Everyone who has read this blog before knows that I’m not exactly the best of writers. Sadly this ability fails me most when it comes to describing a place like the Cellar.
A creative writer would comment on the beautiful decor. A more poetic observer would fawn over the resplendent patio, complete with garden canopies. The romantic wordsmith would describe how the staff caters to your every whim.
The fat food critic just says the food is “meh”.
The Cellar Bar & Grille has nearly everything going for it, aesthetically: a beautiful building, brilliant presentation, gorgeous landscaping, a great atmosphere during UK games and ample parking. The only knock against it is that it’s located on Lansdowne, which could be out of the way for some.
The staff at The Cellar couldn’t be nicer. Every time we visited, our waiter was making sure we had everything we needed, even offering us a Herald-Leader to help pass the time on our second trip. When we had a problem, the manager was right there to make sure we were happy.
The only downfall to The Cellar is the food, and that’s a shame.
While deciding what to order on our first visit, I was impressed by the variety on their menu. The Cellar offers, among other things: Filet Oscar (Filet medallions with hollandaise and fresh crab), Hot Browns, burgers, and Roast Beef & Beer Cheese sandwiches, along with some pretty interesting appetizers. I decided the first thing I wanted to try was the creamy shrimp & crab dip:
The dip was…okay. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t anything special. Get used to that description because it will pop up numerous times in this review. It was deceivingly spicy, which didn’t hurt the dish but unfortunately didn’t make it any better. I could just barely taste a slight hint of the crab and shrimp in the dip, actually. Thankfully the manager saw that we barely touched the dish and generously gave it to us at a discount.
Underwhelmed yet again. It pains me to say the best part of this sandwich was the bun. The chicken was bland yet juicy, but all I could taste was the bacon. Again, the sandwich wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great. Kat ordered the burger, and again, it was decent but nothing special. At least the meal came out promptly.
Like at other places me and Kat have tried, we thought the food would be better on our second (or third) visit. Surely a place couldn’t invest that much money into sprucing up the place while not focusing on the food, right?
We went back to The Cellar about two weeks later, this time going around noon so we would be part of the lunch rush. Kat and I sat down at the bar, received a warm welcome and then ordered our food. This time as an appetizer we ordered the Cellar chips, which are homemade chips with bleu cheese dressing and bleu cheese crumbles. I really enjoyed these: simple, hot and full of flavor. No complaints at all.
Thankfully Kat liked the chips too, as we ended up waiting nearly 30 minutes for our entrees after we got our appetizer. I would understand the wait if they were busy, but they were practically dead. There were three large parties dining at the tables next to the windows, but they had already received their food before we even ordered ours.
I ordered the salmon BLT – more on that in a minute – and Kat got the meatloaf, but neither of those should have taken that long.
When we finally received our meals, I was kind of put off by the presentation of my dish:
Now the first thing you may notice is the odd cut I got on the sandwich. I know that filets normally look like this, but if it’s on a sandwich that means half of it is without the salmon. About 40% of this sandwich is lettuce, bacon and cream cheese. Perhaps after you cook the salmon, you can slice the fish up a little so it covers the whole ciabatta roll; here it’s just an awkward block. As for the taste, the fish was a little dry plus I didn’t care for the combination of salmon, garden cream cheese and bacon. That’s more of a personal preference however, as I’m sure there are people out there that will enjoy the combo.
Kat’s meatloaf was – surprise! – mediocre. It tasted like a Stouffers meatloaf. I know, I said the same thing about Joe Bologna’s pizza (that it tasted like Stouffers, not that it tasted like meatloaf. Joe B’s would have all sorts of issues if that was the case) but it’s the truth. It didn’t help that the mashed potatoes that came with it had no seasoning at all, not even salt and pepper. I love mashed potatoes, but they at least need butter.
We left the Cellar disappointed, yet again. After that meal I made the decision to not give it a third try. I may eventually regret that decision, but until the food improves I feel like I’m doing the right thing. I’m certain they’ll improve the food one day, and when that happens I’ll be more than happy to give it another chance. The Cellar is so close to having a great restaurant, but unfortunately it’s not quite there yet.