Cliff's Steakhouse: Englewood Cliffs, NJ
The 101 Pub: Bogota, NJ

Fascinating moment in service at Federal Grill: Allentown, PA [CLOSED]


I ordered myself a glass of (red) Zinfandel from Renwood to go with my burger.  It was a modest pour at the modest price of 7 dollars, and in a decent glass.

Server: How is the [red] wine?

Me: [Elated] Very good.  And it's chilled.  That's wonderful!

S: That's the only red wine we chill.

M: [Perplexed, but not necessarily surprised] Why don't you chill all of them?

S: Red wine isn't supposed to be chilled.

M: [Defeated already and knowing it]: Sure it is.

S: [Adamant] No it's not.

M: [Requesting logical explanation] Why do you chill this (red) one then?

S: [Not providing, to my mind, logical explanation] Because that's the only one that's required to be chilled.

I'm not sure at what temperature the Federal Grill is serving their non-Zinfandel reds, and I'm not interested in finding out.  I'll stick to the Zin.

As I always try to stress, it's my opinion that a lack of wine education isn't the fault of young servers, but rather it's a management/training issue.   In the case of Federal Grill, they actually do have a wine education program for their servers, and the servers taste and discuss all of their wines.  I think that's fantastic, and more restaurants should take their lead.  Hell, there's no doubt in my mind that this young server knows more about wine and food than I did at her age, and I bet a lot of that has to do with the fine job that the management is doing with this program. 

BUT, and here's the rub, red wine isn't meant to be served warm or room temperature, and the fact of the matter is that it always tastes better somewhere in the 60's...preferably the low 60's.  Wine that is too cold will lose all nuance and nose (and taste).  Red wine served at "room temperature" (in my house that's about 71 degrees) tends to be too "hot" (a blast of alcohol in the nose) and just not all that pleasant to drink in general.  The reality is that restaurants serve, and people drink, white wine much too cold and red wine much too warm.  I'm guessing the three top reasons for this are 1) ignorance, 2) cost, and 3) cost.

Methinks that this concept is lost not only on the general public, but on people in the wine industry as well.  So, it might take some time for everyone to come around.  I'll wait (I gots no choice).  Until then I'll continue to order reds with a bucket of ice while attempting to change the world one server and one restaurant at a time.

On to the burger...

The Angus burger was reasonably good (called "Burger Burger" on the menu).  Much better than I would have expected, even with my generally low expectations.  The bun was soft and unobtrustive, and the burger was perfectly cooked to medium-rare (as were the other two ordered at medium-well and well-well), and the cheese was decent enough and not overpowering (perhaps this was a Cheesebuger Burger?  Cheeseburger Cheeseburger?). 

The menu suggests that the burger is made from "filet", which I assume means tenderloin.  Since tenderloin has so little fat and even less flavor, I'm not sure I buy this.  The taste suggested a different cut, although the waitress acknowledged that the Burger Burger is 95% lean (give me 75-80% lean any day).  Who knows.  But who grinds up tenderloin for a burger?  Even Ruby Tuesday adds some other stuff to their "Triple Prime Burger" along with "prime tenderloin".

Federal Grill also has a Kobe Burger on the menu (listed, more traditionally as "Kobe Burger").  The regular Burger Burger is billed as "simply the best burger in town".  I'm not sure what that says about their more expensive Kobe burger. I didn't order it, but my guess is it that the Kobe Burger is nothing more than marketing marketing.  But that's for another post.   

All in all we had a reasonably good lunch at a reasonably decent place.  Our server was friendly and very helpful.  I even got a little lesson on the diet of Kobe cows and the slaughtering process (apparently living and dying as a Kobe cow is a better hand than what most of us are dealt).  I might even go back if I find myself in Allentown again.

And Federal Grill gets extra bonus points for resisting the urge to tack a capricious "e" onto the end of "Grill".

Federal Grill : 536 Hamilton Street : Allentown, PA : 610.776.7600