Monday, May 19, 2008

Ms. B's

1050 East Eleventh Street
Suite 100
Austin, Texas 78702
(512) 542-9143

There is just so much hustle and bustle in the world today. Sometimes, it's hard to keep from getting caught up in the things that need to be done and focus on the things that truely matter. For me, the most important thing that truely matters is my son and spending time with him. He's 5 right now and in those crucial years where he's developing and you don't want to miss any of it. It's also a good time to try to instill qualities in them that you, as a parent, would love for them to carry into adulthood. So, one of the ways that I try to accomplish all of that in one fell swoop is to make sure that at least once a week, if not more, Austin (my son, not the city) and I get a father-son night that always includes eating out somewhere. Ahh, it's great. During the dinner portion of the daddy-son night, we get to have our conversations about what happened at preschool and who his friends are. I get to learn about all of the new games and songs that kids learn nowadays. But, what's more I get to slide in some valuable life lessons like how to keep good manners, etc. when we're in restaurants. Anyhow, dinner for Friday Night's father-son dinner was at Ms. B's, a little upscale Cajun place on E. 11th Street.

Walking into the restaurant, I had high hopes. It looked great. About a dozen and a half tables all neatly set. There appeared to be a more private room in the back of the place, but I couldn't tell for sure. The bar looked clean and well stocked. A Jazz trio were playing some nice background music off to the side. I looked around and I saw "classy". So, after quickly reminding Austin that we were in a nice restaurant and he had to use his big boy manners, we were seated by the hostess. Now, is when I hit the first speedbump for the place. I'll digress on what happened with the seating arrangement and chalk it up to honest human error, but I will add that I wasn't happy.

Anyhow, Austin and I were promptly seated at another table, and I began to peruse the menu while Jazz music played. Now, at an upscale restaurant, one of the things that impresses
me the most is when the establishment has a children's menu. This place did. The children's menu had 5 items on it which seemed to cover a wide variety of tastes for picky child
eaters. The kiddo lit up when I told him that Pasta tossed with Butter was on the menu because it's his viewpoint that noodles and butter are probably the greatest single food items
our world has ever seen. You can imagine his excitement to discover them together in the same dish.

We ordered our drinks and our appetizer, the Oysters and Bacon En Brochette. You know, as quickly as Ms. B's had me going with their kids menu, they lost me just as fast with drink
service to a five year old. Other upscale restaurants I've been to still manage to bring him a smaller glass with a lid on it, but Ms. Bs served Austin's soda in the same large drinking glass I had. Oh, well. I'm not going to complain. At least I don't have to wash their cloth table linens after that mistake. Anyhow, the appetizer arrived and was delicious. The bacon and oysters were perfectly cooked along with some button mushrooms and served with a very tasty remoulade. I'll tell you how good it was, too. A five year old dug into the oysters like they were....well, butter. The only problem with this dish was the bread that accompanied it.

Now, I guess my expectations are pretty high, but when I'm out in a nicer restaurant, I expect some decent bread, not the Mrs. Baird's machine-sliced, mass produced, HEB-bought sliced bread that I saw. Wait a minute... Ms. B's...Mrs. Baird's. I don't know if there's a connection, but I wouldn't be surprised, I tell you. Speaking of more bread, we also received a table service of rolls. We got two rolls, one more of a corn bread muffin and the other along the likes of a true dinner roll. I was pretty amuzed to see how small they were...and that we only received one of each.

OK, so we weren't off to a great start at Ms. B's, but Austin and I were still enjoying each other's company, and the Jazz music was very nice. Every time the sax player started a
little improvisation, Austin played his own air saxophone to help out. It was incredibly cute. Our view from the table also afforded us the opportunity to see out onto 11th street
and watch the traffic and pedestrians pass on by. I'll grant this... Ms. B's had some very nice atmosphere. But, atmosphere and ambiance doesn't satisfy your hunger, so onto the

Austin's Buttered Pasta showed up in a generous looking portion and he dug in immediately. I couldn't help but taste as well. (It's my privilege as a Daddy). For such a simple
dish, it was VERY good. The pasta was cooked perfectly al dente. But, what really got me going was the Smothered Pork Chop laid before me. It had to be 5 inches in diameter, and
at least a 2 inch cut...and covered in a very dark brown gravy that looked packed with flavor. I dug in immediately, not the slightest bit discouraged when my fork clanged loudly
against bone. Attempt number 2...more bone....and the same with #3. The thing was 75% bone! Well, what about the side? Red beans and Rice. Now, Mariah would argue that no self-
respecting cajun restaurant will ever leave fried gator tail off the menu. I'd argue that no self-respecting cajun restaurant would ever serve anything but the best Red Beans and
Rice possible. Ms. B's fails on both accounts. The Red Beans seemed like little more than a can of kidney beans with some sausage and maybe a bay leaf heated up briefly.

So, I sat and stared longingly at Austin's pasta dish while I waited for a waiter to correct the issue wuth my pork chop. The waiter was less than helpful and enthusiastic when I showed him
the chop served to me. I told him I was surprised that a restaurant that nice would serve such a horrible cut of meat and just received an "I'm sorry, sir" before I was asked if I was ready for dessert. So, by the time that the dessert menu arrived, I already had enough of the food. We passed on dessert in favor of going to Primizie just down the street where Austin flirted with
the waitress enough that he got an extra cookie for his dessert.

All in all, I'd have to say that particularly because of the Jazz band, Ms. B's has above average atmosphere, but doesn't entirely follow through on the food. I'm not all that hyped
on the service, either.

Mariah and Laura, thanks for the guest blog spot. It was a blast to write for y'all.

Lee - 4