At Neighborhood Services, The Search for True Love Waits

Mister Rogers' classic "Won't you be my Neighbor?" should not be the theme song for Neighborhood Services The Original on Lovers Lane. Last Friday, at 5:09 p.m. I called Neighborhood Services to be put on the wait list. The hostess asked when we expected to be there, I told her my date and I would be there between 7 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. When we arrived at the restaurant right around 7:30 p.m. the hostess told us we still had a one and a half hour wait. What kind of neighborhood service are they providing with this call-ahead wait list if our total wait time logged in at four hours?

With this bad news we smushed ourselves into the bar area already full with other waiting patrons. Against the recommendation of the bartender, I ordered a Beauty School Graduate, a pretty drink made with Plymouth Gin, lemon juice, raspberry and Prosecco. I'd asked what the most popular drinks were, and he advised me of the two front-runners, the Margarita Fresca and the Fur Fingers of Fury. But I'm not a tequila fan -- too many shots of Patron on a weekend in Austin destroyed it for me, and a drink full of Wild Turkey Rye, sweet vermouth and Regan's orange bitters encircled with a raw sugar rim did not sound appetizing at that moment.

By the time my date's Raymond Sommelier Selection of Cabernet Sauvignon arrived next to my pretty pink concoction two barstools had opened up. We immediately took them and I happily located a purse hook under the bar. We asked to eat at the bar and the bartender spread out two dinner napkins for us. I recommend eating at the bar if you are facing another hour and a half wait like we were and if there are only two of you. Add another person to your party, and you'd never hear him or her above the roar of the rest of the bar area.

My date and I both ordered Boston Bibb salads. The lovely salads came with Spanish almonds, pear, baby tomato, PtR blue and white balsamic & herb vinaigrette. For my entrée I waffled between the Friday night special Pounded Pheasant Milanese and the Seared Sea Scallops. I ordered the scallops that came with white cheddar polenta, Spanish chorizo and blistered tomato. My date ordered Bekavac's Bacon Confit Fried Chicken with humble mashed, cheddar biscuit and honey butter. We also got a side, the Brussels Pancetta Maple. Originally the Brussels sprouts did not interest me, but my date knew better.

The best word I can think of to describe my scallops is awesome. I simply loved that dish. The mix of the polenta and chorizo along with the tangy sauce, or maybe its considered a broth, made me want to finish the entire dish. My date enjoyed the fried chicken. I tried a bite and liked the chicken as well. Halfway through our dinner the Brussels sprouts had not arrived. When we asked the waiter/bartender he realized he forgot them, punched their code into the cash register, told us they'd be right out and that he'd comp us the greens. These sprouts were nothing like the ones you eat at home or any I've had in another restaurant -- I actually wanted to eat more of them than the two I'd allotted myself in my first spoonful.

Bekavac's Bacon Confit Fried Chicken
The pièce de résistance of our date at the bar, however, came in a mini Mason-like jar with a clasp. The butterscotch pot de crème is magnificent. Really it is. My date and I scraped every last bit of the tan custard out of the tiny glass jar with the small wooden spoons that came sticking out of the middle of the pot.

As we rested our tiny wood sample size spoons on the dessert plate, the hostess approached our seats at the bar. I simultaneously checked my watch to see its hands approaching 9:30 p.m. "I haven't forgot about you two," she stated nonchalantly. Eager to hear when our table would be available I gave her my full attention while my date waved her off letting her know we'd already eaten. "Oh good," the hostess sighed in relief and walked off to give our table, worthy of a two hour wait, plus the almost two and a half hour call ahead time to another couple.

If the food hadn't tasted so delicious, I wouldn't recommend Neighborhood Services for a date or any other occasion. But in truth I see myself eating there -- well waiting there -- for a long time, and then eating there again in the near future. And from the looks of the jam-packed bar/waiting area, so goes the rest of the neighborhood.

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Monica Berry