Bananas Foster acquired its liquor license before I knew it, so on my first visit, thinking it was still a BYOB, I came in bearing wine. And when it quickly became clear that the restaurant actually sells its own beer and wine, I tried to hide that bottle under the table.
But a gentleman sitting in the corner of the restaurant had been watching me, and soon he had called over a server for a solemn little chat. “That man is complaining that we brought our own wine,” my sister whispered to me. Her claws were about to come out. So were mine.
Soon, the server was approaching us. “The owner just called me over,” she said. “He insists that you drink the wine you brought.”
Impressive. One of Bananas Foster’s greatest assets is the price of its food—the average dinner entrée here is all of nine bucks—so I’m assuming that wine and beer sales are crucial to its success. Yet as much as my sister and I protested (nobody was going to out-polite us, we decided), the owner, John Winslow, insisted on losing the money we would have spent on a bottle.
Classy, customer-is-always-right moves like that can help make a meal go down a lot sweeter, and our meal that night was undoubtedly elevated by Winslow’s hospitality. Take the French onion soup: It was attractively deconstructed, the large croutons jutting angularly off the rim of the bowl, but it was just a basic cup of soup (if anything, it was a little thick). Still, in the wake of such kind treatment, it tasted fine.
Entrées, on the other hand, could be genuinely promising. Though not much to look at, the one-pot meals consistently featured well-cooked meats—the lamb stew had a bolder, richer flavor than the chicken dish, which bordered on, but did not cross over into, blandness. The fish-and-chips were a half success: The fish had the thin, golden casing of batter and the flaky interior that all fish with chips should have, but the straight-from-the-freezer fries were limp and useless. Chicken tikka masala had a flat flavor, but anybody who’d order the Indian classic at a place like this is getting what he deserves. However, the obligatory bananas Foster had a boozy caramel sauce that made the dish—and thank God, because it was accompanied by a step-by-step tableside presentation, and all eyes were on us as we ate it.
There was no time for demos during breakfast, though. While slow at night, Bananas Foster has been packed during the day from almost the minute it opened. From the look of the menu—and, again, the nondescript look of the food—it would seem that the mobs are a product of little supply and lots of demand (the brunch options around these parts are dreary). But that would be selling the place a little short. The lattes are strong, the coffee cake is sweet and the Irish breakfast (pictured) is perfectly serviceable. And if the pulled-pork panino doesn’t look like much—it’s thin, with soft slices of industrial bread—it at least has good flavor, the rich blue cheese working well with the sweet pork. Which proves once again that here, it pays to keep your mind open—the good stuff can come when you least expect it.