First off, we decided, at the last minute, to go on a Friday evening and got there about 6:30. And the rest of New Bern, it seemed, decided to join us. The lines were long, the restaurant was completely packed, but, surprisingly, the wait was only 20 minutes. There is an upstairs and downstairs, and all tables were filled, so I was impressed that the wait was so short, and it certainly is an indication that management has an efficient delivery system in place here.
The menu, which never changes, is conveniently posted on either side of the entrance door. The lunch menu is on the left, the dinner menu is on the right. While I don't care for menus that never change and therefore don't take advantage of fresh local produce, I love restaurant menus posted outside the building. The steaks served are Omaha, which are from grain-fed cows, not my fave beef, but at least the meat is aged for flavor and tenderness. You can opt for salmon or chicken if you don't want fish, or the salad bar with or without baked white or sweet potato. The menu is also conveniently posted online at their website.
The acoustics, however, are terrible. With a big crowd, you can hardly hear yourself think. Strike 1.
The main dining room (pictured below) is also a thoroughfare. Anyone going to or from the kitchen, salad bar or drinking bar comes through this open corridor and right past your table. Between the loud noise of everyone talking and the commotion of everyone passing by the table, it was not a very relaxed atmosphere. Strike 2.
We waited for our table in the bar where we could sit and chat. Too bad they didn't put the main dining room in here and vice versa. It's a little quieter, and not as much movement in and out.
Our table was right by the open corridor near the constant back and forth movement of the patrons and servers.
On an up note, the salad bar is one of the nicest I've experienced, especially since the ingredients are super-fresh, and the greens are not oversprayed with preservatives. Chopped hard-boiled egg, bacon, ham and all the usual suspects are there. Cookie-cutter salad dressings, but it's easy to forgive that with all the other good stuff.
After the server took our orders, we went up to get our salads. The only complaint we had was there was no bread. The steak comes with Texas toast, but the salad does not. Baskets of crackers above the salad bar are the only option for salad eaters. Of course, you could hold on to your salad until the steak arrives. The salad bar is so complete, it's easy to make a meal out of it, which is what JoAnn did. She doesn't like steak.
They were advertised as "thick-cut" steaks. In actuality, they were 1/2" thick. To me, that's sandwich steak size. The flavor was great and the sweet potato, baked potato and Texas toast were all wonderful, but we wanted a thick steak, not a sandwich steak. Strike 3. We all decided we weren't coming back.
But then, I thought, it's only right to talk this over with management. So I went back a week later, when the lunch shift was over, to talk to Manager Rick Ward. He was very receptive to my suggestion of putting in a knee-wall to separate the main corridor from the dining area. He also said he would be meeting with engineers this week to find a solution to the acoustics problem. And, finally, he said the cook last week was from another restaurant and he cut the steaks the wrong thickness. Rick insists the restaurant will be serving 1-1/2" steaks. We all decided we will give Ribeyes another shot, because if the changes are made, this restaurant will be great. The quality of the food and the prices are spot on. Yes we'll try it again, after we check out Persimmons and Boston at the Bend of course.
As we went to get our car, we saw the New Bern carriage ride -- so pretty -- it looks like a pumpkin for Cinderella.
RIBEYES UPDATE: The following week, we went back to Ribeyes for another steak dinner. The same special was still posted: 16-oz. thick-cut ribeye steak for two, $34.99. True to the manager's word, our steaks came 1-1/2" thick. But they were too charred to enjoy. The bitterness of the charring ruined the good flavor of the meat. We ended up cutting off the tops and bottoms of our steaks, leaving a much smaller piece to eat. On an upnote, I requested Texas toast with my salad, and the server brought me a piece when I returned from the salad bar. We've decided, however, we will not be returning for dinners here.
Gluttons for punishment we are. We tried lunch the following week, thinking surely a 1/2" steak on a sandwich would be great. What we got was a steak cut even thinner, possibly 1/4", overcooked and dry. The server told me when I ordered that it would probably be well done, because it was too thin to cook rare, and he was right. On an upnote, I didn't want the baked potato or veggies that came as a side. It was no problem getting a salad from the salad bar instead, at no additional cost.
Bottom line: If I ever want a salad for lunch, this is where I'll go. We'll skip the steaks.