4100 Hillsboro Circle, 463-7377
Open Mon.-Fri. 11 a.m.-7 p.m.;
Sat. noon-7 p.m.; closed Sunday
Some people will find any excuse to avoid cooking. That is not a value judgment, just a statement of fact. If you are one of those people, and you live in the Green Hills area, you now have yet another excuse, albeit a pretty feeble one. That is a value judgment.
That’s a shame, because I had high hopes for a better assessment. Maybe it’s the bright lemon-yellow exterior of Bink’s Eatery and Carryout, a beaming signal of sunny optimism. Maybe it’s the cheery voices on the telephone or the friendly faces behind the counter, so eager to please. Maybe it’s the attractive packaging of the items on Bink’s carryout menuno unsightly styrofoam boxes here. I was especially fond of the pretty personalized cardtied with raffia to the handles of the shopping bagthat identified my call-in order when I came to pick it up. Maybe all of that accounts for my dissapointment in the actual product for which I paid a rather appalling sum.
Of course, it’s all relative. You may not think twice about paying $9.25 for a single serving of cracked pepper fettuccine with alfredo sauce and a dozen strips of grilled chicken that requires three minutes of re-heating in your home microwave. Plagued with genetic practicality, I was immediately calculating what the same thing would have cost me at the grocery storelet’s say $3 for a vacuum-packed box of fancy pasta, another $3 for a tub of the Alfredo sauce and another $3 for a box of Tyson pre-cooked grilled chicken strips. After 15 minutes of prep time at home, that would be about $9 for more servings. And I daresay, there would be no discernible difference in the taste.
Bink’s is at the corner of Hillsboro Circle and Hillsboro Drive, at the center of a what I have come to regard as a deadly Bermuda Triangle of restaurants. First, it is in the building that formerly housed a Mama Taori’s pizza, one of several in a locally-owned chain that has since declared bankruptcy and closed all nine stores. It is across the street from the building that once housed a Boston Market, and before that an H.R.H. Dumplin’s and still, despite its prime location, stands vacant. It is a block away from Angelo’s Italian Cafe, which opened, sputtered, crashed, and burned all in the space of about three months.
Reading Bink’s brief menu does nothing to whet the appetite or tempt the tastebuds. Four sandwiches: chicken salad on white bread, smoked turkey and mozzarella on pumpernickle, corned beef and swiss on Bavarian rye, and the ever-provocative peanut butter and jelly. Four salads: the ubiquitous Caesar, an Italian salad, a Country Club salad, and a house. There’s a twice-baked potato, lasagne, soup, and the Pasta-rama section. Three types of pasta are offered: fettuccine, penne, or fusilli. So, it stands to reason that there are three toppings: marinara, Alfredo, and olive oil. If you can stand the excitement, add meatballs, chicken, sausage, peppers and onions, mushrooms, or fresh herbs.
Everyday, Bink’s offers two additonal dinner items which are alleged to change daily, but which remained the same on two consecutive visits. My options were meatloaf with mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli spears, or skewered shrimp with seasoned rice and steamed broccoli spears. Prices are outrageous: The single serving of lasagne is $8.25; each pasta, including the one topped with olive oil, is $6.50 a serving, $2.75 to add meat, $1.25 for the fresh herbs; the potato is $4.25; salads are $4.50 for the house and Caesar, or $16.50 for a four-person bowl, $6.50 for the other two; sandwiches, served with a pickle, a chunk of pineapple, melon, and a strawberry, are $5.75 for chicken salad and $6.25 for the turkey and corned beef. The $2.75 for a PB&J is, well, nutty.
The meatloaf dinner was $8.50; the skewered shrimp of eight medium crustaceans rang up at $10.50. A Bink’s dinner for two adults and two children could easily run over $50. For that price, I want a waiter to deliver it to my home, serve it, clean up, put an after dinner mint on my pillow, and read my children a bedtime story.
And then there’s the execution. Both of the pastas we sampled were woefully overcooked, soggy, and droopy. The Alfredo sauce was thin and watery. The marinara was overwhelmed by big pieces of onion. I found one round of zucchini and one of yellow squash in the summer vegetable lasagna; the potato and its layer of melted cheddar lacked any flavor whatsoever. The potato soup was simply awful, thanks in large part to the canned asparagus. (Please, it’s the height of asparagus season.) The chicken salad was a perfect rendition of Southern tea room foodmayonnaisy, bland, and uninteresting. The premade, prepackaged salads need to be checked more frequently for freshness; the greens on two of the three I ordered were spotted, brown, and ended up in the disposal. Worst of all was the meatloaf: The entire perimeter of the big slab was burned a crusty black. Adding insult to injury, the slab was then covered with a slather of marinara sauce. No kitchen is mistake-proof, but it is inexcusable for those mistakes to go home with a customer who is miles away and not in a position to easily request a replacement. The meatloaf followed the lettuce down the disposal.
Oyster Easter ’99, surely one of Nashville’s unlikeliest eating occasions, is set for Saturday, April 3, at High Note Farm on Hillsboro Road. For $45 in advance, $55 at the door, guests enjoy unlimited oysters on the half shell, Cajun specialties, Tony Roma ribs, a dessert bar, beers and ale from Blackstone Brewery, and colorful concoctions from Absolut. Not only that, but Les Kerr and his Bayou Band entertain. It all benefits the Community Resource Center. Call 298-9801 or 298-5807 for more information.