Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Fish Tacos & Rubber Chickens

First off, I am so amazed and inspired at the support that my sister and I received from Ohio State fans last week!  Even though the Easton Barnes & Noble gig got cancelled due to ordering issues (on B&N's part), you all managed to make our very limited book tour into a great success!  Thank you so very much!

Julie and me at the Amos Memorial Library signing.  More pics to come under the "Event Pics" tab.

Today I would like to review one of Norman, Oklahoma's local restaurants - the Interurban.  I know, it seems like forever since I did an eatery review.  Aren't you excited?  I am!  I actually feel like I have a lot to say about this one.  So here it goes...

Taken from the Interurban website here

Once upon a time, I had a hankering for a great, restaurant quality fish dish.  I'm not talking Red Lobster chain food, I'm talking about something different.  Now, I know where to get the best batter dipped Pub fish n' chips in Norman (McNellie's Abner Ale House), but I wanted something baked, or at least not breaded, and not world wide chain produced.  Someone suggested checking out the Interurban, and it occurred to me then, that I haven't ever been there!  For anything!  I checked out their menu online and just knew that now was the time to try it out.

We were greeted with a friendly and professional smile at the door and shown to our seats.  Our waiter was Brian, and he was also very friendly and professional, so already, I'm happy with my service - especially since it was at about 3 o'clock in the afternoon on a weekend.  In my experience, I hardly ever get the best service during off-times (meaning times that are not normal meal times), which gives me a good gauge for seeing the way a restaurant and all its cogs function at their worst.  I always take this into consideration when doing a review when I go, for good or bad.  In this case, it was definitely for the good!

I asked Brian a lot of questions and explained that it was my first time there.  He was very patient and extremely knowledgeable about the menu and the kitchen practices.  I decided to go with Brett's Fish Tacos.  Now, I have to explain that I never in a million years thought I would order anyone's fish tacos. The thought of fish in place of beef or chicken in a taco has brought out such disdain in me, that I could always feel my face actually involuntarily contort at the mere mention of fish tacos.  And yet, this sounded like the very thing I was in the mood for - non-battered fish, and something different.  I was not disappointed with my selection.

From the OK Gazette article titled "All Aboard!"
(This is a fantastic article about the Interurban in OKC. Check it out!)

This dish lived up to the description as well as my expectations, no...exceeded my expectations.  It is described as:
Blackened tilapia in 2 flour tortillas, fresh avocado, shredded cabbage, Monterey jack cheese, pineapple salsa, and bistro sauce.  Served with borracho beans. ~$10.49
I had never heard of borracho beans before so I looked them up before I went.  They are also called "drunken beans" by some, because they are pinto beans cooked in beer, and other flavorings.  Brilliant idea!  Not only was this my first experience with beer beans, but I had never had blackened tilapia before either.  I had only ever had cabbage in its vinegared form, so plain ol' cabbage was also new to me.  I asked them to leave off the bistro sauce because I don't really like mustard-style dressings, and plus, this was already a plethora of new tries for me in one dish.


The spicy/salty blackened seasonings were quickly cooled by the chilled (and perfectly ripened) avocado and cabbage, and the pineapple salsa balanced the flavors out very nicely!  A pina colada or tropical rum runner drink on the beach would have made everything perfect, but in a land-locked state, I found this fish dish to be most satisfying indeed!  The borracho beans were too tangy for my personal taste, but I could see why they would be appealing to some, especially coupled with this dish.  The quality of Brett's Fish Tacos could not have been better, (and it wasn't even during peek dining hours).  I was truly impressed!

I solemnly swear that I will never again turn my nose up at the mention of fish tacos as long as I live.

That being said, I have a complaint about another time that I visited the Interurban and ordered the not-Brett's Fish Tacos.  Oddly enough, Brian was our waiter that time too, and he was just as fabulous!  I decided to try the Apricot Chicken because it sounded great!

Grilled chicken breast topped with our tasty apricot sauce and sliced almonds, served with wild rice and fresh steamed vegetables. ~$12.89
This was more expensive than I wanted to pay for lunch, but after the amazing fish tacos, I thought it would probably be worth it.  I was so very wrong.  The plate looked good when it was sat in front of me.  It smelled good too.  I tasted a bit of the sauce and it tasted good.  Excitedly, I cut into my chicken, scooped some of the almonds and rice onto the bite-filled fork and put it in my mouth.  This is close to what the chicken's texture felt like:


Not playin'...not even a little bit.  It was so dense and rubbery and terrible that I could only picture the image of 3 frozen Tyson chicken breasts being pushed together with the force it would take to make a precious gemstone into one single nasty patty.  Seriously.  The quality of that chicken breast was so bad (and I don't mean the chicken was spoiled or anything, I mean that the actual quality was so bad) that I had to call poor Brian over to my table to have him take it back.  People, I don't remember ever sending back a meal because of the quality of meat.  I'm not really even the type to send things back at all, I'd rather just eat what I can and not make a fuss.  However, I've sent things back for toppings not being as I asked, or for something not being done enough, or for something tasting spoiled, but these things don't happen very often.  And I have NEVER had to send back a plate for the meat being such terrible quality with the garnish and sides being so incredibly high quality.  This did not seem possible to me.  I was very nice and apologized to Brian, but I just could not eat it, especially for that high of a price.  I refused to do that to myself.  

Brian was very nice and apologetic and he asked if he could get me something else.  I decided the fish tacos would be the best course of action at that point, because I liked the Interurban and I wanted to leave there feeling happy.  The manager came out and apologized a few minutes later.  He asked if it was the overall dish or something specific, and I told him.  He seemed to make a mental note and apologized again.  The fish tacos quickly made their way to my table and they were the same good quality as they were the first time I ordered them.  I'm not sure why the company would use such a low standard of chicken with such high-quality preparation and other ingredients, but I can tell you that I will not be ordering ANY of their chicken dishes in the near or distant future.

I am excited to try their pizzas though!  They have a Monday night special on their pizzas that I think would be a prime time to give them a go!  

So if you are around the OKC area, please don't let my review of the chicken deter you from trying the Interurban.  They have fantastic staff members, a nostalgic railroad depot ambiance, and the most amazing fish tacos!