Loud & Proud

We returned later that week for main courses and the normal "SRO Zoo" Elroy's Experience. In the dining room, a brutal rectangle filled to the last chair, the noise level was unbearable despite sound-absorbing drapes, rugs, and tablecloths. Groups of 10 or 12 diners were trying to outshout each other as they chomped down burgers and glugged martinis, margaritas, beers, or wine flights.

The red wine flight proved worth glugging, with four substantial tastes for $12, though not all the tastes were great. The evening's best sip was a '95 Sebastiani Old Vine zinfandel (normally $28, or $12 on wholesale nights).

Following the crowd, we tried the Elroy's Burger Deluxe ($11) with applewood-smoked bacon and Bellwether Farms cheese. Served on a Dutch crunch roll, the meat's cooked medium-well unless otherwise requested, accompanied by tamarind ketchup (tasting like orange juice and onions) and rather soggy, greasy herbed french fries. The bacon's better than the beef. A molasses-cured ranch pork chop ($19) was also disappointing -- under the crisp coating and unexceptional deglaze sauce, the meat was tough and bland, and the accompanying smoothly mashed potatoes were ordinary.

The best dish had rich-flavored "fire-roasted citrus-braised lamb shanks" ($17), the meat dripping from the bone, happily flavoring the pearl couscous that sopped up the juices and left a hint of spice in the aftertaste. For desserts ($6 each), we tried a French pear upside-down cake with champagne zabaglione, all terribly sweet, and an enjoyable warm Scharffen Berger chocolate souffle cake with raspberry zinfandel ice cream, decorated with chocolate that had been poured over bubble wrap to harden into food-art.

In contrast to the Thursday mob-scene (which was everything I'd expected and feared), on Sunday and Monday nights, Elroy's is safe for tender-eared wine-bibbers. The only problem is that you can't take the wholesale-price wines home, but must drink them on-site. And while the dishes that accompany the bottles are edible enough, very few are equal to a good wine. At other restaurants, you can BYOB. At Elroy's, I wish I could bring my own food -- I'd gladly pay the corkage.

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