Sunday, December 03, 2006

Retro's Good Eats

While looking for someplace to escape the bustle of busy shoppers on Williamsburg's Prince George Street, I found my eye arrested by vivid aqua blue signage. "Retro's Good Eats", it read, touting hot dogs, fresh cut fries and milkshakes. My husband had no complaints as we fled inside under a flapping black-and-white awning.

The dining area is very cute, with aqua blue tables and a massive chalkboard covering the wall on the right. It also advertised their shakes and custards, along with the hand-written litany of the day's specials. A girl at the far counter greeted us, patiently waiting for us to come to a decision.

Finally, Dave did and placed his order. I was torn between a couple of items, one of them being the chicken salad. After describing it to me, she offered me a sample, returning from the kitchen station with a small portion and a tasting spoon. Thankfully, it was just what I had in mind. We paid up and waited for her to pull our lagers ($3.00), specially created for Retro's by local brewer St. George's. She only made it halfway through the first cup before realizing the keg was tapped out. With an apology, she handed us the cup, and said if we'd like to take a seat, somebody would bring two more to our table.

What I hadn't realized upon walking in was the secondary dining area to the left of the counter. This slightly smaller room was filled with black and white photographs of local history-- some included copies of old newsprint and records, as well. By the time we'd circled the room, our food and beverages were out of the kitchen, and being placed on our table.

Retro's menu boasts "best hot dogs in town!", so Dave ordered a couple to see what all the fuss was about. One had blue cheese slaw and chili ($3.00), the second came with cheddar cheese, onions and spicy mustard ($2.65). Both were something new to us: a 100% Black Angus beef dog.

The toppings were prodigious, and definitely tasty. The blue cheese slaw was fairly tangy, and made for a nice contrast against the meaty chili; the other trio of toppings were flavorful, if a bit overzealously splashed with mustard.

The anomaly were the dogs themselves. Extremely mild in flavor, with a soft texture, I thought at first they'd been boiled. I scraped away a portion of the toppings, revealing a few dark scores. Had they been boiled, then finished on the grill? Whatever the case, they were missing that certain snap that makes a good dog really great.

I began with a cup of the vegan 3-bean chili ($3.75), a pleasantly mild blend of beans, corn and sauce. While it didn't taste much like chili to this carnivore, it was tasty and warming, even better re-heated in subsequent days.

My main course was the chicken salad sandwich ($XXX). Meaty chunks were interspersed with celery and grapes, all in a very light, mild mayo, and served on a split hot dog roll. I ended up eating it sans bun, as the two didn't seem to mix quite right.

Dave and I split the renowned fresh-cut French fries ($3.00). They were long, in varying shades of golden, dark and light brown. I tasted one, still warm, and was slightly disappointed. They were softer than I'd anticipated: no crunchy exterior, and a slightly raw-tasting interior. Had these been baked in a fresh batch of oil that was still too cool, or was this the norm? Even so, Dave and I managed to nibble our way through half a batch, which goes to show that even slightly limp fries can still hold some appeal.

The dining room was beginning to fill up, but I managed to slip in front of the cashier just ahead of the crowd. I ordered some of Randy-from-New-Orleans' red beans & rice (4.25) to take home, then impulsively got a hand-churned chocolate shake ($3.75). I'd had the best intention to also save that for the next day, but that was a laughable (if noble) idea. I cracked into it before we left the parking lot, and was rewarded with a silky, rich shake that tasted just like my childhood. Dave and I passed it back-and-forth, finally stuffing it in the back seat, away from tempting sight. I can't remember the last time I tasted a shake this good.

The beans and rice made it safely home, and re-heated nicely the next afternoon. It was a mild, laid-back version that benefited greatly from the addition of a shake of hot sauce. I'd also chosen the option of ordering it with the 'andeolu' sausage, something I'd never come across. Whatever its origin, the sausage was extremely mild, and didn't add a lot of zing to the dish.

Retro's is an interesting little restaurant, comfortably nestled into its home in Williamsburg. Its proximity to students and shoppers alike give it a built-in customer base. The menu is small and focused, and most people could find something enjoyable-- even the vegans, which is a pleasant surprise. With its friendly staff and earnest food, its a fun place that should blossom nicely in future years.


Post a Comment

<< Home