Every once in a while, I get a hunch. A gut feeling about a hotel or restaurant that simply says "this is the place." Perhaps it was the clever spelling of their name, the colorful website, or the catchy slogan, but there was something about Kool Beanz Cafe in Tallahassee which activated my Deej Sense. My own MJ had her doubts, however I knew we were in for great things because this superpower is rarely, if ever, wrong.
Eat, Drink, and Talk Loud - You're Among Friends
The talking heads at ESPN have a phrase called "the eyeball test," which is used to describe who they think is the better team even if the scoreboard shows something different. Applying this test to restaurants is simple...are there butts in seats? When we arrived to Kool Beanz every table was full, every stool at the counter was occupied, and the outdoor patio was overflowing on this hot and humid Florida night. Needless to say, they passed the eyeball test with flying colors.
|The funky dining room|
In addition to the eyeball test, there was a vibe to Kool Beanz which confirmed my Deej Sense was right all along. It was cool - pun intended - casual, and maybe even a little funky. Eclectic works from local artists adorned the walls, old wine bottles were used as the drink menus, and beer was delivered to tables via recycled 6 pack holders. There was also a slight edginess to the staff, which exposed my own widening deficit of coolness. In short, the atmosphere at Kool Beanz was everything that I'm not but everything that I love.
We chose to sit at the counter facing the kitchen because, not only did it reduce the time separating me and food, but I enjoy watching a great restaurant team in action. Given the busy Friday evening crowd, the kitchen spent most of the night "in the weeds." Despite the constant backlog of tickets on the rack, however, great care was still put into the presentation of every dish, and no plate was allowed to linger for more than a few seconds thanks to the seemingly constant call of "runner!" On the surface this might have appeared like unorganized chaos, but after a while it was clear this was a well oiled machine.
|The drink list and counter|
The only downside to sitting near the kitchen, is it makes the challenge of deciding what to order monumentally harder. For the first few minutes we were seated literally every plate that left the kitchen piqued my interest. Finally, we decided on the Shrimp and Grits to for our starter, which is one of my ultimate favorites. The grits were creamy, the shrimp perfectly cooked, and the remoulade sauce added a bit of spice which always make an appearance in this dish. The spicier the better!
|The shrimp and grits|
Oddly enough, I hadn't spotted my choice for the main go out before ordering, but the description of the Korean BBQ Strip Steak and Scallops - Surf and Turf as everyone called it - was enough to sell me sight unseen. Shortly after we placed our order I saw one leave the kitchen, and my jaw nearly hit the floor. It was still there when the dish eventually arrived a few minutes later. Sure, everything tasted fantastic, but that wasn't what had me in disbelief. The size of this plate blew me away, and between the steak and four ginormous sea scallops, I fail to see how the restaurant made any money from my order.
|The Korean Steak and Scallops|
MJ had a serious case of entree envy when she saw my plate, but that didn't stop her from enjoying her salmon. Like my Korean beef, the salmon was paired with stir fry vegetables and served in a Thai curry sauce. I stole a bite or two while she powdered her nose, and might have developed my own case of entree envy.
As is often the case, the choice for dessert had been made before any of our other courses. That's because I passed a piece of the Chocolate Mousse cake going out just as we were being seated at the counter. How we managed to put chocolate on top of what was already an incredibly rich meal is beyond me, but somehow we powered though.
|No better way to end a meal...|
In the end, my intuition about Kool Beanz was dead on. The atmosphere and service played a big role in our great experience, but it was the diverse and high quality menu which made the lasting impact. Sure, they have a catchy slogan, colorful sign, and clever name, but were it not for the food Kool Beanz wouldn't have a chance of passing the eye test. The lesson learned here is simple...
Never doubt the Deej Sense.
Enjoy Your Stay