By Thomas C. Pavlik
What with many former downtown businesses relocating elsewhere, downtown dining options have diminished as well. As a result, I’m generally on the lookout for anything new that pops up. I must have been asleep at the switch, however, as I completely missed that Replay Lounge is more than just a bar – it’s also a restaurant. I hope that the word gets out and that Replay stays open for lunch throughout the week.
The first thing I noticed when I walked in was that seating at the bar consists solely of swings. Yup – swings like we used to have fun with on our childhood playgrounds. Although there’s a sign warning that patrons use them at their own risk, I would think the people-watching potential is pretty great later in the evening when patrons have had a few belts – especially one of the many frozen concoctions swirling around behind the bar. In any event, the structure does look solid, and it certainly is unique.
Although there is some seating that seems more appropriate for a club (think bottle service), there are several areas that contain more traditional tables and chairs. I liked the seating near the front window – it’s always nice to see the world walk on by.
I visited twice, both times later in the lunch hour as a solo diner. On my first visit I wasn’t sure if Replay actually served food, but the incredibly pleasant bartender quickly set me straight, got me set up with a menu, and told me to sit wherever I wanted. Unfortunately, the crowd was a bit sparse both trips, although it was doing a pretty good takeout business both times.
Replay advertises that it offers Cajun food, but there’s plenty on the menu to satisfy pretty much anyone. Although I didn’t try it, I was particularly curious about the deep-fried deviled eggs, which are offered as a starter ($8). These babies are breaded and topped with shrimp and teriyaki. Fried asparagus and fried pickles (both $7) also caught my eye.
On a side note, even though many of Replay’s menu items are deep-fried, the smell is not noticeable, and I arrived back at my office without that aroma having penetrated my clothes – which I’m sure the rest of my office appreciated.
Replay offers a handful of signature items such as stuffed salmon (grilled salmon stuffed with cream cheese, spinach, and sundried tomatoes served with a creamy Cajun sauce, with two sides, $23.50), chicken and waffles ($12.50) and Cajun chicken pasta ($16.50). There are several salads available (each $6.50, $9 with chicken) and a variety of burgers and sandwiches ($8.99 – $12.50). And then, of course, there are wings (tons of options) as well as fried shrimp, fish and chicken.
Replay also has a separate small plate menu with items priced between $3 and $6.50. Philly cheese sliders and the street tacos both looked promising.
On my first visit I opted for the giardiniera burger ($12.50) and fries. Cheese is an option, and it came with onions and pickles in addition to the giardiniera. This burger was a rock star. It was well-seasoned, had a nice crust but was still juicy, and was well-sized. I appreciated that the bun had been hit with some butter and browned on the flat top. The giardiniera provided a nice hit of acid that played well against the beef.
There was enough of it to make a strong appearance, but not enough to overpower or make the burger a mess to eat. It reminded me of one of my favorite burgers in South Bend that my wife and I used to love when we were first dating in law school. The fries had clearly just come out of the fryer, and they were also well-seasoned with what appeared to be sea salt flakes. I really appreciated that the kitchen wasn’t afraid to aggressively season the dish.
On my second visit I went with the fried fish and chicken combo ($12.50). It comes with fries, and you have a choice of walleye or catfish. I went with the catfish, which came out nice and flaky. Both it and the chicken had flavorful crusts that were deeply browned but not burned. Together with whatever seasoning Replay uses, it created a nice mix of complex flavors that both contrasted and complimented the fish and chicken.
Replay has got something good going on here, and I’d encourage everyone to give it a shot – as I’d like to see it stick around for lunch service. I doubt you’ll be disappointed.
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