Saturday, December 16, 2006

The Busiest day in Renton restaurant history

Friday December 15th had to have been the busiest day in Renton restaurant history.
Much of the Seattle area was without power due to the windstorm, but downtown Renton was literally a beacon of light and heat.
I had the great idea to take myself out for breakfast, since the house was cold and dark. Lots of others had the same idea.
Tommy's had a line outside the door, as did Mimosa. I then drove up the hill to Plum Delicious and it too was mobbed, so I drove back into downtown Renton and found refuge at Rubbatino's, the hole in the wall on 3rd Street, across from Naan N Curry. Rubbatino's is the oldest continously operating restaurant in Renton. They claim to have Renton's best breakfast. Like every other restaurant in downtown Renton, it too was crowded, but I was able to get a counter seat and enjoyed warmth, coffee, and Pork Chops and eggs.
That evening, Diane and I tried to find an open restaurant. Naan N Curry was mobbed, as was La Hacienda, as was the alehouse. We ended up at Cedar River Smokehouse and ate, but after we got served they announced that they had run out of food.

On another note, Thai #1 & Pho Cafe has opened in the Safeway mall of Downtown Renton.
203 S. 2nd Street Suite B 425-277-6909.
It's good, it's cheap. They have a pretty good selection of both Thai and Vietnamese food, including Red, Green and Panang curries, Vietnamese and Thai soups and salads, bubble teas, Mango and Green Tea ice cream, tempura, miso soup, mussels, etc.
The menu tops out at 7.95.
For me, it's close, convenient, open til 9:30 7 days a week, and it's good.
Which reminds me, if anyone wants to open a Japanese place and looking for a name, how about Miso Horny?
...And Touchdowns Restaurant and Bar has opened in the space formerly occupied by the All City Diner on Airport Way in Renton. At "press time" it hadn't yet been sampled, but your faithful scribe will sample and report soon.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Armando's Cafe Italiano

Armando's Cafe Italiano 310 Wells Avenue S., Renton WA 98055 425-228-0759
Armando's is a long established, very successful, and highly acclaimed restaurant in downtown Renton. It's not one of my regular haunts, but over the years I have sampled almost everything on the menu, and was just there again a few days ago.
A few months ago Armando's moved around the corner into a new, larger location.
The new location is pretty, with a fireplace and Armando's own blown glass throughout. Armando's really all that?
Well, it has it's pluses and minuses.
The pluses? The food is very good. Chicken Armando is, to me, their signature dish, a chicken breast baked with mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, white wine, and parmesan.
Pastas are all very good. Steamed mussels are delicious. Pizza is baked in a wood fired brick oven. Prawns Palermo are sauteed with artichoke hearts, kalamata olives, feta, and tomatoes.
So what's not to like?
Well, I tell you: Years ago there were only two Italian restaurants in downtown Renton: Armando's and Gene's. You couldn't be a huge fan of both places, it had to be one or the other, like a New Yorker can't be both a Met fan AND a Yankee fan.
I was a Gene's person, and I still miss Gene's. The big difference was service. Part of Gene's philosophy was making people feel at home and comfortable and well taken care of. He made sure that he hired people who went out of their way to make your experience there feel special. The food was probably equal to Armando's, all things considered, some things better, some not as good, but it was slightly less expensive, and just more fun to go there.
Armando's is lacking in the service department. It's not that they don't try, but I don't think Armando values service very highly. He tends to hire 17 year olds who mumble. I'm aging and my hearing isn't as good as it once was. Armando's is somewhat noisy, so I'd appreciate louder waitpeople who enunciated, instead of softspoken mumblers.
Entrees at Armando's range from 11.95 to 17.95.
Armando, who is a Renton High School graduate, also owns the Melrose Grill, located diagonally across the street from Armando's. I love the Melrose Grill.
Don't get me wrong, I like Armando's and will continue to patronize them. But I don't love the place and things bother me about the place.
For instance, I asked for them to hold the pasta on my order of Chicken Armando.
The server asked if I wanted grilled veggies instead. Sure! And they were good!
But don't you think it ought to have been mentioned at the time that they would charge me an extra dollar for them?
I would have happily paid it, but not mentioning the extra charge just strikes me as a chickenshit way to steal extra money.
On the 0-4 scale?
Food=3.75 Atmosphere=3.5 Service= 2.0 Value=2.0