Saturday, September 19, 2009

Gallatin, Missouri: The Corner Café

My notes about Gallatin can’t be complete without a small restaurant review. By now, I hope you know that Sue and I do appreciate high-class, artistic, and even healthy food as well as down-home food. The latter isn’t usually the most excellent food you can consume, but there are still reasons to celebrate it and enjoy it now and then. And in small towns, it’s pretty hard to escape. In France, you eat snails. In diners, you eat burgers.

With the Corner Café, there are definitely pros and cons. First, the cons. Numbers 1 through, like, 54 are: It’s smoky in there. Cigarettes, cigarettes, cigarettes. I mean, I can handle some smoke, but my eyes started really burning. There was no designated smoking section. The ceiling fans were all spinning like crazy, too. Amazingly, there were no ashtrays on the tables. But I think anyone who wants one can have one.

We went in there about an hour after the Tour of Missouri passed through; the place wasn’t particularly crowded, but MAN did it smell of smoke.

Here is another con: The restroom had a big sign saying something like, “Don’t put toilet paper in stool.” . . . Um, say what? . . . Does that mean what I think it means? When I washed my hands and pushed the paper towel into the trash can, it looked like others had interpreted the sign the way I feared it meant. Oh my gosh, don’t they have plumbing here? (I mean: Quick! Call a plumber!)

Okay: Maybe by now, a week after we were there, that little problem has been fixed. And no, it didn’t smell like doodie in there. It didn’t smell bad in there at all. It just smelled like . . . cigarettes.

Are you completely grossed out by now? Okay, hold on. One more “con.”

It really took a while for our food to appear. I think it was a kitchen thing and not a waiter thing. I know this isn’t fast food, but then it wasn’t very busy when we were there. We had a copy of the St. Joe newspaper at our table, and we read that. But we were starting to get kind of annoyed.

Just when we were about to say “enough,” the food appeared on white oval plates. Hmmm.

Hey, it was actually pretty good! Sue got a Southwest-style chicken sandwich, and I got a burger that came with pepper jack cheese, bacon, ranch dressing (to the side, thank you), actual green leaf lettuce, actual ripe red tomato, and fries. A ripe tomato! This little café has achieved something that eludes all the corporate-ass buying power of Chili’s, Rubee Tewsdee’s, and all those types of places: Red, ripe, in-season tomatoes!


And the bacon on the burger? The real deal, thick cut, and juicy. Mmm.

Nahhh, this isn’t “art cooking,” but there is a way to make burgers be good, and this little café did the burger right.

Other stuff on the menu included various other diner foods, plus some kind of chain-brand pizza. I mean, it’s a pretty typical small-town diner, you know? Relaxed. And an excellent place to hang out if you’re a smoker.

And the place does have a reputation for its smokiness—we got that from two different sources while we were exploring the town. When we told one lady we had eaten at the Corner Café, she immediately chirped back: “Oh, I’m sorry!”

You’re probably wondering what to make of this review, and frankly, so am I. Is it thumbs up, or thumbs down?

Well, it depends. If you’re a smoker, then it’s a definite thumbs up—freedom to enjoy a cigarette before, during, and after your meal! If you can’t stand cigarette smoke, it’s a definite thumbs down; you will hate-hate-hate it. If you’re flexible when it comes to air quality, and you appreciate small-town diners, then you’ll probably enjoy the place. I was favorably impressed by the burger and by Sue’s chicken sandwich. The prices were reasonable, the people were friendly enough. And yeah, we were there in part to support a locally owned business, the backbone of America.

It is what it is.

One more comment. Next to the cash register was a basket of cookies—apparently homemade, packed in threes in plastic wrap. Chocolate chip; white chocolate and macadamia nut . . . Mmm. Okay, when I was paying the bill, I bought a three-pack of the latter to eat while we were driving home.

A few hours later, when we got back on the highway as we were leaving Adam-ondi-Ahman, we opened them. And guess what.

The cookies were delicious. But even after removing them from the plastic wrap, we could taste the cigarette smoke right in the cookies. And I think that sums it all up pretty well.

Corner Cafe on Urbanspoon


Anonymous said...

hmmm i stayed in gallatin for 3 days, and i ate all my meals there. i admit i am a people person,but i really liked it. the waitresses were so nice and "real". they knew most all of theyre customers, and took ashtrays n theyre evidentaly "usual" beverage to customers as soon as they walked in.i smelled burning ciggarettes as i walked by smokers, but never did smell that "smoked in" stale smell. the tables were clean floors swept and i didnt notice one unhappy patron on any of my visits. i ate several different things. all were as good as i had hoped or better! i never timed the delivery of my meals, but do recall not being ready several times and had to quickly move my arms from the table to allow them to set the plates down.the quanity was really good, as well as the quality,and im a big eater. i kept thinking i would finish with pie but never did. i was too full hehe. i drank coffee and watched people, the waitresses and kitchen workers work like a seasoned team. i remember noticing everyone that worked there seemed to follow up each other by bringing a last plate along to another gals table and or picking up and wiping each others tables. im an eater nort a critic but i would have to rate the service,quanity,and taste very high.i just loved the one waitress who wore glasses i think she was deana, and will go back
anytime i can through the town again.the prices were very resonable, especially for that quanity and taste. i loved the place!

Julie said...

Thank you for commenting, Anon. It just goes to show you that different people can have different experiences.

Maybe we were just there at a time when they were short-staffed, or maybe they were recovering from the small flood of folks who showed up for the Tour of Missouri. I'm willing to give them the benefit of a doubt.

And apart from what I mentioned in my post, the place seemed clean enough. Indeed, in one of the photos above, one of the waiters is sweeping the floor.

