I don’t want to write this but here I am. I eat a lot of bad or unremarkable food around Kittitas County that never makes it onto my blog or social media because talking about good food is more fun and much more productive than shitting on hard working peoples’ failures.
I am not unbiased. I go into some dining experiences with great skepticism and even dread: for others I am buoyed by high hopes that I’ll get to write about the incredible new restaurant in town and maybe because of my writing more people will go enjoy that food and support a fledgling local business or an old one that is overlooked. Understandably, these early opinions I form are sometimes wrong and I have no problem admitting that. I’m rambling because I don’t want to get to the point but here goes.
I ate at Saucey, the new food truck parked at Whipsaw this weekend and it was stunningly bad. I sincerely do not want to slam them, especially while their venture is so young, but I just can’t keep quiet because I believe there is a something to be learned here. I wanted so badly to like this food but instead of fun bar food with a saucy gimmick I found almost everything to be bizarre, sloppy, confusing, and in one case, inedible. After a long time with the rather perplexing menu we decided to share a large order of Grilled Falafel(ish) Cakes, three sliders–Korean BBQ, The Classic with beef, and the Firebird–and the Little Cheesy off the kid’s menu for the kid.
The falafel cakes were one of the worst things I can remember eating. They reminded me of the failed experiment of a parent desperate to get their picky kids to eat vegetables. The result was gluey, mushy, and bland even with the accompanying tzatziki sauce (which should be anything but bland). Though I’ll grant them a bit of credit for calling them “Falafel(ish)” and “not your ordinary falafel,” they are an insult to falafel and it’s hard to understand why anyone who had ever eaten or even Googled falafel would call them that.
Moving on to the sliders. They were mostly fine. The flavors were alright but muddled to the point that it was difficult to decipher exactly what we were eating. The real killer on this plate was the pile of flavorless slaw that overwhelmed everything. I love a big ol’ heap of slaw but this was just a pile of chunky cabbage supposedly tossed with the lemon/dill tzatziki but if there was any seasoning it was undetectable. It was all very clunky but generally inoffensive.
The Little Cheesy from the kids menu was just one of the yummy rolls grilled with a fat slice of cheddar and it was by far the best thing we ate.
I’m writing this because I believe there is something to be learned here. My first suggestion is for all eateries, and not just directed at Saucey and it’s so deceptively simple: don’t put bad food on your menu. Specifically, no matter how much you want to have falafel/Eggs Benedict/whatever on your menu you need to honestly evaluate if it’s something you AND your staff can do well and consistently. Stick to what you know and what your kitchen equipment and crew can handle. There’s no shame in omitting something from a menu until you can find a way to make it work.
Finally, I want to offer Saucey some constructive feedback because I believe they can turn this around and make their vision work. I like the sauce gimmick but asking customers to choose from so many sauces while they order will only lead to confusion, decision fatigue, and buyer’s remorse. My suggestion is to simplify, simplify, simplify. Don’t douse each slider with two different sauces but instead present a pared-down version of the dishes and allow your customers to dress them as they please from the selection of sauces available on a table outside of the truck. Make having a bunch of sauces fun for the eater, not a burden.
I acknowledge that Saucey faces a difficult task in filling a void left by The Red Pickle, which will be hard to live up to. I also recognize that they have been open for a very short amount of time and could certainly improve. However, the food options available to us in Kittitas County are expanding and a bad first impression could really kill a business around here. There are a lot of real pros opening new restaurants and expanding right now and it’s going to take a lot more than what I’ve seen for Saucey to compete. I will give them a second chance but I can’t say the same for everyone.
As always, the beer at Whipsaw is the best in Ellensburg and their rotating cider selection was wonderful so it’s still very much worth a visit to their taphouse.