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  • The Tavern Salad with salmon at Don Hall's Triangle Park.

  • Oreo Truffles at Don Hall's Triangle Park. at left is the interior.

  • Bourbon-glazed wings at Don Hall's Triangle Park.

  • Tortilla-crusted tilapia with Red Hook beer battered shrimp and a crab cake at Don Hall's Triangle Park.

  • Thai Chili wings at Don Hall's Triangle Park.

  • Oscar Filet Mignon at Don Hall's Triangle Park.

  • Applejack Pork Chops at Don Hall's Triangle Park.

  • Cajun shrimp appetizer with rice pilaf at Don Hall's Triangle Park.

  • Spinach-artichoke dip at Don Hall's Triangle Park.

  • Don Hall's Triangle Park.

Sunday, February 18, 2018 1:00 am

Salad, truffles save day at Don Hall's eatery

RYAN DUVALL | The Journal Gazette

Triangle Park

**

Out of a possible five

$$

Finding the beauty in a storm isn't always easy.

With seemingly everything going wrong around me at Don Hall's Triangle Park, it was a salad that calmed the storm for me, a salad that filled my unrest and made me forget all the bad things.

The Tavern Salad was a meal. It wasn't something a person on a diet would order out of necessity while looking lustfully at the steaks, chops and other more hearty offerings.

Its core was rather simple with a spring mix, mandarin oranges, blue cheese and sliced almonds, but it can be topped with steak, salmon or chicken, and the salmon I chose was the perfect addition. It was perfectly cooked and paired well with the sweet and tasty honey-lemon dressing.

The key to making this salad so meal-worthy was the addition of crispy potato wedges surrounding the bowl.

Having fries with a salad seems wrong, but it was oh so right.

The storm was created by what I can only assume was a shortage of bodies in the kitchen.

There were plenty of servers, and they were all doing their best to calm the masses, but the wait for food was excruciating, and it was pretty clear some of that food was made in a rush.

Three steaks among the party at my table arrived badly undercooked, two of which had to be sent back because they were simply raw.

My filet Oscar was rare, though I asked for it medium-rare, but I like a rare steak so I kept it. And I was glad I did, because it was delicious.

The 8-ounce filet mignon was seasoned perfectly and would have been a prize on its own.

But when topped with sweet, tender shredded crab meat and a few stalks of asparagus, then drizzled with Hollandaise sauce, it was even better.

There was just enough sauce to add color to the dish and flavor it just a little without overpowering the crab.

The asparagus was overcooked and mushy, but the dish was still worth having again.

I would also go back for the tortilla-crusted tilapia, which, like the Oscar filet, was a nightly feature that also included a crab cake and five Redhook beer-battered shrimp.

The fish was worthy of permanent menu status as its super crisp breading perfectly encased the delicate fish inside.

The shrimp and crab cake were acceptable, so it made for a nice meal.

The inconsistency from the kitchen on that stormy night was most noticeable on the applejack pork chops.

The two 7-ounce boneless cuts looked beautiful with their hatched grill marks, and one of them was perfectly juicy and tender with a nice zesty seasoning.

The other, though still nicely seasoned, was tough and dry, and no amount of the soft, sweet spiced baked apples I put on it could save it.

That same night, I also received a cup of clam chowder that seemed as if it had sat in a warmer too long because it was pasty and gritty instead of smooth and creamy. The chicken noodle I replaced it with was better, even though its noodles and vegetables had cooked away to mush.

On a different visit, the stuffed pepper soup was problematic.

For starters, it was served boiling hot, and I could not touch it until well into my main course. Once I did, I stopped eating after one bite and stuck with my main course because it was boring and bland.

My spinach-artichoke dip was also not right. Though it had plenty of the name ingredients, it was so runny that it could have doubled as a soup. Its flavor was off, too, and sort of reminded me of a bad casserole made from a can of condensed soup.

When it came to appetizers, the choices were mundane.

Triangle Park needs a modern upgrade, because besides that dip, the other choices could have been on the menu 30 years ago – mushrooms, bacon-wrapped shrimp, garlic-cheese bread and the like.

The sweet brown house bread was actually the best starter, but the Cajun blackened shrimp and the wings were respectable. The shrimp were nicely browned with just a little spice so they would suit any palate. They were, however, served over rice pilaf with a sprinkle of parsley and a lemon wedge, circa 1982.

My chicken wings were bigger and meatier than the ones most sports bars trot out, and they were fried until nice and crisp.

I loved the Thai chili sauce and bourbon glaze I had on them. The Thai was sticky and sweet and not quite spicy enough for me, but still delicious. The bourbon was similar to barbecue, but it had a pronounced bourbon essence.

Another great find that eased the pain of the stormy night was a dessert that is unique to Triangle Park.

You can have Hall's wonderful German chocolate cake and many other delectable desserts at any of the chain's spots, but the Oreo truffles are worth choosing Triangle Park for. They were created by the chef during one of the “Savor Fort Wayne” promotions and stuck.

They, too, were simple but also sublime. Chocolate cream cheese is formed into balls, rolled in crushed cookies and served with chocolate and caramel sauce and whipped cream. There was a touch of salt in them that made them addictively yummy, and you will likely be fighting your family over the four in each serving.

I don't know that I will be fighting to get back to Triangle Park, however.

Though my server was excellent on the night the kitchen struggled, during another visit I had a server who seemed lost. Not only did she lack basic menu knowledge, she brought me the wrong soup once and disappeared at the end of my meal so I never had the chance to order dessert.

The looks of the place were also lacking. It has that old barn feel with old photos and antiques.

Though that was once all the rage when Cracker Barrel and Applebee's began their rise, it now just comes off as old and dated.

So it appears it's not only that appetizer menu that needs to be updated.

Restaurant: Don Hall's Triangle Park

Address: 3010 Trier Road

Phone: 482-4342

Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday

Cuisine: American

Handicapped accessible: Yes

Alcohol: Full bar

Credit cards: Yes

Kid-friendly: Yes

Menu: Cajun shrimp ($8), spinach-artichoke dip ($6 small; $8 large), wings ($8), filet ($28), Tavern salad ($11.50), pork chops ($15.50), tilapia ($17), soup ($3.50 cup; $5 bowl), Oreo Truffles ($5)

Rating breakdown: Food: * 1/2 (3-star maximum); atmosphere: 1/2 (1 maximum), service: 0 (1 maximum)

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.