I didn't say anything about the prices, but they were indeed reasonable.

I have to say, though, that the most memorable thing about the restaurant was the smoke smell. I can be pretty easy-going about a certain amount of smokiness, but my eyes were seriously burning in there.

I've really gotten used to no-smoking restaurants, and smelling smoke in a restaurant, to me, is about as appealing as smelling cigarette smoke in a hospital. It just seems wrong.

But some folks do enjoy a cigarette after a meal, and I understand. I also know there are just as many people who have serious negative, sometimes asthmatic, reactions to cigarette smoke, and I wanted my post to provide a "caution" flag for them.

Thanks for commenting and providing a better balance. We did only eat there once, so it was like a "pop quiz" for the restaurant, and I can't offer an "average score for the semester."


Anonymous said...

your welcome, that was me. i have been back again and i asked a "local" about the smoke smell which still didnt seem much to me. she said it doesnt seem as bad to her as it had before. i didnt inquire as to why, to anyone.i have yet to get to the bottom of a cup of coffee. the waitress i mentioned is still there too, she is deana, i know not a waitress more "on top of her game" for lack of the words that elude me. and everyone seems happy working there. anon aka:swoff

Julie said...

Thanks again for your comments, Swoff. I'm really glad to hear that the smokiness seems to be diminishing in there, for whatever reason.

Maybe we were just there at a bad time--but I guess that goes to show that a restaurant can never know when that seemingly mundane customer who walks in the door might turn around, go online, and tell others about her experience.

I'm glad they seem to be improving with the smokiness. The food was really pretty good there.

Thanks again for shedding more light on this colorful local cafe!


Anonymous said...

We've been in there a few times. The waitresses are usually quick to take our order, however we always watch at least 5 tables of people come in, order, get their food, eat, even pay their the 45 minutes it takes to get our food. Our food arrives COLD. Our waitress never brings our food, someone else does. The waitress never comes back to the table to see if anything else is ever needed. When paying our bill...we are asked, was everything OK? I shared a simple was cold and took forever to get. In response, I get an ''Oh''. And nothing else is said. I try to keep my business in the town I live in, however, we won't be eating there ever again!

Julianna Schroeder said...

Thanks for sharing your experiences. As I reread all that's been said here so far, I'd have to summarize: the Corner Cafe in Gallatin seems "inconsistent." Which, in a town where the restaurant scene is highly competitive, can be death for the business. But here? Maybe not.

The more I live and experience new things, the more I realize that sometimes the "differences" I see are just that: differences, and not necessarily "good" or "bad."

In France, for instance, it usually takes a while for food to appear, for the waiter to bring the check, etc.: The chef takes time to get the food right, and you're supposed to linger and enjoy. For Americans, that can take some "getting-used-to." But it's not "bad" service--just different.

But when you complained, and the response was simply "oh"--well, not everyone in a service industry knows how to handle customer complaints. That's too bad. Big chain restaurants on interstates ensure that all hosts and waitstaff are trained in "what to say." Which is actually very boring--they all say the same things. Small independent local places can be sooooo much better when it comes to communicating with the customer--or they can be worse.

I wouldn't get too upset about the food delivery being done by someone different: A lot of restaurants have runners (or whoever is at hand) to get the food from kitchen to customer ASAP while the food is still hot.

But the food was *cold*? Yuk. Forty-five minutes for whatever you ordered to appear? (At this cafe, it's not like any of it should take a long time to prepare)--what are they doing--are they out there in back, killing and plucking the chicken for your chicken sandwich?

I wonder if anyone at the Gallatin Corner Cafe has seen this post or the discussion in these comments. I honestly don't mean to dis on them too hard--they are what they are. I would hope they would consider finding ways to improve some of their weak areas, and providing more consistency overall. I'd love to be able to write an addendum: "Hey, they've really improved!"

They certainly do have strengths, and yeah, I would eat there again (if I'm not in a rush . . . and didn't have avid antismokers with me--maybe you can get food to-go). I'm glad we went there, because that burger I had was pretty darn good.


The Ear Candle Lady said...

We ate at the CC when we first moved to Gallatin last year as it was the only place, but YES the cigarrete smell is awful! Good food, but stinky place.

I gave it the benefit of the doubt, however at no time have I ever eaten there has there been a "fresh smell", only cigarettes.

There is another cafe in Hamilton (13 miles south) called the Past Times Cafe which is wonderfully good and NO SMOKE.

As of this post Gallatin is getting a Subway which will open Labor Day weekend (3 doors down from the Corner Cafe) and Main St. Chocolate will open September 13th on the same block.

Next time you're down our way, you'll have options other than smoke filled corners to enjoy a quick lunch and anything chocolate!

Anonymous said...

the corner café has changed since 2010. Yes there are some good waitresses there n 2 not so good waitresses. those 2 wait on some people better than others they have their picks, hate to bring round the coffee,and that's when they are busy or not busy. talk nice to some n not so nice to others. if you would happen to stop in you would be able to pick out the ones I am talking about. the food is good but high for no more than u get. the place could be cleaner, the smoke is still bad, and yes there should be a smoking and non smoking area, better yet be a nonsmoking eatery, so every body can enjoy. there should be a change in the waitresses hire 2 new ones and get rid of the bad ones before the owner has no customers I am afraid that will happen in due time if there are not a lot of changes done there about a lot of things. right now I give it a thumbs down.

Julianna Schroeder said...

Thanks, Anonymous, for the update. It's been some years since I posted this, so I'm glad to get the occasional comment.

Someday, people will look back on the time when smoking was permitted in restaurants and just . . . shudder.

Heck, I remember back when people were allowed to smoke in doctors' waiting rooms, and in hospitals!