Thoughts on Sandra Dee's

For about 15 years I worked for a boss who was raised in New Orleans. Just as any native is picky about their own regional/ethnic cuisine, so was he. It says something that Sandra Dee's had his patronage and the rest of us with him. In fact, it turned out that his wife and Sandra Dee both came from the same town. We were regulars at Sandra Dee's, coming to dine at about twice a month. Then again, that was 10 years ago.

This is what I know. I know I loved the ribs and the spicy barbecue sauce she has that I always get on the side. I still do. I used to sometimes order a quart of mac and cheese to-go. We all loved the fried chicken and I still think of the revelation I had when I first tried it. I had been ordering ribs and hot links forever while a co-worker would order the chicken. I finally decided to try it and  was surprised at how crisp the skin was and moist the chicken was. 

I'll admit. I haven't been to eat at Sandra Dee's in a long time. My boss retired, then I did. My new job doesn't allow for long lunches with coworkers like I used to do at the State. And with so many restaurants constantly opening, it's hard for me to keep up with the new ones, let alone frequent my favorites. 

Meanwhile, there have been many new barbecue restaurants that have opened: Fahrenheit 250, Tank House, and now Urban Roots. In the Southern category is South - walking distance from my house. I've never tried Tank House and the others I was unimpressed with. Keep in mind, I'm in it for the ribs. I'm not a chicken or brisket person. I'm all about the oink. 

I guess I'm in favor of Kansas City style, but with the sauce on the side. I like dry rub and then being able to dip my pieces of meat into a little bit of sauce instead of becoming a sticky mess trying to eat sloppy ribs. I don't care for mustard (So Carolina) or too much vinegar (No Carolina) and Texas BBQ is way too smokey for me. The point is, of all the places in town and all their different sauces, I like my ribs from Sandra Dee's. They are fatty, tender, and I get that great, spicy sauce to dip into.

When I heard that Gordon Ramsey had been in town in December to turn the restaurant over, at first I was miffed that I didn't hear about it or get invited. Then when the stories came out that she went back to her old menu the next day, I defended her. There was nothing wrong with her menu. I figured she just wanted the makeover of the restaurant and the publicity so that she would get back in everyone's mind. With so many restaurants opening up, I could see her lose business as everyone shifts to the newest places. 

Restaurateurs can get lazy over time and that appears to be what happened with Sandra Dee.  She was losing business and it appears that over the years her food quality had tanked, not to mention the service due to her daughter at front-of-house. Watching the episode a few days after it aired, my heart sank. I had been supportive by going by and picking up ribs that night. They were as good as I remembered. But to watch the episode and see how horrible the cleanliness (or rather, lack of) was is definitely sickening. Then there was the cussing, bullying, and rudeness of her and her daughter. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree and that was evident in the episode. 

If she can keep going, I will try to stop in again to actually dine in the restaurant and observe. I'm curious to see if anything stuck from Ramsey's visit besides the decor. Did their service improve? Has the food gone back to how good it was those years ago when I went with my boss? We'll see. I'd love to hear from others that have been recently in the comments below.