In case you don't already know, most mid-large market cities hold a restaurant week once or twice per year (Dayton has two), when local eateries offer special menus for a special price, part of the portions benefiting a local charity. In this case, you can get a three-course meal at Meadowlark for only $20.10. Hell of a deal.
I didn't think about making a reservation, as a lot of places don't even take them during this promotion. There was certainly a crowd, but the hostess said there was only a 30 minute wait, which didn't seem too shabby. We browsed around looking at furniture next door for a while, then came back in just under 30. Unfortunately, we waited almost another 30 minutes after returning from our window shopping. Meadowlark is situated very unassumingly in a shopping plaza near the Dayton Mall. Space inside is very limited, which means all but 5 people waiting have to hang outside. When it's 90 degrees out, that's nothing but a stone-cold bummer.
As packed as they were, none of the staff seemed flustered - everyone was still friendly and attentive. Our drink & meal orders were taken quickly. The only thing that struck me as odd is that if you order soda, it comes in a 20 oz. bottle. I've noticed a lot of small independent restaurants doing this, and I can't say I'm a fan. I always order water, but Mr. FvF likes his Sprite. Just seems like it's more cost-effective do have fountain sodas (certainly is for the consumer - no free refills here!). Then again, I'm not a restaurant owner or a buyer.
Since we ordered off the RW menu, I knew our food would come out quickly. Since most of the patrons had been waiting on line, the chef was thoughtful enough to send an extra small plate out to all of the tables - crispy, seeded flatbreads with pimento spread. Doesn't sound like much, but it was just enough of a nibble to get your appetite going. Plus, the mister doesn't care for pimento, so - more for me! Our menu appetizer came out next, and we'd both ordered the same thing - Griddled Summer Squash with Falafel, Blistered Tomatoes, Herbs, Feta, Lemon Oil and Za’atar. It was the most appetizing things I'd seen in years.
This would be a good time to mention that Meadowlark is a chef-owned restaurant, which is also mutually exclusive with having amazing food. Chef Elizabeth Wiley's creations at Meadowlark are certainly no exception. This tasted every bit as good as it looked. Mister Picky Pants doesn't care for tomatoes, so again - more for me.
Just after they cleared these plates, like clockwork, our dinners came out. I opted for the Braised Pork Shoulder with Red Chile Jus, Tortilla Budin and Vegetable Slaw...
and Mr. FvF had the Seared Red Snapper with Smoked Shrimp Hash and Fresh Corn Butter Sauce.
The first bite of mine was divine, and that feeling stuck around until I'd cleaned my plate. The pork was so tender, I'm not even sure why they bothered bringing a steak knife with the dish. As good pork shoulder should, it just fell apart at the touch of a fork. Between the sauce and the seasonings, it reminded me a lot of carnitas done very, very well. The red chile jus underneath and around the pork couldn't have been more complimentary. The veggie slaw was great - just enough vinegar and capers to bring it to life, but not soak or overpower the cabbage. I could have done without the tortilla budin. It wasn't bad, it just didn't bring much to the dish and was a bit on the bland side.
I don't dig on seafood at all (okay, now you can call ME picky), so I just have to take Mister's word on the fish dish. He gave it an overall 8 out of 10. According to him, the shrimp in the hash wasn't very detectable, and the snapper was good, just not remarkable. Keep in mind he's quite a finicky eater and lived in coastal towns for much of his life, so for him, that's a pretty good rating for seafood.
For dessert he ordered the warm eclair with French chocolate mousse, and I had the Dolcessa Gelato Fresh Peach Ice Cream with Butter Cake and Bourbon Sauce. We both traded bites of our desserts, and I have to say, the eclair wasn't memorable. It was good for an eclair, that's just not the type of dessert that impresses me. It was definitely better than Perkins-grade, but nothing you couldn't get at a local bakery. Pastries very rarely get my goat, so take this with a grain of salt.
My dessert was pretty boss. It had to be for me to keep eating it, considering cold food gives me a painful reminder that I need a root canal.
My only real complaint is that I think I may have been shorted the bourbon sauce. Basically, what I got was some great pound cake with some kick-ass gelato on top. I really despise fruit-flavored things, but love the taste of actual fresh summer stone fruits in a gelato, which Dayton's own Dolcessa Gelato very successfully provided.
I'm not sure Meadowlark will shoot quickly to the top of our favorite places to splurge, but I'll definitely make it in another time to check out their regular menu offerings.
4.25 out of 5 sporks!