Archive for West Side Gravy

WEST SIDE GRAVY – SJ FOOD AND WINE BLOGGERS DINNER – 2/18/11

Posted in West Side Gravy - Food Bloggers Dinner, Wine Dinners with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 21, 2011 by ballymote

 Until now I had only met two other food and wine bloggers. A back yard late summer barbecue, hosting Paul and Stefania Romero of Stefania wines, at the home of Mark & Pam Jahnke, gave me the opportunity to meet F Scott & Zelda, who publish NJ Foodies. Making an appearance at this same event were John and Lisa Howard-Fusco creators of the very informative, John & Lisa Are Eating in South Jersey. Last night, that total of known bloggers climbed to six as John & Lisa arranged a dinner at West Side Gravy for several fellow bloggers. My wife, Kathy, and I joined John & Lisa, Colleen (JerzEATS), Lisa  (Jersey Girl Cooks), Jenn (NJEpicurean), and Wendy ( La PhemmePhoodie). Lisa was with her husband, John (making a pair of Lisa/Johns at the table), and Jenn was accompanied by her husband, Matt.   Mark and Pam could not join us, but they stopped by the table as they were celebrating Pam’s mom’s birthday in Chef Alex Capasso’s next door restaurant, Blackbird.  Mark generously dropped off a nice bottle of the 2006 Stefania , Haut TubeeBefore I get to the wine and food let me say that the company was first-class. It’s not always the easiest thing in the world to sit down to dinner with a large group where few know each other but the conversation was easy and it was great fun to learn about each and every one of our companions for the evening. A special thanks to all of you for making the night a great deal of fun.

 There were other wines present but it’s too difficult (for me, anyway) to recall all of them but, Kathy and I shared the 2008 Mauritson, Dry Creek Valley, Zinfandel. It took awhile for this one to open up and reveal good pepper and fruit flavors but it couldn’t hold a candle to the “Rockpile” offering, also produced by Mauritson. Our other wine was a 2009 Capa Blanca, Suena Profondo, Pinot Noir, Williamette Valley, OR. This one took some time too, but became much more enjoyable as the evening progressed and the dark cherry and spice flavors became more apparent.

 Our server, Troy, wasn’t big on smiles, but he was certainly efficient and with his team of assistants provided excellent and attentive service throughout the evening. Large tables are probably difficult and he remained focused and made sure we had extra wine glasses, Thanks, Troy!

 We started out by ordering double dishes of four different starters. This proved to be a good decision and just enough food to satisfy the 10 of us. The first item was the West Side Gravy Mac n Cheese, baby shell pasta, cheddar, gruyere, fontina cheeses and herb spices. This one is a tasty dish but I have to say that several other places I have dined have done an even better job with the mac n cheese preparation.

 Next came the Cheese Steak Egg Rolls and these were a real crowd pleaser. Shredded beef, fried onions, sharp cheddar, long hots and horseradish sauce. Can you spell Mmmmmmm??

 Fish Tacos were our third item. I passed on these but the group seemed to really like the ahi tuna, avocado salad, sweet chili sauce on flour tortillas. They disappeared quickly. Our final appetizer isn’t pictured but it was the West Side Gravy Fries with Pinot Noir sauce. Folks rave about these fries but in the world of great fries these are middle of the road although the sauce is a novel treat.

As the evening progressed and the conversation grew more interesting, it was time for some real comfort food.  Both Kathy and I chose items from the evening “specials”.

 I had the Pot Roast with mashed potatoes and peas. The meat was cooked nicely and shredded with the slightest fork pull. In fairness, I am always a little disappointed when I order pot roast. It just never seems to be full of the flavors I am expecting. I’m going to blame this one on myself. It all very good but not great.

 Kathy had the Roast Beef and Provolone Sandwich with house fries. She wasn’t crazy about her choice and even gave me half of the sandwich. I totally agreed. This was not a good sandwich, dry, and lacking flavor. The roll even seemed harder than it should have been.

I can’t speak for the others as I heard no one complaining about their dishes. Here is what they had……

Chicken and Rice, pan roasted breast of free range chicken, seasonal veggies and creamy parmesan risotto.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken, with smoked bacon dressing and house made cole slaw. This one looked very nice.

 Pork and Beans, braised pork shoulder, broccoli rabe, long hots and sharp provolone on Rosemary bread, with side of Tuscan white bean, tomato and escarole ragout.

Mushroom Sandwich, Grilled Portobello, baby arugula, grilled onion, lettuce, marinated tomato served on a seven grain bun with a side of macaroni salad.

 Burger and Fries, half pound of Angus beef, sesame seed brioche bun, cheddar, fried onions, tomato, lettuce and hand cut fries. I’m going to have to try this one next time as the burger looked very good.

What better ending to an evening of comfort food amongst comfortable people than some nice desserts.

 Kathy and I split the Red Velvet Cake which wasn’t on the actual menu but Wendy had been here last week and asked if it was available. It was and it was very tasty.

I noticed a few of our dinner companions devouring this one, the West Side “Snickers”, chocolate, peanuts, caramel and nougat with vanilla ice cream and dulce de leche. This was a true dessert winner.

One of the really nice things about eating at West Side Gravy is that you don’t need to arrange bank financing prior to dining here. The prices are very reasonable. The food is good but it just might be that my expectations must be too high. Chef Capasso’s Blackbird is one of the best dining spots in all of New Jersey and now it’s located in the next room from West Side Gravy. I realize comfort food is a different style from fine dining but there are just too many misses on the menu.

