The Quest for “Our Place” – Part 4: St. Clair Broiler

It’s been a looooong time since I last seriously blogged.  I blame Twitter for the most part.  I mostly blogged as a way to get out opinions that demanded to be released on the general population (or, at least, to the couple people who stumbled upon my blog).  But Twitter has usurped that outlet, and as such it’s been months since I last seriously wrote anything, even if such opinions needed to be expressed in more than 140 characters.

However, I have been a bit remiss in not revisiting my “The Search for ‘Our Place'” series.  While my wife and I have not been out searching for very many new places of late, mostly due to economic reasons of course,  we have gone to a couple, and have probably come to the closest thing to what will be “Our Place” that is possible. 

Before I get to that (that’ll be in a later post), let me start with a place my wife and I visited today.  The criteria for what we’re looking for in “Our Place” has been laid out in previous posts within this category, so I won’t regurgitate them here, with the exception of saying that we’re looking for a laid-back hangout, probably a bar-like place, with something special, particularly in regards to the food.  Finding great hamburgers was a big element of what caused this search to begin with.

And so, with that in mind, we head off to the St. Clair Broiler, at the corner of Snelling and St. Clair in St. Paul.  Now, this place doesn’t fit our theme exactly, as my wife has been there many times before when she was in college.  In fact, on one of our early dates we had gone there.  My wife raved about their fried chicken drummies (she is a bit of a fried chicken nut, actually), so I had to check them out.  Back in the day (i.e. ~3-4 years ago), the place had a bit of a dive diner/malt-shop interior.  I don’t remember much about the food back then, but I remember thinking the drummies were decent, but were in serious need of spice, and the rest of the food was rather average.

Given that, it was surprising how interested I was in visiting the restaurant today.  I really shouldn’t have been.  See, if you’ve read the previous posts in this category, you’d pick up on the fact that I like dive-y places.  They’re generally more fun as they have more style than your average restaurant, especially your average cheaper restaurant.  And that’s the main thing the St. Clair Broiler has screwed up.  They recently renovated, and now offer a décor that can only be described as generic Highland Park yuppie “diner.”  Or, as my friend aptly described it, it’s no longer the St. Clair Broiler, but rather the St. Clair Bistro (that actually applies to the menu as well).  It is completely without any style at all.  It reminded me greatly of the damage that was done to the Shantytown Grill (about which a mini-rant can be found within this previous post).

But, of course, since this place was never going to be a hangout given its relative lack of drinks (it does have a beer and wine license, but it almost feels like ordering a beer at Perkins), the atmosphere isn’t the be all end all.  The food is what matters.

In addition to making the style of the restaurant very bland, the owners also neutered the menu.  It used to be a dive-like menu, with a few options for burgers, chicken, and sandwiches.  It’s now a menu the likes of which you’ll find absolutely anywhere.  Don’t get me wrong, the menu isn’t really anything to complain about, but they took away the style.  They also took away the drummies.  For shame.

But really, the place is about the burgers and malts anyway, so I ventured forth… and didn’t order a malt.  To be honest, I just wasn’t in the mood.  I had recently gotten a terrible, terrible DQ malt (I know, redundant) right before I got really sick, and I now have the connection of bad malts and nausea in my head.  Luckily, good malts are safe, but since I wasn’t thoroughly impressed with the Broiler last time, I didn’t want to risk it.

I did, however, have a burger.  It came with everything I generally desire with a burger: cooked onions (although I’m good with raw too), tomato, pickles, and mayo.  The burger itself looked nicely grilled, and I looked forward to biting into grilled-burger goodness.  And then I was disappointed.

The burger wasn’t bad.  Most importantly, the burger wasn’t tasteless.  It was, however, only a little distinguishable from your average Burger King burger.  Both are flame-broiled, and both are rather dry.  Worst yet, the burger was overly charred, so that I tasted little besides the charring.  And for a burger with that strong of a “flavor,” the onions need to be raw, not cooked.

I do have to repeat, the burger wasn’t that bad.  It was tasty enough, but there’s absolutely nothing about it that would make me choose it over almost any other burger place out there.  I had the burger with a side of kettle chips, which were also decent, but again nothing to write home about.

My wife had a grilled ham and cheese, and when she ordered it, she asked for sourdough instead of white bread.  On the menu, they have sandwiches listed as having sourdough, after all.  The waitress told her that while the menu does say that, they just actually use white bread in those sandwiches.

Yeah, that’s something you probably don’t want to admit.

Anyway, the St. Clair Broiler, used to be rather average food, but with decent style, now has very average food with no style at all.  For the love of Bob, my burger even came on a rectangle plate.  Yuppie-ville.

As for the place that will probably finally be “Our Place,” as mentioned, I’m just going to have to delay that until next time.  I have also just noticed that I have somehow not written about The Nook, besides a really quick blurb-slam.  We’ve since moved only a few blocks from The Nook, and I do have a different perspective than when I originally blurb-slammed it.  But let me tell you, it’s still not good (and there’s your blurb-slam #2).  Until then…

Cheers,
Charlie

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