I thought I would start this blog off with a restaurant review.
Location: 215 College Ave. Tallahassee, Florida 32301
Prices: Tapas – $6.99 to $12.99
Meals – $9.99 to $25.99
Sunday through Wednesday specially marked entrees are $9.99
101 is a restaurant that advertises itself as “a social dining experience”. It is part bar, part restaurant. The “social” experience comes from an extensive tapas menu and the ownership of a club next door, Mint. I couldn’t find any information on their website, but to the best of my knowledge you still need to pay cover for Mint even if you eat at 101 first. Since it was just my girlfriend and I, the tapas experience will need to be reviewed on another day.
Atmosphere: I arrived at the restaurant with my girlfriend at about 6pm. The hostess opened the door for us and we were seated right away. Depending on the day of the week and time the wait can be significantly longer. The restaurant is on the small side. It has tables, booths, and a bar area. The booths are set up in circular fashion for sharing tapas and conversation. During the day the place has “warm” lighting and a laid back feel. At night (as the place fills up) the game goes on the TV, the lighting gets darker, and it feels more like a big party. It does feel like a “social” restaurant. A few things to note: at night it does get loud and the people from the club area tend to walk over to order drinks from the 101 bar to avoid the line at Mint. The place gets cramped. I would not bring a date there at night unless you plan on heading to Mint after. Also, parking downtown can be hard to find unless you are willing to pay or walk from FSU’s campus.
The atmosphere gets a 4/5. Just understand the time you get there can drastically change the feel of the place.
Service: As I said before, we were seated quickly. The server was prompt and knowledgeable about the menu and specials. Our food was also delivered rather fast, but the place was also empty at the time. The only complaint I have about the service would be the time it took for the server to pick up the check. This is just being nit picky though.
The service gets a 4.5/5
Food: 101 restaurant serves their water with a slice of cucumber in it instead of lemon. I would be lying if I didn’t tell you I found this rather pretentious. It felt like a forced way to differentiate themselves from other restaurants. Kind of like a way to say “look how fancy I am.” I hate cucumbers, so I was reluctant to even try the water. However, my rule is to give most things a try, so I did. I actually found the cucumber in the water to be rather refreshing. It added a nice freshness to the water. It must not be for everyone though because my girlfriend hated it. She plans on asking for lemon instead next time (and she normally likes cucumbers).
I ordered the “Ultimate Mac and Cheese”. It is described on the menu as a unique blend of cheeses, caramelized onions, and savory seasonings. It normally costs $13.99 but it was on special for $9.99. I also opted to add chicken to the dish for an additional $3.99. This mac and cheese was fantastic. I honestly think it was one of the best mac and cheeses I have ever had (although I can name a better one in Tallahassee). It was a stove top style pasta (not baked). This is actually my mac and cheese preference. To me mac and cheese is a nostalgic dish (as it is for many others). I grew up eating Kraft mac and cheese and fresh mac and cheese made on the stove. Since this dish is a nostalgic dish for many people I wouldn’t recommend it for those who prefer it to be baked. It had a perfect blend of cheese and creaminess. The fresh ground black pepper added a nice kick to the dish and the onions were superb. It was just the right level of caramelized. I do wish there were more onions though. I also felt that the dish could have used a crunchy component. This would have made this dish perfect to me. My only complaint on the dish comes from the chicken. It was bland and lacked seasoning. It also tasted either undercooked or old. Skip the chicken altogether if you order this dish. My girlfriend ordered a chicken sandwich. I only had a small bite, but it was enough to know the place can cook chicken properly when it is the star component of a dish.
Overall: Before I went to 101 I had heard mixed things about the food. A lot of people I knew either loved it or hated it. I personally loved the atmosphere and the service. The food ended up being an in between of the opinions I had heard. The mac and cheese without the chicken was fantastic and made me want to go back and try more items from the menu. The chicken, however, brought down the dish severely. I will end up going back to try more menu items and the tapas menu.
For now 101 Restaurant gets a 4 out of 5.
Update 7/9/2011: I recently went back to 101 Restaurant. After posting my original review they have changed the recipe for the chicken that goes into their Ultimate Mac and Cheese. When I originally sampled the dish the chicken only came one way. They now offer the chicken grilled, blackened, or fried. I opted for the fried chicken because I thought it might give the dish that crunch I thought it was initially missing. This new chicken is seasoned way better then the original and the batter did offer that crunch. This dish is much better now. Go ahead and add chicken to the dish. You won’t be upset.