If, prior to last Christmas, someone had told me that the blog's first restaurant review would be for McGrath's, I wouldn't have believed them. At Christmas, however, we received a $50 gift card for the place, so here it is.
We ate there a couple of times our first year here. I recollect the last time we were there I ordered the crab cakes. These turned out to be about one half crab and one half small pink wormlike thingies I was told were "bay" shrimp. We can't recollect what Kathy had, but we do recall that she was not pleased either.
But with the gift card not being redeemable anywhere else, we decided to give it another try, and picked last Monday (January 18th) to do it.
The restaurant was at only about 40% capacity, and that, coupled with the fact that some effort has been made to control sound volume (a ceiling of absorbant tiles, an array of potted plants dividing the main dining room) made for a thankfully quiet experience.
We first ordered drinks, a glass of Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay for me, and a peach margarita for Kathy. Although the variant of K-J was not given, I'm pretty sure it was the "Grand Reserve" bottling, which is a decent one. Kathy's margarita was good too, not too sweet, but the salt on the rim was a bit sparse.
After listening to our server describe the evening's specials, we decided to order a couple of those. In my case it was the six ounce lobster and for Kathy it was the Steelhead Oscar, which our server described as having a topping of shrimp and crabmeat. We had no reason not to believe that, because an "Oscar" dish usually uses crabmeat (go plug oscar and recipe into Google if you don't believe me). Both of these entrées were priced at $16.99.
We'd opted for the house salads, and these were okay, fairly fresh and with enough ingredients to be interesting. The bread was a rustic sourdough, crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside, and served with butter soft enough to be spreadable.
So far, so good.
Things went south when we received our entrées. My lobster was bland and a bit dry, and served at only slightly above room temperature. Likewise the baked potato was only warm. As for Kathy's fish, the topping contained no crab, only small pink thingies that I recognized as the "bay" shrimp of unhappy memory. These were dry and had the telltale metallic flavor that announces, "we've been frozen!" The fish, topping and sides were, like my lobster and potato, served lukewarm.
We called our server over, who admitted that she'd erred when describing the topping as including crab. We asked her to take it back, which she did. Shortly thereafter the manager appeared, with menu in hand. He pointed to the description, which indeed listed only shrimp. Our server reappeared, repeating her admission that she'd described it as including crab. The manager offered to replace the topping with one of dungeness crab, and we agreed to that.
Several minutes later Kathy's plate reappeared with a new toppping. It did appear to be crab, and seemed to be fresh, but it was cold (and by that I mean refrigerator cold, not merely room temperature). Kathy ate about three bites, then gave up.
Hoping that dessert might partially rescue the evening, we ordered a single serving of the "Mile High Mud Pie". This turned out to be a serving for at least three or four, consisting of a large wedge of chocolate and vanilla ice cream, with a chocolate cookie crust and chocolate syrup and nut topping. We ate about half of it and took the other half home, to be finished a couple of nights later.
The experience was mostly positive, but the temperature at which the entrées were served was simply not acceptable. Cold crab on top of cold fish is unpalatable, and this alone is sufficient reason for us to never return to this restaurant.
I suppose this is a "win-win" outcome, as McGrath's certainly packs 'em in on weekend evenings. They don't need my business, and thus have no motivation to improve their standards. Sadly, this does not reflect well on their clientele either, who apparently see nothing wrong with the place.
But you know, that's one of the goals of this blog: to raise the consciousness of those dining out in Corvallis. We've had an ongoing discussion about this with several friends, all of whom agree that many (if not most) of Corvallis' residents have never experienced truly fine dining, and - not knowing what they're missing - think they're being served good food when, in fact, they are not.
So we'll call 'em like we see 'em. If it's bad, we'll say so, and if it's good, we'll emphatically say so, and urge you to try the place yoursellf. Stay tuned!