So, a few months ago, my husband booked us a reservation at The Handsome cab; and my review was in one word: “Underwhelmed”. Shortly after I made the blog post about my experience, one of the owners reached out to me, inviting me back for a glass of wine on them and a chance to express, further, my experience and disappointment in person.
I was very impressed that they had sent such a personal email, and took such care in responding to all their unsatisfied customers on most restaurant reviewing platforms online. (I’m not lying, go check out Yelp or Google). Almost all of them have a response and a personal invitation back to the restaurant for a glass of wine and sometimes a meeting so that the owners can do everything they can to remedy poor experiences at their establishment. I responded, and told them that at this current time, that would be very hard, due to work schedules and that our daughter was now in school and we no longer were able to keep up with our old Thursday “date night” schedule.
After another email correspondence, we decided to chat on the phone…
Mid afternoon, one day at work, I received a phone call from Robert (one of the owners) where we proceeded to talk through my blog review and my dining experience. Robert expressed to me that neither he or his business partner, Andrew, had any direct knowledge or hands on experience in the restaurant industry….
*NOW* before everyone flips out, throws their hands in the air, and says, “well screw that! How good can a restaurant be when the owners have no clue what they are doing?!?”….let me finish the recap of our conversation….
While neither Andrew or Robert had any direct experience in a restaurant, let alone owning one before the Cab, one thing that honestly did shine through was the passion in the tone of his voice. Openly admitting that they were unsure of a lot, but they knew what they liked, and had a determined vision for their restaurant; was something that kept my attention through the entire phone call. He stated that they had seen a decline in customer satisfaction, and another thing *for me* that set this apart from other owners I have known, was that they were not going to settle for dissatisfaction of any sort. They were going to do something about it.
Their saving grace came in the form of former Head Chef and previous owner of The Left Bank, David Albright. Robert explained to me that they wanted everything to be exceptional again, like it had been when they first opened, and with David’s help, they were working on a new menu that would be released in mid October. David would come in, find a new head chef, revamp the menu to the high end / fine dining standards the Handsome Cab boasts about, and retrain any and all staff that needed to be. Mistakes were going to be corrected, and they were going to be made right. I was assured of this by Robert at the end of our call.
(Our Return to The Handsome Cab)
Now, my husband was very weary of giving this place a second chance, but I had promised Robert I would return, and hell, after the first review I gave them, I owed it to all of you too.
Here we go…
First look/appearance: not much had changed, but then again it didn’t need to. I will stand by what I originally said- the atmosphere can double both as casual or dressy. Classy, with a touch of jazz sass! I love it. The industrial brick makes you feel like you are stepping back in time, but with all the modern amenities and decor of today. What can I say….The Handsome Cab has class.
Seating: Sat quickly with no reservation needed on a Saturday night. I really liked the holiday decorations we were sat so close to by the front window. It gave the dining experience a very nice, romantic ambiance.
Food: (AKA- What you all were waiting to read)
A lovely waitress came over, took our drink orders and then gave us a few to look over the menu after she had reviewed the specials and answered any questions we had about the new menu. *she gave the perfect amount of time in between all mentioned above. I never felt like I was looking around for our waitress*
(hors d’oeuvre) – *Ordered with drinks/ came 7 minutes later*. Also one of the specials: 6 Raw Oysters. Now, I must not lie…every food you are going to read about, I specifically picked to test the new menu. There are certain food items that a lot of restaurants do, but can’t do well, and oysters is one. If you can’t shuck an oyster properly, or can not clean them and they retain a lot of grit, that is going to begin to tell you how the rest of your dinner is going to go. These were close to perfect. I had a small, small, small piece of shell but they were clean, tasted fresh and had a nice sweet flavor. And let me just add….do you know how seriously hard it is keeping seafood that you are going to be serving raw, in stock and in the best condition possible? You almost have to get a delivery daily! Very impressed.
(Appetizer/Shareables) – *ordered at 9:05 / came right after oysters at 9:16* Beef Tartare: Basically, I have no words….it was out of this world. Quite possibly the best beef tartare I have ever had. Fantastic portion size for two people to split. It was complimented by a fantastic white sauce that really enhanced the flavor of the meat, and the temperature was stellar! In a nut shell, YOU NEED THIS IN YOUR LIFE!
