The genius of Bobby McGee's is that this chain's operators know they're in a culinary time warp. So they do everything they can to direct your attention away from the food. That's why the young staff wanders about in costume: Cleopatra, Davy Crockett on roller skates, Skully the Pirate, Elvis and Little Bo Peep. It also accounts for the themed dining rooms: one with Hollywood photos and posters, another made up like a ship, a hunting lodge and livery stable. You get lots of visual style, but not much substance on the plate. The architectural heart of the restaurant is the salad bar, which the rooms all overlook. After a couple of visits, I was ready to overlook it, too. Why do people rave about this salad bar? True, it looks great--large, colorful, well-tended--but it's more a feast for the eye than the palate. It's an apt metaphor for the whole Bobby McGee's experience. The usual salad-bar greenery and veggie suspects line one side of the table. The other side offers forgettable delights like "krab," marinated mushrooms, cheese cubes, mayo-lined pastas and pea with bacon salad. The Chinese-noodle salad tasted so "off," I told the manager it was spoiled. But apparently not: When I came back later in the week for another visit, the taste hadn't changed. Nothing special about the salad bar's soups, either. Clam chowder was all creamy texture, no whiff of the sea. The chicken rice could have come from a can. Even more than Feeney's, Bobby McGee's struck me as overpriced, coming up short in quantity and quality. The filet mignon and shrimp scampi combo featured a small amount of unexceptional meat, neither particularly juicy nor tender. The three measly shrimp with it rested in a caper-flecked, gelatinous butter sauce that couldn't have been rescued if it had been served by a waitress dressed as Lady Godiva. The regular-cut prime rib is eight ounces, but there weren't more than four ounces of edible meat in our serving. That's because this slab came dripping with fat and gristle. You needed the carving skill of a surgeon to liberate the beef. Nor was our mood improved by the massive, unpleasant-looking hunks of broccoli and cauliflower coated with a sauce management has the temerity to call "hollandaise."

London broil teriyaki suffered from a similar handicap. The top sirloin came nicely grilled to a charred edge, but my canines were no match for about a third of it.

The fresh-fish offering hooks you right in the wallet. I certainly didn't get 15 bucks' worth of pleasure from a smallish piece of charbroiled halibut and a scoop of heavily salted rice. Only one platter, I felt, gave us our money's worth. That was the ample pork ribs and chicken combo. The baby backs here were better than a lot of rib joints' models. This half rack showed up moist and meaty, grilled to a pleasing, crispy edge. The roasted chicken, half a bird, came punched up with lots of garlic. Why couldn't everything at Bobby McGee's have been this filling and this tasty? The restaurant contracts out for its desserts. Save your money and calories. You'll forget about sweets like the Snickers bar cheesecake and chocolate decadence cake the moment you leave. Try to resist, too, the blandishments of the promo card announcing the Brownie monster. It's just another gloopy-gloppy mess of ho-hum brownie, ice cream and hot fudge sauce. Bobby McGee's goes out of its way to be a fun, family-friendly place. Kids seem to love it, including my own. But they're not picking up the tab. To my mind, Davy Crockett on roller skates doesn't compensate for lackluster meals that can set a family of four back $75.

Location Info



6314 N. 12th St.
Phoenix, AZ 85015

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Central Phoenix

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