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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Dave & Cranky Chuckie's

Where: Dave & Cranky Chuckie's, 746 E 820 N, Provo

Who Went: Chelsey, Owen, Devynne, Mom & Grandma

Number of Visits: 1

What We Ordered: Stuffed Wontons, Strawberry Balsamic Chicken Salad, Ricotta Chicken Salad, New York Strip Steak, Pork Tenderloin, Apple Braised Chicken, Chocolate Lava Cake, & Strawberry Avocado Shortcake


What It Cost: $104.00 (including tip)

What We Thought: 


Like the probably 7,000 other classmates I graduated with a couple weeks ago, I wanted to go somewhere nice for dinner after graduation. I originally wanted to take my family to Communal, but with everything going on during graduation week, I totally forgot to make the reservation ahead of time, and they were all booked when I called two nights before. So I decided to go somewhere kind of new and quirky instead - Dave & Cranky Chuckie's. On their website, they claim to be a "tastefully abrasive American bistro," and if there are any words that describe my mother, it would probably be "tastefully abrasive." It sounded like a perfect match to me, so after our tushes regained consciousness from the lengthy ordeal commonly known as commencement, we headed down there.



We were seated near a window, which was great lighting for my shots but also partially blinded me & Owen during the meal. This was mainly my fault - the staff offered to close the blinds, but I just couldn't say no to all that natural light, so our server offered his sunglasses to me, which was a very kind gesture. Little did he know that wearing any form of glasses (even normal ones) really throws off my depth perception, so I had to take them off after clearly missing my mouth with the abnormally tall glasses of water. We were served some bread to start off the meal - it was very soft and had a delicious hint of rosemary, but was a little awkward because they only gave us four pieces of bread for five people.


We ordered the stuffed wontons as an appetizer, which was probably my favorite dish throughout the whole meal. Though the interior content of the wontons was a little difficult to determine (perhaps some mixture containing fake crab meat, cream cheese and...?), they were perfectly crispy and fried, and the sweet chili sauce it was served with was delectable.

Since I'm a total pain, I forced my mother to get the ricotta chicken salad instead of the strawberry salad so we could have two different pictures and experiences. She's not the biggest ricotta fan (she hates it plain), so I tried to assure her that "ricotta chicken" probably meant that the chicken was cooked with ricotta or maybe it was all mixed together in the salad or something.


Nope. It was just a big old schlop of ricotta plopped right on top of a bland and unoriginal chicken breast. There was a good mix of greens, but for a person who doesn't even like ricotta that much, the whole dish was pretty disappointing. Though sunflower seeds may add another thing to your list of ingredients, they do not contribute much flavor or color, and since my mother discarded most of the plain ricotta on the side, I ended up snagging it to give my own meal a little more textural and flavor variety.


My grandma ordered the strawberry balsamic chicken salad and thought that it was great. It pretty much had the exact same formula as the ricotta salad - same mixture of greens, same humdrum sliced chicken breast on the side, similar type of dressing, but with some strawberries in the mix instead. It was good, but not very imaginative or impressive.


When our server, Paul, brought out Owen's steak, we were all pretty blown away. None of us had ever seen a New York strip steak that was so large before! Though the presentation was fantastic and those little grill marks on the steak looked straight from Gourmet magazine, the steak itself was a bit of a disappointment. It was a little too tough and dry for me, and we realized it wasn't really all that much meat by the time Owen finished because of the huge pile of inedible fat that remained on his plate.


Easily a third of the steak was this unpalatable blubber, which detracted from its original appeal. The mashed potatoes tasted good with some steak juice seeping into them, and the carrots were fine - a little al dente with plenty of pepper to keep Owen happy.


The pork loin was hit and miss for my family - Devynne really enjoyed the applesauce served on top of the grilled pork, even though it was an unappetizing shade of brown mush, but my mother craved for the salty and amazing flavor that can only be brought out of pork through brining. The potatoes were the same as the ones served with the steak, though they seemed less flavorful without the steak juices on top.


Finally - my apple braised chicken. Now, I have to make a confession. Since it was finally the end of my undergraduate career, I was experiencing a bit of PSISF (post-stress immune system failure). Okay, I just made that up, but I had a bit of a cold when we visited this restaurant, which of course meant that my taste buds weren't quite up to their normal function. Luckily for me, I was dining with four other people who I greatly trust as far as taste buds go, so I figured it would still work out fine. When I started eating my chicken however, I was so confused. I thought maybe it was due to my congested nasal passage, but I could not taste one iota of apple on my supposedly "apple-braised" chicken. I asked our server what the deal was after everyone else had tried it and confirmed the absolute lack of apple flavor, and he said that the chicken is cooked with the apples and sometimes the flavor might not be absorbed into the chicken! How misleading! Basically it just tasted like an unseasoned chicken breast, remarkably similar to the chicken found on both salads, just with darker grill marks. The succotash was alright - I liked the canned pineapple that was mixed in for some variety, and the risotto was definitely the best feature of any of our entrées. Though my mom referred to it as "fancy Rice-A-Roni," everyone kept trying to sneak bites off of my plate.

