Atmosphere: Informal. Price range: Full meals from $4.95 to $8.95 Reservations: Necessary for large groups. Credit cards: Visa, MasterCard. Special facilities: Plenty of parking. Booster chairs and high chairs for children. Accessible to handicapped.
Make no bones about it: Bare Bones is a good idea gone sour. Or so we found on a recent Sunday evening visit.
The good idea: an informal family restaurant charging reasonable prices for a limited menu of basic American favorites such as spare ribs, barbecued chicken (advertised as Frank Perdue's brand), fried shrimp, sauteed trout and steak. So far so good. These are dishes that can be prepared swiftly and well if good ingredients are at hand and smooth kitchen procedures are followed. And prices range from $4.95 to $8.95.
As diners walk in, the first impression they receive is fine: The place is neat and clean, although the one large windowless room has lighting so dim that it would be difficult to read the newspaper or anything else while waiting for dinner.
And there certainly is plenty of time to read, if our experience indicates a general pattern. We ordered the standard dishes but waited one hour and 15 minutes before they appeared on our table.
Except for the onion rings, which inexplicably came before everything else. It admittedly is hard to find good onion rings since they require time and effort to make well. At Bare Bones, the $2.75 tangle of onion slices deep-fried together to form a dense, greasy mass was tasteless.
But we ate them hungrily since we already had waited well past our dinner hour for the rest of the meal.
Our waitress pretended not to notice us during the wait.
An appeal to the harassed hostess brought no relief. She seemed so overwrought with clearing and setting the tables and handling other customers that she paid no attention to our complaint.
"How long does it take to cook spare ribs, chicken, shrimp and trout?" we asked. "It takes half-hour to cook the trout," was the reply.
Had our waitress forgotten to give our order?
Our meals arrived at last -- lukewarm. We pounced. At this point we saw a sign that the restaurant had some basic promise: the ribs were good, the best of the dishes we had ordered, though the portion was small while the price ($8.95) was high.
The ribs were crisp, tender, not overcooked, barely dabbed with a sweet-and-spicey sauce that tasted very much like the bottled barbecue sauce I have bought at the supermarket. "We make all our own sauce," our waitress insisted.
But credibility was further strained when it came to the chicken.Here's a truth-in-menu riddle for the owner of Bare Bones: how come the menu says you get a half-chicken when you actually get a half-chicken minus the wing portion?
Answer: unbeknownst to innocent diners, wings are clipped from all the chicken halves because they then are sold as another dish, called Wonder Wings.
Wonder Wings consists of half a dozen chicken wings drowning in what tastes like bottled salad dressing, either French or Russian.
Fried shrimp are fine, though $7.50 for a half-dozen seems high. The trout smelled and tasted old and fishy, its skin and flesh a dingy grey.
The very best dish on the menu was the small crock of beans: large firm limas in a sweet-and-sour bacon-based sauce, tasting of country cooking. The cost was 95 cents for a small order in an appealing earthenware crock.
French fries and cole slaw were floppy and flavorless, respectively.
Our waitress forgot to bring our breadbasket, until we asked for it. That was at meal's end.
Baskin and Robbins supplies a wonderful praline-vanilla-chocolate cream pie for dessert, though our waitress set it down among the unappetizing assortment of half-filled dishes she had neglected to clear from dinner.
The ice cream pie provided the one sweet note to a mostly sour experience.