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Trolley Bar
****
Out of a possible five
$$$

Dinners a delight at Trolley

The more things change the more they stay the same, so the saying goes.

Trolley Steaks and Seafood on Dupont Road near Interstate 69 has seen its share of changes over the years. And recently, there have been changes in management, a tweak of the menu and some updates to the already-stellar décor, all of which were done in a seamless fashion.

And even though it has changed, it remains a jewel of the Summit City restaurant scene.

There are some classic items I avoided during my recent visits to the Trolley Bar, which it is more commonly called. But there was no avoiding the salad bar, which is one of the best. Its variety of fresh greens and vegetables and house-made side salads never disappoint. The only real disappointment was that one of the new changes eliminated the bar’s most quirky ingredient – Gummi bears.

But I got over that quickly when I tried the New England clam chowder, one of the ever-changing daily soups. As much as I love the Trolley’s lobster bisque, this chowder may have been better. This silky cream soup had a buttery unctuousness that made me want even more after the cup was empty. It was packed with tender clams and salty bacon, along with potatoes and a dash of dill to liven it up.

The soups were better options than the appetizers I tried, which were just OK.

The baked goat cheese with flatbread had too much spicy marinara, which overpowered the pesto and parmesan cheese on top. The gooey cheese was nice on the poppy seed dotted flatbread crackers and even better on a slice of the complimentary herb focaccia bread. But it was more like a bowl of marinara with a hunk of cheese in it than a hunk of cheese garnished with sauce.

The nightly special of coconut shrimp were plump and tasty, and came with a ramekin of Paula Deen’s orange zest and chili flake-dotted orange marmalade dipping sauce. The only minor flaw was that the chef was a little heavy-handed with the batter.

The best thing I had during my visits was new to me, but not at all new to the menu. The Trolley’s jambalaya has the usual trinity of vegetables, rice, shrimp and andouille sausage, but also includes ground chorizo, which made it unique. The vegetables were snappy, the shrimp were perfect and the big chunks of sausage were plentiful, but it was the chorizo spread throughout, giving each bite a peppery kick, that really lifted it.

One of the new dinner menu items I tried was actually an old item from the lunch menu. Five varieties of calzone are offered from which I chose the signature Trolley stuffed with scallops shrimp and prosciutto in a creamy white sauce and a “blanket of mozzarella.”

This golden brown beauty spit in the face of the old culinary rule that shellfish and cheese should never be combined. The salty prosciutto worked in harmony with the cream sauce, the scallops and shrimp were tender and sweet and the cheese worked. The only thing I found disharmonious was the traditional side of barbecue sauce.

A couple of daily specials with steak had mixed results.

The flank steak with mushroom-brandy cream sauce was excellent. The steak was tender, juicy and rich in irony beef flavor. The cream sauce worked well, but did need a little more seasoning and could have used a few more mushrooms.

The steak stir-fry had more issues. The beef tenderloin tips were overcooked and tough. The vegetable mix was OK as was the sweet-spicy chili sauce, which kind of reminded me of duck sauce. But OK is not what I was hoping for and the dish wasn’t much better than something in a grocery freezer section.

The desserts were definitely not from the freezer. The crème brûlée sampler may be the best dessert for the buck in town. At just $3.99, you receive three varieties of the rich, creamy, caramelized sugar-topped custard. This time, it was chocolate, vanilla and raspberry, which had a nice surprise of some raspberry gel in the bottom of the ramekin and whole berries on top.

A perfect ending for fall, the apple crisp dessert du jour took only a backseat to my mother’s. The firm, slightly tart apples were covered with a sugary topping with tiny bits of caramelized sugar and a decadent caramel sauce. With a scoop of ice cream melting away into it, it could not have been better.

That is usually the case when I dine at Trolley Steaks & Seafood. From its classic looks, to its hard to beat salad bar, to the attention to detail that goes into most of the food, it is hard to find better.

But I still miss the Gummi bears.

Restaurant: Trolley Steaks & Seafood

Address: 2898 E. Dupont Road

Phone: 490-4322

Hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday; 4 to 11 p.m. Saturday

Cuisine: American

Handicapped accessible: Yes

Alcohol: Full bar

Credit cards: Yes

Kid-friendly: Yes

Menu: Soup ($2.95 cup; $3.49 bowl), goat cheese ($8.25), jambalaya ($18.99), Trolley calzone ($8.50), stir fry ($15.50), crème brûlée ($3.99)

Rating breakdown: Food: ** (3-star maximum); atmosphere: * (1 maximum), service: * (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. DuVall’s past reviews can be found at www.journalgazette.net, and you can hear Ryan from 3 to 4 p.m. every Thursday on 92.3 FM, The Fort.

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