28 June 2009

Uptown Cafe in Butte, Montana, or, the end of a very LONG road trip

The very last night of our 10 day drive to/stay in/drive back from Chicago, Ian and I were absolutely exhausted. When I was 22, I took my first road trip to Washington state from Chicago, and after taking this drive a number of times (6 now one way each), I've realized one important piece of info: I'm too old to take these trips. Or, at least I'm too old to drive consistently for 27/28 hours without stopping. The first leg of our cross-country trip, we stopped in Miles City, Montana. Depressing tourist town with no impressive tourist attractions. The second night, we stopped in Tomah, Wisconsin, near the Dells. Probably a cool town judging from what I briefly saw while almost falling asleep at the wheel, but we were much more interested in the soft pillows that awaited us in the hotel room and the sweet, sweet feeling of satisfaction in reaching my parents' house in Chicago the next day. Blarg.

The second leg of the trip is forthcoming. Many many Chicago eats need to be chronicled, and a yearly craving has been satisfied. Okay, the craving isn't yearly. It's daily. Double blarg.

The very last leg of the trip took us to Chamberlain, South Dakota the first night, and Butte, Montana the next. We could have driven all the way home that last night, but frankly, we wanted that last night of vacation. So Ian and I decided to head out for a nice dinner, and with a few online reviews in tow, I was hopeful to try Butte's top-rated Uptown Cafe. Although the meal was much more akin to stepping into your favorite low-scale diner, it satisfied the last night vacation needs quite nicely.

The starter was a cannellini bean-tomato soup, but unfortunately what sounded comforting and promising after two days on the road arrived at our table with virtually no seasoning or....taste. I didn't taste a thing, which leads me to believe that the soup was most likely left in a soup warmer all day. Nothing like the taste of something completely overcooked, and this was unfortunately how the rest of the meal turned out as well.

We had a strawberry salad that I forgot to take pics of, but it really wasn't anything special. Store-bought raspberry vinaigrette, under-ripe strawberries and tasty greens. Nothing special.

Second course (this sounds very forced, doesn't it?) was clams maison, which were definitely not fresh, but I'll forgive that since I was in Montana. People, Montana. Come on. Sadly, it was my favorite dish.

My pork entree was cooked just right (not dry at all! almost a first in the West!) but it was underseasoned, as was the plum sauce. The cloves of garlic were wonderful, but I would have liked if the rosemary garnish had also been included in the sauce/meat seasoning. I almost took a lighter out of my purse and lit the plate on fire from underneath in order to get some of that seasoning into the dish. But then I looked at the sea of cowboy hats around me and the likelihood that I would be mistaken for a Jewish terrorist, and I shoved another mouthful in without another thought.

I also received a "side" with my entree. When the waitress asked which of the sides I would like to order, I didn't account for the fact that the sides were most likely already made and were sitting around waiting to be taken out to customers. After ordering the snap peas in lemon butter, I received very soggy snap peas with a pool of lemon juice at the bottom of the dish and a pat of butter on top. Hmmm. That's a new take on lemon butter I hadn't seen.

Ian ordered the Scallops Norfolk, which came out much like you would get in a family-run Greek diner in Chicago: overcooked, underseasoned and completely tasteless. It was a disservice to scallops, if I ever saw one. His "side" was a vegetable ragu with penne, which also, true to form did not have any seasoning that I could taste.

Needless to say, we skipped dessert and headed back to our hotel full and ready to cook our own meals once again. Ahhhhhhh, home.

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