One thing is for sure, Turner and Bragg restaurant owners Dan Turner and Jim Bragg — veterans, respectively, of Turner's at The Hollows Golf Club and T.G.I. Friday's — have a penchant for friendly, down-home atmosphere and generous, nicely priced portions.
Customers at their nine-month-old Ashland establishment are welcomed warmly and offered affordable meals. But timely service and quality of fare at this laundry building-turned-eatery are more hit-and-miss, and those shortcomings can add up to slow, shaky dining experiences.
Turner and Bragg's dining room is an open, no-frills space with bare tables, metal-frame chairs and sports flickering on the tube. Unadorned plate-glass windows provide open views of passing traffic, the adjacent police station and a smattering of al fresco tables.
The menu is all about simple, familiar fare and, not surprisingly, it is with some of these ubiquitous classics that the kitchen managed its best stuff. Lack of advertised spice, for example, didn't keep the crispy, ultra-juicy mess of chicken wings from hitting the spot. No blue cheese or ranch dressing was needed, just a mess of napkins and maybe a cold brew or two from the basic-but-functional bar.
Similarly, sandwich lovers aren't likely to be disappointed by either the thick, juicy burger or the golden-brown, gooey-centered grilled cheese. Lovers of French fries will appreciate the abundance and appealing crunch of Turner and Bragg's version.
For dessert, chocolate silk pie, while nothing extraordinary, was perfectly serviceable. Two forks may be necessary to conquer its sizeable layers of crumbly crust, dark chocolate, whipped cream and chocolate curls.
Not nearly as appealing, though, was an order of pork barbecue. That's surprising, given that one might expect this kind of fare to be right up their proverbial culinary alley. While the falling-off-the-bun mound of meat was plentiful and tender, that was about all it had going for it. The meat lacked any appreciable savory flavors, be they vinegar, smoke, caramelized bits of goodness or piquant seasonings. The side cup of sauce offered a glimmer of hope, but ultimately was too sweet and tomatoey to either receive high marks or rescue the insipid shreds of meat. The coleslaw, swimming in an excessively sweet, creamy dressing, remained nearly untouched.
A pair of entrées fared no better. At $7.99 for lunch, the loaded-down meatloaf offered lots to eat for little money. But while the loaf itself was juicy and satisfying, the remaining elements of the dish — green beans, mashed potatoes and salty brown gravy — all tasted rather average.
The biggest disappointment, though, came in the form of a dinner special: broiled scallops. After only a handful of bites and a few ammonia-like wafts, it became apparent that these briny sea morsels were less than fresh.
Despite having left the better part uneaten and informing the server, no effort was made to either replace the scallops, reduce the price or refund the dish. Thankfully, the ricotta-and-onion-topped Hanover tomato pie and roasted potato medley ordered alongside were adequate to stave off at least some of my hunger.
Service, though seemingly well-intended, was uneven. Things were fine during a slow lunch, but not so much during a moderately busy dinner rush. Despite the place being only half-full, drinks and orders took longer than they should (even by laid-back, country-café standards), and tables sat dirty for too long as the staff scrambled to keep up. An on-the-house glass of wine was offered to make up for the snail's-pace experience, but fixing the scallop debacle would have been even more appreciated.
Perhaps under the veteran guidance of its owners, matters will improve at Turner and Bragg. Good prices, healthy portions and amiable staff members are something to build on. In the meantime, however, food quality and service are too inconsistent for me to recommend a visit.
504 England St., Ashland, 752-2626 Prices: Appetizers, soups and salads $3 to $15; sandwiches $6 to $11; entrées $8 to $25; children's menu $5 to $6; dessert $5. Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.