Billy Reed’s surprised me. From the outside, admittedly in the dark, it looked like your average upscale modern restaurant. It had heavy stone outer walls and a very properly landscaped system of sidewalks converging on a conventionally boring entry. Then, we went inside.
Stepping through the portal, we found ourselves in an expansive old-time high class saloon. It was a cross between what a romantic imagination might expect to find in a 19th century mansion and a first generation cruise ship. There was richly dark brown wood everywhere, from shelves lining the walls to dining furniture. Off to the right, a casually, but neatly dressed man played soft pop tunes on a baby grand piano. He looked lost in the huge empty dining area which was adjacent to a fully occupied bar with tastefully festooned curtains on it’s large window.
To the left, we found the active dining area. It seemed to spread further around every corner in view, like there were magic walls expanding beyond the confines of the building seen from the street. The dining tables were filled to capacity, but there was no waiting line outside or in the foyer. All the diners were eating in cheerfully subdued conversation, giving the impression that they were all staged for the perfect scene.
We three, myself, my husband, and my mother-in-law, were immediately led to a booth right around the corner from the “Please Wait to be Seated” sign. I was happy to note that there was none of the usual distracting bustle to be endured at such a location. Settling into comfortably padded benches that were just the right distance from the table, we began to blend into the scene.
Within seconds, we were offered beverages by a small, wiry gentleman in his 60’s wearing a pure white double-breasted shirt. Close on his heels, our waiter introduced himself. He was a tall, very tidy man in his 30’s. As I glanced around, my eyes caught sight of the open kitchen a couple of booth rows over. The men busily working there were decidedly dressed in white, with many tall chef’s hats to be seen. It was then that I realized that the staff in the restaurant was 90% men, and none that I could see were under 30 years of age. This gave the impression of being served by a cadre of butlers, who presented themselves with a tinge of formality enhanced by friendly countenances.
As we sat under the soft pink light spread above us by a single, red glass domed and bobble fringed lamp, our orders were taken. The first courses arrived with a promptness I have seldom seen matched. The salads that my husband and mother-in-law ate were traditional dinner salads, but very fresh and well portioned. My cup of split pea soup reminded me of excellent homemade soup. Everyone got their choice of bread, so that we ended up with cornbread and date bread mini loaves, and garlic toast, much of which was shared between us.
We didn’t have to wait long for the main courses, either. However, just after they arrived, the wandering dessert display waiter came through our section, visiting every table in turn. He was holding a gorgeous cake in each hand while he described them in mouthwatering terms. He kept coming by periodically with other examples. I had already been leaning toward the fresh strawberry pie after reading about the in-house bakery on the back of the main menu, even though I rarely have desserts when I dine out. Seeing the dessert parade by heavily influenced me to pace myself with dinner. After all, we had a refrigerator in the condo and I can never eat a full restaurant meal anyway. As long as I ate a balanced meal, I could make a little room for some strawberry pie. There would probably be some of that left over to take home for breakfast, too!
With that plan, I cut into my thick piece of grilled salmon, alternating with bites of the best restaurant green beans I have ever had, as well as part of my sour cream smothered baked potato. It was all scrumptous, from dill sauce for dipping the salmon in to the lightly flavored butter sauce on the green beans. (click on any photo to enlarge)
My mother-in-law was quite satisfied with her chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes. When she requested more chicken-sausage gravy, a decent sized bowl of it arrived quickly. She liked her dessert of lemon meringue pie, but not as much as her own. This is not surprising since she is an experienced pie maker.
My husband liked his honey fried chicken, but was probably the least impressed with his fare. He didn’t think the honey chicken was distinct enough, plus his sweet potato was bare. Based on the rest of our service, he probably could have gotten some butter and toppings very easily, but he just never got around to asking. Since he usually prefers very spicy food, he might have been happier with a different menu choice. He tried some of both types of pie, and finished my salmon dinner for lunch the next day.
From the ambiance to my happy taste buds, I left the restaurant already thinking I would like to go back. This is unusual for me with restaurants, and especially when I am full. Methinks there is a reason Billy Reed’s has been in business for 40 years!