Sometimes, being a tourist is underrated

12 Aug

I think that I have adopted an alter-ego in creating this blog. I jokingly refer to my foodie better-half as CF but the more I think about it the more I realize that she is right about a lot of things. For example, CF is extremely critical when it comes to all things culinary-related. But darn it, she’s right. I don’t feel that if you’re going out and spending money on a meal that you should be disappointed. $20+ of your hard-earned cash should get you more satisfaction than a pit-stop en route home for some Pepto and Alka-Seltzer to calm your heartburn. It makes me borderline angry when so many restaurants take the easy route by not putting in that 5 more minutes of effort that benefit everyone involved: the chef, the restaurant, and the clientele. So many times have I left a restaurant (not necessarily in Charleston) thinking “that would have been so great if…” and I’m kind of sick of it. That being said…

Patty and myself went the tourist route the other night. I needed to pick up some groceries at Publix on James Island and we needed dinner that was easy, close, and inexpensive. Plus we weren’t about to break the cardinal rule of going food shopping when you’re hungry. I’m that person that always looks through my bags when I get home and say out loud “Why did I buy a pint of Phish Food, potato chips AND Diet Pepsi?” So wrong. Regardless, there isn’t a super great selection of restaurants in that area on James Island. We were driving across the connector when we passed California Dreaming. I haven’t been there in about 2 years and honestly, I really didn’t see any reason to go back other than for the view. The food was terribly mediocre, pretty much the worst of all evils in the restaurant world. It was so meh. I wasn’t in love but I wasn’t exactly all “I hates it” either. So being the forgiving type that I am, I suggested we venture there. I honestly forgot how cute the place is on the inside. Plus, we got there at about 8:15 and the sun was about to set, the perfect spot for a gorgeous view of the Ashley River. The wait was about 30 minutes so we got some seats at the bar and waited. And waited. And waited. We waited about 15 minutes before the bartender came over to ask us what we wanted to drink and honestly we almost left. Then I realized something. There was just 1 bartender for about 30 people at the bar. In addition to that, she had to run her own food which is such a crappy system. Why would a restaurant ever do that? Every place I have ever served or bartended at has food runners where their sole purpose is, you guessed it, to run the food. A bartender should never have to leave the bar for any reason other than to take a break. It just seemed to be poor management because our bartender was really doing the best job she could considering how busy she was. We decided we would get in our food order as quickly as we could so we wouldn’t have to wait until closing to eat. Patty ordered a grilled chicken sandwich with honey mustard dressing. Surprisingly enough, it really wasn’t bad. Actually, it was pretty good. The bread was nice and crispy, straddling the fence of doughy and stale the way a good loaf of bread should. The chicken was juicy and tender and I think I must have had at least 4 bites of her sammy. I decided to live life on the edge and order grilled chicken alfredo pasta. I have to admit, the chicken was substantially overseasoned and I had to scrape off some of the spices. However, the alfredo sauce was awesome. I have ordered it at a ton of Italian restaurants in the area and nowhere has it been as good as California Dreamin’s was. Like, super outstanding. It wasn’t too filling and creamy but it wasn’t too light and watery either. The perfect texture and consistency and everything it should be. I was borderline shocked. How is it that a chain restaurant managed to create such a delicate and not heavy-handed pasta sauce? I am still kind of baffled. What was an awesome supplement to our dinners is the fact that California Dreaming is celebrating their 25th anniversary by offering $1.25 well drinks all night for the rest of the year. I promptly switched to vodka tonic when I realized this. I really don’t know how they can afford to do that but it will definitely get me back there at some point.

Overall, I have to say our experience was a positive one. I was pretty jazzed about the well drinks but the real shocker of the evening was how great the food was. I understand that they’re totally a tourist trap but you know what? I really don’t care. It was good enough to merit future dining trips there. Bring it on.

California Dreaming on Urbanspoon

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