Hungry Owl

Update: 6/2013
I wanted to have dinner with one of my friends and was running out of ideas of places to go.  She wanted a baby friendly place that was somewhat near her house.  I chose the Hungry Owl because I haven't been in forever and wanted to go back. It's been more than  two years since this Hungry Owl opened and I finally got over it not being as it once was.  I guess I was just so happy with the original that I couldn't let it go.

I have to admit I was prepared for the worst when I showed up for dinner at 6:30 on a Friday night.  I thought the wait was going to be horrendous.  To my surprise, we were seated very quickly.  My friend showed up soon afterwards and we ordered.

Sides sampler plate
My friend is trying to get her daughter to try a variety of new foods so she wanted to order the sides sampler plate.  You get to choose 6 sides for $12.  If you wanted any of the specialty sides, there would be an up charge.  Of course, we didn't want just any old sides so the sampler platter ended up being about $20.  Starting clockwise at the top; gumbo, boursin mash potatoes, sweet potato mash, bacon crumbled mac and cheese and gouda cheese grits.  We also ordered corn on the cob but they forget it so it was brought out later.  The gumbo was just ok for me.  It was a little thinner than I would like.  There seemed to be more vegetables in it than seafood.  But then again, I did only have two spoonfuls.  The sweet potato mash were your typical side.  The stellar items had to be three 3 "worst for you" items on the plate.  Yup, the Boursin mashed potatoes, mac and cheese and cheese grits.  The grits were wonderfully creamy and you can definitely taste the Gouda cheese.  It has a smoky flavor that you can get any other way.  The Boursin mash potatoes were good as well but I wish I could have tasted more of the cheese.  If the menu didn't say so, I don't know if I could have distinguish what's so special about it.  The mac and cheese was decadent.  There's no other way to describe it.  It was so rich. 

Stuffed meatloaf $15
I ordered the stuffed meatloaf wrapped in bacon and served over a bed of Boursin mash potatoes.  The menu said and another side.  I asked for the bacon mac and cheese for an up charge.  It was strange though because the waitress was like it suppose to come with a salad but ok.  I wanted to reply that's not what the menu says!!  I want to blame my coworker, Joe, for the excessive amount of bad stuff this meal contained.  I saw him and his wife when we first came in and he couldn't rave enough about these two sides.   I decided what the heck and got both.  I started in on my meatloaf and was so happy with it.  It was tender and seasoned really well.  I can even tell you what it was stuffed with because I was too busy eating to analyze.  The gravy poured on top paired well with the mashed potatoes.  There's a tomato sauce on the bottom that took the place of the ketchup.  It was all very good eaten together. 

Thank goodness, I didn't have room for the mac and cheese when I was done with my actual meal.  I packed it in a to go box and it was even better the next day.  I don't know if it was sitting on the table for too long or what, but once I reheated it in the microwave for a couple of minutes it was better than when I had it at the restaurant.  The flavors melded a little more.  You can taste the bacon throughout the mac and cheese without actually having any in the forkful you just had.
Ultimate Burger $14 or $15
Both my friend and my brother ordered the ultimate burger.  It's an all Angus beef patty, stuffed with cheese and vegetables and topped with a sunny side egg.  I was so engrossed with my meal that it took me a minute to remember to ask my brother for a bite of the burger.  I have to admit, I am glad I did.  What I had was delicious.  Great flavors in the stuffing, the egg gave it a richness and it was seasoned well.  Unfortunately, I apparently had the best bite.  My brother said the filling was not distributed evenly on the patty so parts of it didn't have any flavor at all.  My friend actually thought it was bland all the way around.  

Also, my friend ordered the cajun potatoes as a side and didn't know what she was getting.  It's apparently 3 red potatoes that have been boiling in cajun (probably crawfish) seasoning.  I advise you to choose something else.

The service was better than the first time I came to the Hungry Owl but still not good enough.  We had to wave down our waitress several times to ask for stuff (like the missing corn on the cob.)  It was busy and we felt at times as if we were inconveniencing her by wanting our drink refilled.  We actually had to stop another waitress to get silverware.  I have to be honest.  I don't know if this will ever be a part of my list of go-to restaurants.  Although the food is excellent, the prices are a little high for everyday meals and service could be better.

The Hungry Owl website is being re-done and I can't find a menu online.  The items range for about $8 for the pizzas and upwards of $20 for most of entrees.  Several of the seafood items had "market" on it.  So it's what it's going for at the market, which always concerns me for some reason.  I guess I just like knowing how much it cost before ordering it.  

