Wednesday, July 27, 2005
REVIEW: Oddfellas Cantina
Eclectic vibe plus good food = ****
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Odd Fella's waitress
Everything about Oddfellas Cantina is eclectic: the menu, the decor, the artwork, the music. Even all of the tables and booths are different. With its high ceilings, wooden floors and screen doors, the restaurant defies categorizing. Hippie-dippy? Avant-garde? Rustic? Suffice it to say that there's no mistaking it for a chain operation.
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Dinner: The dinner menu features a variety of beef, seafood, fish, chicken and vegetarian offerings, often with unusual pairings that are the creation of Chef Natasha Shishkevish. She's given full rein to concoct whatever her heart desires and frequently adds dishes based on what's the freshest and the best that day. The entire menu changes every eight weeks.
We started with Shrimp in Indian Sauce as an appetizer ($7.99) and were pleased with the generous portion of large, plump shrimp cooked to perfection, with a tangy dark sauce for dipping. For entrees, we selected beer-battered tilapia served with couscous ($14.95) and chicken breast in a sauce of red wine, capers and green olives on a bed of rice ($14.95).
The tilapia was exceptional in quantity, flavor and preparation. The batter was as light and crisp as tempura, flaking away to reveal tender white fish. The diverse ingredients in the chicken's sauce melded into an exquisite flavor.
Customers enjoy music
The dinner salad of field greens and lettuces was anything but boring - although a bit challenging to tackle in a too-small dish. Topped with a tangy lemon tahini dressing, the salad greens belied their organic, locally grown roots, especially the marvelous vine-ripened tomato. (Owner Rob Neukirch said one diner looked at him with moist eyes, gasping, "How do you make it taste like this?" He responded, "Because this morning it was still in the ground and this evening it's on the table.")
Another delight was the wine our server suggested: "Simpatico" by Villa Appalachia, a small winery just down the road. The vidal blanc/malvasia bianca blend was quite pleasant, priced at $4.50 a glass.
To cap the meal, we sampled one of the many homemade desserts - made-from-scratch apple pie. Marvelous.
Lunch: Oddfellas is known for its overstuffed chimichangas, homemade tortilla chips and wraps with colorful names such as "Rude Boy" and "Rainbow."
Brunch: Served only on Sundays, brunch features standards such as French toast, pancakes and omelets, as well as more unusual combinations such as a tofu scrambler with home fries and seasoned beans. Classical guitarist Chris Hale is a hit with the brunch crowd.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Oddfellas Cantina offers a unique, changing menu filled with surprising combinations, from its signature chimichangas to gourmet cuisine. Don't be shy about asking the knowledgeable staff to guide you to a memorable dining experience.
In 2001, actor Rob Neukirch and his publicist wife Michele Morris were living in Los Angeles and not keen on raising their two young sons there. Neukirch's sister had heard that the owners of Oddfellas Cantina wanted to sell and she told the couple, "We should buy it." The idea was still on the table when Morris happened to be visiting in New York City when the 9/11 terrorist attacks occurred. When she made it back to L.A. a week later, she told her husband, "Life is short - let's do it." They bought the restaurant and took over in January 2002.
The restaurant building was constructed in 1910 as a meeting hall and over the years has housed the popular Moses Restaurant, an art gallery and an exercise salon. The building next door was once owned by the Oddfellows Society, a group of do-gooders who helped widows in distress or orphans in need. The group's name, and the restaurant's namesake, comes from the expression, "It's an odd fellow who'll work for free." The society officially began in Great Britain in 1810, but traces its roots back to the exile of the Israelites from Babylon in 587 B.C.
Rating: **** (out of 5)
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Menu: Eclectic. Southwestern, Indian and Thai influences.
Price range: Lunch: $6.25-$8.95; Dinner: $10.50-$18.95; Sunday brunch: $4.95-$7.25.
Where: 10 N. Locust St. (U.S. 221), Floyd
Hours: Lunch: 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday; Dinner: 5-9 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday; Sunday brunch: 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
Soda products: Coca-Cola
Adult beverages? Beer and wine
Homemade desserts? Yes, pies and other pastries made by a local woman; a variety of other desserts made on site.
Plastic? Mastercard and Visa
Smoking? On patio
Reservations? Strongly recommended on weekends
Live music? Yes, every night. Oddfellas prides itself on showcasing the "wealth of talent" in the area, as well as bringing in out-of-state musicians, the owner said. Genres include jazz, bluegrass, Celtic, old-time and classical guitar.
What the stars mean
***** Excellent. A one-of-a-kind experience.
**** Very good. Memorable menus accompanied by exciting environs and/or savvy service.
*** Good. Solid places that beckon with generally appealing cooking.
** Just OK. A place not worth rushing back to. But, it might have something worth recommending: A view, a single dish, friendly service, lively scene.
* Poor. Don't waste your money here.