Great food, different kind of game at The Swamp
By Lynn Dirk, Content editor
I hadn't been to The Swamp on University Avenue across from campus in quite awhile. My previous experiences had generally been good and, on rare occasions, either very good or mediocre – never bad. I have had some great soup there, and I love soup! So it was time to check it out again with the GLOB Master on a leisurely Sunday afternoon
Not surprisingly considering the location, The Swamp CAN be extremely busy, usually on weekend nights. You've probably driven by, just like me, and seen the people practically spilling out onto the sidewalk and been glad you weren't there. Sunday afternoons, though, are usually perfect. If the weather is nice, the front patio or the upstairs porch are great places to sit. Sitting on the patio, for some reason, once again probably due to the day of the week and time of day we were there, University Avenue traffic did not seem intrusive. But if traffic is very heavy when you are there, eating inside would be a good choice too. It is airy and full of light and has a homey feel with wooden floors.
When I said "leisurely" Sunday, I had an ulterior motive in mind. I wanted to sneak in a game of Bananagrams before lunch came. For those who don't know, Bananagrams is similar to Scrabble but so much better in at least seven ways. The eighth way might be that is the perfect way to fill the time between ordering and serving when you go out to eat. Now, Banangrams is certainly faster than Scrabble but it's not a 15-minute game either. As it turned out, we got close to the end of the game before our food arrived, so the service might have been little slow. That might have been due to the kitchen, however, because Leslie, our server was very friendly and attentive. She made me happy by asking about the game, and I got to spread the word about BG one person further.
When our food came, we pushed away the game. We had ordered the Turkey Artichoke Panini and a "Pick-it" Fence Angus Beef Burger. As usual, we split our meals, and in this case, both of us were very satisfied with both dishes:
> The panini bread was crispy, the turkey very tender, and the swiss cheese melted perfectly. The spinach-artichoke spread gave the sandwich a distinct, tartness that enhanced the sharp swiss flavor and the turkey kept all that flavor from going over the top.
> The hamburger was very juicy and the grilled beef flavor was spot on like a good hamburger should be. Swamp "Pick-It" Burgers (a nod to the Swamp's very nice white picket fence) come with lettuce, tomato, and onion, and you can pick extra toppings for 75 cents each. It was hard to resist some of those toppings – brie, grilled peppers, avocado mayo, pineapple. But we decided on only one addition: the poblano aioli. It did not necessarily make you notice it, but at some point we both remembered there was supposed to be a special topping. When I turned my attention to it, I noticed it right away and it was pleasing. Maybe that means it could have had a stronger poblano flavor or maybe that means that it just blended perfectly with the very dominant grilled beef flavor. Either way, as mentioned, we were both happy with the burger.
OK, so what IS Bananagrams? It is similar to Scrabble in that you create a grid by putting together words with letter tiles in horizontal or vertical fashion, BUT players create their own grids simultaneously. The winner of a round of BG is the person who uses the last tile from the letter pool. It is AT LEAST 6 times better than Scrabble because: (1) no board, (2) no scoring, (3) no need for scoring utensils, (4) no need to ruin a good word to assure that you get on a double or triple word or letter square, (5) no waiting on someone else to make up his or her mind, (6) you can "reconstruct" words and change your own grid at any time, and (7) there are different ways to play the game, like you can decide the words have to be at least 3 letters or 5 letters (that is hard!!). OK, you might say items 2-4 are all the same. If so, that's a measure of how frustrated I can get when I play Scrabble.
So, now that you know, you should run out and get Bananagrams (available at Books-a-Million or Walgreens) and take it with you when you have a leisurely weekend lunch. It's the perfect appetizer! You can also play Bananagrams online on face book if you have a Facebook account, and there is also an app for your iPHONE.
The Pluses and Minuses of The Swamp:
The Swamp (+) indicators: Consistently good food and great ambience whether indoors or out, at least when it's not crowded.
The Swamp (-) indicators: Service might be slow, but if you have a game of Bananagrams, who cares!?
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