(Appetizer/Shareable #2) Brussel Sprouts: Now some of you will remember that we ordered the brussel sprouts during our last visit, and I felt like they were a massive lump of previously frozen mush….not these. Portion, again perfect. Flavor, extremely balanced and complimented by huge cuts of pork belly. Oh and guess what….the sprouts were fresh! The crisp texture shined through and was glazed in a heavenly sauce. Excellent dish, and HUGE improvement from our last experience.
(Main dishes): *we had finished all shareable and our main dishes came out right at 9:28*
I can feel all of you tipping to the front of your seat with anticipation…like, “there has to be at least one issue here that she is going to rant and rave about, right?!”….
(Pan Seared Sea Scallops- Main Dish)
(Jumbo Lump Crab Cake with Broccoli and I substituted in Cauliflower for the starch)
*typing super fast because this is about to get real*
No bullshit, this was probably one of the best dinners we have had in a while. The scallops were cooked to perfection with an amazing sauce on top, and had a healthy portion of pork belly to add the rich flavor that can sometimes be lacking in a shellfish as simple as scallops! I mean D.I.V.I.N.E!!!!
And can someone PLEASE give an amen to JUMBO, and no, I’m not talking about larger hunks of crab,…these JUMBO LUMPS looked like they came out of a crab the size of a German Shepard! And there was no sacrifice in flavor for the size! So sweet and rich! Barely enough filler to hold the cake together….I mean, kids, this was a SERIOUS crab cake!
The only issue I had this trip, is my stomach was too small to hold anymore food.
My husband and I left, saying … “well shit! They did it!” Robert kept his promise, and he and his team delivered.
And on that note, I just want to be clear….they invited me back mid October, and I waited until the end of November to return, intentionally. I wanted their chef to get comfortable, I wanted to see if service would decline after the relaunch in October, and I wanted to give an honest review. I gave no notice to anyone in that month and a half of when I would be coming back, the owners were not there the night I returned, and I doubt anyone who had anything to do with our experience during this visit, knew who I was or what I was doing there. This was a complete 100% true experience comparable to one anyone would receive when they step into The Handsome Cab.
And don’t fool yourself….you know you want to see what jumbo lump crab looks like from a crab the size of a German Shepherd.
With absolute honesty and deepest compliments to the chef…Handsome Cab….you lookin fine!
So, I have tried to come up with a clever opener for our overall experience last night at The Handsome Cab; and to be 100% with you … underwhelmed is the only word that continues to rattle around in my head.
In December of 2017, my husband and I had visited this restaurant for the first time. We were extremely excited that a Tapas/Wine/Piano Bar had finally opened in York! It was something extremely fresh to the restaurant scene in our town that we did not already have, and it had the upscale style with an edge that I’m typically drawn to when choosing a restaurant to eat at every Thursday. I was SO impressed, that I actually had asked the host if it would be possible to speak to the owner, and gather a little more info about the restaurant, but was told the he was unavailable….(looking to my right, yes he was unavailable because he was sitting and drinking with a large group of people and had no time to put his mixed drink down to listen to the praises of a pleased customer). But, we were impressed with the Tapas we ordered (during this visit we only ordered Tapas or “Sharables” as they are referred to on their menu) the fantastic and extremely lengthy wine menu they had, and the ambience, so we quickly did not hesitate to add The Handsome Cab to our growing list of “go to” restaurants in York, PA. Did I mention that the restaurant was packed?! Yes, it was a Thursday night as well (which is our weekly date night), and there was standing room only at the bar, and a 25 minute wait for those without resevations.
When I called my husband early afternoon yesterday, I asked him to select a restaurant for us to eat at that evening, and make reservations, he picked The Handsome Cab. We had to laugh at ourselves a little when we walked into the restaurant, for thinking a reservation was necessary for this visit. There were a handful of people sitting at the bar, one full table in the back, and a table in the front dining room occupied by 6 people. We would have been ok as a walk in (*rolls eyes*).
We were seated by the front windows, and shortly thereafter, a very nice waitress approached our table. She introduced herself, went over the specials, and asked for our drink orders. My husband ordered a wine flight, while I stuck to water for the time being.
