American Grocery, Greenville, SC
So I went last night for my birthday. It was a nice meal...here you go:
Nice interior, exposed brick, warm woods, red-tinged candlelight, little wine storage area to one side and a private room in one corner. No partitioning of the space, so a little loud. Shockingly, I only saw one empty table when we left about 8:30 on a Tuesday night.
The amuse bouche was cold wild musroom, parlsey and goat cheese salad bite in a spoon. Not too good...I was worried when the meal got off to such a lame start.
Then came the bread, kalamata olive from Annies, my 2nd favorite bakery in the Carolinas. Sourdough imported from la Brea bakery. Unsalted butter (HATE that trend) and rosemary and mint (and honey) flavored olive oil dip that was super-delicious. Loved it. Wish it were soup ;-)
My first glass of wine was a Super Tuscan. It was great! all purple-tasting and caramel-y. very nice.
App (mine) : Braised pork belly, roasted cauliflower, chicory salad. The Pork belly was advertised as crispy, but was not. It was tasty, but I had been remembering some I got in California this summer that was divine. This was not. Cauliflower...i could help them with their technique. Chicory...nice.
App (husband) : Kobe beef and blue cheese salad. That beef was GREAT! I wish I could have all my roast beef sandwiches (it was served cold so it made me think about sandwiches for some reason) taste like that stuff.
My 2nd glass (Rock and Vine?) Cab Sauv. was pleasant, but surprisingly sweet.
Main (mine) : My vension was fantastic. My husband hunts and I've cooked a lot of venison, and I must say this was better than anything I've made. Just the right amount of salt, just the right flavor from the grill, perfectly rare...Loved it (and glad I did for $34). The accompanying wild mushrooms, braised escarole, and hazlenuts were all nice.
Main (husband): Pompano w/ grits, broccoli and citrus. Does Popano always taste like brim? It was ok. The grits w/ broccoli and orange segments just seemed ill conceived to me. A somewhat unsussessful dish IMO, but it tasted fine.
We passed on dessert, since there was birthday cake in my future, but the French Press coffees going around the room made me look forward to having dessert some other time.
All in all, a nice dinner, a few missteps, but I would definitely like to eat there again. I wish it were a bit less expensive, we spent $140 including tip...I suppose that's not that bad today, but it still seems like moderately-special occasion money to me. Am I just getting old and behind the times? (birthday and all, you know)
Thanks for reading.
Glad you took the time to write up this place.
Funny, that they're shipping in bread from La Brea in Van Nuys, CA. Is sourdough not made (well) or very uncommon in the South?
Pork belly seems to be popular all over now. At which restaurant in CA did you have a good pork belly dish? I wonder how pork belly can be braised, yet still be described as "crispy". Did your waiter describe it as crispy?
Was the Kobe beef raw or just served cold?
What parts of your experience make you want to go back? Your review sounds mixed at best.
Hmmmm.....probing questions....let me think ;-)
I don't think Sourdough is as common or as beloved here as in California, although you do find it. My favorite bakery in Flat Rock makes a sourdough, but it's not a typical white bread sourdough, it's more like a Poilane loaf. So...maybe that's it...all the really good bakeries around here are a little bit "hippy/crunchy" so white sourdough may have been hard to come by.
I also note that not everything is local...the two cheeses listed on the "grocery list" they handed us at the end of the meal were Split Creek Farm (Pendleton, SC) and Cowgirl Cremery (Point Reyes, CA).
Menu described the Pork Belly as crispy. Waiter described it as braised, and then pan seared to make it crispy. Eh...it had a paper thin layer of crispy, I suppose. Now that I think about it, I believe I was in Nevada when I had the lovely Nuske pork belly at a restaurant overlooking Lake Tahoe. The name is escaping me right now.
The Kobe was cooked very rare and then chilled.
Why would I go back? The venison dish was just fab...I forgot to mention that farro was incorporated as well. Nice toothsome contrast w/ the wild mushrooms. That, and the quality of the beef make me hopeful that they are in fact using good sources, and I think the cooking was solid even if they did do a few things I wouldn't have. I will take creativity over consistency as a rule. Also, I wouldn't mind trying they're cheese plate and their house made doughnuts at a later visit, plus I thought the wine by the glass service was above average. Further, I think it's hard for "seasonal/local" places to really shine this time of year. I'd like to try them when produce is plentiful.
BTW, I forgot to mention that the service is *slightly* pretentious. The dude who brought out the courses kept explaining what I was looking at using the syntax "this is going to be the "x" and it's going to be served with "y" and finally you're going to have a drizzle of "z". ???? I mean I'm looking at it...whatever it's hoping to be when it grows up...it already is. I was temped to say "look I've been in a restaurant before and I read the menu...just drop off the food quietly" ...but of course I smiled and tried to look entranced. Strangely, our waiter was not the one who brought the food...i guess they wanted to use their food-description specialist ;-)
Hehe...Did your food-description specialist have slicked-back black hair and kind of an odd accent...or maybe it was a oddly deep voice? He definitely made the dining experience a little surreal. But I do like the concept of describing the dish, since I usually don't remember every component from when I read the menu!
Thanks for the response. Regarding the service, it is common at expensive/formal restaurants for there to be a head waiter (captain) in charge of a certain section, but that the food would be served by runners. The waiter will some times bring the dishes, if required, but mostly he/she checks on things, answer your questions, refill your wine glass, etc...
The exhausting description of the dishes during service can annoy me too at times, but there are also times when I forget some of the ingredients that are painstakingly listed in the description of the dish on the menu.
Bingo. It burns me to pay NYC prices for Greenville food and it's becoming increasingly more common for G'ville restaurants to want that kind of money. And really, although I consider my review of AG above to be a good one (although not ecstatic), if I had gone there in NY I would have left PO'ed. If I'm going to give G'ville restaurants a break because they're in G'ville, I would really like to pay a little less.
I was curious about your avg home/condo price guess, so I just googled it - try $137k (now that won't get you a new starter mansion...but those go in the $400k realm)
I agree that you can get good food for a lot less in Asheville, but have you checked the property values up there? ouch!
We've been complaining about the same thing lately (big city prices) in Hendersonville and Brevard (and to some degree Asheville). We went to Flight (H'ville) a week or so ago and the "specials" (although I think they called them "features") were $33 for a NC Grouper entree and $36 for a T-bone steak!! That's special all right!
It seems like within the last year or so, the average entree for an upscale restaurant went from low-mid 20s, to low-mid 30s. What's up with that? Some suggest part of it may be higher fuel costs (for trucked items), but still...
First off, thank you danna for sharing your experience.
You may actually be thankful for passing on dessert though. I ordered the lemon tart the last time I was there and it tasted like I was chewing on aluminum. It was way too metallic tasting, and it is rare for me to turn down dessert, but I was very, very unimpressed.
I did find something interesting in your post. I've read several of the articles written up about this restaurant and in all of said articles they discuss the importance of local, sustainable food. Pompano is a fish listed as "Avoid" on the Seafood Watch List because it is severely overfished, so I find it very odd that a restaurant based on local and sustainable food would even order Pompano.
That just makes me curious about the other selections on their menu now.
I do agree with you on the prices though, as they are a bit too high for G'ville.
Well, that is interesting about the Pompano. I'm also surprised. I checked AG's website to look for the name of the Super Tuscan I liked (and found it at Whole Foods for $12.99) and the sample menu seemed a bit more more appealing to me than the one we had. In particular I noticed scallops (my husband's favorite), and Wahoo...which I believe is a local(well, you know, relatively) fish and which was delicious when I had some recently at FIG in Charleston.
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