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Monday, September 01, 2014
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Published: Friday, 10/24/2003

Restaurant review: Trotters Tavern ****

Cruising one mild evening through downtown Bowling Green, thoughts of dormitory dining halls and institutional meals came to mind. Balanced and nutritious, no doubt, they nonetheless set the overworked phrase, “home cooking,” in proper perspective.

Away from home, the next best eating to mom's is one of the plain, cheerful eateries that commonly cluster around a residential campus.

One such eatery is Trotters Tavern, one of many almost antique, narrow storefronts lining three blocks of Main Street in the heart of downtown. Overhead, in the backdrop of an English-style sign, is the faint sketch of a sulky, a driver, and a trotting horse, moving fast.

Whatever the relevance of the imagery, moving fast does not suit the kitchen; no fast moving there. If you're out with friends for a leisurely supper I doubt that will be burdensome, though it may well be to the solitary diner.

What brings that observation to mind is the menu, which really does not demand much of the kitchen. Only one plate is an exception, the “Brown Jug Steak Dinner,” elaborately described at the head of a menu page. It merits the respect of an affluent student or an indulgent parent: a Black Angus filet mignon, marinated in a peppery proprietary sauce, and served in a cast-iron skillet. The steak - the heated skillet doubtless cooks the meat well beyond medium - is topped with shredded parmesan onion (the parmesan on my dinner was either neglected or vaporized by the heat), and the menu suggests that a commercial bread roll on the side be dipped in the sauce a la london broil in the skillet. The steak comes in two sizes, 10 and 16 ounces.

This all works really very well, despite what you might conclude from my description.

Now to the rest of the menu. Very simply, there are three exhaustive categories, appetizers, salads, and sandwiches. All reflect a creative approach to a menu that does exactly what is wanted, combining healthy ingredients into original, substantial meals, attractive combinations that Trotters can afford to price within reach of student budgets.

There are no surprises among the appetizers, which include good-sized peel and eat shrimp and tomato bread. It is, rather, among the salads first, and then the sandwiches, that your attention is captured.

A choice of four salads comes with the steak dinner or for $3.95 can be had separately. In a general way they are mostly leafy, though the Greek salad includes Kalamata olives, yellow peppers, tomatoes, and crumbled feta cheese, with a red wine vinaigrette dressing. Five more salads clearly are made for entrees, all with chicken, turkey, or ham, eggs and fruit; these cost $6.50 to $7.95.

Assembling salads is much like assembling sandwiches, and with first glance at the list I wasn't able to miss a reuben, in a traditional formula. But then I spotted a cubano, which layers baked smoked ham, Cuban pork roast, and swiss cheese. Alas, the larder was emptied of these meats (as well as turkey, which is no way to manage a pantry). I was forced back to the menu and came up with a grilled breast of chicken covered with glazed apple sections and smoked bacon. Though I had a choice of croissant or a bun, it came without asking on a croissant, soft white, not-crusty, more a lookalike than the real thing.

During midweek evenings I've found curbside parking easily, but parking is also in abundance in a large lot behind the row of store fronts. Though wheelchair entry is not hard, maneuvering among tables on a busy night will be challenging.



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