The wine was brought to our table without delay, and we ordered our Tapas (“Sharables”) and entrees. On their dinner menu, they have the option of doing half portions or full portions for some of their dinner options. I found this extremely refreshing (and had completely missed it on the menu during our last visit), as most restaurants anymore, give WAY OVERSIZED portions that leave you feeling stuffed to the gills. It’s nice when you want to order several Tapas, that you do not feel guilty about ordering a dinner as well, and have the option to order a smaller portion.
About 25 minutes after putting our order in, our Tapas began to come out……. *the shit is going to get real*
I’m not going to complain about the Saku Tuna Tartar. The fish tasted fresh and was the right texture and temperature. I will say that the last time we visited, we ordered the same thing, and the presentation was a little neater, and screamed upscale fine dining. You can see what I mean from my Instagram post from our last visit *here*.
We Also ordered the Crab and Avocado Crostini…. we also got this the last time we visited *see image here*, and this time I was less then impressed. First we will chat taste. The crab was dry. It was almost like it had been frozen for a few months, quickly defrosted and then steamed. It also had a greyish-brown hue to it. Maybe it was the age of the crab, maybe the chef got a bad batch of crab, or maybe the Bloody Mary Aioli it was topped with was watered down this time, and had soaked into the meat, giving it an unusual color profile, but needless to say, it was not all that. Lets talk about presentation. I do remember the last time that we had visited and ordered this dish, I didn’t like the fact that you had a massive crab claw sitting on top of the Crostini. It is a little annoying to have to pick up the claw itself to eat it, before you can enjoy the goodies (or not so go during our experience this time) underneath. It is also where most of the Aioli is, which leaves the underlying crab below, a touch on the dry side; and with a dry crouton base, you need some form of moisture to balance the dish, otherwise you end up with dry on dry on dry. The only slight salvation from this is the tiniest amount of avocado, spread thinly on the crouton below. While I appreciate healthy portions of ingredients (especially when it comes to seafood) on my plate, the experience of consuming them also has to be pleasurable. —For me, this one….not so much.
Our third, and final Tapas were the Brussel Sprouts. They are “charred Brussel sprouts with bacon and chalet butter”. I do not have a photo of this because honestly, we were hungry and it was already hitting around 45 minutes since we had placed our order. I will say that I found the description of this Tapas to be a tad misleading. Typically when I hear the word “charred”, I think blackened and crisp. These were not that at all. The were mushy and soggy, almost like they too had been frozen. The bacon was soft and mushy as well which masked the difference in texture from the sprouts, and they were drenched in something that could send a person my age (29) into cardiac arrest. It was basically a pile of mushy brussel sprouts that had a slight hint of bacon flavor drenched in butter. Again, underwhelmed.
We finished our Tapas in about 12-15 minutes, and sat around staring at each other, wondering, at about an hour and 15 minutes, where our food could be and what was taking so long, considering there was basically no one there.
At this point, I couldn’t help but notice that again during this visit and right outside the window we were near, the owner had sat himself outside with a cocktail and a large group of his friends; a group that continued to grow every 15-20 minutes.
****Rant**** I am not a fan of going to any business, restaurants or bars, where the owner is socializing like a paying customer. It is a terrible look for businesses to portray to the actual customers who are paying high prices for food and expect quality in the dishes all around. At restaurants that have healthy followings and are regularly busy, typically the owner is in the back with the chef, expediting and inspecting dishes before they leave the window. The is a standard practice of quality control that maintains consistency and excellence in dishes being served. I have worked in many restaurants as a waitress for almost 9 years of my life; and in my experience, the owners that spend time socializing and not treating their restaurant like a business, taking every fine detail as seriously as they should, end up with few customers (typically only their friends/regulars) and eventually close. It never matters about the beautiful decor or the trendy atmosphere. When people go to restaurants to eat, they are mainly judging the food, and when that food is lacking, the restaurant begins lacking customers.
