by george morris
August 01, 2012
First, a confession: We enjoy the fact that there remains — in this age of restaurants that are conceived in corporate offices and designed by focus groups — eateries without frills, mascots and seven-figure marketing budgets.
Not that we look down on chain restaurants, because they wouldn’t become chains if they weren’t doing enough right to justify more than one location.
Nor is there any special merit in a stand-alone hash house if the hash being slung isn’t worth eating.
This brings us to Berry’s Burgers and Seafood.
There is nothing, slick, fancy or market-research-tested about Berry’s, just a simple, old-fashioned place with bare, white walls trimmed in red, covered picnic tables outside (hard to imagine they’re getting much use in this weather) and a window air conditioner that struggles to keep the interior cool.
It looks so unintentionally retro that it could easily have been transported straight from the 1950s.
Of course, the critical test is not aesthetics but taste. Like many restaurants, Berry’s is better at some things than others.
From our recent visits, diners should take their menu cues from the sign out front.
There aren’t many commandments in the Restaurant Reviewing Bible, but one of them is: Thou shalt order any food that is mentioned in the restaurant’s name. Verily, we did.
Berry’s Burger comes in quarter-pound ($3.69), half-pound ($5.69) and one-pound ($7.69) sizes.
The quarter-pound version is plenty filling, and arrives hot, juicy and served on a sesame seed bun and dressed with lettuce, tomato, onion, mayonnaise and ketchup.
The special ($5.95) of quarter-pound burger, fries and a soft drink makes a satisfying meal.
The fries are sliced thick, so they’re not as crisp as thinner-cut fries typical at chain restaurants, but are more in keeping with old-fashioned fast-food places.
We’ve become so accustomed to seasoned fries that these seemed bland by comparison, but not everyone will have that expectation.
We tried the large deluxe po-boy ($7.95), a foot-long sandwich with heaping helpings of ham, turkey and roast beef along with American and Swiss cheese.
The bread was soft and flavorful and the sandwich was meaty and satisfying. It was more than we needed for lunch, which created the dilemma: Stuff ourselves for the sheer enjoyment, or save half for later.
That’s a good choice to have. The po-boys come dressed as well.
On the seafood end of the equation, the catfish platter ($7.95) offers three fillets of catfish fried in a thick, crisp batter, and served over fries or, as we requested, onion rings.
The catfish was plentiful and flavorful, hardly needing the cocktail sauce and tartar sauce that came on the side.
We’ve had better onion rings, but these were well cooked and crisply battered. A little more seasoning would have made them more interesting.
We weren’t as pleased with the shrimp basket ($7.95), which had a goodly number of firm, moist shrimp tails. The coating, however, wasn’t crisp or well-seasoned.
The grilled chicken salad ($6.95) also earned a hearty “meh” from us.
The chicken appeared to have been pounded into a thin patty before grilling, and was served over shredded iceberg lettuce, along with shredded cheese and chopped tomatoes. Not bad, just very ordinary.
Berry’s also has a full breakfast menu that we didn’t sample.
We suspect that Berry’s does the bulk of its business for those living and working around Florida and Flannery wanting carry-out fare. Until they get that air conditioner up to speed, that’s the better bet.