Restaurant Reviews

Open Mouth, Insert Foot

Unlike single-vocation restaurateurs, celebrities who open eating establishments have primary work schedules and commitments to which they must first attend. A restaurant bearing a celebrity's name, then, must by necessity come second -- or third or fourth -- on said star's things-to-do list. Purveyor didn't show? OK, but I'm on the air right now; I'll get to it at the end of my shift. Cook quit? Fine, I'll juggle the kitchen staff schedule after I finish interviewing so-and-so. Bartender's overpouring? Great, I'll try to figure out how as soon as I wrap this commercial, pose for a billboard, make an appearance, host a fundraiser, and have a spa treatment or two.

A similar ordering of priorities must be the reason why Footy's Restaurant & Bar is such a complete and utter mess. The Y-100 radio personality who launched this family-style eatery in Plantation only a couple of months ago is equally if only locally famous for his Morning Sickness! show (with cohort Kenny) and his annual (and upcoming) Wing Ding, the proceeds of which go to charity. Footy (real name: John Cross) does both things well: I've listened to him on WHYI-FM (100.7) on those rare days when I'm actually organized enough to get in the car and do errands before noon, and the Wing Ding has been successful enough to allow him to market his own home-brewed wing sauce. But given the goings-on at Footy's on a recent Saturday evening, I'd have to venture that restaurateuring is, at least for the time being, not going to be added to his register of accomplishments.

In fact, he probably has even lost some fans. Certainly, had it not been my job to stay, I would have departed the moment one of the hostesses told us that not only weren't they going to honor the reservation we had made but that we would have to wait an additional hour. She even wrote our name down on a waiting list behind other parties, many of whom were milling about outside the eatery -- despite the fact that about half of the tables were empty. The hostess did a good job of not rolling her eyes at us when we pointed that out. "I know," she explained for what had obviously been the hundredth time. "The kitchen is really backed up, so we're not allowed to seat anybody for an hour. No one can order food."

So many things are wrong with that type of management philosophy that it's difficult to address each one, so I'll just mention the main points: Too much honesty is not always a good thing, and turning away potential customers is never, under any circumstances, a savvy idea. The kind of patrons drawn to a brightly lighted, chicken-wing eatery that has been decorated with the same wipe-'em-down-fast furnishings you'd find in your average Shoney's are likely to have two things in common: a fondness for beer and young, sticky (or soon-to-be-sticky) kids in tow. Capitalize on them. Better to seat them with a warning that service will be a little slow, then push the alcohol on the parents and ply the tykes with bread and soda. That's called up-selling the bar, which is where most restaurants make their money anyway.

However, if you're really determined to stick with the moratorium on ordering food, you should probably let all the employees in on the secret. We went straight to the adjoining bar and promptly scored a basket of chicken fingers and French fries to tide over our children while the adults indulged in a bunch of free shots of some fizzy malt beverage that skimpily clad young girls were hawking as a promo. Though the fries had been dunked in hot oil at least twice, given their state of greasiness, the chicken passed muster well enough with the younger set that we were obliged to ask for a second round of grouper fingers -- which turned out to be so prefab as to bring Mrs. Paul to mind.

I'm not surprised, though, that the staff at Footy's couldn't seem to make great leaps in communication. At one point, the hostess called our party's name not to seat us but just to see if we were still there. No one looked to be in charge of the dining room, and given the median age of the waitstaff, who were fond of expressions like "Yo, thanks, man," I'd venture that the kitchen is also being run by inexperienced kids. The most labor-intensive dish on the menu might be a grilled pork chop with caramelized apples and onions in a brandy sauce -- and I'd lay odds the sauce is made ahead of time. We're not talking elaborate kitchen science here.

But then, the cooks don't appear to be able even to boil pasta correctly. A plate of bow-tie noodles had been cooked for so long that they had expanded to the point of untying. Likewise, the penne in a dish of shrimp scampi -- which was supposed to be linguine -- were bloated and disintegrating. Their nuclear size and texture pointed up the greater deficiencies in the shrimp, which were so uniform in shape and bland flavor it seemed clear that they had been purchased already cleaned, pre-cooked, and frozen.

In general, the fare suffers from such a lack of quality that Footy's is, at the moment, the culinary equivalent of toe jam. A fillet of mahi-mahi was far too thin to maintain any sort of moisture when cooked and was brought to the table gray, dry, and completely lacking any sort of the blackening seasoning we'd requested. Ditto for the "black & bleu sirloin salad," a main course salad that was topped with crumbs of blue cheese and sliced Cajun-spiced sirloin so mild that it would promptly get Footy's kicked out of -- or into -- the bayou.

Of course, you're thinking, you should go to Footy's for wings and ribs, not blackened fish or steak salads. A valid point, if indeed the former were any good. But the barbecued baby-back ribs were anorexic, and the wings were also on the less-than-pleasingly-plump side. In addition to the standard-issue Buffalo wing hot sauce, Footy's offers about ten different wing glazes, including raspberry, herb Parmesan, and honey mustard. We tried the caesar, which tasted like bottled salad dressing, and Asian barbecue, which our waiter warned us "ain't great." Ain't that right. It's hard to even justify returning for a burger and house salad, given that the hamburger was overcooked and the lettuce in the house salad had frozen during its apparent tenure in the back of the fridge.

As a whole, taking into account the amount of babies crying, toddlers running up and down the aisles, and kiddie waiters who straddle chairs backward while they take your order, I'd sum up Footy's as a free-for-all -- except for the customer, who still in the end has to pay the bill. So as far as Y-100 goes, I'll still be an occasional a.m. listener. But when it comes to the restaurant, no way I'll be eating there again at any time of day. Or it could well be morning sickness, indeed.

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Jen Karetnick is an award-winning dining critic, food-travel writer, and author of the books Ice Cube Tray Recipes, Mango, and The 500 Hidden Secrets of Miami.
Contact: Jen Karetnick