A good square meal

Photo By David Robert

This location is semi-famous in town for being the former location of a Hooters restaurant. Since then, several businesses have fought hard to throw off the mantle of the building’s slightly naughty past.

Tailgate Bar & Grill is the most recent incarnation of the joint that sits next to two chain restaurants, doing its best to stand out in the already overpopulated “Bar & Grill” world. The interior is a standard bill of fare, with a peek of semi-open kitchen and a setup for karaoke. Booths line the opposite wall of the long, rectangular dining room. It feels a bit like a wide railroad car. Decorations run the gamut from vendor-supplied beer signs to antique automotive accessories. A television on the wall was broadcasting The Food Network when I arrived, much to the obvious delight of the cooks on the line. The server told us that the cook working that night was her favorite because of his attention to detail. That is always nice to hear.

The night Tony and I dined at Tailgate’s was pretty quiet, with just a few other tables occupied in the dining room. We took a booth and checked out the offerings. The menu offers few surprises, but it sports decently priced, basic foods that lean on tradition and rib-sticking portions rather than force an attempt at avant-garde. Breakfast is available earlier in the day and consists of tasty-sounding four-egg omelets, pancakes and Belgian waffles. The rest of the menu covers the bases of salads, sandwiches and special entrees.

We began our journey with a sampler plate of appetizers ($9). This was a realistic cross-section of the appetizers for those who don’t like to have to choose which item they would like to have tossed in the deep fryer. Any appetizer on the menu that wasn’t fried did not end up on this plate. Not that there is anything wrong with a sea of golden-brown goodness, but even just for the sake of color, it could have used some variety. Cream cheese-stuffed jalapenos, fried zucchini, onion rings and chicken strips are tasty but tend to be a bit palate-coating after a while.

I went after the sandwiches and chose the chicken Philly ($6.50). The whole chicken breast was tender and juicy, topped with grilled peppers and onions and gooey melted Swiss cheese on a crisp and chewy baguette. It was a bit messy to eat, but tasty and filling. The generous mound of potato salad on the side had a good texture but contained a bit too much pickle for my taste. There are about as many ways to make that salad as there are people that eat it, so that was no big deal.

Tony had the pork chops ($8.25). They were pan-seared and came on a platter with brown gravy (for dipping the forkful of chop), a slightly over-seasoned pile of vegetables and a mess of mashers that were soft and slightly garlicky. The pork was tender but a little bland. My advice is to get a little of everything on your fork at once, and you will probably do just fine.

While the servers here wear considerably more clothing than the Hooters girls did, they are also nice and sweet as pie. Our food arrived in a timely manner with a smile, and there seemed to be genuine interest in our enjoyment of it.

This is a decent, not-too-smoky place to take the family for a meal. It might not set the world on fire with innovation, but it competently accomplishes the menu it sets forth. Sometimes that is just right.