horwibble" as I continued to stuff my face. But he had already gotten the scent of raspberry on the air, and I was out of luck. Forced to share. Like always. And then seeing the moment of joy on his face as he took his first bite - eyes rolled back, mouth open with a groan of delight - made it all worth it. That Xango is LEGENDARY. Next time I'd skip the salad and go straight for dessert.

This may be your grandfather's restaurant, but that's not all bad. Grandpas are great at making things. And while they don't always turn out perfect - they're usually pretty darn good.

saraSOtasty Rating:
Atmosphere - C
Taste - B
Presentation - B
Service -B+
Price - $$$

Restaurant Info:
Sam Snead's Tavern
1860 South Osprey, Suite 100
Sarasota FL 34239
Website Link

Sam Snead's Tavern on Urbanspoon

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