Overall: 3.5/5; This place would be amazing if it had good food. Not the best thing to say about a restaurant. What’s that? That’s the worst thing I could say about a restaurant? Well, uhh, yeah, that’s true. Blast.
We live in NEO. I love it. With the Spring we’re having, it’s a wonder more people don’t move to NEO for the weather alone. However even someone who is as adamant about their love for this marvelous place as I am must admit that sometimes you just feel like getting away. Well, the Bahama Breeze is just that escape. It’s the sort of place that helps you imagine that you are at one of those all-inclusive joints in the Caribbean. The drinks are delicious and watered down, and the food is clearly mass-produced or microwaved – but both are plentiful!
My favorite thing about the Bahama Breeze is their atmosphere. Do yourself a favor, if ever you go — sit on their ‘veranda.’ Yeah, it’s indoors but the décor is a dead ringer for one of those seemingly-shoddily-built-but-somehow-always-manage-to-be-the-last-thing-standing-after-the-hurricane-hits huts. You know what I’m talking about. They always have some clever name like ‘La Pallapa,’ which you’re pretty sure you never learned in high school Spanish but seems to be the perfect name for the place. Anyway, the Bahama Breeze veranda is a dead ringer. At my most recent dinner there I kept telling my friends that after dinner we should all go up to the hotel, change into our suits and come down for a dip as the sun sets. Imagine my horror when a tropical storm of immense proportions actually did strike us and forced us to stay in for some of the hotel run ‘entertainment.’ Then imagine my terror (which eclipses my horror by a good bit) when eventually I had to go out to get my car and was struck by the Ohio-ness of it all like so many thousands large, cold drops of water getting me wet and chilling me. But, for that hour and a half, the décor, with only minimal assistance from my overactive imagination, managed to convince me that I was on vacation in the tropics. And frankly, I can’t put a price tag on an experience like that. Good news though, Bahama Breeze conveniently price-tagged it for me.
My experiences at the Bahama Breeze have shown me a succession of career servers (hint, not a compliment). They are efficient, know their stuff, but sadly lack that playfulness that you get from a server who knows that this is just another stop in their journey. They make few mistakes and recite their ‘favorites’ with a tone I normally recite for algebra equations. That is to say, their presentation leaves something to be desired. On Sunday, our waiter Angelo fit that description to a T. He recognized us (well, not us, but the generic model in his head of the sorts of customers we were) as soon as he saw us, and treated us accordingly, even trying out a few jokes as if to prove that he knew what we wanted. And to be fair to Angelo, he had us pegged correctly. I found myself more impressed with his service than the 18% that Bahama Breeze felt I owed him. Not much more, but still, I felt it worth mentioning.
Alcohol-wise, the Breeze Bar pulls an old page out of the cheap owner’s book – tall, skinny glasses that make you feel as if you’re drinking a lot, and the sorts of fruity beach drinks that are WAY more fruit than alcohol. No real danger of getting drunk here, especially not at their prices (cheapest mixed drink on the menu was over $6. I passed.). However, the drinks are delightful in their presentation, melding colors and textures very well to the delight of most of my friends. I mean, alcohol content aside, there is something positive to be said about making a drink that is tasty and leaves the drinker wanting more. In that sense, well played, Bahama Breeze. Well played.
The biggest issue I have with the Bahama Breeze is that their food is just not that good. This past time I tried their Shrimp Curry Rice Bowl. The flavor was good, but the rice was undercooked and had that unfortunate almost crunchy quality that rice can have sometimes. That ought never happen at a restaurant. Seriously, it’s Rice. My girlfriend Karla had the beef empanadas, which were good, though definitely plain. Not a crime perhaps, but again, not something that encourages another visit. I tried one of their Coconut Shrimp, and that was good, though it seemed sweeter (in that fake coconutty way) than I would like it to be. A bright side was their dessert shots – approximately 8 small spoonfuls of some mixture of cake, fruit, mousse and whipped creams, artfully and decoratively blended together. There are, as it happens, 8 flavors of these shots, and thanks to my dear friend Dr. Brad, we got to try them all. I most enjoyed their Dulce de Leche shot, which, if you know me, is hardly a surprise, as I am a sucker for caramel, even fake caramel substitute flavoring. I actually enjoyed almost all of the dessert shots, except their healthy ‘fresh’ fruit option, which was decidedly sour. But hey, you can’t win them all.
In the end, I will likely go to Bahama Breeze again, but only because another of my friends wants to go. While there, I will enjoy their tasty drinks (which I will try to remember to spike from my handy dandy Bourbon flask) and then just sit back and pretend that I am mere feet away from an Ocean. It’s like a mental vacation, and frankly I think we could all use one of those.