Your dilemma, searching for this restaurant online, is that it is known, for some peculiar reason, by different names. The name on the building is Parkers’ Restaurant and Bar. The domain name for their website is “ParkersAmerican.” On different sites around the web, you’ll see a reference to “Parker’s Ocean Grill.”
I’m confused and I haven’t even been seated. The restaurant boasts they are all about “fresh,” and maintain relationships with specially selected suppliers, growers and farmers for filling their larder. I have no reason to doubt that, with one exception. The “catch of the day” when I was there was “Tilapia brought from the Gulf,” which is probably incorrect, an awful lot of wild tilapia is inedible, and the tilapia served in US restaurants and available in groceries is farmed – pond raised. There are a few tilapia farms in the US, but the vast majority of farmed tilapia sold in the US comes from Latin America or Asia. Small matter.
Spoiler alert. Unless you’re planning a special evening, have a large group, or need to eat at a specific hour, hit the bar for their happy hour menu, these days and times:
Monday thru Friday – 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Saturday – 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Sunday – 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.
The bar menu is half-price and there are drink specials, of course. The bar menu includes some small plates, a number of wood-fired pizzas, and a couple sandwiches, including a traditional New England lobster roll. Here’s what’s cool about that. At the happy hour price, the lobster roll is less than you’d pay nearly anywhere from Massachusetts to Maine! Honest!
We went with tempura shrimp (3 to an order) and bruschetta, (Wood Grilled Garlic Crostini, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Laura Chenel Goat Cheese, Roasted Tomato Basil Salad). The bruschetta was heavy on the herbs, and the group universally panned it.
On to the dinner table, and the entree orders were preceded by a wedge salad to share, followed by sea scallops with gnocchi, cedar plank roasted Lake Superior whitefish with mash, a tilapia sandwich with shoestrings, and me? Why a burger, of course, “Certified Angus,” Moody Blue cheese (Wisconsin), Lettuce, Tomato, on a toasted Challah. The kitchen’s choice is to serve this with a chipotle mayo, which I passed on. It’s a pretty fine burger, terrific Wisconsin blue cheese (but owned by the Swiss cheese giant Emmi which has been buying up small specialty cheesemakers in the US), the bun was buttered, toasted, and firm enough to hold the meat and any condiments one chose.
I have kind of a problem with “Certified Angus,” which is merely a service mark a group of ranchers dreamed up in the 70s. They have various claims about their beef being “better,” I can’t say if it is or not, I know I’ve had lots of great burgers from very small producers. My personal favorite is (no, not Pat Lafrieda, but Creekstone Farms). In any case, the burgers was A-OK. $14.00. Reports from around the table – a rave for the whitefish, a “great” for the tilapia sandwich, and a “meh” for the scallops. She thought the texture was odd. I can relate to that.
I’m not sure where I would place this type of restaurant – I guess you could call it “casual fine dining?” It’s a nice room, tablecloths, a buncha flatware, kinda noisy, and people come in all sorts of apparel. Entrees range from $14 – $50. Dinner for four, with wine, was close to $300. (Not on me, I never pay!)
You need three things to have a restaurant that’s great, not simply good, in no particular order: 1)nice ambience, 2) great food, 3) fantastic service. Parkers hits two out of three. It’s a nice room, pleasant, you don’t feel jammed in or that the next table is eavesdropping. There are some private rooms as well. The food was largely “OK,” esthetically pleasing, and rather tasty, but nothing on the menu is going to make you go “wow.”
The service? Here’s where this joint shined last night. Jordan (like the river, she said), was knowledgeable, friendly, over the top attentive, checking in, but not too often, and immediately dealing with every request from the table. I didn’t ask what her career ambitions are, but if she’s staying in the hospitality industry, Parkers would be smart to keep her. Too many people in the service industry today are just passing through, and haven’t bothered to even look up the definition of “hospitality.” Jordan nailed it.
Parkers’ is part of the Select Restaurant group based in Cleveland; they operated ten restaurants that stretch across America, and are mostly focused on entrees that swim. You can make reservations online, and you probably should, because on a Saturday night, the place was jammed, and there were people waiting in the lobby.
Parkers Restaurant and Bar Review