Wednesday, April 10, 2013

New Kid in Town - Club Car

I'm sorry I haven't posted much.  I even missed my 6th Blogiversary (Blogaversary?  How do you spell it?), which was the day after my last post!  I have been simplifying my cooking lately due to my new fitness program.  I suppose it should inspire me to be creative and still eat within my plan's parameters, but I don't always make the effort. 

Anyway, I will present today's blog - a restaurant review.

Over the past decade the Metro North train line has been closing all of its train stations and replacing them with automated ticket machines.  While this may be seen as a great cost-cutting and efficiency measure, it does present a problem.  The old train stations are large, lovely buildings and many are historical landmarks.

The solution has been to convert them for other uses.  Their convenience to the train (and thus to NYC) makes them an ideal location for restaurants, stores, food concessions, and offices.

Here in town the station house sat empty for a while until Chef/Owner Brian McMenamin restored the building and converted it into a restaurant.  Last year we welcomed the new restaurant Club Car into town. 

McMenamin has owned other restaurants in the area.  He once owned a popular restaurant, catering facility, and cooking school years ago called McMenamin's Grill.  Once upon a time McMenamin's was one of my favorite restaurants.  Then it went downhill.  The menu didn't change, but the food seemed sloppily prepared.  The service, once friendly and efficient, became indifferent and slow.  In the old days McMenamin himself would stroll through the dining room chatting with customers.  I never saw him in those days when the restaurant was gasping its last breaths. From what I understand, there were mismanagement issues and legal troubles.  I don't know the whole story.  I suppose it doesn't matter anymore anyway since the place is long gone.

I wasn't sure what to think of Club Car when it first opened.  Did I want to try it or didn't I?  Would it recall McMenamin's glory days, or would it be more of the same? Would the owner give it the same attention now that he has other places to worry about? 

I finally had my chance to try it this weekend.  It's a bit pricey, so it's more of an occasion restaurant than a place for a casual weekend dinner.  We did have a special occasion this weekend since my brother-in-law was visting from Chicago.

Outside the architectural integrity of the building has been well-preserved.  It's a great old building.

 Inside, the old wood wood floors and ceiling beams have also been preserved, but everything has been fancied up with chandeliers and artwork.  They really managed to preserve the lovely historic quality of the interior and still make the place look like a restaurant instead of like a train station.

Online review sites have been criticizing the reservation and seating policies, so I worried if we would be seated quickly, but there were no problems at all.  We were seated quickly at a nice table.  We  had someone at our table to take drink orders in good time.  Service was very friendly and helpful.

The wine list wasn't huge, but it had a nice selection.  I hate really big, multi-page wine lists anyway.  They're too intimidating.  We really enjoyed the pinot noir we drank.  They ran out of that wine before we could have a second bottle.  Our server recommended a nice Barolo to replace it.

My meal started simply with a mixed green salad.  Greens were fresh and varied and nicely dressed.  It's kind of hard to really screw something like this up.

The women's side of the table ordered lamb shank with vegetables and polenta.  The men's side of the table had sole meuniere.  My lamb shank was huge.  I ordered it because it was one of my favorite dishes at McMenamin's.  In the new restaurant it's still good.

Kevin and I split a chocolate cake for dessert.  Somehow we ended up with a banana pudding brulee` on the table even though no one ordered it.  I found I liked that dessert the best. 

We started the meal late, and as it drew to a close, we experienced Club Car's main drawback.  Club Car isn't just a restaurant.  It is following the rather unfortunate neighborhood trend of also trying to be a nightclub.  After a certain hour the bouncers come out and the music grows louder.  If you have a late reservation and you want a quiet dinner, you're out of luck.  They had a band the night we were there and while they were on the other side of the dining room, they definitely made our dinner a little shouty.

I suppose this is where I take out my soapbox and rant about how more restaurants are trying to do the nightclub thing in this town.  The awful Molly Spillane's has set an unfortunate precedent.  Now more new restaurants are trying to get in on the action.  I don't think our little suburban bedroom community has any need for nightclubs.  Local residents want to sleep at night and they can't because of these places.  These restaurants are fighting to extend their cabaret licenses to allow music pretty much 24 hours a day.  The neighbors of Club Car are complaining about the noise now just as those of us next to Molly Spillane's have been complaining for the past five years. 

My brother-in-law had no such complaints that night.  He wanted to stay and hear the band.  Our server was kind enough to get a table for us on the bar side.  Kevin and I begged off as we needed to wake up early to be with the horses the next day.  We headed home while the rest of the family enjoyed their evening.

I will definitely keep Club Car on my roster of occasion restaurants.  I will just make sure I make early reservations if I go on a weekend.


Sue said...

Happy 6th Blogiversary to you! Happy 6th Blogiversary to you! Happy 6th Blogiversary dear Rachel! Happy 6th Blogiversary to you! Where has the time gone?

That’s wonderful to turn those train buildings into something useful, but a working train station is useful! What if you need assistance with something?

It sounds like a good place, although I try to avoid restaurants with music on Saturday nights. They’re usually super crowded and I don’t want to have to rush out before the music starts.

I’m glad the gals ordered the lamb and the guys ordered sole. I like it when stereotypes are blasted.

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

Good point about what to do when something goes wrong. The New Rochelle station, which is also an Amtrak stop has a working train station.

It was pretty funny what everyone ordered. My BIL almost always gets steak, so the fish was a real deviation for him. Maybe he didn't want to see me cringe when he ordered a steak well done.