My only visit to the new Cleveland Park Tackle Box was on June 1st when I was able to attend the restaurant’s Wait-in-line-for-free-drinks-and-limited-menu Event. The restaurant generously offered this Friends and Family event as a way to introduce people to the new restaurant, as well as a way to train their staff on the doomsday scenario that would become opening night. The restaurant was packed when I arrived at 6:30, and the response by the ten people dining at my table was overwhelmingly positive, though the most recurring compliment was toward the service. The new employees were running around for hours and seemingly keeping everything under control. It was quite impressive.
Now they have been open two weeks and the location is facing tougher critics – paying customers. Yelp reviewers have not been terribly kind, with the location averaging around 2-1/2 out of 5 stars. Most of the complaints seem to focus on small portion sizes compared to menu prices.
Before you think me a lazy blogger by relying on Yelp reviews, I must assure you that anonymous reviewers may very well have more credibility. I have not eaten any meat, fish or poultry since I was in sixth grade and living on a farm, when my bovine buddies appeared on my dinner table one day. So, my pre-opening menu consisted of free drinks and side dishes. I doubt that many people go to Tackle Box strictly for the grilled corn on the cob or the grilled broccoli. That’s not to say they are bad. They taste like… well, they taste like something you would not go there for. Strictly, that is.
Other than the two vegetables, I also ordered mashed potatoes, which looked and tasted exactly like french fries. (It was pre-opening night and they ran out of mashed potatoes.) Everyone at my table who ordered mashed potatoes received french fries with no explanation. The one person who ordered french fries received no fries and no substitution. These are all things that you would expect on a public event of this sort, and I do not hold it to be indicative of their standard operating procedure. However, the people who ordered cornbread, they were inconsolable when they were told it was no longer available. The shining star amongst the side dishes was the Grilled Portobello. It definitely tasted grilled (I am pretty sure the crunchy part was charcoal) but many of my carnivorous friends sampled the mushroom and fell in love with it. It was pretty good, minus the char gristle. But again, I must point out that my experience was on a pre-opening night Friends and Family event – an event put together specifically to help work out all the kinks of the new business. An event where portions of things like mashed potatoes and corn bread is entirely unpredictable and apologies are abundant. Considering the margin of error they were working with, they did a fine job of keeping customers happy that evening as far as I could tell.
A complete, fair and accurate review would ideally come from a paying customer and someone who eats seafood. In this case, I must defer back to Yelp and say that it is not trending well for TBCP. I support Cleveland Park businesses and very much prefer them over empty storefronts, so I hope to make another visit and look back later this summer and find that the bad reviews can simply be attributed to a new restaruant working the kinks out in the first two weeks.