I hate it when I have high expectations of a place, only to be super disappointed at the reality. Latitude 41 doesn’t help matters any by billing itself as a “destination restaurant”, which brings to mind places like Alinea or the French Laundry, places where I would make a trip to a geographical location just to eat at said restaurant. It fell so short of living up to the hype that it went beyond disappointed into the realm of comical.
Our journey to our “destination” began with an inauspicious false start on Sunday – a day on which, according to their web site, they are open from 12-2 for lunch. We arrived around 1, to be greeted by and empty dining room. We stood around for a couple of minutes, with the occasional chef staring at us but making no attempt to approach, until one came over a few minutes later and informed us they were closed. “But your website says that you’re open”, I say, to which I get a shrug, a quick “you can order takeout at the bar if you like” and him turning around and walking away.
Since we had a gift certificate that we had to use, we left and came back this afternoon, again around 1pm, well within the realms of their lunch service. After being seated, our waitress filled our water glasses half way, and proceeded to disappear for quite a while. We caught her long enough when she came back to order our appetizer to share, a Lamb Sausage and Butternut Squash Flatbread ($13). The description promised a delight of flavors – the aforementioned squash and sausage, along with olive oil, rosemary, white wine, grana padano and gruyere. What we received was quite underwhelming, a glorified cracker with a sprinkling of ingredients, which overall was quite blurry and bland. The secondary ingredients were all but undetectable, and overall the dish was a mess – kind of like when you reheat something bready in the microwave – it came out barely warm, with only the insides of the flatbread being truly edible. For the price, I expected something that would blow me away. What I received instead was something I could reproduce (and better!) in my own kitchen at a fraction of the price. Definitely not a good start.
For his entree, my husband chose the Beef Stroganoff ($13), which was actually quite good – nice tender chunks of beef in a creamy flavorful gravy, served over what I believe is fresh papardelle pasta. Decent sized portion, although a bit light on the beef, but definitely worth ordering again.
I didn’t fare so well. Here’s where the comedy of errors begins. I decide to go with the Latitude 41 Burger ($11), which is billed on the menu as being served with cheddar, lettuce, tomato, pickled red onion, brioche and horseradish aioli. I ordered it medium rare, as I usually do when ordering burgers. Medium rare because most places overcook burgers just a bit, and medium rare usually ends up as medium – cooked, but with pink in the middle. The burger is supposed to come with your choice of either mixed green salad, fresh fruit, or Truffle Parmesan fries. I went with the fries.
Unfortunately, what I got is a well done burger with fries that had no sign whatsoever of either truffle or Parmesan – not even a hint of it in aroma, let alone flavor. Know right now that I’m the type of person who *hates* sending food back – I hate confrontation, or making a big deal out of things, and even if I’m in the right, I feel like a heel for doing it. But I do it anyway, because the burger was so well done that it was beyond edible for me.
So I wait a few minutes, out comes burger #2. Just as overdone as the first one, so I tell the waitress, who shrugs and is like “sorry you don’t like it”. I see I’m getting nowhere so I ask if the floor manager is around (so I can order something else at this point, as I’m batting 0 for 2 with burgers) – she gets the chef, who comes and stands in front of me with his arms crossed, and says to me “you’re only taking a bite – I cooked it myself, it’s medium rare, so cut it in half” which I proceed to do and show him that it’s brown throughout. He kind of mumbles something about cooking it again and walks away quickly.
A few more minutes pass, and he comes out with the burger personally. He tells me to be careful, the plate is hot. I cut into it again – still brown throughout but at this point I’m about sick of the back and forth and try to eat it. I tried, I really did. I just couldn’t. I don’t know what they did the third time, but it had the consistency of pure raw meat, with the color of fully done. It was, as Gordon Ramsay puts it, “the dogs dinner”. It was beyond gross. Here’s a blurry (but pretty accurate) picture of what I’m talking about:
I had totally lost my appetite for burgers at this point, and the fries I think were just reheated from before under the Salamander, so I asked her to just take it away, make sure I wasn’t charged for it and that I wanted to order a different entree which I had no problem paying for – so I went and ordered the Beef Stroganoff, the only item I had at this point that we had found to be good. I still felt like a heel, but I had gone 0 for 3 with the burgers, and at that point just figured they had no clue how to cook them. If chain restaurants can cook burgers to order, I certainly would have the same expectations of a “destination” restaurant. I fully believe that there are realistic expectations and unrealistic expectations when it comes to dining out – having your food cooked to order certainly is a realistic expectation, especially for a restaurant in this price range.
The Beef Stroganoff, like my husband’s, was quite good. We were almost afraid to order dessert at this point, but since the gift certificate was basically a $50 “use it or lose it” deal, we had to order it to use up the rest of the money.
We were actually pleasantly surprised with dessert. Paul went with a Warm Valhrona Chocolate Cake ($8), which was served with a warm berry compote and what they said was a mixed berry sorbet (which for all the world tasted to me like Jeni’s Cherry Lambic, not mixed berry). Good combination of flavors, but served on a plate that made taking pictures difficult.
I went with the Apple-Raisin Bread Pudding ($8), which was served warm with a rich Jack Daniels anglaise and caramel sauce. Good balance of flavors, slight issues with texture because there were some dry spots that were a bit chewy. Still, not a bad rendition of a classic dish.
Overall, we were quite underwhelmed with our experience at Latitude 41. Service was spotty, there’s severe issues with the food, and it definitely didn’t live up to the hype and build-up. Our lunch ended up taking almost 2 1/2 hours. For an establishment that pushes the fact that it uses local ingredients, I didn’t see many listed on the menu – which I find difficult to understand with the abundance of local producers that are still putting out great Ohio produce, meat, and dairy. Unfortunately, in the end it suffered the same fate that most hotel restaurants do – underwhelming, inconsistent food for expense account budgets. What Latitude 41 seeks out to do is great in concept – at this point, I just find they’re lacking in execution.
If you’d like to go: Latitude 41, 50 N. 3rd St, Columbus (Downtown), 614.233.7541