Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Late Night Bite at Doc's Backyard

To be upfront with you all, we (my husband, B, and I) really did NOT want to end up here. Not because we dislike Doc's, but because we were really hoping to get out there and try something new. I can tell you right now, that if you get caught up in a Law & Order marathon and end up getting out of the house just after 9 on a Sunday night, your options are rather limited! But anyway...

After calling Hickory Street Bar and Grill, Union Park (whose number was disconnected), Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant, and Cuba Libre, I was frustrated and pulled into Doc's with 25 minutes to spare until the kitchen closed. Normally I don't like to be that customer who comes in at the last minute and expects to sit down and eat a full meal right before closing, but they're open until midnight, and I knew we wouldn't be ordering course after course, so I didn't mind. Apparently, Sunday is also quiz night, so there were plenty of other people still ordering nibbles to keep them at the top of their game.

As a brief aside, unless you're taking part in quiz night, I wouldn't recommend going to Doc's on a Sunday after 8 p.m.. Since it's all one room, it's hard to get away from the shrieking and obnoxious 5 second clips of songs (I turned to my husband and said, "What the hell? Are they going to play the first five seconds of EVERY Beatles song?" just after we arrived, only to realize a few minutes later what was going on.) to enjoy your meal. And why is there always one girl who feels the need to let out a shrill scream every time her team gets an answer right? There seem to be a lot of screamers at Doc's, because every time we've been there (when it's been anything other than dead), there's always a 40-something woman who's clearly hired a babysitter for the night and had one too many tequila shots before hitting the shuffleboard tables. And let me tell you, I've been around plenty of obnoxious drunks, but none of them ever seem to top the older married men and - especially - women who are "cutting loose" for the night.

Okay, so not as brief of an aside as I'd hoped, but back to our meal. The first 10 minutes (remember, we only had about 20 left to order) went something like this:
  • 0-1: Arrive at Doc's, note the 10 p.m. kitchen closing time on the door, and think, "We'd better get a move on."
  • 1-2: Genuinely surprised (and feeling a little bit better about not leaving the house until 9) that it's so busy for a Sunday night. As I noted earlier, we quickly became annoyed with the whole quiz night thing, which just did not have the same feel as a British pub quiz. We grab a table.
  • 2-4: We wait for a server to come by and give us menus, and we really work the "Smile, raise eyebrows and a finger" routine to try and catch one of the girls' attention without interrupting what they're doing. No such luck.
  • 4-6: I go to the bar to ask for a menu, where I'm consistently ignored. Finally, I head over to the little computer registers they have right by the kitchen door, and try to get a server's attention. Luckily, I notice some menus by the shuffleboard table, grab two, and return to our table.
  • 6-10: We wait. And wait. In an act of desperation - we're talking 10 minutes until they stop taking orders! - I physically put my hand out in front of a waitress (not carrying anything of course, I'm not that big of an ass) and ask, "Can we get some help?" The kicker? She says, "Oh, I thought you all were being helped since you had menus and everything." Sheesh.
So we order. And I'll tell you right now, you should not go to a sports bar and expect to be greeted with a menu that offers a wide variety of healthy/un-fried vegetarian options. I didn't expect it, and neither should you. There's nothing more obnoxious than some trendy vegetarian expecting to go all the same places they went last week (when they still ate meat) and then being shocked and offended that there's not a single vegetarian entree at Beefy's BBQ. But I digress...

Since it was late (and I already knew exactly what I wanted), we decided to skip appetizers. I LOVE fried pickles, but I tend to feel queasy when I eat a ton of fried stuff, so it was better that we didn't indulge. Like I said, I knew what I was going for, and B was trying to decide, so we ordered a pint of Budweiser (for him) and a Pink Lemonade (Pink lemonade vodka guessed it! Pink lemonade!) for me.

When the waitress came back with our drinks, we ordered. For B: A Lone Star Chicken Sandwich with mayo and the guacamole on the side and a side of French fries. For the Veggie: Mini Tostadas with no meat and guacamole as a substitute, and a bowl of queso as a replacement for the non-veggie rice (they use chicken stock).

I will not eat at a restaurant that insists you pay extra to receive something when you're losing out on something, and luckily for us vegetarians, Doc's does not do that. The server said she'd have to check with her manager, but when all was said and done, there was a $1 charge on the bill to add the queso, and then a $1 credit to remove it. I don't really care how it gets done, so long as I'm not paying extra. I hope that doesn't sound unreasonable, but the $1 here, $1.50 there adds up over time, and why should it when I'm getting no more or less than anyone else paying for the "same" meal?

When the food came out, we dug in. I always feel bad writing a review of a restaurant that I've gone to while:
  • a) Starving
  • b) Drunk
  • c) Both a & b
because I feel like I can't give an honest review (or remember anything to review if situations b or c are in play!). That being said, on this particular night, I was only "a) Starving" since I had to drive, so I can remember the experience , and also that fact that since I was starving, just about anything would have hit the spot. Don't get me wrong - the mini tostadas were not horrible, but I can say with absolute certainty that they were not wolfed down because they were so amazing I just couldn't get enough. The guacamole was...sparse, but luckily hubby gave me the guac he got on the side, which ended up being enough. I had to ask for salsa (there was no sauce or flavoring of any description, which I found weird), but then she also asked if I wanted some chips, which was nice. Unfortunately, Doc's has really heavy, somewhat bland/stale tasting chips, so I ended up avoiding them.

Random, but small annoyances: We had to ask for utensils, and salt, and pepper. I might have been able to overlook this if it didn't happen every time we come here. It seems like whenever it gets slow and/or close to closing, the waitresses decide to fill their time by collecting all of the salt and pepper shakers. Weird. Also, the tostadas come with diced tomatoes on them, and then a heap of pico de gallo on the side. It's too much to have both on, so you're wasting one or the other, which I hate to do. Plus, I prefer the pico, and trying to get the tomatoes off the tostada without losing the lettuce was a feat.

All in all, my dish was what you'd expect from a Mexican dish at a sports bar. You can flavor it up to make it a decent vegetarian meal (add a bit of salsa here, some guacamole and queso there...), but it's nothing special. But hey - at least it wasn't just a conglomeration of different deep fried vegetables, right?

B was also just satisfied with his meal. He ate half of the Lonestar Chicken Sandwich after waiting for utensils so that he could spread on the mayo they didn't put ON the sandwich, and about half of the fries. They were overly greasy, salty and lukewarm when they arrived (and B LOVES a salty chip), and by the time I tried one 5 minutes later, they left that greasy coating on the roof of your mouth and were cold and mealy inside. We ordered another round of drinks - this time a pint of Budweiser for both of us - and went to sit on the patio.

The food at Doc's seems to be inconsistent, as the queso Sunday night was better than normal (read: actually liquid instead of congealed), and my husband's chicken fully cooked (hurrah!), but I can definitely say that we've had worse experiences here. My advice? Come to Doc's for the beer (which is hard to screw up so long as it's served ice cold) and nibbles, but don't make it your destination for a full meal unless you're into food that's neither here nor there flavor-wise.

P.S. In the colder months, the outdoor fire pit is great, and in the summer, I love that they have the fans that also spray a fine mist of water on you. If I had the luxury of being able to afford taxis everywhere, Doc's wouldn't be a bad place to spend a Monday night knocking back cheap pitchers of Budweiser and relaxing on the patio where the screams of the Real Housewives of South Austin playing shuffleboard would at least be muffled if they kept the garage doors down...