Parker House Rules

Another Black Friday, another wild ride for my parents and me through upstate New York’s shopping enclaves. This year, we ventured out to Waterloo, at the top of Seneca Lake, to the outlets there, to try to get as much holiday shopping done in one fail swoop as possible. Surprisingly, I didn’t maim anyone in Coach, and I even managed to suppress the urge to punch the girl who rudely tried to flip through a rack of dresses in Banana Republic at the same time as I was looking at them right in the mouth. Honestly, the crowds weren’t that bad, the deals were pretty good, and we all came away satisfied – and hungry!

I had set my sights on a late lunch/early dinner at the Red Dove Tavern in Geneva. This joint is one of those extremely trendy Finger Lakes icons doing farm-to-table, weekly menus of funky, fun food. Last week’s menu had pork shank AND duck breast on it. I was more than a little excitedly anticipatory.

Naturally, it was closed. Thanks for all the warning on your website, guys! Starving, we drove around Geneva a bit, finally settling on the nice-looking Parker’s Grille and Tap House. I didn’t know until I glanced at the menu that this is a chain, but the cozy front room featured stacked stone walls, a fireplace and pretty area rug, so I was willing to suspend my usual belief about chains.

Appetizer special: fried pickles. You know I can’t resist them, and the holiday season is not really one for restraint now, is it? Like most Northern examples, these were breaded, rather than battered, spears, rather than chips. Unlike most, though, they were terrifically crunchy, and the breading was seasoned with dill – a nice touch to reinforce the sour pickles. The slightly spicy ranch that came in a little plastic cup alongside was homemade ( or at least dressed up), with more chunks of dill pickle diced into the mix. The spears were served on a bed of commercial tortilla chips, with another little cup of salsa – a bonus appetizer to our appetizer!

After we housed that basket of fried delights, our meal took its first step down. While the service was very friendly and attentive, no one ever cleared away the empty basket or our appy plates. They stayed on the table the whole meal – one of my personal pet peeves.

I ordered the pot roast sandwich, even though the waitress admitted the fries were frozen, and I suspect the gravy and au jus were commercial products as well. The tender roast beef even may have been packaged, as it was super tender and juicy but pretty bland. The onions and melted provolone provided most of the flavor the sandwich possessed. The ciabatta bread was pleasingly chewy, and despite the bevy of processed products, I let that go and just enjoyed the comfort food.

Dad had the hot pastrami sandwich, and was groaning on and on about how tender and juicy the pastrami was. I tasted it – he wasn’t lying. I don’t even know if you can lie when groaning, but rest assured – he wasn’t. It was peppery and fatty, like proper pastrami.

Mom, Queen of entrees from the appy menu, went for the shrimp basket. THE NERVE! She was impressed with the six good-sized shrimp that were butterflied and breaded. I could hear the crunch of the crispy breading across the table when she bit into one, and you know I’m not so hot with the hearing. She sweet potato fries on the side were standard-issue freezer jobbies. The mayonnaise based slaw was made in house, according to our server, but was straightforward and basic as well.

We graded Parker’s a six on the BHS scale. Everything was tasty, and most everything was processed and/or from the freezer. The problem I have with this is that French fry preparation, from scratch, in a commercial kitchen, might be one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways for a restaurant to jump from average to good. Fresh potatoes are cheaper than frozen fries, and the process of cutting them, rinsing them, and frying them is no more labor intensive than frying up a bag of freezer fries. So why? Is it because we aren’t demanding better? I think we need to make a stand here, hungries! Rise up! Ask your local watering hole for fresh, double-fried fries! Your tummies will thank you, and I’m betting your pub could then offer those fries for a buck more per order than they do now.

So anyway, I’ll eventually be back in Geneva for that missed dinner at Red Dove. Is there somewhere else there I should know about? There was a promising-looking Indian place across the street from Parker’s, but Mom and Dad were not feeling the sag paneer at. all. I’m on business travel in Ft. Wayne this week, and will serve up my travel guide to Indiana’s second largest city for you next week. I know you’re excited about that. Meanwhile, enjoy this eCard, my favorite of the week. My hunger is big; my personality is bigger!

Parkers' Grille & Tap House on Urbanspoon


  1. Replies
    1. I totally thought of you when it happened, Snotty. That's a pet peeve I've inherited from you.