Dining Out

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The Savory Dish

Out of a possible five

Server mars a Savory sensation

It is obvious that Ivan Backes of The Savory Dish in Georgetown Square has a passion for food.

When you hear the chef, who also owns the restaurant with partners Hank Labrosse and Arturo Salgado, talk about the food, he is precise, descriptive and seems excited to describe his creations. He also does something few chefs do these days: He makes his breakfast sausage patties and Brazilian bratwurst by hand.

But the best thing Backes and his partners have done is leave some of the work to Millie Hood, who is referred to as “Grandma Millie” on the menu. She handles the breakfast shift and does all of the baking for the restaurant. And Hood, whose rhubarb pie I fell in love with when she ran Millie’s Café in New Haven, knows what she is doing.

The Savory Dish recently started serving dinner after several months as a breakfast- and lunch-only place. The breakfast and lunch menus are available in the evening with five added dinners. The restaurant is located in the former Buddy’s Pizza space. Its décor wasn’t terribly eye-catching, except for a unique floor with carpeting flanking both sides of a long strip of tile running from the front door to the kitchen, and the attractive, comfortable cloth-covered wooden booths with lamps hanging over them. I also appreciated having real carnations on the tables.

One of the five dinner entrées is the Brazilian sausage, which I was eager to try. Backes said the sausages combine his German heritage with the influences he had growing up just south of Brazil, Ind. The sausages snapped with each bite and had a strong somewhat peppery flavor from all of the herbs, but were not spicy. Chopped green onion was visible, and its flavor was enjoyable, but it was rather dry. Backes prides himself on not adding any extra fat to his sausages, which makes them healthier, but, in this case, the extra fat would have helped. The breakfast sausage I would not change at all. The patties were moist and juicy throughout.

Another interesting item off the dinner menu was the Savory Ultimate Burger. The idea was given to Backes by manager Suzanne Sponaboe’s husband, who saw it on a TV program. The half-pound burger was covered with 4 ounces of cheddar cheese that was steamed on the griddle to create a Frisbee-like ring of crispy, chewy cheese that extended a good 3 inches beyond the meat.

However, the burger was not up to par. It was a poor piece of beef that was kind of mushy, and it was pretty much flavorless. The hand-cut fries on the side were also soggy.

The lunch-special roast pork with mashed potatoes, peas and carrots had just one flaw, but it was a big one. The pork was wonderful – tender, hearty and nicely seasoned – and the real mashed potatoes were great, but both were covered with bland brown beef gravy that tasted as if it had been made from a mix. It would have been nice to have had pork gravy from the drippings.

The biggest flaws at The Savory Dish came from one server, who pretty much ruined my meal. I waited a long time for her to greet me after being seated, waited even longer for her to take my order and almost gave up on dessert because she disappeared for about 20 minutes at the end of my meal. She also did not remove any dirty plates.

But, worst of all, she forgot about my party’s dinner salads and served them after the main courses.

The soups I tried were served before the main courses, thankfully, and each proved to be a good choice. The chili had a meaty consistency with not too many beans, and it was not too spicy.

The sweet, tasty corn chowder was as basic as it gets with just blended corn and no potato or other veggies to get in the way. Both came in piping-hot mini crocks so the serving size was larger than the usual cup of soup.

When I was finally able to order dessert, that was the one part of The Savory Dish that satisfied me completely. Millie’s rhubarb pie was as wonderful as I remembered it. It had a fantastic flaky crust and a somewhat creamy filling that was the perfect mix of tartness and sweetness.

The cherry-peach, crumb-topped pie was a great concoction as the tart cherries mixed perfectly with the gooey, syrupy peaches, and the crumbly sugar topping was just scrumptious.

And if you like cream pies best, try the peanut butter, which is all peanut butter – no chocolate – with whipped cream on top.

I would also recommend taking a few of Millie’s gigantic cookies home. They are big, thick and soft almost like scones, and only cost $1.

Restaurant: The Savory Dish

Address: 6532 E. State Blvd.

Phone: 748-0874

Hours: 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday; 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday

Cuisine: American

Handicapped accessible: Yes

Alcohol: None

Credit cards: Yes

Kid-friendly: Yes

Menu: Soup ($1.99 cup; $2.99 bowl), Savory Ultimate Burger ($8.50), Brazilian brats with beans and rice ($8.50), fries ($1.99), pie ($2.25)

Rating breakdown: Food: * 1/2 (3-star maximum); atmosphere: 1/2 (1 maximum), service: 0 (1 maximum)

Note: Restaurants are categorized by price range: $ (less than $20 for three-course meal), $$ ($20-$29); $$$ ($30-$39), $$$$ ($40-$49), $$$$$ ($50 and up).

Ryan DuVall is a restaurant critic for The Journal Gazette. This review is based on two unannounced visits. The Journal Gazette pays for all meals. E-mail him at rduvall@jg.net, call at 461-8130, or go to the “Dining out” topic of “The Board” at www.journalgazette.net. DuVall’s past reviews can also be found at the website, and you can hear Ryan from 5 to 6 p.m. every Thursday on 92.3 FM, The Fort.