So our entrees—– *rolls eyes again*
*Shown above: Chicken Oscar $18 half portion/ $26 full portion
I had asked for an alteration to this dish. I am not a huge starch fan as far as side dishes go, so typically I find another vegetable and ask if I can substitute that. It seemed on the menu, that there were really only two side options: Asparagus and Herb Roasted Potatoes. I asked if there was any other steamed vegetable I could get instead of the potatoes, and the waitress came back after speaking to the chef and said they would double up my asparagus. —-ok I guess. When the plate came out, the overall presentation was sloppy. It looked like someone had run a knife down the middle of my chicken, which during the cooking process, could explain why it was so dry—- and I mean dry, like the damn desert. You would think that with the béarnaise sauce and crab it was topped with, I wouldn’t be able to tell too much, but there was very little sauce and it almost seamed to disappear into the chicken….and the crab *rolls eyes for the third time*. I don’t know how you can have such dry crab….dry on dry again. The asparagus was cooked and seasoned perfectly .
My husband ordered the Stuffed Shrimp Entree. There was no half portion option for this dish, and at $28, when you are only getting 3 shrimp, it better be damn good. Well, the stuffed shrimp was good, but the Old Bay Risotto it was bedded on was undercooked, crunchy, and lacked any flare to compliment the shrimp and crab. And can we just say— 3 shrimp? Really?! I know above that I was speaking about how I liked the half/full portion options, but FOR $28 DOLLARS?!?! Absolute madness!
As we chatted about our dinners, we kept coming back to the same conclusion. Disappointment. Our bill was close to $140 before the tip, and we didn’t even think that our experience with the food was worth half that.
Conclusion: The Handsome Cab needs a serious food make over, to get it back to the standards (and then some in regards to the owners socializing habits during both visits) that would tempt us into reconsidering ever going back there. If I want to drop $140 on date night again, we will just go to The Left Bank, or Rockfish Public House which are both literally right next door. Ta Ta Handsome Cab. You are no longer looking so handsome.
About a week ago, my husband and I decided to make a quick overnight trip to our favorite city in the world, Baltimore, MD, for a weekend getaway. Friday morning, I found myself in the mood to get gussied up, and venture out for a nice dinner, so we did just that.
We arrived at our hotel, and were left with the impossible process of elimination task to decide exactly what type of food faire we would be indulging in that evening. And what do we do as a society when we have no idea where to go, what to eat, or where to get it? We bring out our phones, and utilize the magnificent invention that is called: “Google Search”. -I’m a millennial, it’s what we do. I’m fairly certain that the exact search we used was: “Fancy-Restaurants-Near-Me”.
As I stood in the bathroom, powdering my nose, putting on my (very) high heels, and slipping into a dress that you can only get into if you fully coat yourself in Vaseline and an entire roll of Saran Wrap, my husband began reading out the descriptions of the restaurants that fit said search criteria above. “Japanese?”….no, I don’t feel like raw fish tonight (and if we are getting drinks after dinner, that could end up falling under the category of “Poor Life Choices”). “Irish Pub Faire?”….Are you serious?! It’s 95 degrees outside! No one wants Fish and Chips! “Traditional Modern American Seafood?”….YES! We have a winner! (Because when you are in Baltimore, MD, YOU. EAT. SEAFOOD!)
After deciding on our newly discovered “delicious destination”- Wit & Wisdom, we jetted out of our beautiful overnight accommodations at Homewood Suites Hotel by Hilton Baltimore and began the two block walk to the restaurant. Now, lets be honest ladies, when you are rocking 5 inch stilettos, and you have to walk for your food, you have about a 5 block radius before you have to rip off your heels and hoof it flatfoot the rest of the way. My husband knows this, but still sees fit to remind me each and every time I put them on- “if you would only wear practical shoes….” (an irritated and evil glare in his general direction typically ends that sentence for him).
When we arrived to the restaurant, we ended up entering through the back outdoor patio area, due to the lack of informative signage at the front of the 4 Seasons Hotel, stating where the main entrance to the restaurant was. We were pointed in the general direction of the hostess stand, and were apprised of the 30 minute wait we had until our table would be ready. (*side note: we arrived around 6:05 PM on a Friday, so if you would like to eat at this restaurant CALL AHEAD, because they do get busy). No problem though. We filled our time by taking a seat at the bar and ordering a round of adult beverages. NOW! Let’s just take a moment and talk about the bar.
