Note: This restaurant is now closed.
I’d been meaning to stop in at Wild Rose Cafe for quite some time when I found myself there as part of a celebration for a coworker. Based on the name, I expected a soup and sandwich type shop, the kind with tea and fruit and killer salads. Instead, I walked up to a menu full of “down home” favorites. Mashed potatoes and barbecued chicken with white sauce. Banana pudding and casseroles.
Armed with my new-found knowledge of what to expect, I headed back for a solo lunch. I opted for the daily special–a chicken and potato casserole–and selected corn and fried apples as my sides. My meal was served in less than five minutes, packaged up in a styrofoam box with silverware, ready for me to take wherever I liked. I chose to head upstairs to a gloriously cool and quiet seating area. On the trip upstairs, I took in the fliers for local theater shows which papered the staircase. It was quite a collection, going back at least a decade.
I was very happy with the way my meal was packaged. The included square of cornbread was placed on paper above the casserole to prevent it (and the included silverware) from becoming sticky, casserole covered messes. All of the food was piping hot, which meant that if you wanted to take your meal to go, there was a good chance it would still be warm when you got wherever you were going.
The casserole itself was heaping chunks of chicken and potatoes, covered in a sour cream based sauce and topped with melted cheddar cheese. The chicken was of good quality–all white meat, nothing greasy and not overly dry. The potatoes were cooked well for the most part, though I did find a few that were rather undercooked. The sauce itself was unexpectedly good–pepper played up the tang of the sour cream. The cheddar cheese was wonderfully melty but unnecessary from a flavor perspective.
The corn was ungarnished canned corn–no sauce, no seasoning, just a slight bit of pale yellow water left from being drained and the tell-tale vaguely metallic taste. The fried apples were similarly plain. With cinnamon that you could see more than taste and no apparent sugar, the flavor was akin to eating very hot applesauce. Which is a pretty apt description texture-wise as well–the one large chunk of apple was sitting in a coarse mash of apple. The cornbread was moist enough to hold together when sliced with a fork, but dry enough to make eating it a bit of chore. The flavor was wonderfully buttery, but it wasn’t enough for me to get past the dryness. (Admittedly, I prefer very moist breads and cakes so your mileage may vary on this point.)
For “down home” style cooking, Wild Rose makes a decent showing with the quality of their meat and the inoffensiveness of their flavors. Folks who like their food plain or very lightly seasoned will gravitate towards the simple pairings while those who grew up on such fare will find it nostalgic. If judged strictly against other restaurants in a similar vein, they stand out above the crowd which is likely what brings back their regulars. However, for more adventurous eaters, Wild Rose is highly skipable–offering slightly improved cafeteria food.
If you do want to check them out, be warned that their downtown location and lunch-only hours will necessitate paying for parking. I was parked in the parking garage at Clinton and Washington for a little over an hour and the toll was just $0.50 so it’s not going to break the bank, but you’ll want to grab some quarters on your way out the door–they don’t take debit cards.
Total for the meal: $7.99 (Included one lunch plate and an unsweet iced tea.)
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