There’s this word, “uninspired.” Food yaks adore it. If you read the Smalley’s reviews on Urbanspoon, one dork refers to the pinto beans as “bland and uninspired.” Several dub dishes “a tad uninspiring” on the Internet. Since when did we measure degrees of un-inspiration? Isn’t “uninspired” the absolute zero on a scale of inspiration? Correct me if I’m wrong.
“Uninspired” has two meanings, according to Dictionary.com: Taking its principle meaning, we’d have a pinto bean sitting through Jimmy V’s ESPY speech and not being compelled to take action. Using its alternate meaning, we’d have an uncreative and dull pinto bean. Technically, Bean Guy is using it correctly.
What kind of creativity should one expect from pinto beans? I’ll stay away from that one.
Anyway, my wife and I had dinner at Sunsets one Saturday night. My meal was overpriced and insipid.
The Basics: Sunsets loiters the Radio Drive/Tamarack Village intersection with a credit union, a gas station, and a CVS Pharmacy. In its defense, there is no “good” restaurant location in Woodbury – unless you count Cowboy Jack’s being next to the Red Roof Prostitut-Inn. Here’s the website. If you drove by it and didn’t see the patio, you might think it was a furniture store – another widespread affliction among Woodbury dine-ins.
For what it’s worth, Sunsets posts solid happy hour specials.
An enthusiastic waiter greeted us and took our drink orders. There was only one other table occupied in our section, but he didn’t take that as a cue to sluff off. He was on his game from whistle to whistle.
We were set in a booth next to a divider with large, square holes. Through it, we could see a table of forty-somethings (presumed co-worked) segregated by gender. Gel-headed men sat together on the north end, talking business and making sure their watches were out past the cuffs of their button-ups. Women swished wine around in their glasses and passed around smartphones on the south end. Light bounced around off watch faces, phone screens, foreheads, and fingernails like a human disco ball.
I, in my button-up, ordered a chocolate martini. My wife pointed, with a freshly-manicured index finger, at a coffee and Irish cream drink. They landed, and were pretty good. I could taste booze and chocolate in mine, and nothing else, which is exactly what I want. My wife’s drink tingled the palate, and made me sit straight up while doing so. The bread basket and artichoke dip we dialed up for appetizers were fine.
Sunsets’ menu lifts like a metro phone book. It’s got a pizza section, a sandwich section, a burger section, a steak section, a salad section, and an Asian-centric specialty section (more on this later). I saw the double-cut pork chop on the menu and plunged. I did so picturing the resplendent cut Butcher and the Boar boasts. It’ll look cool if nothing else, right?
My wife ordered a turkey and provolone sandwich, which is basically … if the Vikings were facing a food fourth-and-goal, with the game on the line and the home crowd on their feet, Paul Allen’s voice getting all hoarse and his face getting all red and humongous … the Vikings would run a turkey and provolone sandwich. That’s why the Vikings are “looking good for Johnny Football,” and that’s why I’m not reviewing a turkey and provolone sandwich.
But wait! My double-cut pork chop is here! Let’s get a picture of that! Except, at Sunsets, a “double-cut pork chop” is two pork chops. The last time I saw something like this, I was in sixth grade. A kid on my school bus had a knockoff Starter jacket. It was a zip-up, but never used the zipper because he wanted to act like he had a pullover.*
They didn’t taste bad, but they tasted like something I could’ve duplicated precisely at home. If they were seasoned, I didn’t taste it. I smeared my bites through the mashed potatoes to jazz them up some, but the potatoes weren’t exactly dressed for the prom themselves. The pork and potatoes together tasted like pork and potatoes together – which is fine, but these natty environs and $21 tag command higher expectations. Don’t they?
It’s possible I just ordered the wrong thing, but what’s the right thing? The menu is an agonizing liability. Here’s a quick comparison between Sunsets’ menu and Lakes’: Lakes floats a similar number of sections, but with half as many offerings per and one signature item in each. This makes a go-to easy to stab at if you’re waffling. At Sunsets, aside from their dizzying number of dishes, most of their specialty menu looks like a row of misfit toys that didn’t belong anyplace else. That’s a problem.
I don’t want to jump off a cliff with many of Sunsets’ other critics and play it as a gussied-up Applebee’s. It’s better than that, but not way better.
Maybe that group across the bookshelf was doing it right. It didn’t look like they had come to be inspired, and maybe that’s the mindset you need. You’ve got my permission to wander Sunsets for an after-work happy hour with elegant wall trim, but be warned: The branch breaks if you reach too far beyond that.
*That was totally me