Don’t Bother With Mezzo Grille

About once a month my friend Thelma and I have a relaxing lunch. We have a couple of favorites but decided to branch out today and went to Mezzo Grille in Middletown. I wrote a preview in July last year after Larry and I gave it a test run and decided to wait because it had just opened and things seemed a bit rough.

More than a year later, things have not improved. When Thelma and I arrived there was a table of six and two people in a booth. Two more people were waiting in front of us. An unknown but a substantial number were eating outside. The waitress came over pretty quickly and seated all of us. She brought  water and came back soon to ask what we wanted to drink. Thelma and I each ordered a glass of wine, and the waitress told us about the specials, which added to a huge menu of appetizers, pasta, burgers, and salads. We realized that she hadn’t mentioned a soup, although there was a special featuring a cup of soup and a small Mezzo salad that could be appealing.

Then nothing happened for quite some time. Eventually the table of two got food. Then the table of six got appetizers.

Some fifteen to twenty minutes later she brought our drinks and I asked if there was a soup of the day. She said, “Oh, I apologize,” the first of two? three? four? times. “It’s lobster bisque.” Needless to say, Thelma and I both ordered the special, Thelma’s without onion and both with dressing on the side. The waitress hesitated and said she didn’t know if that soup would be the same price but she would check. She disappeared again while the two other servers ran back and forth with food for the other tables. Meanwhile, groups of four and six people began emerging from the patio, just as a woman arrived with a huge try of party favors and big clump o’ balloons. Eventually our server emerged — the special would be a dollar more. We said fine.

Then we sat and sat. The lobster special arrived at the next table – 1 1/2 pounds served with a baked potato for $15. The price was great but it violates my rule two ways: 1) I don’t eat lobster “out” because I can’t jump into the shower afterward. 2) That’s way too much food at lunch unless one plans on not eating for the rest of the day. The sad thing is that those ladies were walking out the door just when our lunches showed up.

Then she brought the bisque and said she’d be right back with our salads, that she simply didn’t have enough hands. I’m thinking, aren’t you allowed to use a tray? And why would you assume we needed everything at once?

The bisque was actually a thinnish gumbo flavored by a heavy dollop of sherry. It had all the potential in the universe but was luke warm so the sherry overwhelmed everything else. Also I found a rather large piece of bay leaf stem, a no-no because it can cause choking.

The salad arrived – no onions, and with dressing on the top, although mercifully not drowned. I realized afterward that they’d probably put it on to disguise the fact that they were applying the pecan pieces with tweezers. The ensemble tasted OK, but I could have put together mixed greens, Mandarin oranges, and goat cheese myself. In fact I probably will, and add the red onion. The new experience was to be the citrus-pecan dressing and the flavor was simply not there.

The waitress returned after we’d finished about half the bisque to ask if everything was OK. I mentioned the soup temperature – and no, we didn’t want it reheated at this point. She came over after we finished eating but were still sipping wine and said, “Oh, you’re all set.” Did not clear plate one. When we did finish, we sat and sat. She was nowhere to be found. I heard, “I love my tables, I love my tables” at one point when she walked into the kitchen.

Finally I got up and asked the waiter if we could have our check. She came over and asked if everything was OK. We pointed out dressing and lack of onion problem. She apologized again and said they’ve stopped putting onions in the salad, and I’m wondering how we’re supposed to know that since they’re still on the menu. And then apologized again for the dressing.

To quote the NYTimes: Don’t bother.

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