Dave Query and I have not always seen eye to eye.
Actually, for a long time, Query (boss of the Big Red F restaurant group, which owns Jax, Lola and the West End Tavern, among other properties) just flat hated my punk ass.
And I was none too fond of some of his restaurants. Funny thing, though...after a while Query started opening restaurants that I really liked. Because I liked them, I didn't have anything bad to say about them. And because I was no longer saying nasty things about his restaurants, Query suddenly became a helluva lot friendlier with me.
West End Tavern is probably my favorite of his many properties — an excellent neighborhood bar and restaurant that not only pours a mean whiskey and a fine cold beer, but also features a great menu. His crew ably handles both the simple and the sublime, turning out plates of deviled eggs with bacon and buckets of chicken wings right alongside maple bourbon salmon with gouda mashed potatoes and fried chicken and waffles topped with jalapeño-cherry jam and scratch-made country gravy.
On a recent Sunday, I rolled in right between brunch and lunch service — the perfect time to get a good table in the back and settle in for a nice, leisurely meal. I've returned to West End a few times since I reviewed it several years back and have never found anything to complain about — but now, just to be safe, I ordered broadly off three different menus to see what the kitchen could do.
What the guys did was everything, and all of it damn near perfectly. The gumbo biscuits and gravy was addictively good, full of chunks of crawfish and chicken, and spread across two big biscuits stuffed with Gouda scrambled eggs. The French dip sliders with a chop salad weren't the best sandwiches I've ever had, but they were fine. The burgers were better, and the barbecue better yet. Even the fancy-pants mac-and-cheese was excellent, since this is one of the few kitchens in town that isn't skimpy with the sauce.
All things considered, I would've been better off skipping Mark & Isabella and just hanging out at the West End all day and night, ordering up more deviled eggs, more chicken and waffles and more barbecued ribs for the most comforting dinner imaginable.