Thursday, November 01, 2007

Corner Pocket? Scratch.

The Corner Pocket has a sound 15-year history in Williamsburg. Four years ago, owner Lynn Alison decided to take it up to the next level, becoming one of the first tenants to open in the New Town development just outside the city.

With an upscale, classy vibe, this incarnation has proved welcoming to families and older folk alike. Has the food followed suit?

My husband, Dave, and I met another couple on a balmy weeknight. Eschewing the casual cafe-style seating indoors for the lively atmosphere on the umbrella-studded porch was a no-brainer, and our pleasant hostess left us to look over menus. The smaller "snacks" option features appetizer-styled food, while the more extensive dinner menu showcases salads, sandwiches and a variety of comforting entrees with modern twists.

After a short chat with our amiable server, we decided to share a bottle of the Concannon Petite Sirah ($30). After one fierce, first swallow, I let it sit until there was some food to tame those tannins. All of the entrees are accompanied by house salads, which arrived first. These were surprisingly large and fairly fresh, composed of crisp greens, grape tomatoes, sliced cucumbers and slivers of red onion. While I enjoyed the house vinaigrette, Dave's response to his blue cheese dressing was “meh,” while one of our friends was unable to determine what, exactly, his dressing was supposed to be.

Round two rolled out in timely fashion. Us girls shared a bowl of butternut squash soup ($5.50), the daily special. It was thick and hearty, with a touch of nutmeg nudging the flavor in just the right direction. While it could have used more salt, this was pleasant and filling.

The men folk took their duties seriously, turning to the “snacks” menu for inspiration, trying the jumbo chicken wings ($7.95). These were indeed larger than their average brethren, fried in a cornmeal batter and covered in a mild sweet chili sauce. This sounded good on paper, but was ultimately unimpressive: even the accompanying ranch dressing was disconcertingly bland.

Dave ordered the fried mac 'n' cheese ($5.95). As the menu promised, these were four perfectly symmetrical breaded triangles of homemade mac 'n' cheese. A bite instantly revealed the dry, bland interior, while the sweet tomato-basil dipping sauce did little to liven it up.

The men were once again like-minded, both choosing the buffalo meatloaf ($16.75) as entrees. The sliced meatloaf was blackened from the grill, and looked surprisingly steak-like. I typically enjoy buffalo for it's beefier-than-beef flavor, but this dense slab seemed more dry Salisbury steak than home-on-the-range goodness. This came with a mound of bland, mashed sweet potatoes, and a roasted Roma tomato puree that tasted familiar — quite like the dipping sauce from Dave's mac 'n' cheese. The frizzled sweet potatoes on top were great.

I had the Corner Pocket jambalaya ($13.25), that classic Cajun stew of rice, sausage, shrimp and chicken. I dug into the generously portioned dish, immediately noticing the distinct lack of seasoning and moistness. After a dry bite each of chicken and shrimp, I pushed the dish aside.

My other dining partner ordered the wild mushroom frittata ($14.95), savoring the thought of wild mushrooms, leeks, roasted tomatoes and Asiago cheese. The reality was a bit different: the eggs had coalesced into an unpleasantly rubbery brown mass that supported a minimalist duo of portobello mushrooms.

Our waitress returned, obviously concerned that we'd each taken no more than a couple of bites. She correctly offered to have our meals re-made, get us something different, or have the entrees removed from the check. In the end, we were all tired after a long day, and elected to simply take the bill and return home.

I really liked the atmosphere of Corner Pocket, and wouldn't hesitate to return for the sleek, well-maintained pool tables, or to socialize while listening to one of the many fine bands perform. I respect that they try to make a large portion of their menu items in-house, but the food — for all of us — was a miss.

The Corner Pocket
4805 Courthouse Street, New Town, Williamsburg
Web site:
Phone: 220-0808
Specialties: upscale American pub food
Price range: snacks $4.50-$9.95; soup/salad $3.50-$12.25; entrees: $13.25-$25
Hours: 11:30 a.m.- 1 a.m. Monday-Tuesday; 11:30 a.m.- 2 a.m. Wednesday-Friday; 4 p.m.- 2 a.m. Saturday; 4 p.m.- 1 a.m. Sunday
Alcohol: beer, wine, full bar
Smoking: permitted after 10 p.m.; smoking/non-smoking sections on the outdoor patio
Vegetarian: yes
Wheelchair accessible: yes
Payment: cash, credit cards, local checks
Noise level: somewhat noisy
Atmosphere: casual upscale cafe and billiards room
Additional Information: daily specials, live music, billiards events, outdoor dining
Star rating: food 2 1/2, atmoshpere 3 1/2, service 3
(out of five stars)


Blogger mj said...

I recommend the desserts though- the grilled pound cake is good!

8:46 AM  

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