If you are going to care at all about our opinions of food (and the restaurants that serve it), it is important to be honest. Let’s just be honest right up front, OK?
There are a lot of restaurants in Montgomery that we haven’t been to.
Sure, you say. You people are vegetarians. Or at least you don’t eat mammals. Obviously you haven’t been to such and such favorite barbecue joint. And there, you’d be wrong. We’ve probably been to your favorite place and picked the pork shavings out of their (often) paltry excuses for veggie plates. But we keep trying, mostly because we like the downhome allure of the mom-and-pop BBQ places that exist around the state.
Yet, there are just a lot of places here in town that just haven’t made it to the top of our list yet. And some of these are places that people insist are among the best restaurants in town. For example, Michael’s Table. Nothing against Michael and his table, but we just haven’t decided to splurge and check it out yet. And we haven’t been to the Chophouse (or Vintage Year, or whatever it’s called. Having “chop” in the name obviously is kind of a red flag for us, but we do hear that it’s good, and maybe the next time we can afford to drop $30+ on an entree we’ll find out).
Another place we had heard great things about but hadn’t patronized is Garrett’s. A friend told us that their “early evening” menu was a bargain and that the food was tasty. Sure enough, we found ourselves over on
the east side of town The Hellscape and had a few minutes to kill. We decided to pop into Garrett’s at 5 p.m. just as the doors were opening. We decided to sit at the bar, have a drink, and order a couple of the cheaper items.
We were prepared to make fun of the semi-pretentious “art of food” subtitle, but we ended up fully and totally impressed. The food (at least the two things we had) was great. The service was professional. And the whole thing was relaxed and delicious. We ended up deciding that our main regret (as with many things) was that it was so far away from our house.
We ordered from the “early bird” menu, joking about how the only people in the restaurant at that hour were the early dining senior citizens that liked to be home before the sun went down. Indeed, we were by far the youngest customers at this hour, but that’s pretty much true anyplace you try to eat dinner at 5.
We had the “flash fried” oysters, which came with a bewitching horseradish sauce. We’d never eaten anything quite like these. And we are big time oyster enthusiasts (those rejecting oyster consumption for ethical reasons should at least check out this Slate article). Turns out that flash frying (for 25 seconds, according to the server) produces a totally different texture and taste to the kind of hard frying you’re likely to see at places like Wintzell’s. The oysters were creamy, but more substantial somehow than they are in all their raw majesty. Sometimes when you taste fried oysters, you only taste the “fried” part of it. Not so here – like good tempura batter (not the crappy kind you’re likely to get around here) and great perfume, the fry treatment demurely accents what it covers.
We also had the crab cakes. They were pretty good, not great, and definitely less memorable than the oysters. It wasn’t that they were square so much as that they lacked a punch. Sometimes when you eat a crab cake, the crab taste is super-intense and therefore delicious. Other times there’s some crab there, which is fine, but the real star of the crab cake is some crazy remoulade or an intense relationship between the crab and its binder ingredients (mustard is good for creating this kind of effect). Here, we didn’t reach either of those flavor highs – the kitchen should either go all out on the crab or all out on the tricked-out ingredient list. But they haven’t, so these felt somewhat compromised. That said, they were still darned good, and a good deal at the discounted early dining price. They went well with the unbelievably cold and refreshing draft Stella Artois we ordered.
Our bartender/server was attentive without being intrusive. We sat at the bar, which they clearly though was super weird, but we were well-treated even with a big party in the back room and the staff still setting up for a big night. We don’t usually say this about places in The Hellscape, but we are looking forward to going back for a full meal and full review.