Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Claire's on the Park Restaurant

In-house smoked bbq pulled beef brisket

Restaurant: Claire's On the Park
Cuisine: American
Last visited: October 9, 09
Area: Estes Park, Colorado
225 Park Lane, Estes Park
Price Range: $10-20 USD

1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!

Food: 2
Service: 4
Ambiance: 3
Overall: 2
Additional comments:
  • Since 1980
  • Casual family style diner
  • Beautiful view from deck
  • Extensive menu
  • Serves breakfast, lunch and dinner
  • Smokes their own meat
  • Homestyle American classics
  • Offers everything from meatloaf, bbq, steak and seafood

**Recommendation: BBQ Beef Brisket, BBQ Pork Sandwich, "Smokin Al's Specials"

The main reason we chose Claire's is because of the name. I was with my cousin whose name is also "Claire" so it was more for fun. It looked like a quaint little diner and we happened to find parking right in front of it so it was out of convenience too. It wouldn't have been my first choice, but it's Mom and Pop style gave me hope that we were trying a local gem. The food was a little more than expected for a diner. I did appreciate the fact that the meats were smoked in house though, however that's as far as effort goes. The recipes and selection are all really simple and the execution of each dish is a no brainer. I do give props to the in house smoked meats and bbq sauce though, but the quality of ingredients for everything else was very average or even a tad below.

On the table:
  • Crab Cakes 4/6 just for the crab cakes, not for the sauce
    • Homemade crab cakes served with "roasted red pepper sauce"
    • I was really surprised with this dish. I really like crab cakes so I didn't hesitate too much on ordering them mainly because it said "homemade". I thought they'd be 50% shrimp, but they weren't. There was lots of crab in them which I'm glad because it was $10.50USD which is on the expensive side. They were nice and flaky and fried until golden brown and crispy.
    • On the other hand the "roasted red pepper sauce" tasted like red pepper relish mixed with 80% regular relish. It was pretty gross and did not suit the crab cakes at all. I think it ruined them actually. I would rather eat these plain, but plain they were a little dry on their own.
  • Fried Gnocchi 1/6
    • Deep fried potato dumplings deep fried and served with marinara sauce.
    • This was really disappointing. I was excited for them too!
    • The potato dumplings were definitely the packaged shelf ones. Cook and serve gnocchi. It taste like deep fried balls of plain dough - not even potato. I would have preferred least those have seasoning and flavour.
    • The marinara sauce was straight from a jar...a crappy watery brand too.
    • This was a 5 min. grocery store meal and it tasted that way too.
  • **BBQ Beef Brisket 3.5/6
    • Mesquite smoked pulled beef brisket served on Ciabatta bread with homemade bbq sauce.
    • Claire's definitely prides itself on smoking their own meats and now I know why. I was quite impressed with their recipe and cooking method. The brisket was quite tender and it had this hickory smoked flavour that was nice. It was on the dry side though and the meat didn't look like it was tender enough to be easily shred. But on the whole it was still very good for the restaurant's standards.

    • A nice drizzle of bbq sauce was the perfect touch, however I didn't want to add to much because I didn't want to overpower the natural flavour of the smoked meat.
    • The bbq sauce was nice and thick, probably heavy on the molasses. It was served warm and it has a nice kick at the end. The kick wasn't really spicy, but kind of tangy, I'm pretty sure they put Worcestershire sauce in it. This homemade bbq sauce was the perfect match for their smoked meat.
    • This sandwich was piled with lots of meat and it came with a side of lettuce and tomatoes to complete the sandwich fixings. I didn't even eat it with any veggies because the meat was really good on its own.
    • I would have preferred it on a softer bread rather than the ciabatta. Since it was pulled meat I think it would have tasted better on a bread that wasn't as chewy.
  • **BBQ Pulled Pork 3/6
    • This was the same as the bbq pulled brisket except with pulled pork. The flavours were the same, except I found the brisket to be a little more flavourful. Probably because beef has a stronger and richer flavour than pork.
    • We got both sandwiches with sweet potato fries and these were good too.
  • Brie Sandwich 2/6
    • Melted brie, arugula, and strawberry jam on a steak roll.
    • This was a sweet and savoury sandwich served warm.
    • The quality and portion of ingredients should have been much better. They could have given more brie especially since they call it a Brie sandwich. The sandwich was assembled together quite roughly, so it had more potential.
    • The strawberry jam had a few actual strawberries in it, but not that many. It's really smooth - a poor brand that was syrup based rather than real fruit based.
    • I would have preferred this one on a toasted ciabatta bun rather than a steak roll since the ingredients are a bit more gourmet.
    • We ordered this one with potato salad, which was very mediocre. I don't even really remember it.

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