Saturday, October 13, 2007

Brunch at Watts Grocery

Marginally recovered from my cold, I headed to Watts Grocery for brunch today with a friend.

I have a few minor bones to pick before I get to the food:

1. They don't open for weekend brunch until 11am. ELEVEN AM?? They need to open earlier. Seriously that's too late to open for brunch.

2. When I order coffee, bring me a spoon. Ok, fine, for the sake of good manners, don't wrap a spoon up the cloth napkin with the knife and fork (a coffee or tea spoon should never be put on the table w/ a place setting, bring it with the cup and saucer...or mug), but bring me a spoon so I can properly give my coffee a swirl, pour in some cream and watch it magically spin into the coffee. A spoon, please. A lady never wants to use a fork to stir coffee!

3. Don't make me beg for more cream. Two cream drinkers are going to polish off that dinky little pitcher after a two cups.

4. Serve water without having to be asked.

Minor details, I admit. Now, regarding the food. I have to confess that my taste buds are not quite up to par at the moment because my nose and head are stuffy. This is a problem for someone who likes to TASTE food and who can usually taste individual ingredients in a dish. My remedy was to order spicy and hope I could taste it.

My friend and I had churros for a starter. These are fried strips of dough coated in sugar and cinnamon and served with a dark chocolate dipping sauce. The churros were light and crisp, almost like cookies, not like donuts as the menu may suggest. I could taste the cinnamon and that was about it. The chocolate sauce had a good texture but the taste was too subtle for my defective sense of smell/taste.

My main course was rather astonishing in its complexity: a grilled biscuit split in half and covered with a sauce of andouille sausage with tomato topped with a poached egg and a hollandaise w/ cajun spices and crawfish tails. It was good except for the crawfish which was too fishy, probably from being frozen. Crawfish should taste sweet and lobstery not strong and fishy. Like lobster, don't bother if it isn't fresh because frozen doesn't do it justice. I moved the crawfish to the side and at the rest. It was good, but next time I'll order something else like the shrimp and grits.

My friend had French toast. It looked amazing when the waitress brought it to the table. The slices were huge. It was served with delicious cooked fruit in a tasty caramel sauce with whipped cream on the side. I tend to like egg dishes for brunch but I will certainly order French toast at some point too!

Aside from the minor problems w/ the spoon and cream, the coffee was delicious. It was rich, dark, bold and served in large mugs. I'd say their coffee is nearly as good as Alivia's, which is the best coffee in town.

So, let me know when you head to Watts Grocery for brunch what you think of the other menu items. I might have to go back tomorrow to try the shrimp and grits!


Joe said...

I think every restaurant in Durham is required (ATM) to not serve water unless it is asked for, as part of the water restrictions we're under.

Anonymous said...

You can't fault Watts Grocery for not bringing out's common knowledge that restaurants are not permitted to bring water to every table unless it is requested. We are in the middle of a drought! Sounds like someone is feeling a bit cranky from being under the weather.

Kelly said...

No, I'm always this cranky, thanks, especially when I go thirsty while bourgeois folks who have grass lawns still get to water them a couple of times a week.

Anonymous said...

I think my comment may have come across as being a bit cranky myself. Sorry - that wasn't my intention! I love reading your blog...keep up the good work.

Kelly said...

Well, I went back to Watts to try the French toast now that I have my sense of taste back. It was very tasty It was topped with cooked bananas, berries and plums in a caramel sauce! That's more like dessert than breakfast! The coffee was good and I finally got a spoon for my cream. I asked for water as everyone suggested and I got some but no refills. If we are serious about conserving water, then tell me why people cut down trees, tear out ivy, and put in grass? I've been dying to ask my neighbors who did this but they might find it a pointed question! So I keep my mouth shut and admire my own drought resistant ivy which is the only green thing left alive in my yard.

Rockological said...

Their menu sounds so unhealthy. I won't be eating there anytime soon.

Kelly said...

Who eats out for health food? If I want to eat healthy, I stay home and fix it myself.

Anonymous said...

I live along the front range in Colorado; 'short grass prarie', or basically desert. We never really have eough water to go around, and always get water at restaurants without asking. Compared to watering lawns, agriculture and industrial uses, it is simple negligible. Not serving water in restaurants is a phony-symbolic gesture, that at best serves to remind people that there is a water shortage and they should be cognizant of this in the rest of there lives. It does't even serve this purpose if the restaurant doesn't bother to mention what is going on to their customers.

Reuben Moore said...

Kelly, I completely share your lawn watering attitude. I wonder if anyone knows what percent of local municipal water use goes to automated outdoor watering, particularly grass?

wildfire said...

I think the restaurant water restrictions are just to raise awareness honestly. Every time I've been out in Durham this summer (including Watts), I've gotten water pretty much like usual, the waiter has just had to ask if I wanted it, and it did serve to remind me that there is a drought ...

That said, I had a pretty mediocre experience at Watt's also. It took about an hour for our food to arrive after we ordered and then my chicken was undercooked and chewy. Both of my friends had rather bland fish dishes. I sat a the bar though, so my water glass was generally full.

Joe said...

I know of a mid-size restaurant in Durham whose water bill is $10 per *day*. Or maybe it's $20 if they get theirs monthly -- not sure. Yes, it's partly symbolic, and partly reminder to others, but restaurants also use a lot of water washing dishes. A couple hundred customers a night might mean a couple hundred classes washed that might not need to be. For all those reasons, the ban doesn't upset or bother me. I just ask for water if I want it. I guess some restaurants don't automatically serve water, so I guess for them the savings would be less.

Anonymous said...

In the big picture, it may be a small amount of water relative to other uses, but every bit helps.

More to the point, I am often amazed at the types of things that get people bent out of shape when they dine but they tend to accept in nearly every other consumer related experience. The fact that you tip should have nothing to do with it since that is really just do to a flawed system of compensating servers that would be nearly impossible to undo.

After all, restaurants cant afford to pay their waiters any better than they do, so if tips were done away with, all prices would have go up in order for them to be able to attract remotely capable employees. Either way, the customer would shoulder the burden.

At any rate, how many other places is service to the extent that you shouldn't even have to ask for things before getting them required? There are a few absolute requirements. You need flatware and a napkin. Pretty much everything is optional. Is it really such a sin to expect the diner to simply say what they want? I mean, that's by far the easiest part of the equation.

Sorry, but I'm on a roll. The water thing is just one of several restaurant service complaints that hints at unreal consumer expectations, so I'll mention another. Presenting the check and dealing with credit card reciepts. Somehow, the manner in actually charging people is somewhat taboo. The price must be sheilded by a leather book, discreetly slipped on to the table. I've heard people complain that the waiter peeked inside the book as they walked away from the table. I mean, how rude, right?

Well, if the customer inadvertantly grabs the house copy that shows what the tip is, the restaurant is legally powerless to see to it that the waiter gets tipped. If the customer's math is wrong, the restaurant must always err on the low side. If the waiter doesn't notice this until the people are gone, he or she is screwed.

Why do they have to make a point of scurring to the back to check this out so they can go back and catch the customer before they leave in case they made a mistake. Even in the fanciest of clothing stores, for instance, when you're ready to leave, you walk to the register, they tell you right then and there how much it costs and they stand there and wait until you pay them. Yet, for some, this interaction can spoil even a $20 lunch for two if not handled with kid gloves.

As someone who is both a merchant and consumer, I do get a bit pieved when I hear complaints like these.