ITHACA, NY -- I rarely, if ever, voluntarily dine at a motel restaurant unless I find myself out-ot-town and staying in a motel far from other dining establishments. Living at home, in Ithaca, I usually don’t choose to eat at a motel restaurant. However, I do visit the Royal Court restaurant which is part of the Meadow Court motel on Route 13, every few years to update Times readers.
Let’s start with some generalities that haven’t changed since my last review four years ago:
Evenings it has a loyal clientele at the bar and in the restaurant and a large portion of seniors comprise both cohorts.
There’s a ‘50s feel about the place, partly due to the patterned wall-to-wall carpet, the plastic tablecloths, the small basket of artificial plastic flowers on each table, paper napkin squares, pendulum Tiffany-type lamps and wall paneling. One of the owners, not knowing I was reviewing, told me she was in her fifth decade of operating the restaurant and a waitress told me she, too, had worked there 45 years.
I think of most of the food offerings as comfort food.
The menu hasn’t changed much except for the expected rise in prices over time. (Dinner entrées are $12.95-$25.95).
It is noisy at dinner time as the regulars at the bar often get a head start on the diners in the adjacent dining area.
The food is dependable and well-cooked without the use of many seasonings or flavorings. I think of it as if the cooks wanting to be on the safe side and not wanting to offend anyone.
During lunch, the Reuben sandwich is authentic, served on marbled rye with corned beef, Swiss cheese, and sauerkraut. It’s predictable and pleasant. One side dish is included and I chose coleslaw which is homemade with minced cabbage and tasted like it had sugar in it. All in all, a non-spectacular but enjoyable lunch.
The spinach salad was served with sliced hard-boiled egg, some mushroom slices, and crisp bacon crumbled and strewn across the top. The portion wasn’t large but perfectly reasonable for lunch time.
One evening I chose a special that isn’t on the menu: “Pork Osso Bucco,” which puzzled me. I’ve had many Osso Buccos in my life and all have been from veal, i.e. cow. Osso Bucco, a classic Italian dish originating in Milan, is the hollowed bone between the leg and shoulder of the animal. The veal is normally slowly braised in a broth of white wine and seasoned stock, along with vegetables. This entrée, which could have been called pork shank, was tender and did seem slow cooked, however, instead of being offered in a thin broth it was smothered in a heavy tomato-based sauce.
Another dinner time I had a salmon filet which was cooked perfectly — not so easy to do with a fish that is thick on one end and thin on the other. It was juicy without being fatty and was accompanied by broccoli.
I recently ordered Portabella Mushroom Supreme ($13.95) and enjoyed it. However I wish there had been more of it. The mushroom was quite small and was topped with roasted red pepper and spinach. My companion and I agreed, because of the size of the portion, it would have been more appropriate at lunch time.
On Saturday evenings a “slow roasted prime rib” is featured for $24.95. It was a generous portion of tender meat although it was fatty. It was very pleasant, though I would have preferred some identifiable seasonings of some sort.
The wine menu needs help. Not offering a Dry Riesling or a Cabernet Franc in the heart of the Finger Lakes, in my opinion, is a serious error of omission. There are less than a dozen total wines on offer and none is offered by the bottle. You can order wine by the glass ($6), half-carafe ($17), or carafe ($34) however you won’t know the country of origin, the winery, or the vintage. Actually, even with the limited offering, the long-term servers I queried didn’t know the price of a carafe which led me to believe that the clientele here orders beer more often than wine and, in fact, there are more than twice as many beers on the menu. Once I ordered “Sauvignon Blanc” only to have the waitress return from the kitchen to ask me to make another selection as none had been chilled.
There’s a national motel chain that touts itself as an organization featuring “no surprises.” I think of The Royal Court that way: no major ups or downs — just a steady-as-you-go purveyor of comfort-type food and beverages at affordable prices.