Sunday, August 9, 2009

*Restaurant Review* Cherry Pockets Restaurant- Polk County, FL

After a business trip to Tampa (read: Red Sox game with clients) I drove to my parents house to spend some time with them. It's always interesting to visit them in Florida, especially with what we end up eating. Sometimes they attempt something a little bit crazy, like the delicious grilled romaine salad with bacon/bleu cheese vinaigrette, or sometimes we fire up the smoker and smoke a bunch of fish, poultry and meet and other times we do some of my favorites (ham). Rarely we go out to eat considering it's Kissimmee, Florida which means it is rare to find a successful restaurant that isn't a chain - because I don't do chain restaurants.

Surprisingly my parents suggest we go out to eat this trip. I think- ok, where are we going? They've talked about this Cherry Pockets place a few times. They mention it is a fish camp- whatever that means. The first time they went they had a great meal and great service. The second time they went the service was poor. So ok, we'll give it another try. Armed with directions we head out to Cherry Pockets. My parents warn me it's out in the middle of no where but let's be honest, my parents LIVE out in the middle of no where.

So we head out and we turn a direction I've never gone. Everything is always - go out to the main road (about 10 minutes) and then turn right. Before we even get to the main road we turn left. I mention to them, 'I've never been this way' and they remind me 'this place is out in the middle of no where'. So we drive along looking for the signs for the roads the directions tell us. We head down some roads, along some old farms (cows out in the pasture) and then along a road that looks new and larger homes. The next turn is the driveway for the Cherry Pockets fish camp. We know this because we see this (minus the two people):
I giggled thinking of this place as a 'resort' but think to myself- this is Florida, let's check this place out. So we drive into the resort and come upon a bunch of mobile homes that are not in the best of shapes. Some have rips in the screens, some have old beat up cars - I saw a Chevrolet Chevrette (circa 1980) and this place was in dire need of some weed wacking. But, I think to myself, this is Florida, my parents have eaten here before so suck it up Yankee and give this place a try. So I swallow my comments and my concerns and we park and walk out to the restaurant. So we walk up to this place and it backs up to, what appears to be, a swamp. There are boats in the swamp along with some typical Florida swamp grass and that's when the bell goes off in my head- OH, people come to fish here! It's a FISH CAMP. Oh yes, I get it now.

Sidenote: I confess, I have a fear of alligators. My parents have a little ditch in their yard out by the street (like many Florida homes do) and whenever I walk around their neighborhood I am very fearful of encountering an alligator in the ditch. I keep my eyes peeled for those little lizards that scurry all over Florida too. Those don't necessarily scare me but they do startle me enough to let a little shriek slip out and a small jump to the side. Ok, now back to the restaurant.

So as we turn to enter this single story building which looks slightly unsturdy I'm trying to figure out if this is just a kitchy little place the is designed to look as though it's out in the sticks and kind of beaten up or if it really is just a beaten up little place. As we head in, I mention I need to use the restroom. My dad stops as we're walking toward the entry and points his cane across the way and says 'it's up that hill'. I look over at a latrine like building. And I think- oh lordie, what kind of place is this? My parents mentioned 'climbing the hill' but I didn't believe them. They were right, it's a small hill, because it's Florida and there are no real hills in Florida, and I gather up some courage and head over to the latrines. As I walk up the ramp to the ladies side, I encounter one of those damn lizards who nearly scares the _ _ _ out of me! I giggle to myself and open the door. Ah, at least there is running water! And I check around on the floor and walls for any other lizards and see none. So I take a deep breath and use the bathroom, wash my hands with running water and soap and get the heck out of there. So I head over to the entrance of the restaurant:

And when I walk in, I find an actual, clean, bustling, yummy smelling dining room. The hostess greeted me with a smile and a Florida-southern accent and directed me to my parents. We order our drinks which come quickly, our waitress is patient with my delay in deciding what to eat and my questions (why are crab and grouper spelled 'krab' and 'grooper'? Because they are imitation grouper and imitation crab). So I decide I'm not going to order imitation krab or grooper but other than that, I can't decide if I want a steak, fried chicken with a Parmesan sauce, shrimp fettuccine or a crab (with a 'c') cake sandwich. I ask the patient and polite waitress which she suggests but unfortunately she didn't eat seafood, chicken or beef. So we ask someone else who recommends the crab cake sandwich. I was leaning toward that option anyway, because it had a hush puppy (who doesn't love fried cornbread?). I was too chicken to try to frogs legs or the alligator but was thrilled to see them on a menu. My dad ordered the blackened rib eye which comes on dirty rice served with a salad. My mom ordered the seafood medley fettuccine (which included krab, grooper, shrimp and oysters).

