Put the napkin in your lap and pull up to the table with Eau Claire's Hungry Italian as he provides the area's only true Restaurant Review. Don't have another family night ruined by poor service. Find the perfect spot to take that special online someone on the third date that has romance commingled with value.
EATING ESTABLISHMENT 44 North
DINING DATE Friday July 12
MEAL TIME Lunch
ATTENDEES IN PARTY 4 (2 adults, 2 kids)
TOTAL BILL - $55
Ordered Twisted Buffalo Mac-n-Cheese
Tact is important when your wife nervously asks if that new taco salad recipe she pulled off the pages of a book tastes good. Tact sometimes lacks complete honesty, though it’s not dishonest. When it comes to restaurants though, where you’re most likely not expecting to sleep next to the chef later that evening, honesty is critical. Here, the Hungry Italian is obligated to set the rocky foundation that thankfully leads to a happy conclusion. READ THE ENTIRE REVIEW!!!!
The Hungry Italian’s 1st visit here was for Father’s Day in June. This hybrid sports bar/barcade/trendy eatery has a unique concept for the area and the proprietors (Kingpin Management) should be applauded for taking a chance. The downstairs is part sports bar, part barcade (a concept popular in larger cities) while the upstairs features a sit down restaurant all located in the beautiful Altoona River Prairie. It’s clever and different.
Alas, the first visit on Father’s Day was a disgrace due to an atrocious serving staff. Having never been to the place before, we entered and were seated in the sports bar area when clearly the Father’s Day meal was being served upstairs. We were never given a choice and only learned upon exploring ourselves. The sports bar was sparsely filled and the entire atmosphere was…sad. Two other tables were visibly irritated with their service and their food as we walked by, which was a bad omen. One patron complained that the “floor was sticky”. The televisions were all tuned to college basketball replays (this was June!).
By the time the food arrived, the outing was a waste. The family was miserable, the waitress never refilled sodas (we had to go to the bar and bang on the table because no one was even staffing the bar) and despite planning to order dessert…were never asked if we wanted dessert! We were never asked “how things are going” and never had an opportunity to voice our displeasure to a manager.
Overall, a disaster. But, Kingpin Management has a proven track record of success and no restaurant should be graded on perhaps its worst day so we went back for a lunch and it was 180 degrees different! This time we properly experienced the upstairs which has wood lined walls, a warm feel and an atmosphere more begetting one that charges the prices it does.
I ordered the Twisted Buffalo Mac and was very much pleased with the flavor and ample portion size. The creamy, slightly spicy, sauce, with large ziti noodles topped with boneless wings was outstanding. The one issue I may have is I’m not a fan of the breading on the chicken, whether it was for my chicken sandwich during the first visit, these “drummies” or even the kid’ “nuggets”. However, everything else I give a thumbs up and that includes the spicy Poblano Pepper dish my wife ordered.
Service was a 100% better and much more fitting to what one has come to expect with a Kingpin establishment.
The morale of the story, always give a place TWO chances before giving up on it and trashing it on social media and to your friends. I debated mentioning the Father’s Day fiasco but felt it gives a proper framing to the actual review by a great lesson to area diners to be patient with a place.
SECOND HELPING Upstairs portion, definitely! Downstairs, not as likely. This seems like a great spot for a date night. It’s a concept the Hungry Italian wants to see prosper because it’s unique.