Though we were all generally disappointed with our main courses, a good dessert can make up for the meal - at least in my family. We decided to go with the molten chocolate lava cake and the dessert special, which was a strawberry avocado shortcake. Apparently they bake all of their desserts to order, so we waited around for a good twenty more minutes for our final course to arrive.



The first thing you may notice about this strawberry shortcake is that there are clearly no avocados involved. I asked the girl filling our water cups if the avocado was infused into the cake or something, but she said, "Oh...they must have ran out of avocados..." and then continued to avoid eye contact and our table the rest of the meal.

The second thing you may notice about both desserts is that they look like they came out of an Easy Bake Oven.*




Both desserts were exceptionally dry, surprisingly cold considering the fact that they had just been cooked, and horrifically bland. In my family, we pretty much love sugar so much that we will eat any kind of dessert, no matter how bad it is. These two desserts were the rare exception. The strawberry no-avocado shortcake was desiccant and crumbly, and kind of burnt. The lava cake was...indescribable. I wish I had taken a picture of the "lava" that was inside for you, but we were all dying from laughter by this point in the meal because of how shockingly bad the desserts were. The cake and lava inside were both this weird shade of greyish brown, which made us question its true identity as something that was supposedly made of chocolate. The lava itself was oddly thick and didn't exactly flow out of the cake - it was like your aunt's bad fudge that she brings around at Christmastime and forces you to eat. Except we couldn't eat it.

Paul was really nice throughout the whole meal and must have realized by the end of it that we were not exactly enjoying the food. Now, if there is one thing that this restaurant knows how to do right, it is working the social media. When you get two young students running a restaurant with a bunch of their friends, they are definitely going to use the web to their advantage. They even have their own restaurant blog, Tastefully Abrasive, where they recently have started to scope out the competition in Utah Valley. As I was taking pictures of the food, Paul told us that we should write a review on Urbanspoon and post the pictures. Then my not-so-subtle mother broke my number one rule about reviewing restaurants, and told him that I have a restaurant website. This of course probably affected our service, but unfortunately did not improve the quality of the food. At the end of the meal, Paul came over and said that since I had a cold, I should come by and try them again and slipped me this card, which would give me 15% off the meal.




What You Should Do: At the steep price of around $20 a person, I have to say that I do not recommend Dave & Cranky Chuckie's. Personally, I think I am going to give them a few months to become a more established operation, and maybe I'll try them for lunch or something instead. The whole experience seemed like some amateur friends who wanted to play a game of "let's run a restaurant," and the food was nearly all either unoriginal, under seasoned, or prepared in a strange and insipid manner. And just please do not get the desserts. I know you are probably thinking, "Chelsey! How can you insult a restaurant that apparently 97 other people in Provo like enough to go on Urbanspoon and rate it?" But as I mentioned before, these guys do have the upper hand as far as social media is concerned and I am sure that many of their friends are trying to support their restaurant venture. Your mother always taught you that you can't trust everything you read - unless it's on my website of course. Just kidding. You can either take my word for it and save yourself from an expensive and dissatisfying meal, or you can go there and let me know what you think!


Read other reviews here:
Dave & Cranky Chuckie's on Urbanspoon


*Note: Easy Bake Oven is a product of Hasbro. Also, not all Easy Bake Oven creations are so bad as these two desserts. For something awesome created by an Easy Bake Oven, you can check out this video from Cake Boss, where he is challenged to create a cake using an Easy Bake Oven, and is wildly successful (skip ahead to 6:47 and then 11:14)

14 comments:

  1. Your pictures are beautiful! I went there for lunch about a month ago and had an awesome experience--the service was really great and I enjoyed my sandwich. If I go again, sounds like I should stick to the lunch menu!

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  2. Me and my fiance's favorite place to eat. I love Dave and Crankie Chuckie's. Been back a few times and still have yet to be disappointed. Also, you need to get the nachos!