So the waitress brings over salads for my parents and a loaf of brown bread. The bread is a small loaf, dark brown and absolutely delicious! The bread is soft with a very slight crust which makes it easy to cut and is so yummy! It is served with a seasoned butter which is a nice flair. The salads have a lovely sweet tangy dressing. I think it was raspberry vinaigrette. The salad tasted fresh and cold, but not like it was sitting around in the fridge for a day or two. It was a simple salad and while I'm not exactly sure, the dressing tasted homemade. I was impressed with this place sofar.

There was a lull in between me scarfing down my dad's salad and our main meals to fully appreciate in interior of this place. And it was fun. There was a fish tank that had a big fish in it with a sign that said 'Please do not feed me, if I'm hungry I'll bite. Oscar' There was a shelf with kitchy things on it lined with various southern license plates. There were t-shirts and tank tops for sale that said 'I climbed the hill at Cherry Pockets'. Meaning- they used the latrines. Very cute, I thought. And there was a bar and outdoor seating area attached to the restaurant with some live (and very good) music playing. Many diners seemed to head outdoors after finishing their meals to enjoy the surprisingly lovely night and the really great music. My parents also mentioned, though we didn't see if it's true, that if you go out to the docks and jump up and down an alligator will come right up to the docks. In hindsight I should have gone out there.

So our meals come and everything smelled really good! My crabcake is about 1.5 inches tall, sitting on a lovely soft roll smothered with a seeded mustard served with french fries and the hush puppy. The crabcake had a nice crust on it and when I bit into it I was surprised at the flavor and texture of the crabcake. The texture was soft and light while the flavor was bold and strong. There wasn't too much crab-flavor. You could taste crab in there, but the stuffing was sweet and salty and just tasted really great with the mustard sauce and the sweet roll. The hush puppy lived up to my expectations and the fries were just ok- they seemed to have a batter on them which some might like but I wasn't thrilled about.

My Dad's steak was great. The blackening wasn't what I expected (or what he expected) but was still quite delicious. There was a white sauce on it too. The dirty rice was delicious! It had so much pepper (green and black) flavor to it, it was quite surprising. The rice itself was fluffy and well cooked. My mom's dish had some great flavor to it. The noodles were a tad overcooked for me but the sauce seemed to coat all the noodles very well. The imitation fish was a little off putting. The shrimp were great (my bite had shrimp and noodles) but she seemed a bit disappointed by how much imitation fish there was in the plate. In hindsight she said she would have ordered the shrimp fettuccine. After we were all stuffed, the waitress asked if we wanted desserts. We all were full but curiosity got the best of me (if there was something I just HAD to have, we could always take it home with us, right?) So our waitress tells us all the desserts are hand made by the owner. And there were probably 6-7 different options. After we listened and looked at each other we decided to skip the dessert because we couldn't decide which one to order which made me think we didn't want (or need) the dessert. Sadly we declined the dessert.

This place is funny. If you live in the area, you absolutely should check it out! The place is surprising, don't be put-off by the exterior of this place or the tattoos on the wait staff. They are all lovely and friendly and the food was very good. I was thrilled to turn my parents back on to this restaurant since it isn't a chain and the food was good. I would give this place 2.5 stars. Somewhere to definitely go. This is not a date place, this would be a great family joint or a fun place that is WAY off the tourist path and worth it for the laughs of what it looks like, the location of the bathroom and the really good food. I recommend checking this place out.

ps- to all my parents friends who read my blog. Thank you. Funny that you might read it more than they do! I hope you enjoyed this restaurant review. Thank you for recommending this restaurant to my parents.

1 comment:

  1. I ate there recently,and was disappointed at the size of the menu,and the size of the servings.Servings have shrunk,and the Key Lime pie was more like whipped lime pudding meringue pie.