frankie bones (asheville, nc)
so we tried frankie bones last night. my wife was dressed for a business dinner that was cancelled, we felt like something new, and frankie bones was the 1st thing that came to mind. we were expecting a somewhat adult, rat-pack-esque experience. that's the vibe the place strives for, but last night at least seemed to be family dining night; fortunately the kids were well-behaved, but it wasn't the somewhat romantic vibe we were seeking.
my spidey sense started tingling when we pulled up. the restaurant is on the old gerber site, which is being developed into souless chain hell. yes, frankie bones is a chain, too (didn't recall that tidbit when we opted for it, would have gone elsewhere had i done so), with at least one other location, i believe in hilton head. when we entered, despite the place being half empty it took a few beats too long to be seated. it wasn't enough time to really be irksome, unless you're even more impatient than i am, but enough to notice and wonder at it, especially when we got the table we had been standing right in front of.
once seated and perusing the ridiculously large menu (that's physically large, not necessarily all-encompassing) it took too long for the waitstaff to arrive; i got the impression the hostess had failed to tell our server she had a new table. then again, she may just not have noticed us; the place is not set up for the waitstaff with lots of high booths, dividing walls and corners that make it really hard to keep an unobtrusive eye on things. when she did arrive, i can say she was very nice & helpful. the bread and herbed butter she brought to the table were pretty good; i actually enjoyed the butter, oddly enough, it was a nice change from the now seemingly ubiquitous bread & oil.
we placed our drink order, dirty martini w/ an olive sampler for me and a long island ice tea for my wife, as well as our app order, meatballs in sauce. then it took a little too long to get our drinks. in fact, the app arrived before the drinks. since it hit the table first, i'll start with it. the meatballs were actually pretty good. they were large but light & tender with good meat flavour balanced by herbs. the sauce was fine, but nothing special. they were good enough to get me to change my mind from prime rib to chicken parmesan (i was hoping they had a good handle on the red sauce thing). my only complaint regarding the meatballs is that they were a little watery. the drinks arrived about mid-way through the app. mine was well-balanced, and the hand-stuffed olive sampler was a very nice accompaniment. my wife's long island tea was something else; extremely potent, with little evidence of a mixer. while i am by no means conversant on the various incarnations of long island ice tea, this wasn't even the same color as others i've seen. my wife wound up ordering a coke and mixing it herself (hey, at least she got 3 drinks out of it).
next up were the ceasar salads. don't bother. my first time at a restaurant i usually get the salad dressed as a barometer for the place. my salad didn't seem to have been sitting around too long as is often the case with predressed salads. the croutons were straight from food service, and the parmesan is low end as well. the greens were still crispy, and torn into decent size pieces. the dressing, however, was not good. listed on the menu as a mayfair vinaigrette (not really sure what that's supposed to be, bleu cheese would be my guess, but it didn't taste like it), it completely lacked the depth and taste anchovies bring. my wife ordered her ceasar with dressing on the side, but, in this case, that made no appreciable difference.
the entrees arrived and were similarly underwhelming. my wife got a seafood pasta. linguini with clams, shrimp and scallops. if there was a sauce on it, i couldn't see it. she said the pasta was just ok, but the seafood was fine and properly cooked. as mentioned above, i had the chicken parm. the chicken was decent, but the rigatoni it came with was nearly inedible. the noodles were somehow simultaneously over- and under-cooked, and the whopping 2 tablespoons of sauce "ladled" on were sweet and tasted jarred.
when the entrees arrived is when i ordered a glass of chianti (banfi, by the taste of it) since my wife was still working on her three long island ice teas. depsite eating slowly, it somehow took almost the duration of the meal to procure the vino. i think the bar was running really slow, rather than the waitress being at fault.
as we were stuffed by this point, we skipped dessert, which by then we were convinced wouldn't be very good anyway. with tip and all, the damage came to around $85; about twice what it was worth. for what they offer and the skill level they operate at, i'd save a few bucks and go to carraba's.
a note on the menu: i mentioned it's big, about half the size of an unfolded sheet of newspaper, printed on both sides. the front covers a range of a dozen or so heavy apps, a few salads, ten or so red sauce classics, about the same # of chicken & seafood dishes, plus a dozen or so pork/beef incarnations, and a half-dozen desserts. the best sounding thing was a coffee marinated ribeye, but as one who doesn't like coffee, i wasn't about to drop $24 on it without prior knowledge of the potency. the back of the menu covers the bar. the menu is just too physically large. with just two at the table, we couldn't see each other. i don't know what you would do if there were four people trying to juggle the things. there's also a daily specials menu w/ another 8 or so items; this on yet another, albeit not so large, menu to contend with.
a note on portion size: i had heard that portions were huge, usually not a good sign of quality. they are large, but not excessively so (at least that we saw). i'd say they compare with what stone ridge serves up.
We've been thinking about trying it, good to know we'll probably spend our money on a better meal. Back in my bartending days we had the liquors lined up for the LI Ice teas, five shots one of each (i don't remember all of them) but I do remember the only mixer in it was a splash of Coke. Made right it tastes just like a sweet tea made wrong you really taste the alcohol.
Hmm...that doesn't sound good. (Which is too bad as Asheville desperately needs a good high-concept steak-and-martini joint.)
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