Monday, November 06, 2006



Play Ball! Dave and I hit the highway, headed towards Williamsburg's Monticello Marketplace. Spectator's, a sports bar bearing the catchphrase "Food & Fun", had recently come under my radar. Our afternoon out coincided with the Australian MotoGP; nothing I like more than taking care of business in one fell swoop.

We arrived minutes after the race had started. A quick glance at the multitude of monitors revealed the prevailing sport of choice: football. The host quickly assured us it would be no problem to change the channel. After locating a suitable booth, we were seated, menus in hands, watching the exciting first lap. The cool thing here are the table-top speakers, which let you tune into the set of your choice. Nice touch!

Say it ain't so, Joe! Several minutes passed before our waitress popped by the table. It was only 4 o'clock, so we requested a couple of Budweisers, with the warning that we wouldn't be ordering dinner for at least another hour. "We don't serve dinner until 6 o'clock," she promptly informed us, pretty much the last thing we wanted to hear. I amended the order to include some buffalo wings ($6.95) to tide us over, along with a water- no ice.

She scribbled on her notepad, then asked what that second thing had been. "A water with no ice," I repeated; she scribbled something, then looked at me again. "You want a Bud Light how?" I started from the beginning: a regular Bud in a bottle-- not draft-- a Foster's in the bottle and a water with no ice. She nodded, and hurried off.

We were able to catch 4 more laps before she cruised by the table again. "So, that was just a regular Bud Lite you wanted, right?" I smiled, said that I would like a regular Budweiser in the bottle... and a water, no ice. Mumbling something about wanting to get the order right, she disappeared again.

2 more laps raced 'round, and she finally returned. Bud-and-Foster's in bottles were set down, along with a steaming order of buffalo wings. No water in sight, and she was gone before I could ask again.

The wings were fat specimens, steaming and construction-cone orange. I pulled one out and bit in. Juicy. Hot. Bland. I looked down at my orange-colored fingers, the hallmark of the typically fiery and exciting sauces used to coat wings. I bit again. Juicy. Meaty. Bland. Never mind the heat, where was the flavor?

Curveball! The race roared to an end (go Melandri!). We were faced with the prospect of sitting in a room with some very excitable football fans, and no dinner for another hour. I called the waitress over, and asked if it would be possible to place an order for dinner now, so we could be served as close to 6:00 as possible. She didn't know, so I asked if she could check with her manager.

Moments later, she returned with the surprising good news: "Actually, we're already serving dinner." Dave and I had come to our decisions earlier, so placed our orders and set back with a fresh adult beverage.

Dropping the ball! I ordered the seafood skewers ($13.95), two grilled skewers lined with shrimp, bay scallops and tomatoes. Grilled may be one way to put it; I'd rather say that the seafood was uniformly overcooked and burnt. Even so, the scallops were definitely emitting an odor that was less than fresh. The plate came with a small ramekin of vegetables. The brilliant colors of the green beans, summer squash and zucchini were misleading: they tasted bland and the texture was mushy.

Dave had ordered the Sunset Menu flounder, fried ($9.95). What she brought to the table was a pale, gelatinous looking piece of broiled fish. He told her that he'd ordered the fried, and with a word of apology, took the plate back to the kitchen.

Having lost interest in the main part of my meal, Dave and I focused on the fries. Not a great example of America's favorite potato, but not bad once salt, pepper and ketchup were applied.
Before we'd made a dent in the pile, the waitress returned with a piping hot plate. The flounder had gone several shades beyond golden-fried perfection. It was dark, like tree bark. Dave cut into it, tasted, grimaced, then offered his fork up to me.

The exterior portions of the fish were dramatically over-cooked and dry, while the center was still cool to the touch. The french fries that came on the side were also over-cooked, and in keeping with the theme, the vegetable medley was mushy.

Finally, there was only one plate between us and home base, and that was the chocolate cream pie (included on the Sunset menu). Chocolate flavored whipped cream on a cookie crust... tasted of elementary school and cheap cartons of milk.
Steeeeeeeeerrrrrrrriiiiiiiiike, you're out! She finally brought the waters... both with ice.

The interior of Spectator's is clean and open; couples, families and singles all seemed equally at home in front of one of the many televisions, or outside on the open patio. The service, sadly, only seemed a precursor to the woefully mis-guided meal that we attempted to have. Overcooked seafood and burnt fish'n'chips do not a happy spectator make. That's two hours of my life that I'll never get back-- you should put yours to better use.

See more photos from Spectator's here.


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