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:
*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)