On a recent visit to The TreeHouse, 1738 S. Boston Ave., some items perched on the high branches, others -- well, maybe down the tree a little further.
This spot has been a number of places over the years: Steamroller Blues, Oscars and others. The location is now a very large, wide-open space, with a grouping of tables in the center of the room and lots floor space for live music, which is a big part of the new establishment.
While we were there the band was setting up for the evening. A bar runs almost the full length of one wall, table seating fills the wall opposite and there is yet a second bar across the back wall, presumably to accommodate the busy nights with bands and musicians.
The tables were pulled together to make long rows, which made for very social seating. The restaurant was gut-full of young, after-work folks out for an early stop at the local watering hole. I hesitate to use the term "meat market," but TreeHouse did have the feel of an upscale version of on and was populated with very nicely dressed professional folks and a high energy. By 7pm that crew cleared out and the dinner crowd was moving in.
As we entered, there was what appeared to be a greeting stand of sorts. So, we stood there. No one greeted us, and after a few minutes I headed to the back of the room where a group of servers were standing. I was informed it was open seating, which was a bit confusing. Even one of those little plastic pedestal signs saying "Seat Yourself," or "You're a big boy, find your own seat" or something similar would have helped.
We ended up sitting at the huge wooden bar. There were some unique whiskeys, about 65 bottled beers and close to a dozen on tap. The bar is the centerpiece of the room to be sure.
Our server was a young guy behind the bar, and he did an excellent job of taking care of us while making drinks for the rest of the room. He was very engaging and efficient and helped make the evening a success.
Both the bartender and the menu description warned us: the skillet-bread took about 20 minutes to cook. It's a great dish. You select from a list of stir-ins like jalapenos, house-smoked bacon, apples, onions, or the three we selected: cheddar, corn and honey. The bartender informed us that everything else came out of the kitchen really quickly, so with his help we timed the whole meal so it arrived just as the cornbread came out of the oven, and we ate the skillet-bread with our meal instead of as an appetizer like it's listed.
Looking back, I would recommend you treat the skillet-bread as an appetizer. As part of the meal, it didn't get the focus it deserved from us, and it is so good it definitely should have the whole stage.
Other appetizers include deviled eggs, in quantities of 3, 6 or 12 for $3.95, $6.95 and $10.95, respectively. There is also a house-made pickle plate for $4.95 and hushpuppies in the same quantities and prices as the eggs.
While we waited, we ordered a wedge salad -- an item that was a steakhouse menu staple in the '60s and '70s, which has seen a resurgence of late. A cold, crisp wedge of iceberg lettuce is served absolutely smothered in bleu cheese dressing and crispy cooked bacon bits, and surrounded with tomato wedges. One salad will feed two people easily, and the TreeHouse's take was very satisfying.
Katie opted for the ribs. They come in half and full portions for the carnivore at $22.95 and the carnivorette at $11.95. The price includes two sides. You can pick between dill potato salad, coleslaw, smoked corn on the cob, green beans, roasted sweet potatoes, baked beans (either vegetarian or regular) or a small salad. The ribs were tender and tasty, but were only mildly smoked. Personally, I like a bit more smokiness than these meats provided. I am not sure what TreeHouse uses for a smoker, but I suspect it isn't a slow-smoke room.
My choice was the three-meat plate, and I went for pulled pork, smoked half chicken and brisket. Other options include salmon, hot links and bologna. There's a two-meat combo as well, for $14.95, but I paid the extra $6 and took on the trio. The portions were plentiful, and the meats were tender and tasty.
Between Katie and I, we tried the dill potato salad, which was was OK; the coleslaw, which was very bland and needs seasoning in a big way; the baked beans, which were lackluster and needed a bit of zip and the roasted sweet potatoes, which were delicious.
The TreeHouse has three barbecue sauces, including a fruit sauce, and we felt all three needed some special attention.
Bark and Bites. Behind the TreeHouse’s huge wooden bar there are some unique whiskeys, about 65
bottled beers and close to a dozen on tap. The restaurant/venue puts a lot of attention on its music and events.
The restaurant/venue does have the promise of being a pretty cool place to hang, but dining wise: could use a
little more fine-tuning.
The fruit sauce was probably the best of the three, but there was nothing special about any of them. A little kick, more contrast between sweet and sour, and they would have been much better. The sauces weren't awful, but I am not dying to go back for more.
The TreeHouse puts a lot of attention on its music and events. The restaurant/venue does have the promise of being a pretty cool place to hang, but dining wise: could use a little more fine-tuning.
1738 S. Boston Ave.
HOURS: Wed -- Sat 11am - 2am and Sunday Nights till ?
Service: ***and a half
Food: **and a half
Wow!! This place is off the charts*****
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