Robyn’s Bar and Grill

Not your average ‘regular food’
By ROBERT NADEAU  |  November 7, 2007
3.0 3.0 Stars

Ten taps’ worth of drafts won’t rival Doyle’s, but the two we tried — Samuel Adams Octoberfest ($4.50) and Stella Artois ($4.25) — were clean-tasting, and good attention to detail was shown. There is a short and very reasonably priced wine list. (Just remember: red wine with steak tips; white wine with fried shrimp.) Coffee and decaf were made fresh for us on a quiet weeknight. Both were good.

Desserts are humongous. The signature item is the Jimmie M ice-cream sandwich ($6.50). There are no jimmies — it’s a hot, half-baked white-chocolate-chunk cookie with macadamia nuts in a cast-iron pan, topped with vanilla ice cream. An ordinary piece of chocolate cake ($5) is dense and rich enough for any yuppie, and big enough for four of them.

As for the dining room, it’s similar to all the nicer pubs in town, but newer and simpler. There are large TVs (no sound) that run sports. Service was friendly and quick, but it wasn’t a busy night. It might become friendly and slow with a full dining room.

New readers may be surprised to see a restaurant with “regular food” (one of the owners has called this “regular food with a gourmet twist”) getting three stars, while some of those fancy steakhouses are only getting two. But that’s how I see the world: execution counts more than degree of difficulty. The fact is, with some better tomatoes and a couple more taps and “gourmet twists,” Robyn’s could have had all four stars.

After my recent review of Smoken’ Joe’s Barbeque, I received an unusual e-mail retort:

I want to assure you that no meats are poached at Smoken’ Joe’s. All of our smoking is done low and slow with hickory wood. I am not disputing what you described, of course, just trying to piece together how it could have happened. We suspect that one of our kitchen supervisors was improvising, and retraining is in process.

Now, the restaurant business is one in which it is actually possible for the dog to eat your homework, but e-mail defense to my criticisms is usually invective. So I went back and re-tasted a Smoken’ Joe brisket sandwich ($7.99) and a Smoke House Sampler ($18.99). Howling Wolf was on the sound system as I waited for take-out. Things were in fact much improved, and the crumbly texture of pre-poached meats was gone.

This is still not Texas smoked ’cue, with a red line and a strong flavor. But it has some smoke, and is well within the definitions of barbecue in large parts of the old and middle South. In this treatment, the pulled pork (which is never truly smoked) was perhaps truest to type. The ribs and chicken were chewy and worth chewing, the chicken having perhaps a little more smoke. The brisket was slightly less smoky than on my previous visit, but juicier — an outstanding sandwich if you don’t like a lot of smoke. Put up another star, Mabel.

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