Nestled in the heart of the faux-Tudor village of Avondale Estates, Pallookaville Fine Foods combines 1950’s kitsch with a carnival-inspired menu. The fare consists of corndogs, hamburgers, hotdogs, club sandwiches, french fries and tater tots smothered in a variety of toppings, soda fountain standards (fruity sparkling beverages and hand-spun shakes, both with or without booze stirred in), and fluffy wedges of pie.
Of course, the celebrity chef behind the operation has tweaked these standards in whimsical ways. The corndogs are mutants: huge, deep-fried lengths of meat (beef, sausage, chicken, or all three, if you like), dipped (or even double-dipped) in cornbread, peppered cornbread, or cheesy cornbread. The hamburgers are actually made of ham — ground pork patties, made and seasoned in-house. The small order fries would be called “large” anywhere else.
When Pallookaville opened, lines stretched around the block — locals eager to plunk down five bucks for a giant corndog dinner. Now that the novelty of the place has abated, the crowds are gone, but business remains brisk, so we decided to visit Pallookaville ourselves.
Clyde snagged a corndog (too large and too greasy to photograph well), while I went with an American classic: the quarter-pound pork burger, a side of fries, and a chocolate and peanut-butter shake.
Looks good, yes? Well, just as in the carnival’s hall of mirrors, looks can be deceiving.
The pork burger, garnished with grilled onions and cheese, tastes pretty … porky. Not particularly well seasoned. Not much like a hamburger. Just … porky. And greasy — really greasy. Clyde’s corndog was dark and heavy … with grease. My milkshake was room-temperature, thin, and gritty; I didn’t try to finish it.
Our server disappeared after the food appeared, and any effort to capture his attention with stares or waves failed miserably. It wasn’t that the restaurant was all that busy; he was simply inattentive. So: no refills on water … and we ended up walking up to the cashier to ask for the check.
While we sat waiting in vain for water and a bill, we had a lot of time to look the place over. It was during this time that I noticed the thing about Pallookaville that disturbs me most: the uniforms of the wait staff.
By design, I’m sure, the wait staff is … quirky: highly tattooed, Kool-Aid in the hair, gothic attire, that sort of thing. These things are not an issue for me. But dirty *is* an issue — and our waiter was, quite simply, dirty. His shirt was heavily stained. His sleeves were filthy. Other servers, too, looked as though they were wearing costumes that hadn’t been laundered in weeks.
This may be some nod to the carney vibe to which Pallookaville aspires … but I prefer my dinner with a bit less grunge. Your mileage may vary, but for us, Pallookaville — despite the crowds — is not a place we’ll be dining again.