Monday, September 15, 2008

Highland Grill - Same as it Ever Was

On a drizzly miserable Saturday, Laura and I decided to band together and bombard the St. Paul consignment stores. We needed our own version of Back to School shopping and wanted to save some money.

First things first, we needed lunch. Who shops for skinny jeans on empty stomach? (Except maybe those that can actually wear skinny jeans.) We had talked about going to the Strip Club, but that was just a little too far. I suggested Jay's, but then drove by the Highland Grill. They had a new sign out front advertising a new menu. I was intrigued.

My hesitation to mention this restaurant were a few fold. One, I used to live in this neighborhood and every time I'd attempted a meal here I left disappointed. In fact, the only time I can remember ever dancing out of this place, high on life was when Matt asked me if I'd be interested in moving in together. He was going to take me back to the Uptown of my youth! Yes! I squealed as the lights went out. The kitchen was powerless and we were forced to go for greasy/wonderful Vietnamese egg rolls at Vina across the street.

Plus, the parking sucks, the seating is cramped and sometimes the college aged waitresses are kind of idiots.

Still, I seem to be in the minority here. Also, Laura, Andy and I had a phenomenal evening at the Edina Grill, owned by the same people. I figured maybe it was time to give it another try. I warned Laur to bring her parking patience and to meet me there in a few minutes.

I was seated at one of the small tables in the middle. I gazed longingly at a booth. Again, only once have I not gotten stuck at one of these cramped spots. It was the One Happy Experience.

Laura breezed in just after me. She was all dolled up in a pretty shade of deep salmon, jazzy earrings swaying against her golden hair. I pulled my baseball hat lower and wished for lipstick. Who goes shopping looking so glamorous? I came ready for the Step Up 3 - Over tha 3-0 straight to DVD shoot.

After a whole lot of dillying about we settled on our orders. I struggled to figure out what was new about the menu other than the newly elevated prices. Elvis burger, turkey burger, Ahi tuna melt were all there. Nothing struck me as new or inventive compared any other time I've been there.

Laura had the herb marinated chicken on ciabatta and I got the bison burger. I also ordered a glass of wine and she had a beer to ease us into the shopping groove.

The building was bustling and full even though it was nearing 2:00 in the afternoon. There were kids laughing and shrieking and LOUD TALKERS discussing the mundane. We spent our wait catching up, but considering we are in almost constant contact, there wasn't much we missed. I was starving, so the food took longer than I wanted it to.

Finally, it arrived. My first problem, does this look like a $12 lunch?

The buffalo patty was puny. The French fries weren't much, but I wasn't really expecting anything all that fancy, but did expect some substance. The greens looked beautiful and tasted fresh and light.

Laura put together her first gooey bite after arranging her various dipping sauces before here. Garlic mayo, chipotle "pesto" (I still do not understand how blue cheese and chipotle makes a "pesto") and good ol' Ranch dressing. She is nothing if not a condiment appreciator.

I put together my burger for my first bite and it was... sweet kind of sickly and off putting. The already dressed greens and the caramelized onion that appeared to have been doctored with sugar were just way too much together. There was about four times the bun to burger ratio and even beyond that - EW - the entire thing did not work. I tried scraping the onions off, but nothing was improved.

Remember in college, or maybe it was late high school when your one friend was flirting with every guy at the party - including the one that you told her you really like, so could her skank self please back off this one for once? Then after she's been doing shots of Rumpleminz and Butterscotch Schnapps all night you catch her with her tongue down his throat even those she pinkie swore promised she would never do that to you? So there you are, trying not cry and find you jacket because although you drove her there, she could find her own fucking ride home. When all of a sudden that girl from Honors English, or maybe it was Bio, anyway she tells you that your friend is passed out in the bathroom and you'd better go check on her. You go into the bathroom where she whimpers something indiscernible and starts to heave again. And that is when you find yourself crouched on some strangers bathroom floor holding a frienemy's hair back while she pukes. She turns to you and breathily proclaims, "You are the best friend ever." That smell? That's what I tasted on this burger.

So I scraped off the mayo drenched greens, but still. The flavor was there. I guess I was grimacing because Laura said, "You don't like it do you."

"No. How's yours?"

"It's okay. The chicken is cooked well."

I don't want to be spending $12 on a sandwich that I could have better done for $6.

I felt so dumb. I knew I didn't like this place. I knew I always thought it was overpriced and yet, because I'd had some good times at this kid's sister in Edina, I thought some how things had changed. I thought that maybe I'd get to leave with that feeling of triumph. Instead I ended up eating nothing but French Fries while moaning about how the whole world was against me.


At 2:19 PM , Anonymous kp said...

Hmmm, yeah. HG for lunch is probably risky at best, I would agree. I do have to step in, however, and give 'em props for breakfast. My standard for b-fast dishes is the "skillet" style mix of potatoes, eggs, meats, and veggies, all smothered in cheese and maybe hollandaise sauce. At HG, it is their "Hot Hash and Holly". They tweaked it with the menu change and added a different cheese (no longer cheddar...maybe muenster now?) and I think they hit jackpot with that move. They are obviously competing hard with the Cecil's b-fast crowd. Cecil's, you may remember, is just a few blocks up Cleveland, and they have a terrific (and Kosher) "Heavenly Hash". I always ask the server for the eggs over-easy instead of scrambled...they balk every time (duh). But, back to HG...other than being a "establishment" of the 'hood, I can completely agree with your review here, with empathy. But I will gladly have breakfast there any time.

At 2:40 PM , Blogger Joy Estelle said...

I had an okay breakfast there not to long ago, so I'll concede that meal. Really, I wish the room was bigger. If they could just kick out one tenant on that block (ahem - Chinese buffet) and move everybody down. Then they could get a real bar in there and loosen up the seating. That might help me learn to like them since I did adore the Edina Grill.
And Kris, my darling, of course I know Cecils. Their matzo ball soup is heaven in a bowl. I'll have to try the breakfast tip!

At 6:22 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmm. I concur on the b'fast thing. I do really like their pierogies, however.

I've enjoyed the HG for years, but for some odd reason have always had really bad luck at the Edina Grill. It's like we have opposite mojo for these restaurants. Perhaps the Longfellow Grill can please us both. Have been there 3 times, all enjoyable.

At 4:53 PM , Anonymous Peggy said...

I like the Chinese Buffet. It's better than HG


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