Lotawata Creek

Lotawata Creek
311 Salem Place
Fairview Heights, IL

We had heard great things about this place.  Coworkers and friends talked about how great it was.  We decided to give it a try on a Friday night.

We arrived at 6:30 at the beginning of the dinner rush. The exterior of the building looks like a metal strip mall. There were people waiting and the lot was full. We went inside to check on the wait and the very first thing we noticed is that, even though it was bright and sunny outside, the restaurant was VERY, VERY dark and dim. The next thing we noticed were electronic poker and gambling machines just inside the doorway.  😦

We gave our name to the hostess and got our table pager. There was no place to sit and the noise level was very high.  We asked the hostess if there was a bar area to wait and she sort of gestured to some bar height tables right behind her.  We sat at the only open table top, which happened to be outside the kitchens. We ordered drinks and I went to the restroom.

The restroom was unbelievably filthy.  It was shabby, but more than just shabby, it clearly had not been really cleaned in a while.  The floor had that slippery, greasy feeling that tile gets when it isn’t washed right. The sink and counters had standing water and the stalls were so gross I decided to hold it and just washed my hands.

On the way, back , I noticed that all of the kitch hanging from the walls and ceiling were covered in greasy dust.   As we were sitting there, just outside the kitchen with a really unfortunate view INTO the kitchen (which was unbelievably gross- the floors were covered in water, grease, food, and everything was really dirty)….. DRIP on my arm. I look up, and the air conditioning ventilation was dripping condensation off of the pipes right OVER THE DOOR THE FOOD COMES OUT OF.  That would be strike 3.

We were BOTH pretty much ready to walk right then and there. Then the drinks arrived.  We felt a little trapped. My husband ordered a craft beer (very poor selection of those, I might add) in the bottle which was dumped on the table with my drink as the waitress sped off.  No glass for his beer. Great big fat official no-no.  I picked up my glass an immediately set it down. It was dirty to the touch.

We grabbed our waitress as she came by and asked her for a glass for his beer. She got huffy and said “You didn’t ASK for one.” I was very taken aback. My husband, who deals with rude far better than I do, said “I’m asking for one now.” With an amazing amount of calm.  She came back a second later and dumped it on the table with the same disregard as the drinks in the first place.

As far as I was concerned, that was strike 5, game over. Then we looked at the glass. FILTHY. We grabbed a different waitress, showed her the glass and asked for a clean one. She came back almost 10 minutes later with another clearly filthy glass and said “it just looks dirty, that’s how they look, but it’s clean.”  She actually made an effort and even though it was still a dirty glass, she tried.

We had just decided to leave when the pager went off.  With a big sigh, we decided to go ahead and give it a try because, how bad could it be? Little did we know. In front of the new waitress, I took a napkin and wiped the glass with it.  Two things happened: A clean patch appeared on the glass and the napkin developed a streak of smut. She was genuinely grossed out, offered to get us the manager and went to hand wash our glasses.  While we were waiting for the manager, we assessed the dining room. Dirty. Dirty, worn, dated and the tables were actually worn through the finish in many places. We thought it was decorative until we touched it. It was actually wear. The utensils were filthy, the glasses were filthy…  ug.

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The manager came over and was pretty much a total ass; had an excuse for everything. Insisted that some kid must have trashed the restroom (that was long term grime) there was a $20k dish washer in the back (when I showed him the utensils and wiped a glass in front of him he grudgingly conceded that a jet “might” be clogged; the air conditioner sweats when it’s hot (you can wrap those, asshole).  Then he said he would take my drink off the tab. I didn’t ask for that and it was pretty clear he thought we were trying to get something for free. No. Not even close.

Our waitress was great!  She hand washed our glasses and silverware. She was very nice and apologetic not just for the dirtiness, but for the manager’s attitude.  She was, in fact, so nice that we decided to stay through to the end. We ordered, and she brought us delightful bread with a FANTASTIC AWESOME cinnamon honey butter. It was really very delightful.  The bread was great, the honey butter had a little too cinnamon for my husband, but he still thought it was very good.

Our salads arrived and mine was pleasantly surprising. I ordered Caesar, and it was rather good. No big chunks of Romaine ribs. I hate that, and its just plain lazy!  The dressing was clearly straight out of a bottle, but could have been so mich worse.

My husband’s summer salad… not so much.  The tomatoes were on the edge of rot; transparent, squishy, and were clearly bad.  He took a bite or two, frowned, and just pushed it to the side. My salad was fine until I went to turn the bowl. The second my fingers went under the lip of the bowl to turn it…..

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OH HELL NO! The bowl had the same disgusting grime that everything else did and when I looked at the underside, there were HUGE chunks of food stuck to it.

Done.  I was in the middle of a drink when my husband pointed at his ice and the black chunk frozen in it. Then we saw the chunks of algae floating in his water. Then in my water.  Lovely.

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(Kinda looks like some kind of alien or something…….)

At this point we were of the opinion that we were being punked. There was NO WAY that a restaurant could have so many health code violations and not get shut down.

The waitress arrived with our food and we just silently showed her the algae and black chunks floating in the ice.

She looked like SHE was going to barf. She apologized profusely and said she was going to tell the owner (that was the first real insight as to how this was happening- shitty manager).  She brought us tap water, in hand washed glasses and apologized profusely.

First impressions of our meal: dishes dirty, steaks full of fat and covered in dirty grill crunchies. My broccoli was in a filthy rattan, one bite, tasted like it was spoiled. Not touching the potatoes; I could have drank a bottle of cooking oil and the effect would have been about the same.  My husband’s baked potato looked like it was a microwaved frozen potato. Both of our steaks were utter crap. He got a T-bone that was so far from medium that it couldn’t see it with binoculars. It was overcooked, greasy, and the seasoning was like a burned crumble on it. I ordered a 10 ounce sirloin and it had at LEAST 2 ounces of easily trimmable fat on the outside of it.

After I trimmed it off, I tried a bite.  Imagine, if you will, taking an entire can of Crisco, putting it into a cast iron skillet with an entire bottle of Lowery’s seasoned salt and cook it until it turns into a brittle. A greasy brittle that left a film in your mouth; that was pretty much what it tasted like. At the START of the dinner rush. That means they were cooking on a dirty grill.  My husband took a bite. Frowned. Drank his beer. Frowned. Threw his napkin on the table.

Not even the bread and butter could get that flavor out of our mouths.  Annnnnnnnnndddd we were done.   Paid the check, told the waitress that she had been the shining star in our abysmal experience and left.

TASTE. STILL. IN. MOUTH. We went to get ice cream.  Couldn’t enjoy the ice cream.  NOTHING would get the flavor out of our mouths. I’m not kidding; it was with us the next morning; a greasy, burned, gross feeling that bread, beer, ice cream and tooth paste couldn’t cut.

We now refer to it as Lotawata Crap and have been debating as to whether or not it would do any good to report them to the health department.

Long and the short of it; DON’T GO!!!

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. I’m in no danger of visiting this establishment, but I want to comment just to say that I’m SOOO glad you didn’t blame the server! Well, the second one, any way 🙂 Sounds like one health code violation after another, I have such sympathy for anyone who works there and can still care – when it seems no one else does. Don’t suppose you know a better place that’s hiring that could take this woman away from her nightmare?

    1. She was a great waitress, so I’m sure she would have no problem finding another job. I’m hoping she uses it as ammunition against the manager with the owner. I got the impression it was the manager that was the problem.

      1. Sure sounded like it. I know it’s tough out there. You’d think if she’s that good she’d get out asap! Does sound terrible.

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