Amelia’s under-delivers on food & ambience
By Brandy King
Photo: Center-cut filet
Ever since we moved our family close to Bellbrook, we’ve been trying to make our way around to all of the independent eateries on that end of town, of which there are a surprising amount. One of the last ones we got around to was Amelia’s on West Franklin Street. It’s oddly nestled against a Subway, but the inside was nice enough. At first, I thought it might have been the muted, warm décor that made the place look small – but, no, it was just cramped. They seated our party of four at a table that backed up to a curtain – on the other side of which was more tables. I’m not sure what the purpose of this giant hanging tapestry was, because it didn’t give any privacy to the back of the restaurant, and just made it really awkward for us to get in and out.
We started with cocktails, which actually wasn’t my favorite part of the meal for once. The wine selection was limited, and the cocktails didn’t match the vibe they were going for. Only a dozen or so total selections if I remember correctly, fewer than half of which could be ordered by the glass. I settled for Cab-Sav, since it didn’t seem like a great idea to have a bottle of wine to myself with dinner.
A couple of us ordered from the restaurant week menu, which was a real bargain compared to their a la carte prices – where the same meals would have been $50 per person without tax, tip or drinks. The food came out timely, and I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume the food was probably plated well and looked great. Saying Amelia’s is dimly lit is an understatement. The only time I actually saw my food was when I turned my camera flash on, which does the opposite of allowing you to remain inconspicuous as a critic. I’m glad the filet photographed well, but I didn’t need a flash to know that “mid-rare with a rare push,” hadn’t translated properly to the grill cook. It’s a travesty to overcook such a nice cut of meat. Portions were on the small side, so each of us split a dessert with our dates. My friend wasn’t wowed by her bread pudding, but we enjoyed our peanut butter cheesecake. The part I can’t say enough about was the service. Our server was outstanding – friendly, attentive and knowledgeable about the menu.
All in all, Amelia’s is a bit overpriced for what they’re putting on the table. The food was all right, but not remarkable – certainly not warranting a nearly $100 tab for a glass of wine, two entrées and splitting dessert. Only four of their 14 entrées rang in under $20, and just barely at that. They automatically add 20 percent gratuity to parties of six or more, as well as anyone using coupons, Double Take Deals or Prestige club cards. The large parties I can understand (though six isn’t exactly a large party), but penalizing customers for using coupons seems excessive. There are other restaurants in town serving what could also be labeled as “rustic comfort food” that are far more inventive – and either less pricey, or with a taste commensurate with the cost. If the rest of their food could be on par with the service, they couldn’t keep people away.
This seems like it would be a good time to remind everyone that despite popular belief, I don’t get an ounce of enjoyment out of giving less than stellar reviews to local restaurants. I also don’t feel guilty about it. Instead of owners and chefs being offended or angry over it – let this be a wake-up call. All of your customers expect to get their moneys’ worth. You have a loyal back of regulars dining there once weekly or more? Terrific. Don’t depend on them. Do better. Make people want to go out of their way to eat in your dining room. While the Internet can’t always be taken at its word, if the sentiment made by a critic is echoed by most of the people checking in bat your eatery, it might be time to reevaluate some things.
Reach DCP freelance writer Brandy King at BrandyKing@DaytonCityPaper.com and visit her blog, foodvsface.com. Caricature by Jay King.