One Trick Pony

(Grand Rapids, MI) — Our calendar in October is chock full of activity, so we have to get creative when carving out time for another adventure. Tuesday looks good. We book early dinner reservations at One Trick Pony in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan. It’s a little brisk out, but we manage to find a parking spot nearby and walk to the nearby restaurant...

He Fed:

We haven’t been to One Trick Pony in years. I do remember the last thing I ate there, though; it was jerk chicken pasta, and it was darn good. I’m hoping for more of the same tonight. As we enter, the interior is pretty much the same as I remember. There’s a small dining room on the left and a larger one, with a bar, on the right. The carpet is looking a tad worn, and there’s an odd musty scent in the air I can’t quite place. Maybe the heat kicking on?

The hostess checks us in and let’s us pick a table, since they’re not very busy. We sit near the front windows and she informs us our server will be over to take drink orders in a minute. There is some confusion, though, since she comes back to announce she’ll be taking care of us after all. After getting some clarification on the draught list, I order a pint of Odd Side Citra Pale to sip while we peruse the menu.

There is no jerk chicken pasta, but there are a number of good-looking entrees (printed on paper to complement the smaller laminated menu they may serve at lunch?). After some deliberation, Juliet agrees to split a pizza as an appetizer. It is a small thin crust pie, topped with a house-made red sauce, Italian sausage, pepperoni, bacon, prosciutto chips, fresh basil, and cheese. Our waitress also offers fresh ground parmesan, which we accept in modicum. The first thing I notice is the crust has no flavor. I’m not keen on the sausage nibblets either because they remind me of frozen pizza sausage. The basil strips, on the other hand, help alleviate the meaty characteristics and actually complement the flavorful sauce. In the end, I find it unsatisfying.

I’m pretty well torn between two sandwiches: the Cuban or the Banh Mi. Although I love Thai, Juliet recently made some vegetarian Thai noodle salad, so I’m leaning away from the Banh Mi. (I did see someone else order it, though, and it was massive.) The Cuban comes on a Schnitz bakery hoagie roll, filled with braised pork, ham, dill pickles, Swiss cheese, yellow mustard, and mayo then pressed in a panini grill. This sandwich is pretty big, too. The ingredients are fresh, crisp (I hate a limp dill pickle), and artfully prepared. I love the crispy exterior of the bun, and the gooey insides. Not big on the dipping sauce, but otherwise a very solid sandwich. I also spring $2 for the crispy, beer battered fries. Totally worth it. (My taste tests of Juliet’s potato soup and bacon wrapped BBQ shrimp also give evidence that my sandwich is no fluke.)

Even if no Jamaican jerk chicken can be found on the menu anymore, One Trick Pony still offers up some impressive fare. After all that meat, though, I think next time I’ll try the Greek Vegetable Salad.
She Fed:

This time of year is hectic for me, with back to back business trips. While I love to cook, the prospect of letting someone else do it tonight appeals. I remember the many innovative pasta dishes on One Trick Pony’s menu the last time we ate here and I’m already anticipating a big bowl of pappardelle or linguine.

Blurgh! Turns out the menu is retooled; there are fewer choices and no pasta. However, our server gives us a supplemental daily menu with Pesto Salmon on a Noodle Cake and Vegetarian Pad Thai along with other seasonal specials.

We start with drinks and a pizza to share. I spy the Lock & Key Meritage from Sonoma, a wine I’ve had many times before but can never find at the market. Knowing it will pair beautifully with the pizza, I order a glass. In minutes the “One Trick Pizza” with housemade red sauce, pepperoni, bacon, prosciutto, sausage, and fresh basil arrives. The crust is thin and lackluster, but the sausage and prosciutto are crisp little crumbles. I love the texture. The fresh basil is a wonderful treat, heady and aromatic. There’s just the right amount of cheese, enough to give it some chew, but not enough to mask everything else.

Normally I’d jump for the Pad Thai, but instead I go with two starters: Bacon-Wrapped Shrimp and Baked Potato Soup (both recommended by our server.) Just like the pizza, our entrees arrive quickly. Three skewers, each with two large bacon-wrapped shrimp slathered with barbeque sauce are arranged on a slaw-filled cabbage cup. The shrimp are cooked perfectly, a pleasant surprise as most restaurants tend to cook the dickens out of shrimp. On the other hand, the bacon is floppy and could do with a little pre-cooking before being wrapped around each shrimp. If the bacon was crisp this dish would be a trifecta of tender briney shellfish, fatty crunchy pork, and sweet sticky sauce. It’s already darn close.

The soup is ultra-thick with potato chunks and diced bacon. Extra credit to the chef for leaving the skins on the potatoes, which adds earthiness and texture. The cheddar and cream take the soup from divine to decadent. This is what you dream of on a snowy afternoon...substantial and comforting. The bowl is huge and I should’ve gone for a cup instead as I’m too stuffed to finish it; I’m unable to partake in the fresh baked bread (three slices!) and butter that accompanies the soup.

The prices are very reasonable and the service spot on. My disappointment at the lack of pasta disappeared with the first spoonful of soup. And I’m still dreaming of those bacon-wrapped shrimp.

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