I’ve always been a little intimidated by this place. I’m not sure why. I love me a dive bar and I’ve lived in major cities around the country stumbling into every kind of establishment I could find from the most impressive of restaurants and depressive of dives. But the idea of walking into a restaurant of patrons that are possibly there four out of five days a week just tells me that I’m only a beginner and have to earn my place there.
While I was waiting for the rest of my family to arrive, I ordered us three appetizers. (My sister was in town from Boston with her east-coast boyfriend who I assumed had never even heard of a “corn nugget” let alone dipped one in ranch.) Plus, I was intrigued by the spinach & artichoke rangoons and frankly flabbergasted that in a town overrunneth with bar-food fare, albeit at times creative, that this was the first time I had ever seen anything like this. Along with battered green beans and a plethora of ranch dipping cups, we had our first course. As I sampled our selections, the only thought running through my head was “I need a beer”. Green Beans? Maybe a touch of salt. Corn nuggets? crunchy, sweet from the corn, good. Rangoons? Even better. Who would’ve thought you could capture a spoonful of your standard Spinach & Artichoke Dip in a crispy wrapper? I’m not sure you even need the ranch for this one, although what doesn’t taste better dipped in ranch. Even the cheese curds are better than your standard bar food, dipped in a thin layer of batter before being fried, I could eat five in a hand full, and I tried. But I tasted nothing that distracted me from deciding a cold beer would be better with all thee above.
HOWEVER the tides turned when my tenderloin arrived. I learned the hard way that pretty much NOWHERE outside of Iowa serves breaded tenderloins. In Milwaukee, I would search (via the web and on foot) through the state of Wisconsin for a breaded tenderloin to no avail. NYC? Not a chance. And Chicago- well, I was close enough now so I would just wait for the real, good thing. So I figured, I’m back now and I couldn’t go wrong with the Cajun Tenderloin. I had no idea how they did it, how they “kicked it up a notch” but if I could buy a vat of the homemade cajun sauce for my own personal collection, I would consider bathing in it. Topped with your typical tenderloin accoutrements, I was racing the gentleman across the table from me to see who could finish first, devouring the lettuce/onion/pickle/tomato/amazing mystery sauce collaboration. Like trying to unsee the birth of a baby, I’m not sure I could go back to eating tenderloins the “plain” way again. Upon my last visit, I had the honor of being served by the owner. After a bit of badgering about this mystery sauce, he only admitted that it was created 12 years ago, and it was mayonnaise based and…. it’s a secret. Beyond that point, he wouldn’t budge. Damn, I’ll have to take other measures to unlock this holy grail.
As I tried to sneak my almost-empty cup of cajun sauce out the front door with me, I checked their specials (they have a new one every day), memorized the open hours, and noted their phone number to ensure that this ragin’ cajun experience would be accessible to me in my moments of (food) need. And the cold beer, of course.