Small menus became the norm during the pandemic, but I was a bit surprised at how few offerings there were at Morgan’s Tap & Grill in the Waynedale community.
Though nearly all menus are smaller than before the COVID pandemic, most have at least gotten back to a more normal size. But the owners of Morgan’s will tell you their menu is focused rather than scant, and the reason is that they want to do everything from scratch and not cut corners.
And though I did not struggle to decide what to try – I basically got to try it all – I did not leave feeling it needed more. That dedication to making it right made the food more than just all right.
It started with the side salad, which I ordered as an appetizer. It wasn’t exotic or unique, but it was made with care. The blend of greens was diverse and fresh, the tomatoes were fresh and ripe – a rare thing to find on most pub salads. It was nicely dressed with just enough dressing, and even the croutons were of good quality. The side Caesar I had on another visit followed suit but needed just a little more dressing.
The only complaint I had with either was that one arrived with my main course. My server said she assumed I wanted it with the meal since I substituted it for one of my sides, but I specifically asked to have it before the meal.
It must have been an off night for the staff, because during that same visit I basically had to seat myself after waiting far too long next to the “wait to be seated” sign with nary a person to greet me.
Morgan’s, located in what was once the longtime Waynewood Inn along Bluffton Road, is a pub through and through with the typical bar-centric neon décor and a few TVs. The music – a mix of oldies from LL Cool J to the Bee Gees – was far too loud during one visit but toned down on another to make conversation easier.
I nearly started disco dancing when my fried mushrooms arrived because they looked great and tasted even better. Morgan’s cut the large, white button mushrooms into strips instead of halving them or serving them whole and coated them with a coarse, crunchy breading that was heavily seasoned – but not over-seasoned – and there was not a speck of grease on the plate.
Breaded and fried could have been the theme here as I struggled to choose between the Indiana Breaded Tendy (tenderloin) and fried fish – both touted as hand-breaded – during one trip. My server shrugged and could not choose either because she approves of both.
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I wish my tenderloin had been breaded the same way the mushrooms were because it needed that crunch, but it was instead coated just like the fish, which I had on a different visit. It was a finer breading, similar to the breading many places around the Summit City use, but it was not right for a tenderloin. Actually, the tenderloin wasn’t right either as it was cubed (and proudly touted that way on the menu), which stole its meatiness. A true Indiana pork tenderloin sandwich is never cubed.
As was the case with my late salad, my server for the tenderloin struggled to remember my order. I requested onions and pickles when asked, and she returned a few minutes after taking the order and asked whether I wanted lettuce on it. I told her no and repeated the pickles and onions. Well, the sandwich arrived with lettuce and pickle, and she seemed stunned and borderline annoyed when I asked for onions one more time.
That disappointing sandwich was flanked by what might be the best french fries in the city, however. Morgan’s cuts its own fries and does them quite thin so they are almost exactly the same size as McDonald’s, which knows a thing or two about fries. But the fries at Morgan’s were better. They were crispy and deftly salted just like at the Golden Arches, but they had a more fluffy potato inside. They were perfect and they beckon me to return.
The fish is worth going back for, too. It was delicate and flaky, so a fork was needed because it will crumble if you try to pick it up, and that fine breading was perfect on the Alaskan pollock as it did not mask the flavor of the meat.
Unlike the mushrooms, there was a puddle of grease on my plate when the fish was gone, which was one drawback. The other drawback for me was that the tartar sauce at Morgan’s was very dill-tasting and not like the usual tartar sauce. Points for being different, but in this case, I wanted the good ol’ standby sans dill.
The double “Super Smash” burger was a solid choice. I had the basic “American BYOB” and chose to have it with just American cheese so I could really taste it in its basic form. And that is how I would probably have it again because the patties were deftly seasoned, a little crisp around the edges and bursting with juice. They also had that hearty, beefy, umami flavor I want from a burger.
I had heard folks touting Morgan’s collard greens – some even calling them the best they’ve ever had – so I had to try them with my fish. I was surprised at how al dente the greens were and enjoyed the added texture, but I was not ready to perch them near the top of my list because these greens had not spent hours cooking away with all the goodies that make greens good.
They had a little zip from some vinegar and spices, but they lacked some of the rich, smoky flavor that greens should soak up from turkey necks or smoked pork scraps they are cooked with. I wondered if they were vegetarian, and they would have been good vegetarian greens but not good old-fashioned collards like most of us savor.
The baked beans at Morgan’s followed suit with legumes that still held their shape and texture, and I liked that they didn’t break apart and become mush. They were sweet with a tickle of heat, and the only slight flaw was a little too much liquid, which made my order soupy. Had they been strained better, they could have been among the best around.
Restaurant: Morgan’s Tap & Grill
Address: 8421 Bluffton Road
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Handicapped accessible: Yes
Alcohol: Full bar
Smoking status: Non-smoking
Credit cards: Yes
Menu: Mushrooms ($7), side salad ($4), breaded tenderloin ($11), double burger ($12.50), fish ($9 for two-piece; $12 for three)
Rating breakdown: Food: 1 1/2 (3-star maximum); atmosphere: 1/2 (1 maximum), service: 1/2 (1 maximum)