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December 13, 2011

Alice Eats: Oscars Casual Dining & Best Picture Bar

IMG_3315190 Boxwood Street, Williston, 878-7082

If two makes a trend, this was the summer of the movie theater restaurant. Club Take 2 opened at the end of May at the Essex Cinemas. Oscars Bistro & Bar opened at the Majestic 10 in Williston just a week later, joining the elder statesman, Big Picture Theater and Café in Waitsfield.

Owner Harold Blank had grand ambitions for Oscars, with regular music and comedy performances and upscale fare such as Misty Knoll Farms chicken with lemon risotto. Unfortunately, folks didn't bite, and Blank closed the restaurant for retooling earlier this fall. It reopened as Oscars Casual Dining & Best Picture Bar over Thanksgiving weekend.

And casual it is. When we arrived for Sunday lunch, we were told to order at the bar, where the young woman working there asked if we'd like "menus, or anything."

IMG_3316In fact, we did like them. Though the more exciting dishes were gone in favor of burgers and fried appetizers, the menus themselves were a fun read. Dishes were named after movies, a potentially cheesy choice, but done right with apropos films selections. Who could resist a kids' hot dog named "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" or a bowl of chili called "Lethal Weapon?"

I'm currently on an animation kick, so we started with the "Chicken Run" salad. As soon as I saw it, I was worried. The chicken breast wasn't fully sliced and looked disturbingly plain. The greens, listed on the menu as "spring lettuce," was clearly iceberg.

After cutting up the chicken, I was proved wrong. Though clearly not Misty Knoll, the meat was lightly marinated and nicely seasoned. With a slick of balsamic vinaigrette, it was a pleasure, though there was a bit too much of it to balance the lettuce, apples and dried cranberries. All told, it reminded me of the salads at Wendy's — one of my not-so-guilty pleasures.

IMG_3317"True Grit" was a manly burger and happily free of sand. Though cooked closer to "well" than my requested "medium," it wasn't dried out, partly due to the barbecue sauce — unfortunately of the liquid-smoke variety.

The highlights of the burger were the lightly sweet, egg-washed bun and the thick layer of crispy, flavorful bacon arranged across the bottom of the sandwich. Placing the bacon on the bottom is an innovation I recommend to all burger cooks — I want that pork to dominate!

The lowlight was the breaded onion ring on top of the burger. The onion within was chewy, and in places almost impossible to sever with teeth alone.

IMG_3318The same went for the rings we ordered on the side with the pulled pork, a stark contrast from the fluffy-inside, crispy-outside battered fries that came with the burger.

Despite that same luscious bun, the "Animal House" was not Blutarsky approved. The pork inside was mushy, almost beyond recognition as meat. As a devotee of smoked meats, I was a little sad about the damp threads of pork.

"The Sweetest Thing" turned that frown upside down. Though I found the name of the cheesecake, "What Women Want," nearly irresistible, I couldn't say no to a brownie sundae dressed with my choice of chocolate, raspberry or caramel sauce.

IMG_3319I chose the caramel, definitely a nice touch. Then I put the ice cream on top of the brownie, where it should be. And what a brownie! Hot and melty soft, and richly chocolate-y, just the way I like it. The combination of that with caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream was the best possible way to end my somewhat uneven meal. Perhaps they should give this dish the name "What Women Want."

Alice Eats is a weekly blog feature devoted to reviewing restaurants where diners can get a meal for two for less than $35. Got a restaurant you'd love to see featured? Send it to [email protected].




I think this review is way too sympathetic and complimentary. The first iteration of Oscars was great, but this....

We went on a Friday night before a movie and also got the the disinterested 'order at the bar' service. ("Bar" meaning beer on tap.) The menus are hard to read for the kitchy names and distracting graphics and font, and looked similar to a 6th grade book report in their presentation. The food is on a similar par, with few options and all of them frozen then fried, then overpriced. Two of the waitstaff (owners?) were overly eager in their enthusiasm, which made the whole meal seem sad, in addition to being a bust.

The final insult was learning that they couldn't offer discounted movie tickets because "the system isn't working yet." (???) We were reassured by the movie cashier that discounted tickets are available at Three Tomatoes, leading me to wish for the 17th time that we had eaten there instead.

Something the "fast-casual" chains like Chipotle or Panera have figured out that a lot of the restauranteurs in this state haven't is that people would like a relatively healthy "casual" dinner at a reasonable price. And no, that doesn't include Sysco's finest.

Instead, it seems like most of the places opening up are content to offer up $13-$20+ hamburgers ("Oh, you want toppings? Those cost extra...") and menus that are incomprehensible to us non-foodies (the original Bluebird Tavern menu was especially egregious in using snooty food terms). Local sourcing is nice, but I'd take fresh-made cheaper food any day. Where is the middle ground between places like the Farmhouse & Leunigs and Boloco?

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