Original Post: 7/2011
Ahh, what a difference a few write ups and a spot on Man vs Food Nation make!!  Ok, ok.. so the owner of the Hungry Owl was already planning on expanding but this is way more than I expected.  Gone are the little details about the old location I love so much. Before this move, I described the Hungry Owl as gourmet food on a styrofoam plate and that was part of its charm. Not anymore.  It's gone from a counter service place to a full service restaurant and bar.  It has the same look, feel and somewhat the menu of any of your chain bar/grill i.e. TGI Friday's except locally owned of course.

Alligator Pot Pie
The best parts of the old location is the quick and quality food and service. I also love the relaxed atmosphere. Now, there are hostess to seat you and a wait staff.  I've heard of 40 minute wait times for lunch!  Definitely not good if you only have 30 minutes or an hour for a meal. The menu has evolved quite a bit as well. Sure, Hungry Owl still has it's most popular items such as the Tony Burger, Creole Shrimp & Grits and Alligator Pie but portions and prices has changed.  As far as I can see, most of the prices jumped about $1 to $4 depending on the item.  Before much of the menu was $9.99 or less, now it ranges from $9 -$15.  The menu has also expanded with appetizers, pasta dishes, salads, more sandwiches and wraps.  Since I felt like I was trying the Hungry Owl for the first time all over again, I went with a couple of the new menu items.
Cheesy Crawfish $8.99
First for an appetizer, I tried out the cheesy crawfish dip, served with flatbread slices. I didn't see or taste many crawfish in this dip.  I thought the best part was the cheesy burnt part since that honestly had the most flavor.  The flatbread served as a nice vessal to eat that dip.  It's your basic flatbread, brushed with some olive oil or maybe butter, sprinkled with some seasoning and slightly toasted.  For $8.99, the dish is pretty small.  It would serve as a nice appetizer for two people.  Any more than that would be stretching it.

Smoke Chicken & Conecuh  $10.99
I ordered the smoked chicken and conecuh baked pasta as my entree. It consists of conecuh sausage, chicken and penne pasta in a cream sauce. The entire thing was covered with some cheese and herbs (tasted like parsley and cilantro) and baked.  I thought it was a good mixture of meats and pasta; although some of the chicken were in really big chunks.  The chicken didn't taste smoked to me; rather baked or pan fried. It was tasty.

The pasta came with a House salad and bread.  In this case, it was actually cornbread.  It's not quite what I remember it to be.  I remember moist sweet cornbread.  This one was a little bit on the dry side.  Also despite the cute grill marks, it was also cold when it got to my table.  The house salad is a handful (really, it's JUST a handful) of mixed greens, slices of cucumber, croutons and shredded cheese.  I would not mention it but for one thing - the Cranberry Vinaigrette.  This is the best dressing I've ever had.  The combination of sweet and sour is perfect.  Even with these extras, I thought the meal was a little on the small size or I was super hungry that day.  I left feeling not as full as I thought I would be considering how many items I ordered and consumed. 

Alligator Crab Cake Burger $10.99
My brother had one of the new burgers; the alligator crab cake burger.  It came with one side and he got the gouda grits.  This burger was pretty big and came dressed with a lettuce, tomato, red onion and a creole tasting mayonnaise.  I had one bite of the burger and thought it was bland.  When I tried some of the crab cake itself, I found that it was really heavy on the oregano.  It completely overshadowed the delicate taste of the crab. I don't know if alligator was suppose to be a part of the crab cake or not but I didn't see or taste any. Maybe it's made with "alligator crab"; if there is such a thing.  Towards the end, my brother decided to forego the bun and ate the crab cake itself.  He noticed that the crab was not picked throughly for shells.  He kept finding several pieces in each bite. The gouda grits was a good as I remembered it.  But it quickly got cold because we were sitting under this huge ceiling fan.  We left it primarily untouched because cold grits is just no good.

I am on the fence about the "upgrades" at the Hungry Owl.  I definitely don't like the new set up.  It make it more chain and less hometown.  The service was mediocre at best.  I don't know if the wait staff is not experienced or it's just part of opening a new location.  I asked a number of questions about the new items on the menu and basically either got a blank stare or a stammered response.  Not at all what I would expect.  The hostesses are no better.  Ask a question and they'll look at you as if you sprouted an extra head.  I think the Hungry Owl lost part of it's charm with this new location.  Now, I hear more about people leaving because of long wait times than how good the food is.  I will be back to try different items but if the service remains lackluster I will find somewhere else to dine.
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