Mad. When one looks at the dictionary definitions of "Mad", the words Harebrained, Uncontrollably Foolish, Mentally Disturbed are all possibilities. I must have been a little mad that day to have suggested dining at The Mad Duck.
So let's start the review off with some basics about The Mad Duck:
Plastic utensils, plastic trays (I'm sure they're high quality plastic), no coasters for drinks, no greeting either upon arrival or departure (problematic when there is no host station at the front door, only awkward empty space and a distracted bartender who eventually greeted us when we sat down at an available table), no explanation or menu indicators that sides do not accompany the main dishes (such as fries or onion rings), no additional offer of condiments such as ketchup, mustard, or mayo with our onion rings (just in case I may not care for the onion ring sauce provided, I shouldn't have to ask), and no break in between our appetizer and main course arrival. The room temperature was cold enough for me to keep my jacket on. On the upside, our beers were served in glass pints, not red plastic cups used at fraternity parties and tailgates and all of the flat screen TVs were working.
We ordered deviled eggs to start (and at this point no utensils or napkins on the table) Simple and classic, The Mad Duck version were classically seasoned, however the eggs were topped with tiny pieces of bacon, real tiny pieces, that tasted like over cooked bacon crumbs rather than a garnish that was additive. Remove the bacon and the deviled eggs were good, not earth-shatteringly good, but certainly good.
As for main courses, I ordered the LuLu burger while my colleague ordered the spicy shrimp baguette. The baguette's center was hollowed out and shrimp was stuffed in the open core of the bread. No incisions to the sides or the top, just a hollowed out bread core. The shrimp were seasoned with a very heavy hand of black pepper and accompanied by a sauce labeled as a brown butter. The resulting shrimp and loose sauce were then shoveled into the baguette's visually unappealing cavernous hole, creating a dirt-brown hole filled with pepper shrimp. The flavors and textures were equally unappealing to my guest, with the black pepper overwhelming the flavor of the shrimp. The sauce consistency was that of near water rather than a constructed brown butter sauce, thus secreting the brown liquid into a pool underneath the bread, turning it soggy and wet. This was labeled as a Mad Duck specialty.
My LuLu burger was cooked as requested medium-rare, a bonus. The burger was good, each individual element was fine, but like the day before at Pismo's and their Ahi Tower, flavorful yet uninspired, bordering on simple crude assembly of ingredients placed in a plastic tray lined with wax paper...wait, that's exactly what it was.
When I think of hand made onion rings, I think of my early childhood and those formative years in the kitchen under the watchful eye of my mother. Armed with safety scissors, I would run to the freezer to pull out a plastic bag filled with onion rings, industrially crafted to perfection. Each perfectly golden onion ring was thinly sliced, slightly frost-bitten, looked suspiciously similar to the other onion rings in the pile with a minimal amount of variation in color or texture. My Dad told me each onion ring was ISO compliant, whatever that meant. With my juvenile hand, I would cut the plastic bag with care and reverence just prior to my mother dropping them in the hot oil. 100% hand made. I cut the plastic bag by hand and my mother placed each ring by hand into the hot oil. Ah, the fond memories of childhood.
We ordered a side of hand-made onion rings at The Mad Duck since we were not aware that neither fries nor rings came with our sandwich or burger. We were presented with our hand-made onion rings within 3 minutes after we ordered them. I love hand-made onion rings.
For this level of attention and food quality, I'd rather go back to a food stand at the bus station in Arequipa, Peru. For a more local example, there's no great expectations at Dog House Grille or grandiose statements that lead you to believe you're going to be ordering anything but inexpensive human fuel in a very casual environment and as a reminder, I like Dog House Grille.
If you really want food served in a plastic tray lined with wax paper, wait for the Big Fresno Fair and buy a corndog or a soft taco...And you don't have to ask for condiments at the Fair.