We were so excited when Richie opened this bistro in Mt. Greenwood - we had been long-time customers of his Blue Island Pizza joint, Giuseppe's, and anticipated a more adult place to dine. Our first two or three meals here were delightful, an elegant departure from the typical casual offerings of the neighborhood. Business must have been good, because an expansion soon followed, but the quality of the cuisine began to slip. Were we becoming jaded? We found more to complain about - the menu seldom changed, and the ingredients seemed less fresh. The service suffered at times, and the overall experience simply not what it had been in those first heady months after opening. Richie recently renovated Giuseppe's, now called Richie's Too (see review) and quite frankly, we'd rather go there now. The homemade Italian dishes and sauces done so well at Richie's Too are almost absent here, and the bistro-style fare seems tired. Now that his little family place has grown into an elegant swan, the big sister seems tatty. After all, it is all about the food. We will continue to visit Richie's, in the hopes that improvements will come, and because there are simply so few choices in the area. But we are getting a little tired of settling.
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It is so hard to find a restaurant that still serves the full relish tray, so impressive to the under-twelve crowd, that harsh criticism seems to stick in one's craw. Ken's is the kind of restaurant that our parents took us to, and made us wear a tie. It is the kind of place that served a "businessman's lunch", with Manhattans aplenty. The food is mostly old-style and hearty, and the portions suited to that fabled businessman. Certainly the recipes have been lovingly handed down since the Eisenhower Administration. There are no surprises, and the familiarity is nostalgia-inducing. They are tolerant of children diners, and the waitstaff seems to have collective eons of experience. Prima-donna diners stay away; new-fangled notions of cuisine and atmosphere will not be tolerated. Is the food good? Yes. Is it comfortable? Yes. Is the service acceptable? Yes. Could Ken's be described as "hip","trendy" or in any way "nouveau"? Never, ever. The place is a museum of mid-century fine dining; they'll be griping about the smoking ban for decades. Wear vintage clothing and Brylcreem and you might have a total time-travel experience.
I'd say that no more than half of Americans have had the sublime pleasure of partaking in a homemade tortilla. And, you can credit that number to the Mexicans that call America home. Made-from-scratch tortillas are a thing of beauty; they're far, far superior to their factory-created counterparts, and based on the number of ingredients they take, it's a wonder why more cooks don't make them. Ahh, such is the convenience of our economy, though. We opt for what is fast and cheap, shunning that which is from the root. Lucky for us, a few places in town, including Huaraches Restaurant, serve only homemade tortillas. In fact, Huaraches makes more than just tortillas. Via an old-school, well-worn Mexican tortilla press, it pops out crude but perfectly shaped sopas, gorditas and huaraches flecked with black beans, which are my favorite. A real huarache is a traditional Mexican sandal (you'd know it if you saw it) made from a leather weave or sometimes the soles of tires, and the food version sort of looks like the shoe.