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The Deck
*** 1/2
Out of a possible five
$$

The Deck boasts mix of Hall’s staples, unique finds

It took me long enough, but more than a decade since it opened, I finally found my way to The Deck.

I wish I had gone sooner.

The Hall’s-owned patio bar/restaurant along the St. Marys River behind the Old Gas House on Superior Street is a jewel.

Sitting there, peering through the pines with a cold Mason jar of beer in my hand and watching the river roll by was fantastic. The view from The Deck lets you forget for a moment that you are just a couple of blocks away from downtown Fort Wayne.

The Deck is technically part of the Gas House as all of the food is prepared in its kitchen. There is a bar at the deck and the menu is streamlined. Though some things on it are distinct Hall’s specialties, it also features items you cannot get elsewhere.

The first thing I tried was unique to The Deck and was worthy of being on any bar menu. The Tots Deluxe featured a basket of crispy tater tots just like you loved as a kid topped with macaroni and cheese, zesty andouille sausage and green onions. Hall’s makes great mac and cheese – always creamy and loaded with cheddar – and, though I feared this appetizer would be too starchy, I just used a little hot sauce to break it up and was satisfied.

The bread on the Grilled Cheese and Tomato and the Roasted Chicken Club sandwiches was as perfect as it gets. The exterior of the sliced French bread had a browned, crispy Parmesan cheese crust. With even more cheese – creamy American – and ripe, sweet sliced tomatoes inside, the grilled cheese was a thing of beauty.

The club had tender, moist, nicely seasoned chicken breast meat inside along with garlic mayo. It, too, was enjoyable with one drawback – the meat was cold, and I didn’t expect cold meat on a toasted sandwich.

There was no drawback with the Po Boy. This big sandwich had a huge fried cod fillet that was crisp and clean outside, and flaky, delicate and flavorful inside.

The Uptown Buster was an ingenious new spin on an old Hall’s classic – the twin-pattied, triple-bunned, tartar-sauce smeared Buster Burger.

The Uptown replaces the middle bun with bacon and adds extra cheese. It was like they invented it for me. The two patties and the bacon melded together into a big hunk of meat and the extra cheese and tartar sauce rounded the whole thing out into a sloppy, scrumptious, naughty work of food art. Sorry classic Buster, this new Buster rules.

The Filet Mignon Sliders needed to be less naughty. They needed less fiery “bleu-red chili mayonnaise” and thicker slices of meat.

The Pear Salad also left me wanting more. It had all the makings of a light, refreshing dish – goat cheese, crumbled bacon, walnuts and black currant vinaigrette over a nice mix of greens. The dressing was great, the pear was perfectly grilled and there was plenty of bacon, but they were stingy with the goat cheese – the best part – and the walnuts were bland. Candied nuts would have been better.

The Deck’s biggest need, however, was a better attitude.

Given it is usually so busy, the staff will not seat you until every member of your party is present. On a slow weeknight with nary a line and plenty of open tables, I was still forced to stand around and wait for my guests.

I was also shocked that several staff members were gathered around the host station chatting and smoking cigarettes right where I was waiting. Smoking is allowed on the deck since it is outdoors, but I expected more professionalism from a Hall’s restaurant.

The staff also seemed too laid back. They do not wear uniforms or name tags, and it is hard to know who the employees are if you need something.

I did find a way around the seating Gestapo. I said I wanted to order an appetizer for my party right away and that apparently made me worthy enough to have one of the empty tables.

Restaurant: The Deck at the Gas House

Address: 305 E. Superior St.

Phone: 426-3411

Hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday

Cuisine: American

Handicapped accessible: Yes

Alcohol: Full bar

Smoking status: Smoking

Credit cards: Yes

Kid-friendly: Yes

Menu: Tots deluxe ($7.50), sliders ($9), pear salad ($8), grilled cheese ($7.50), chicken club ($8), Po Boy ($8.50), Uptown Buster ($9)

Rating breakdown: Food: ** (3-star maximum); atmosphere: * (1 maximum), service: 1/2 (1 maximum)

Note: Restaurants are categorized by price range: $ (less than $20 for three-course meal), $$ ($20-$29); $$$ ($30-$39), $$$$ ($40-$49), $$$$$ ($50 and up).

Ryan DuVall is a restaurant critic for The Journal Gazette. This review is based on two unannounced visits. The Journal Gazette pays for all meals. Email him at rduvall@jg.net; call at 461-8130. DuVall’s past reviews can be found at www.journalgazette.net. You can follow him on Twitter @DiningOutDuVall.

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