POSTED ON JUNE 4, 2008:
Back to the School Cafeteria You Go
New grill offers the tastiest of public school memories
Old School. The Public School Brown Bean Chowder was a delicious rendition of what is served in school cafeterias. Large brown beans rest in a gravy flavored with a hint of bacon and possibly onion.
Down at the Sunset Bar & Grill, you might be distant from the energy and bustle of downtown, but you'll still find decent bar food, great live music and a fun atmosphere.
From what our server said, the main focus of the Sunset Bar & Grill is to have a great venue for live music. The evening my friend and I were there, the acoustic folk duo George and Linda Barton entertained diners with their mellow music.
The Sunset Bar & Grill is the third restaurant to occupy this particular location in the London Square Shopping Center. The basic layout of the space remains the same as it was when Cardigan's and then Kal's occupied it. Now, a music stage is set up in the far southwest corner of the smaller of the two dining rooms. This is a disadvantage for those seated in the larger of the two rooms; the live musicians can barely be seen. New décor adds to the ambience; the deep orange walls are sparsely dotted with framed pictures of music legends.
We chose to sit in the larger room and enjoy the music from a distance. Though the menu is similar to other grill-type restaurants, there were a few rare novelties that my friend and I enjoyed. Appetizers include selections like Fried Portobello Mushrooms, Fried Green Beans, Judy's Fried Pickles, Cheese Fries and Buffalo Wings. All are $6.95 or under. Menu categories include Sunset Soups (the "Public School Brown Bean Chowder" sounded interesting), Sunset Salads, Entrees, Sandwiches, Sunset Burgers, Kid's Menu, Sides and Desserts.
We began with three appetizers to sample a variety of items. We ordered Judy's Fried Pickles ($4.50), Sunset Nachos ($5.95) and Fried Green Beans ($5.95). The Pickles were fun--dill spears lightly coated and then fried. They had a good dill taste, and the soft texture of the pickle was juxtaposed nicely with the light crispiness of the breading. The Fried Green Beans were also a treat. The slender beans, coated with the same batter as the pickles, were crisp, delicate and tasty.
The menu claimed that the Sunset Nachos came with green onions, jalapeno peppers, tomatoes, bacon on top and salsa and sour cream on the side, but our nachos were naked. Our plate was filled only with chips and lots of melted cheese. Although the nachos were good, we were perplexed by the missing toppings. Our server seemed a bit perplexed, too. He removed them and soon brought back the same (now basically cold) nachos with a sprinkling of toppings sans our favorite item, jalapenos.
George and Linda Barton continued to entertain the crowd, receiving ample applause.
Just out of curiosity I ordered the Public School Brown Bean Chowder to reminisce about those days of teaching at a public school. I also ordered the Chicken Fried Steak ($9.95) with two sides of mashed potatoes and gravy and Mac & Cheese. My friend ordered Old Faithful ($6.95) from the Sunset Burgers menu.
The Public School Brown Bean Chowder was a delicious rendition of what is served in school cafeterias. Large brown beans rest in a gravy flavored with a hint of bacon and possibly onion. Topped with grated cheese, the chowder was good because of the memories it evoked. To complete the public school theme, I had a Cinnamon Roll ($3.25) from the dessert menu. It was just like the TPS cafeteria ladies prepared, only larger. The dough was soft, with a good texture and lots of powdered sugar icing melted through the layers.
My Chicken Fried Steak was very good. Moderately coated with a crisp batter, the steak was tender and tasty. Together with the mashed potatoes, which were real potatoes (not instant), and white gravy, this was not just a filling meal but a very well-prepared Southern classic. My Mac & Cheese was served in an oversized coffee cup, and while it was very tasty and cheesy, it bordered on cool in temperature.
My friend's Old Faithful hamburger was prepared to order: medium rare. It was the basic faithful hamburger with lettuce, tomato, onion and cheese. The bread for this sandwich was a Kaiser bun, which was good to hold the fillings together without letting the bread get soggy or mushy. My friend selected French Fries for his side; these were large steak fries, piping hot.
Other entrees include Fried Shrimp, Grilled Pork Chop, Tequila Sunrise Chicken, Sunset Cajun Chicken, Grilled Salmon, New York Strip and Fettucini Alfredo--all $12.95 and under. Desserts include Homemade Cobbler, Cherry Cheesecake, Bread Pudding and Cinnamon Roll.
A good selection of domestic beers are available, and a full bar serves other drink selections. There's a daily Happy Hour from 4-7pm and Ladies' Night is every Wednesday. Live music for the Sunset Bar & Grill can be found in UTW's Live Music section.
Sunset Bar & Grill
5800 S. Lewis Ave.
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