Rather than thriving as a little neighborhood restaurant, Ozbog's tries to be everything to everyone.

Enter Ozbog's.

Ozbog's is one of a great number of restaurants in this city that serve us the lowest common denominator. They continue to do so because we let them. Nobody should expect a little neighborhood restaurant to serve haute cuisine, but shouldn't we be able to expect fresh products and full flavors? Shouldn't we demand them?

On two occasions I was served stale tortilla chips with an aqueous spinach and artichoke dip ($6.50). I suspect that the dip came from a bag or plastic tub and was heated in a microwave. The sauteed zucchini and squash that accompanied the Ozbog's Chicken ($11) was dried-up and wrinkled. The garlic mashed potatoes tasted as if the garlic had sprouted. They were sour and acrid. The mushrooms in the penne a la vodka ($13), one of their specialties, looked as if they had come from a can and chewed like a cud. The sauce was little more than marinara, no bite or zing. The pork on the Ozbog sandwich ($6.50) was dry and rubbery.

Nothing I ate during my visits had any aura about it suggesting that it was made with care or pride. It all seemed just as prefabricated and bland as the strip mall in which it was served. There are two reasons that restaurants end up serving this kind of fare: trying too hard or trying too little. With Ozbog's, it's the former. It seems as if they're trying to be everything to everyone. But as the saying goes, a jack-of-all-trades is master of none.

The dinner menu is mishmashed and tangential, offering everything from nachos and quesadillas to burgers and wraps to lobster-stuffed ravioli and chicken saltimbocca. There are nearly as many choices on the menu as there are seats in the dining room. Generally, offering this type of variety forces a restaurant to use a lot of prepackaged food. The trade-off is that the food doesn't have any pizazz.

It's not all their fault though. They could trim down their menu and focus on better examples of fewer offerings. But we encourage them with our tacit approval to keep up this bland menagerie. There are plenty of places like Ozbog's, and we keep eating their food. It seems that we've been conditioned to take the attitude that it's good enough to be passable. Just don't give us food poisoning and we'll be back next week to go through the motions again. Our fibs about how fine things are incriminate us, just as their chewy tortillas do them.

I don't mean to characterize Ozbog's as doing something evil and underhanded. It's not. It's doing what we allow it to do, which is the minimum. It takes two to tango, and it seems to me as if everyone is dancing on leftover feet.

The defensive person would say, "Well, just don't go back!" or suggest that I'm exercising absurdly high standards. But I want to go back. I want to be able to meet friends at a little place, eat some good food and not spend an arm and a leg. Ozbog's could be that type of place. Is that too much to ask? S

Ozbog's Neighborhood Grill ($$)

3456 Lauderdale Drive


Hours: Monday through Friday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Saturday 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.


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