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    1. Thank you so much for your compliments to the photos (like I said, the lighting was too perfect to turn down!) and for actually reading the review - unlike some Facebook devotees, who somehow think I am a man? Anyway, I appreciate your devotion to the restaurant, and, as I mentioned, am likely to return there again because there are so many others like you who are so loyal and I want to know what I am missing out on! I do not claim to be a professional restaurant critic - this review, like all of my others, is just a reflection of the dining experience I had. After writing this review, I consulted with my fellow diners from that evening. About half said I was spot on, and the other half said I was being too nice, so I figured it was fairly accurate. Things like the three nearly-identical chicken breasts, missing avocado that the service staff couldn't explain (though I appreciate you clearing that up for me!), and a third of the steak being all fat were features that marred our meal. But it surely could have just been an off-night, which every restaurant has of course. And I certainly agree that it is a monumental step up from places like Applebees - though Applebees is the lowest-rated restaurant of all 790 restaurants listed in Utah County (according to Urbanspoon)! Once again, thank you for your comments and I am sure we will hear more about this restaurant in the future.

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    2. I forgot to mention the chicken! My absolute favorite entree there has been the Chicken Marsala, which featured a chicken breast. I've also had the apple braised chicken and the salads. I've never found the chicken to be bland or unfavorable, I actually would rank it in some of the better chicken I've had. Sadly, Chuckie decided to mix up the menu and the Marsala isn't on it currently, but I've had the sun-dried tomato chicken that replaced it and it was rather good as well. His new chipotle items are also pretty good, as long as you like the flavor of chipotle of course.

      In all the many times I've been, I think I've only had a female server once, and I don't recall seeing her around anymore. I learned a long time ago that most servers at any establishment don't know much about everything on the menu, so if you have a critique of anything or want clarification on how a meal is prepared you've got to ask the preparer, who is usually more than willing to explain his/her methods.

      Hopefully you just had an off-night or your party was just a little grumpy after sitting through the long commencement (I know I was a little off that night after all the stress of everything). I'm hoping to see a follow-up review down the road where you have a much better experience! And if for some reason you don't, we can agree to disagree and I'll still be willing to foot the bill. Try the clam chowder! I've had a lot of really good chowder up in the PNW/Seattle area and I'd say Chuckie's is pretty good for land-locked Utah! :)

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  4. Ha, these comments make me want to review this place even more. Quite the controversial post! I've been following this place for awhile and have not been convinced to hurry over since I try to feature great places. The portions always look a tad large, are they not? The dressing on the salads doesn't look to be coating the lettuce, it's more like rolling off. The steak dish looks good, but huge, and then the fat and gristle at the end is a turnoff. And serving rice and corn together--two starches--is sort of a peeve of mine. They have quite the following in this area, but so does Chili's, Los Hermanos, and Brick Oven. We've learned to not always follow the crowds.... And to the comment above about waiters/waitresses not knowing the menu or how something is prepared is the reflection on the restaurant, so it absolutely is validated to mention. A waiter/waitress should be taught and informed. I could list quite a few places in the area that have done so. Way to be honest Chelsey!

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    1. I feel like I'm somehow becoming a foodie, I kinda like it. :)

      I completely agree with your comment about wait staff being familiar with the dishes being served! And in my experiences at this particular establishment I've never had any issues of them not knowing the answer to most any question asked about the dish. And in the situation where it is a new one that they haven't personally had, they have been great at telling me what other customers have said, even if it isn't always in the restaurant's best light. They're honest guys/gals. And if they don't know the answer it is very common for them to pipe up and just ask Chuckie or whoever the chef is on duty at the time and they get a nice answer right there.

      My comment about wait staff wasn't meant to be a reflection of how their staff has been for me and the many people I know that have tried the place out. I get that everyone has their own opinions, tastes, preferences, etc. I'm sure that there are people out there that will not enjoy their experience, which is sad, but that's life. If every person had the exact same taste preference than this would be a rather bland, dull world.

      As for portion size, Chuckie says he likes to allow people to have leftovers, and that Utahns in general love having leftovers to take. I personally don't like going to a restaurant and getting served a super small, piece of art that is food that in no way shape or form is going to fill me up. I eat for nutritional purposes and to have energy to live, not to critique the tiny portion and pay more for smaller portions. I think Chuckie has found a pretty nice balance between portion, price, and plating technique.

      I can tell everyone how much I love this place, but honestly just try it yourself and come to your own decision on whether you want to give them your business or recommendation to others to try it. I personally would choose this over any of the other restaurants or food places in the vicinity (Slab Pizza, Awful Waffle, Subway, etc). Those places are fine, but for a nicer environment and better food, I go to Dave and Chuckie's. I classify Chili's in the same category as Applebee's, I'd only eat there if a friend insists we go. I've never had a bad experience at Brick Oven or Los Hermanos, but I prefer Papa John's and Joe Bandido's or El Gallo Hiro to those establishments for my personal taste. :)

      Tastefully Abrasive is their tag line, and it fits. Try them out and decide for yourself.

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  5. I have read the post and seen the beautiful pictures. I cannot imagine that the food could taste that bad. I have read comments and posts on other sites and there is nothing like this one. This is very unprofessional and it seems like a personal attack. Does the author have a personal grudge? Is this review even about food?

