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Restaurant Review: Knockouts

June 14, 2011

Knockouts is the sort of place that really wants to be Hooters. In a market where any place with an orange logo is viewed with some suspicion, Knockouts probably seems like a good idea. Unfortunately, it’s in a location that has seen two previous attempts at “upscale casual” dining, both funded by same group who is backing Knockouts. So there’s a bit of a cloud hanging over the place to start.

The staff started off a little too aggressive. I’d come in just wanting to look at a menu and see if we even wanted to give them a shot. Since we’d tried the previous two places and had a bit of sticker shock, I was mostly just looking to get a feel for their price range. The hostess was more than willing to let me just eyeball the take-out menu, but the man who I assumed was the manager chastised me for picking up what was, in all honesty, the only thing I saw when I first walked in. After giving the sit down menu a once over, I gave Moose the thumbs up and we were led to a booth.

The seating was oddly uncomfortable, considering the restaurant is clearly trying to market itself to a “sit and watch the game with some buds” crowd. The backs of the booths are all unpadded, and the chairs at the tables looked like they were left over from the previous iteration as a “fresh fish bar and grill.” They had that “fancy patio furniture at the beach house” look.

There were TVs everywhere, and the ones which weren’t showing some sports event were showing a rolling advertisement for the “Knockout of the Month.” The Knockout of the Month for June likes looking at men in baseball pants and most people think her legs are her sexiest feature. If the Daisy Duke shorts and bright blue, midriff baring A-line shirts weren’t a clue that this was That Sort of Restaurant, then the Knockout of the Month feature certainly would have sealed the deal. I am not one to complain about a restaurant employing pretty young women for their servers, but there are considerably classier ways to go about it. Moose and I often joke about Texas Roadhouse having “long haired brunette” night, or “short haired blonde” night, but each and every single one of those servers wears a tidily tucked in t-shirt with their shorts or jeans. Of course, Texas Roadhouse also employs male servers, which there was a noticeable lack of at Knockouts.

Our waitress was all business, completely professional about asking for information on what sort of oil the place fries in, and taking The Card O’ Allergy Crap back to the kitchen. She even joked with us about how we were throwing her all the hard questions. Eventually, we decided on the pulled pork tacos and the fried shrimp platter. Moose, I should note, seems to be getting into the spirit of the food blogging thing, suggesting we split the two plates.

The fried shrimp platter wasn’t too bad. The fried shrimp themselves were rather tasty, with an almost savory flavor. Moose was reluctant to give Knockouts credit for this, claiming that it’s hard to mess up fried shrimp. An opinion I heartily disagree with, as I have eaten at some pretty terrible seafood restaurants in my time. The fries were fairly generic curly fries, lacking even a seasoned coating to make them interesting. Moose didn’t like them much because they were only slightly warm when they came out, and he prefers his fries to be fresh out of the fryer. The biggest disappointment, though, was the jalapeño coleslaw. In general, when I hear the word “jalapeño,” I expect a little spice. If the little green squares in the coleslaw were supposed to be jalapeños, I think the chef needs to reconsider where they’re buying their peppers. It might as well have been cabbage covered in mayo. Not bad, just not terribly exciting.

The pulled pork tacos were right up my alley. They needed an extra hint of salt, but were otherwise perfect. Moose said he prefers Church Street’s pulled pork, but I reminded him that I’d already noted how Church Street’s pulled pork was just slightly too greasy for me and he agreed that Knockouts’ pulled pork was certainly more juicy than greasy. Moose also disliked the size of the tacos, but conceded that they were quite clearly advertised as being “street style” tacos, which are typically smaller. With a plate of four, there was plenty for us to share.

The major problem on the pulled pork taco plate was the sides. The rice was the dirty/Mexican rice that I can’t stand, and though Moose likes it, the rice was overdone, making the whole thing very mushy. And the refried beans were simply inexcusable. There was a clear sweet mesquite flavor to them, almost as if someone had accidentally poured some mesquite flavored Liquid Smoke into the pan, and then tried to fix it by adding brown sugar. Not the first two flavors than come to mind when I think of dressing up refried beans, let me tell you.

The only truly redeeming feature I could see is their “table tap.” A “four person minimum” column of beer is delivered to your table, where you can dish out the brew yourself as you dine. Rather clever, and something that would definitely be interesting to try on a fight night, or for a big game. But if Urbanspoon, Yelp, and my own experience are any indication, this barely six month old little joint is probably not going to last much longer. If we’re lucky, the backers will learn from their previous experiences and focus on improving the food, rather than trying out a new gimmick. Who knows, maybe the fourth time is the charm.

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