Sunday, August 16, 2009

Dunaway's


Sadly, I think hubby summed up this experience on the drive home. “Mediocre food with crappy service.” Several years ago we dined at Dunaway’s and had a nice meal. However, we were the only two people in the restaurant on that night, so the service sort of had to be good, but we also really enjoyed our food. We have been wanting to go back, and when I checked out their menu for Devour Downtown which is going on this week and next, and it looked good (and hey, they are even offering 4 courses for $30) so it seemed like the time was right.

I did make a reservation because, even though at many restaurants in this town you probably don’t need one, I think it is nice for the restaurants to be able to plan who is coming in and sometimes, you need them. Anyhow, the restaurant was actually doing a decent business when we got there, which I took to be a good thing. However, as it turns out, most of the people there did not make a reservation and the staff was somewhat overwhelmed. There was only one server working on the main floor and bar. While she was personally nice, she was clearly in the weeds from the moment we got there. I spoke to her about it at one point, and she said it had been tough because for the last few months, during this recession, they had lost a lot of staff and now, with Devour Downtown, it looked like business was picking back up (the point of Devour Downtown right?) and they were sorely understaffed. The bussers were certainly helping as much as possible (it looked like there were 2) and delivered a lot of the food and kept the water glasses full. But it wasn’t just the front of the house, it seemed like the kitchen must be understaffed too, as the food came out ridiculously slow. I ordered the devour downtown menu, which was four courses, but didn’t get my first course for at least 35 minutes. Wine glasses ran dry and stomachs were grumbling. And it wasn’t just us, it was pretty clear it was the story across the board.

Now, if you read my blog, you know I don’t generally start out with a long rant about service, but in this case, I had to. It is the main thing that stood out unfortunately. But let’s get to the food. So, as I said, I checked out the Devour Downtown menu online, it sounded good. When I got to the restaurant, it was totally different (which has since been changed online). But no biggie, I can certainly change my order, but it sort of irritated me that I had chosen it based on the online menu, and it wasn’t accurate.

Anyhow, I do appreciate they are trying to make it different by offering the fourth course. I started with the grilled shrimp with citrus relish (pictured). Hmm. What to say? Except it wasn’t good. It was super hard and rubbery and I only ate a couple bites of the two shrimp on the plate. For my second course, there were two salad choices, although they hadn’t gotten their radicchio for the radicchio salad offered, so I got the other choice, the house salad (pictured) which was mixed field greens with roasted red peppers, pine nuts, cucumbers, grape tomatoes, and gorgonzola with a balsamic vinaigrette. The salad was much better (I had mine minus the red peppers—not my fave) and the greens were nice and spicy and complemented well by the dressing. It wasn’t spectacular or anything, but a nice house salad.

Hubby chose not to order off the devour downtown menu, and just ordered off the regular menu. He chose the Piadina (pictured), which is described as Italian flatbread with taleggio, proscuitto and apple to start. First of all, it wasn’t “flat” bread at all. It was quite poofy. The server warned us that we might not like it if we don’t like strong cheese (which we do) but didn’t mention (nor did the menu) the big swipe of Dijon mustard on the bottom. The flavors that were mentioned on the menu were nice together, although the bread was not helping, it was way too bready and burnt on the edges, but the mustard was overpowering everything else. My suggestion: leave it off.


For my third course, I had the grilled dry rubbed chuck tender (pictured). (There was also a chicken dish and a salmon dish). It was pretty good. The beef was rubbed with a nice seasoning blend, grilled and served over sweet corn and a pico di gallo with peppers and red onions and a tomatillo salsa. The flavors were nice together and overall, this was probably my favorite thing. Obviously, they aren’t giving you a super high end piece of meat for this price, but they did a good job with it.

Hubby had the deconstructed nicoise salad which was seared pieces of tuna with all the stuff of a classic nicoise—green beans, potatoes, olives and tomatoes. It was sort of plain. The tuna was good quality (sushi grade yellowfin) but hubby (and I) thought it was pretty ordinary.

The dessert that came with the devour downtown menu was a nice sampler of three things (pictured): Bourbon crème brulee crème caramel and warm chocolate soufflé. It was all pretty nice. I liked the chocolate the best and the crème brulee second, and when you mixed the two together, even better. The crème caramel (like flan) was my least favorite, but not awful or anything. And the plate could have used some garnish to give it a little color. I’m just sayin’.
The interior of this place is quite nice, reminds me of some of the old inns we used to eat at in England. Wood paneling, old creaky chairs and a nice darkened interior (even when it is still so bright out). They also have an outdoor seating area on the roof which I have read many positive things about. However, we went up there to check it out on our way out (it was so hot we had no desire to sit outside) but I have to say, I wasn’t overly impressed. There are some nice views of some of downtown, if you don’t mind staring directly into the sun. Also, there are huge exhaust fans blowing what I assume is all the kitchen exhaust up and out which are pretty loud and make the atmosphere less than ideal in my opinion.

Anyway, I think the purpose behind the Devour Downtown idea is to get people into restaurants who might not normally eat there due to cost during what is a typically low period for restaurants. If they have a great experience, they’ll probably come back. However, with the current service issues at Dunaway’s, at least on the night I was there, that purpose will likely not be met. Hopefully, if they learned something from the night I was there (it was the first night of Devour Downtown after all), they have staffed up a bit, and Dunaway’s can make a stronger showing.


Dunaway’s Palazzo Ossigeno
351 S. East Street
Indy 46204
317-638-7663
http://www.dunaways.com/

3 comments:

  1. I ate on the roof once and have to agree with your quick impression: not a good experience. As you mentioned, the view is about the only nice thing to be said about it. It's completely unprotected from the sun, plus the fans, plus the less-than-stellar table/chairs, plus it seems like a hassle to the servers that slows down service speed and check-in frequency. Even the couple plants they have on the roof looked ill-cared-for.

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  2. I realize that they need the business, but...

    It would be better for a restaurant that is grossly understaffed to greet guests with "do you have a reservation?" and suggest 30-45 minutes to enjoy the wine list at the bar rather than seat them and provide sub-par service.

    I dislike an unexpected wait, and I dislike being turned away, but not nearly as much as I hate bad service.

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  3. I too was excited by the Devour Downtown menu at Dunaway's and was severly disappointed. Our service was acceptable, a little slow at times, but nothing terrible.

    They didn't have the advertised salad that I was really interested in, only the house, but as you said, a decent salad. And we were not impressed with the entrees. I got the salmon and my husband go the chuck tender. Basically both plates had the corn and pico de gallo and then the protein thrown on top. The corn tasted like it was from a can and my salmon was so salty it was on its way to being cured.

    We also were not impressed with the dessert. It reminded me of all the pastries set out at an all inclusive restaurant.

    I agree the point of Devour Downtown is to bring in new customers, like myself. But given our experience we are in no rush to go back.

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Thanks, Erin