The bar area is STUNNING! It is something right out of a “modern day” episode of Mad Men. The bar area is in the shape of an oval, that takes up most of the immediate space in the center, front section of the restaurant. It is a stand alone bar, that has a dropped ceiling above it where a few Tv’s are mounted and they stash the extra liquors. It is painted with warm tones, that becomes absolutely breathe taking as the sun begins to set over the harbor. With an atmosphere like this, I couldn’t help but order a Dirty Grey Goose Martini. (*Shaken not stirred*)
At this point I feel like it is only fair that I give a shout out to the bartender, who, when she saw I had my phone out and was snapping pictures of my drink and the bar, grabbed a branded Wit & Wisdom coaster, repositioned the olives that had sunk to the bottom of my glass and were looking slightly sad, and full on staged a photo shoot for me. (They care about their customer service here). I also feel that is necessary to say that since I have begun posting photos from our travels and food discoveries on my personal Instagram (@kelsey_stephens1989), while out with my husband, he has been trained to know the photography procedure that has one solitary rule: DO NOT TOUCH ANYTHING (FOOD OR DRINK RELATED) UNTIL IT HAS BEEN FULLY DOCUMENTED TO MY SATISFACTION! At this point while the bartender is working away on staging this beautiful photo (above), I am looking over at my husband who was quick to wipe the amused smirk off his face when I said, “see, it’s not just me!”
Directly behind us, to the left of the bar, was a nice lounge area, where you could sit on comfortable couches and high back chairs, if your thing is not high bar stools that position you directly across from a perfect stranger that you have to awkwardly avoid eye contact with for the duration of your evening.
When our table was ready, we were notified by the hostess, who then escorted us to our seats.
We were seated in area by the open kitchen, where patrons could watch certain menu items being prepared by some of the chefs. Also to my right, was a large fire place and some more of the gorgeous high back lounge chairs that had been present previously in the bar lounge. At the center of each table was a single Tea Light Candle that danced and flickered it’s light off of the beautiful glasses and silverware that were laid out perfectly, on the tables.
Overhead, large, contemporary glass lights, lit the room up as the sun began to set. As that happened, we began to notice that the shades on the large floor to ceiling windows, began to automatically retract so that you could get a perfect view of the sunset taking place over the entire harbor.
It proved to be just the restaurant we were looking for: “Fancy-Restaurants-Near-Me”.
*The next post will talk about the amazing food and drinks they had. Stay tuned!*
I love downtown Lancaster, PA, and I love craft beer. Until a little over a week ago, I had no clue that one of my absolute favorite craft beer companies, had their brew house in downtown Lancaster…. *MIND BLOWN* (insert head exploding emoji here).
Springhouse Taproom is located at 25 W. King Street in the gorgeous restaurant/arts district of downtown Lancaster, PA. Now, for those of you who are not familiar with Lancaster County, at all, King street is the main drag for the City. It is the equivalent of Broad Street in Philadelphia, and 5th Ave in New York. AKA- it’s the main vein for the city.
When you first enter, you notice the large windows that make up 2 of the 4 walls of the taproom. They are massive (almost floor to ceiling). On a perfect sunny, summer day, right outside of the front windows, you can find out door seating where you can grab a drink and watch the every day King street flow.
The taproom itself, has a very rustic, but with an artistically edgy appearance, and hand painted murals that match their beer labels, running along the entire top section of the interior walls. **Lets just say that one of the things that drew me to this company was their attention to detail and their seriously awesome bottle label designs.** The labels themselves have a very silkscreen appearance, and is an esthetic I am extremely drawn to, as a printmaker, myself. (See The She-Monster Poster above)
The main focal point inside the taproom is the large, bar that fills most of the space (shown above). Multiple Tv’s line the walls, that during my visit, were broadcasting the World Cup: France vs. Croatia.
It’s a a gorgeous taproom. If you are planning to visit Lancaster, PA, and you are a craft beer fan, you need to make this one of your stops. Try the “Big Gruesome”. IT’S AMAZING! The bar tenders are friendly, the beer is out of this world, and the atmosphere is that of “a small city that’s bursting with a strong sense of community and a burgeoning beer scene”. – credit to Springhouse website