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  8. This argument was presented in a very unprofessional fashion. Let's just begin with that.

    So first about the glasses. Perhaps the glasses aren't your cup of tea but they chose them because they have a modern yet elegant flair about them. They actually are much better in size as well because they hold more water. Which means, waiters have to come around less and fill them up so that the customer can have more pleasant dinner conversation without being interrupted as often.

    As far as the bread goes, the bread is made fresh daily. They also make sure that they have plenty of bread to last the whole day/evening. Many fine restaurants in Los Angeles area bring out bread as well where it's most commonly broken off into pieces for everyone to share and then if the customers desire more, the waiter brings out more. They would have most certainly brought out more bread once it was gone.

    Also the descriptions of the wontons were said in a very unprofessional manner. I don't think any food critic in the LA Times or New York Times would ever use the term "fake crab meat". I'm sure they would have the courtesy of using "imitation crab meat" unless they wanted to be discredited as a food critic.
    In respects to the ricotta chicken salad, it was your fault for forcing your mother to order a dish she normally would have not ordered. Of course her opinion would not be raving over something her taste buds don't normally enjoy.

    The use of the term humdrum for the strawberry chicken balsamic salad, yes although the formula makeup is the same, the flavors are different. The tang in the balsamic vinaigrette complemented with the sweetness of the strawberries are complementary flavors that reflect the knowledge of the chef for knowing what flavors complement which. So, instead of saying they look the same, how did the salads differ in taste is really the question to be asked.

    As for the steak, I would like to ask how did your order that it be cooked? Are you more of a medium-rare girl or well done girl? That could make all the difference in the steak dining experience. I usually order mine on the rarer side and have never had an experience where the meat was tough or dry. The fat may look like a bit much for that steak but each steak is different with different amounts of fat and it would be impossible to trim or take off all the fat imaginable. Also, that would not make for a very flavorful steak because the fat of the steak adds to its natural flavors. Again, with the terminology for "unpalatable blubber," this would not fly in the food critic world. I'm pretty sure you'd be one of the critics that would only get readers from the shock factor NOT for providing a fair unbiased critique that uses terminology that's professional and not subjective. I can also see where your opinions and mannerisms come from if your mother called the succotash "fancy-rice-a-roni."

    Well, I feel it's unecessary to continue on with the response to the review because the language and descriptions used are so absurd and skewed.

    Honestly, to me, you sound like the Joan Rivers of the food blog world.

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  9. Not to be rude, but I think a cooking class or two might be a little bit on the helpful side for you and your reviews. First of all, your apparent disgust at the fact that the ricotta salad (gasp) had actual ricotta is ridiculous. And OF COURSE your mother didn't like it-- SHE DOESN'T LIKE RICOTTA! Hello? I don't like sea food; so if you give me a big ol' plate of clams or a nice salmon fillet guess what? I probably wouldn't like it either- no matter how well it was prepared. Secondly, anyone who knows anything about real food knows that when you prepare applesauce from scratch (not that crap in the jar you're probably used to) it looks more brown than yellow. It's because there's not a ton of extra crap put in there for "shelf appeal." I will give you this, the gal refilling your water that you asked about the shortcake obviously didn't know the menu very well. But if you knew anything about the culinary arts (which you should if you're going to go around judging restaurants pretending like you're an actual food critic)you would know that avocado is one of the most common ways to create a smooth texture in baked goods. The word avocado remains in the item's name for your sake. Some people can't eat avocado and, since in an expertly executed example the avocado should be undetectable, Chuckie was just trying to help YOU- the customer- out.

    I don't know Dave or Chuckie personally, but I do know that your review of their restaurant is laughable and makes me rather disinclined to put any sort of stock in any of your other "critiques" if they even deserve to be referred to as such. If you did your homework before ignorantly spewing your opinion all over the internet, you would know that Chuckie got his start at one of the finest restaurants in Salt Lake City. It's about time you educated both yourself and your taste buds about what real food is actually supposed to be like. It might be a difficult transition from the easy mac you're used to, but I promise you it will be worth it.

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  10. We went to Cranky Chuckie's this summer and had a really great experience. My husband and I do not enjoy chain restaurants (watered down taste, cheesy atmosphere, etc.) and decided to give them a try. We told the waiter that we weren't extremely hungry and went to order an entree, but he recommended the nachos instead. HUGE WIN! They were extremely good and original! They were so accommodating for us and we had a great time. I would recommend going back and taking recommendations from the waiters. :)

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  11. Have you returned here yet? Some of my most incredible meals have been here, as well as for my husband. I'd be curious to see whether you would have a different experience if you went back.

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