It was a match made in heaven for my dining companion and me: Trolley Steaks and Seafood.
I would handle the seafood side; my carnivorous companion would sink his teeth into a steak.
Once — a very long time ago — a restaurant called the Trolley Bar sat at the southeast corner of Calhoun and Superior streets. The popular hangout closed in the 1970s after more than 20 years in business, and owner Robert Hadley died in 1997.
In 2001, the name was resurrected when the Trolley Bar opened in Dupont Place at Interstate 69 and Dupont Road. It's undergone changes in ownership, and now is called Trolley Steaks and Seafood.
I can't compare the new restaurant to the original, as I was never there. And I guess I can't really even call it a “new” restaurant anymore, since it's been there 12 years already.
As a first-timer, I had a few expectations, namely that Trolley Steaks and Seafood would be upscale in both atmosphere and the quality of the food.
Although it's located in a strip shopping center near a busy interstate exchange, once you step inside the eatery you can almost forget you're out in the suburbs. The furnishings and warm walls lend a clean, contemporary air to the space, which is dimly lit. The tables are dressed with tablecloths and cloth napkins and — thank the lord — there isn't a TV in sight, at least not in the dining room. It would be a great place for a romantic date.
The kitchen is open to the dining room, and we were seated directly opposite from it. My companion was facing the kitchen, and said it was “both an attraction and a distraction” to watch the chefs work.
We started with an appetizer — breaded mushrooms. When I look over the appetizer menu now, I realize that was a dumb choice because breaded mushrooms are about the same everywhere. These were no better or worse than any breaded mushrooms I've had at a bar.
A generous portion of small button mushrooms were coated with a crispy breading and served with ranch dressing. My only complaint is that the first few we bit into were scorching hot on the inside. So beware, if you order them.
If we go again, I'll try a more interesting appetizer, such as walleye fingers, the “famous” shrimp cocktail or baked goat cheese served with flat bread.
We were lucky to be seated near the restaurant's impressive salad bar. It isn't the best salad bar in Fort Wayne, but it was certainly better than most, starting out with the cold pewter plates. (Have you ever been to a salad bar where the plates were still warm from the dishwasher? Who wants to put salad on a warm plate?)
A huge bowl of fresh mixed greens with nary a sign of rusty lettuce was at the head of the salad bar. There were many toppings from which to choose. In addition to the usual suspects — tomatoes, various vegetable toppings, cheese — selections included chopped beets, artichoke hearts, olives, sunflower seeds and more that I can't remember.
The salad bar also offered some prepared salads. I sampled a tasty dill potato salad and an imitation crabmeat salad. My companion would have liked to have seen labels on the prepared salads because he couldn't tell what was in them just by looking. “I stuck to what I was sure of,” he said.
He ordered an 8-ounce prime rib, only to be disappointed when the server told him prime rib was available Thursday through Saturday only. (To be fair, it is noted on the menu.) So he switched his order to a 10-ounce sirloin, with a baked potato as his side.
He ordered it cooked medium. I should note that the menu has specific descriptions of the various degrees of doneness of meat, which I think would eliminate a lot of confusion.
His steak was cooked to order, pink in the middle. It was a thick cut of sirloin, tender with good searing from the grill. His baked potato was cooked perfectly. He looked as if he was in steak-and-potato heaven as he polished off every last bite.
I ordered blackened sea scallops and a baked potato. I think there were seven large, thick scallops swimming in a jalapeņo tartar sauce. They were rich and so, so sweet, with just a little blackening on the top. Every bite was better than the one before. The slightly spicy sauce seemed to coax out the rich flavor of the scallops.
However, having wasted some of my appetite on the breaded mushrooms, I couldn't eat all of the scallops. I was pleasantly full, and wanted to save room for dessert. I had the two remaining scallops boxed, and they were just as good the next day after being warmed in the microwave.
Our server really talked up the homemade apple crisp a la mode, so we decided to split one. Good thing, because it was a huge serving, with a dollop of ice cream the size of a softball on top.
It looked so good when it came to the table. The edges of the crisp were still bubbling. I watched, fascinated, waiting for it to cool a bit. Thankfully the ice cream helped. The vanilla ice cream and the crisp was a pairing that worked well. The apples, however, were too tart and didn't seem to be cooked enough.
Overall, it was a good experience, with wonderful food, good service and a classy atmosphere.
My only advice if you go? Skip the breaded mushrooms and try a more interesting appetizer.
Every other Tuesday, Cindy Larson describes a one-time dining experience at an area restaurant. The News-Sentinel pays for meals. This column is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of The News-Sentinel. You can reach her at 461-8284 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To read other columns, go to http://www.news-sentinel.com/section/LARSON.