i have come to realize so much more goes in to how you feel about a restaurant than the atmosphere or even the food. your dining experience has so many outside factors - preconceived notions, assumptions about a place, who you eat with, even the weather and the kind of day you have and the conversation while dining can effect your experience. of course the food is super important but two people can go to the same restaurant, order the exact same thing and still walk away with two very different experiences.
perhaps outside factors affected my most recent dining experience because i wasn't super impressed with the Oregon Grille. don't get me wrong, i want to like the Oregon Grille. in fact, i want to love it. baltimore magazine rates it #10 out of the top 45 - they consider it to be one of the best of the bests. plus, it's a mere 10 minutes from our house and has a great outdoor patio and dining al fresco is one of my little joys in life. this visit was my third to the Oregon Grille and i left feeling the same way i have the other two times - eh.
it may have to do with my expectations being too high. it must be hard being in the top ten because people expect greatness. as the last restaurant in maryland requiring a jacket for men after 5pm, there is a formal air about the place. perhaps that formalness further increases my expectations. while it's not usually my style (i'm more of a laid back girl), i can certainly appreciate a place to get dressed up for - a place for special occasions, a special place for celebrations.
i have eaten in the main dining room, the bar, and the patio. this particular visit was spent on the patio, on a gorgeous night, with my favorite person on the planet - my husband - yet somehow that still couldn't elevate the oregon grille to the top of my list. sure, the food was good, but it wasn't amazing. it isn't as good as the price or the hype in my humble, honest opinion.
i started with my favorite - a glass of prosecco and ordered an appetizer on special, the fried green tomatoes. they were served topped with tomato sauce and shaved parmesan. they were good but not great. E ordered the crab and avocado wontons. again, they were good as was his standard gin and tonic. for dinner i had the caesar salad (which unfortunately came with several overly wilted pieces of lettuce) and E had the tenderloin sliders with sweet potato fries. the sliders were good as was the flavor of the caesar dressing but neither of us were impressed. again, it was good, but not great, not exceptional. we even ordered a dessert to give them another chance. we ordered the seasonal special - strawberry rhubarb crisp a la mode. the flavor was okay but they were too skimpy on the ice cream in my opinion and i couldn't really taste the rhubarb.
there were other factors that contributed to our less than excellent feeling. our table was not cleared of leaves and debris when we sat down. of course its perfectly understandable seeing as we were outside and it was a little breezy, but at least we could have received clean napkins. the patio was practically empty (only 2 other tables of folks) yet we rarely saw our waiter. he wasn't around to notice that E needed more water even after he finished drinking mine. neither of us were offered another cocktail after we finished our first and our meals came out so soon after our appetizers that neither of us were even halfway through them. while details like this don't make or break an experience, with such a formal feel and high prices, i expect excellent service regardless of whether we are in the dining room with wearing a jacket or on the more casual patio.
i hate giving a place an average review (perhaps i'm not cut out for the restaurant review business). i'm certainly not saying it's bad. all-in-all, the oregon grille is good but i can't give it an excellent rating. i wish i could. perhaps it deserves a place in the top 45, but it certainly doesn't earn a place in my top 10.
pssst . . . word on the street is the owner of the Oregon Grille has purchased and is currently renovating a historic restaurant/landmark in the area - The Valley Inn. i am very curious to see what they do with the place as it was my grandparents favorite spot. it was a bit of a hotspot back in the day and i have many fond memories of the place. it was hard to see it go downhill so rapidly in the past decade. i am hoping they are able to keep the historic value of the place without making it another Oregon Grill. as i said, i am very interested to see what they do with the place. i'll be checking it out when it re-opens.
have you been to the Orgeon Grille? what did you think? i'd love to hear your reviews? am i being unfair?