Tamara's Downtown

 It's a food adventure on the Eastern Shore.  I went to Fairhope's Arts and Crafts Festival today.  Most of downtown was sectioned off and hundreds of tents were erected all along the streets.  It was so much fun to look at the different paintings, photographs and sculptures. But I digress, this is a food blog after all.

So after spending about 2 hours strolling through only half of the festival, my friends and I decided to stop for lunch.  I ran into one of my co-workers and festival committee member Larry Pate on my stroll and mooched off some spinach artichoke dip from him.  It was quite delicious so I asked where did it come from.  The ladies in the volunteer building told me Tamara's Downtown. I recalled walking pass the restaurant just a few blocks from where we parked.  We decided it may be a great place to eat lunch.

I really do love the atmosphere.  They created a false ceiling by hanging huge paintings.  Each varying in the color and theme.  All along the walls were also paintings.  The lighting was a little too dim though.  The ladies room was practically dark.  Otherwise it was a quaint little place.  As I said the arts and crafts festival was literally happening right outside the restaurant so it was pretty busy.  It also didn't help that it appeared to be short kitchen staff.   When we came in, we were warned there was only two people cooking and that it would be quite a wait.  We decided to stay anyways since it was much cooler inside than out in that 80 degree heat.

The lunch menu consist of burgers, paninis, salads and a few specialty items like crab cakes and a chicken pasta.  I was quite disappointed though that the spinach dip I got a taste of wasn't on the lunch menu. However another offering caught my eye;  the ribeye steak sandwich. It was a three ounce steak, topped with lettuce, tomato and caramelized onions.  It was a no brainer. That was the sandwich for me.

The meal came with the choice of one side that range from french fries, sweet fries, a number of salads or homemade soup.  I opted for the soup.  It turned out to be a crawfish bisque. For even a hot day, the soup turned out to be pretty delicious.  Instead of cheating like most restaurants do, it tasted as though Tamara's actually use a seafood broth instead of a chicken broth for the soup.  This may sound bad but you can taste the shrimp shells.  Another thing that surprised me was the sheer amount of crawfish in each bite. No scrimping on the goods here.  I had several large size crawfish tails in each spoonful.  I ate every drop.

I had high hopes for my ribeye sandwich and it didn't disappoint.  It came to the table opened face and served on a kaiser roll.  It was also huge.  There was a slice of tomato as big as the roll, a large piece of lettuce and topped off with a small mound of slightly grilled onions.  The steak was cooked medium rare just as I ordered it.  This was also the first time I had a steak sandwich that has those yummy fat edges still attached.  Typically, they are trimmed off and thrown away.  Not at Tamara's, the little fatty pieces are grilled right along with the steak then served.  When you take a bite that has that piece, it's like an extra burst of flavor and texture in your mouth.

One of my friends ordered the crab cake.  Bob is one of those straight talkers.  If it isn't good, he'll let you know and typically at the top of his voice.  I guess being in his 80s, he could let everybody knows his opinion.  Bob really like the crab cake. His only complaint; there was only one.  From the looks of it, you can tell there wasn't a lot of filler in the cake.  Sometimes, you see a lot of colorful peppers, onions and bread but this one made up of good ol' crab.  I think the dressing on top is a chipotle aioli but I'm not positive.

After sampling Bob's sweet potatoes fries, I was impressed and ordered my own.  They were large wedges of sweet potatoes lightly battered then fried.  After dashing the top with some salt, they were delicious.  I thought it could have been fried just a little longer though.  I took some home and when I bit into it, you can tell it was not cooked thoroughly.

I'm kinda torn over this place.  While the food was delicious, it took a really long time for them to get it out.  Granted it was the middle of a big event happening just steps from the front door, but from reviews online it's not out of the norm to wait up to 2 hours for your order.  I also wonder if I felt that the service was good just because of the circumstances.  At any other time, I would call it adequate at best.  Our waitress was flying all around the dining room and had to be reminded about a few things we asked for.  Another waitress refilled our drinks and I had to ask to get mine refilled at least once.  Then, it took a minute for her to remember.  I would like to try Tamara's again sometime and gauge the service and food again.

Click here for Tamara's website.
Tamara's Downtown on Urbanspoon


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