review: sweetwater tavern


I was excited to finally go to the restaurant that I’ve heard so many people rave about, but as I sat in my booth and read the menu, I knew I was in over my head. It became abundantly clear that Sweetwater Tavern is a fancy place.

I work for a company that loves to treat its employees to fancy fare. And most would consider that a nice perk, to be able to eat at Clyde’s, The Capital Grille, or Bob Kinkead’s Colvin Run Tavern on the company’s dime. But not me – I’m more than happy with a kid’s meal and some cheesecake from Chick-Fill-A.

I ordered the grilled salmon, and was surprised when the waiter asked how I wanted it cooked – the menu clearly stated that it was grilled. When he clarified that I could get it cooked to order like a steak – medium rare, medium, etc – I asked him what was best. I went out on a limb and ordered the medium he recommended, and made a mental note that at fancy places, you don’t have to have your fish thoroughly cooked.

When my food arrived, it was arranged on my plate in a rather odd manner. My mashed potatoes were dead center. My salmon was draped over the mound of potatoes. There were 3 sweet potato chips stuck into the left side of the potatoes, where they emerged from underneath the salmon filet. And the right side of my plate was covered in mustard sauce for the fish. It was very artistic and all, but food is … food. I want to be able to eat my potatoes without disturbing the fish. And without mustard sauce running all over everything. And without having to remove sweet potato chips.

I suppose the atmosphere was … fancy … and the food was … fancy … and I suppose the food was even pretty good. But I was so out of my comfort zone, that I couldn’t wait to get out of there. (I took half my food home in a box, and had it for dinner – it was much better the second time around, in the comfort of my own dining room, after the microwave nuked that medium salmon to completely cooked.)

I have to say, though, the best food I’ve had recently is Kenny’s Barbecue. Never heard of it? That’s because Kenny is my father-in-law. Any time my husband’s family has a big get-together, Kenny barbecues up every kind of meat known to man. Chicken, brisket, pork loin, sausage in a variety of spiciness levels, you name it, he’s barbecuing it. And not only did I get to enjoy his barbecue, there’s always all the ‘fixins’ that come with it, prepared by the rest of my husband’s family: butter potatoes, rolls, black-eyed peas, bacon-wrapped asparagus, apple pie. Having grown up in the Pacific Northwest, Texan cuisine is something I missed out on – but I’m trying to make up for it on every trip to Texas.

All in all, I’m sure Sweetwater Tavern is a fine place. If you’re in to that kind of thing. As for me, I’ll take Kenny’s Barbecue any day of the week.

6 replies on “review: sweetwater tavern”

From your review and my conversation with Josh, I think you guys just got a snooty waiter. Sweetwater is far and away my favorite place to eat out, and I’ve never felt like the one around the corner here in C-ville is fancy at all – a little more upscale than Red Robin, sure, but no more than Macaroni Grill or a neighborhood Italian restaurant.

Here’s what you need to try there:
– The house-brewed root beer
– The Drunken Ribeye steak or, if that’s not your style, the Monterey Chicken Salad
– The berry shortcake while they have it in the summer

Anyway, sorry you both had a bad experience there – I hope you’ll try it again sometime with a different waiter and a different menu. Don’t let Josh order a burger; there’s lots more to try worth trying there.

Just thought I’d chime in and agree with Dave. Sweetwater is really great, you might want to give them another chance. The whole collection of Great American Restaurants including Mike’s in Springfield and Silverado and the rest are all great. Sweetwater is the one I go to if I feel like beer, or, as Dave already pointed out, rootbeer. They brew it all on site. I will say that they are all a little out of my current price range, but worth it for a treat. Silverado is the brands “Texas style” place. It’s in Annandale. If you like Seafood, Coastal Flats in Fairfax is great, but I do notice a little of the snooty from some of the bar staff . I think Artie’s in Fairfax is the most laid back, but I haven’t been to Carlyle since they changed the name from Carlyle Grand.

Sorry, but when I read this I saw Josh staring at his plate, standing up, breaking into singing (I am Man) and heading out for a whopper ;). No way to empathize-I live in a town where Sizzler made it on the fine dining list. Let’s hear it for mill towns.

lol, that must be where I get my aversion to fancy restaurants from, growing up in a mill town. 🙂 Next time you come out to visit, I’ll gladly take you to whatever fancy place you’d like to try out – I’ll drop you off and be back to pick you up after I’m done with my happy meal. 🙂

That’s too bad — I LOVE Sweetwater, and I always get the salmon. It’s my favorite meal! I am lectured by Matt every time we go there about “expanding my horizons”, but if you only go there twice a year like we do, you go for something you know you love. I second the draft root beer suggestion. And yes, I was confused by the question about how I wanted my fish prepared, but was too embarrassed to ask…so I just said, “umm, medium well”. The waiter didn’t look confused, but I thought maybe he was being kind. Matt looked at me like I had two heads, and we debated what he could have meant by his question throughout the rest of our meal… Matt insisted he probably meant blackened, grilled, fried, baked, etc. I’m glad I’ve got the official answer I can rub in his face 😉

oh, and one last thing in response to halfling’s comment–an old friend of my husband’s noted that his hometown in southwest Missouri voted Long John Silver’s the best seafood restaurant in Joplin. Granted, you aren’t going to get good seafood in podunk MO (or anywhere in the middle of the US), but those guys at the Red Lobster there must have been astounded.

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