Thanks to all of our new blogging friends for a most enjoyable evening.

WEST SIDE GRAVY – (BYOB)

Posted in BYOB Restaurant Reviews, West Side Gravy, Wine Dinners with tags , , , , , , , , on October 30, 2010 by ballymote

 We finally made it. After reading F Scott and Zelda’s reviews and spending countless hours drooling about the menu, our group of eight hungry diners converged on the Collingswood eatery, the second “label” for renown Chef Alex Capasso of Blackbird fame.

It may be difficult to secure reservations at Blackbird on a Friday or Saturday evening. It will not be difficult to get a table at West Side Gravy on those same nights. In a way, that’s a shame. Let’s begin by explaining what West Side Gravy is NOT. It is not a full service, fine dining restaurant. That’s what Blackbird, Nunzio’s, Il Fiore, Casona and a host of other Collingswood restaurants are. West Side Gravy is a fun place for some interesting and well-prepared comfort food, served by some very nice people at reasonable prices.

 Our server, Allie, was one of those very nice people and she made us feel comfortable from the very beginning. She was attentive and charming and after opening our wines and puzzling over why we open four bottles and none of us share with each other (a story for another day), she recited the evening “specials” from every category on the menu. We pointed out to Allie, that first time diners at West Side Gravy should not be entitled to evening “specials” as there is plenty to choose from on the regular menu.

 My wine for the evening was something that was recommended by Charlie Beatty at Canals BottleStop in Marlton. The 2007 Fidelity, Alexander Valley, Crazy Creek Estate, Red Wine was a nice blend of 81% Merlot and 19% Cab Franc. Both my wife, Kathy, and I thought it was excellent with the cab franc giving a little bite to the softer merlot. It’s not a fruit bomb it’s just filled with nice cherry and chocolate flavors and at about $15.00 this one drinks like a wine at 3 times it’s cost. Tom and Barbara T. had just returned from a vacation in WIlliamsburg, VA and they had with them a wine they wanted me to try. I agreed and was prepared to try and find nice words to express my dislike for virtually any U. S. wines from outside of  California, Oregon or Washington State. However, this one, 2008 Williamsburg Winery Susan Constant Red Wine wasn’t bad. It wasn’t very complex but the taste was pretty good with some nice fruit flavors and a soft mouthfeel. Unlike other local wineries who charge big bucks for their wines, this one is under $10.00.

We all had a hard time making our selections but the guys decided to split a couple of appetizers.

We split the West Side Fries with Pinot Noir gravy and the Cheesesteak Eggrolls. The fries were nicely done with a portion size that would be fine for two people. The gravy was great but I should have poured it on my fries instead of dipping each one. The cheesesteak eggrolls were really good. There were four nice sized pieces so we each had one for ourselves. Four of them would almost make a meal and they came with a tasty horseradish sauce for dipping..

A couple of folks ordered the Sweet Potato Soup which they voted OK…but nothing special. The Fried Green Tomatoes were also seen as having too much breading.

 Gerry B. and my wife both went for the Buttermilk Fried Chicken, potato salad with smoked bacon dressing and house-made cole slaw. Kathy asked them if she could have all white meat and they complied with her request. Both thought the chicken was tasty and the potato salad and cole slaw were good.

Joe and Carol both had one of the “specials”, the braised short ribs with mashed potatoes and baby spinach. The dish was topped with crispy onion rings and a nice gravy and both enjoyed it.

 I always have a hard time staying away from any meatloaf dish I see on a menu and this time was no exception. This one came served over creamy mashed potatoes and I had them replace the peas with the baby spinach. Three generous slices of excellent house recipe meat loaf was topped with the delicious West Side Gravy. I was happy with my choice.

Barbara had the West Side Club, house-roasted turkey breast, smoked bacon, lettuce, marinated tomato, herb mayo on cranberry-pecan bread and served with house-made waffle chips. Barb liked her sandwich but she loved her waffle chips, We all sampled them and agreed they were very good.

 Sue C. had the Mushroom Sandwich, grilled portabello with baby arugula, grilled onions, marinated tomato served on a multi-grain bun with a side of macaroni salad

We had pretty much eaten as much as we could when Allie began to tempt us with offerings from the dessert menu. We gave in and decided we would split two items between the eight of us when all of a sudden, a bevy of desserts appears, many compliments of Alex and Siobhan, the two talented chefs who both stopped by to say “hi”. This was a very nice gesture and we all got to try several of their creations.

I don’t have a copy of the dessert menu so I can only accurately describe the one I spent the most time getting totally familiar with and that would be the “Snickers” dish above which was sinfully delicious. Allie’s favorite, the butterscotch pudding with caramelized bananas also drew a lot of compliments from our group.

In writing this review, and even prior to our first visit, I had read a lot about West Side Gravy. Almost every article and blog post I have seen mentions the same bewildering fact. There is a distinct lack of patronage on most nights. I am at a total loss as to why that is. A few theories I might offer would be, having dined at Blackfish patrons are expecting a similar meal. It’s not that kind of place. It could be that the place is a little too big for what they are doing. Most of the restaurants in Collingswood are fairly small and tables are crammed together. West Side Gravy is in the old Woolworths 5 & 10 Building and it is cavernous. If  they were just opening I could understand the sparse crowds but it’s been a few months now and the reviews are good and they certainly deserve a better fate. Personally, I think this type of dining has a place in a town with so many eating choices. At the very least, you should give it a try. The food is good and the prices are even better.

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