New Kid on the Block
Her name’s Aubrey
by Gay Lyons
I discovered the newest Aubrey’s by accident while driving through an office complex. There’s a huge billboard nearby, but I managed to overlook that. I’ve eaten at Aubrey’s a few times, but none of the older locations (Farragut, Powell, Lenoir City and Maryville) are convenient for me. Now that there’s one in my neighborhood, I may become a more frequent visitor.
During a solo lunch, I was tempted by the vegetable plate (any four of the extensive list of side dishes) and also by the Granny Smith steak salad, which combines apples, steak, blue cheese and walnuts on romaine. I ordered the chicken-salad melt with a cup of the restaurant’s trademark potato soup.
The soup was perfect. It was warm, creamy and not overly thick, with a sprinkling of cheddar cheese and crispy bacon in just the right amount. The chicken-salad melt lived up to its description as a “double helping.” The chicken salad was just “wet” enough to hold together and be spreadable but was not too mayonnaisy. There were little specks of celery and pickles, but the chunky chicken was definitely the dominant ingredient.
One recent evening I returned for dinner with my husband. From the appetizer menu, which includes fish and chips and pizza Rockefeller, an enticing combination of grilled chicken and spinach con queso, we went with the most basic item, the thick cut potato chips because I remembered them favorably from previous visits. Bill quickly decided on the Boston scrod, which is one of his favorites, along with a house salad and squash casserole. It took me longer to decide among pasta, southern specialties and steak, ribs and seafood, all of which came with either one or two sides or a house or Caesar salad. Several of the pasta dishes sounded delectable, especially the haystack pasta, which consisted of linguini, grilled chicken and mushrooms in a parmesan-mushroom sauce. Ultimately, I selected the petite peppered sirloin, a seven-ounce cut of free range, steroid-free top sirloin, with two sides: parmesan spinach and burgundy mushrooms.
The thick, brown, crispy potato slices, served with buttermilk garlic dipping sauce, were a decadent treat. I was impressed with the crispiness. Thin and crispy is easy; thick and crispy is more difficult to pull off. Because Bill’s salad arrived minutes after the potatoes, he soon turned to the healthier alternative. While I was tempted to gobble them up by myself, I resolutely put them aside in anticipation of the main course. Our helpful server boxed them for us and threw in a fresh container of sauce. As a further testament to their goodness, they weren’t bad reheated the next day.
The house salad comes with the ingredients (tomato wedges, diced cucumber, cheddar cheese and potato sticks) arranged on top of the lettuce. The potato sticks are a distinctive touch in lieu of croutons. The house vinaigrette was light and fresh, but I thought it could use more zip—more vinegar or maybe a dash of lemon juice.
The scrod was impressively thick and flaky with the barest cracker crumb crust. The steak had a wonderful peppery flavor but was a little less tender than I like. Next time, I’ll splurge on the filet, which, at $19.95 for a petite six-ounce cut and $25.95 for a nine-ounce cut, is the most expensive item on the menu.
The three vegetable side dishes shared some common traits. They were cooked to just the right stage of tenderness, and the sauces and supporting ingredients were added with a light hand. The flavor and texture of the vegetables were not lost in the cooking process.
Desserts aren’t listed on the menu. As our server expressed it, “I’m the dessert menu.” From the choices she described, we chose key lime pie, which was several inches thick and topped with whipped cream swirls. Since I prefer my key lime pie naked, the better to enjoy the taste of the limes, I scraped off the whipped cream, but not before ascertaining it was creamy and not too sweet.
I received good service during both my visits. Service at lunch was slow at the start. After I was seated, there was a noticeable delay before my server appeared. However, an observant server working nearby noticed my empty table, asked if anyone had come by and offered to bring a beverage. This is a sign of a well-trained staff. Overall, both my servers were friendly, attentive and efficient. They were also able to answer questions and offer recommendations.
The restaurant does a great job of protecting the non-smoking dining room from the smoking area in the bar by separating the two areas with heavy glass doors. It’s a family-friendly place with a wide range of selections, including a kids menu, at reasonable prices. Our dinner, which included two glasses of wine, an appetizer, two entrees and dessert, came to around $40. A simpler meal for two can be had for much less.
Based on my recent visits, the newest Aubrey’s seems likely to be a popular addition to the neighborhood.