A couple nights ago, I went to a restaurant in St. Louis—called Juniper for those curious—that had hands down the best fried chicken I’d ever tasted. Now, as someone from Nashville, laying claim to the best fried chicken outside of Tennessee, much less outside the South, is a bit like saying that Cincinnati’s chili can’t hold a candle to the stuff in New York. It just doesn’t happen, but it did.
Tonight, I ate the leftover chicken I had brought home, which is always a bit of an adventure because chicken just doesn’t keep well. And yet, the first bite brought back all of those happy memories; the second reminded me that this was leftovers; and three through the finish showed I didn’t care.
If you haven’t seen where this is going yet, my chicken experience in part resembled the Reds game tonight. We didn’t know if the Reds would be as good today as they were a day before—it has been four years since back to back beatdowns after all:
But, the reheated Reds were just as good as the original serving, leaving each paying customer full, satisfied, and hopefully more room for thirds tomorrow.
Completely renovating their menu from my last trip to the Reds vs. Giants eatery five years ago, the chefs have migrated toward a leaner, more dynamic taste. From the very first appetizer—a Billy Hamilton triple drizzled with an Adam Duvall upper deck moonshot—the chefs were peppering the taste buds. Using the complementing flavors of Hamilton and the aged red Amir Garrett wine throughout the meal, the flavor kept a dull heat on the tongue, continually driving home run after run. The only minor complaint against the tasting menu would be the second appetizer—a bit of walk saturated, Patrick Kivlehan error-marred effort. The dish was so bad, it prompted my dining partner Chris Welch to say “Can anyone around here play this game?”
But there many opportunities for atonement. The main course, a full turn around the batting order with complementing Kivlehan and Eugenio Suarez home runs as sides, was the star of the dish. Finally for dessert a pair of pinch hit RBIs by Arismendy Alcantara and Scooter Gennett, washed down with a 3.0 inning, no-hit Robert Stephenson nightcap.
Highlights of the night:
Amir Garrett dominated with 6.0 innings of two run baseball. The four walks were less than ideal and two of them directly led to runs, but overall it was a spectacular night for the young lefty.
Billy Hamilton had a day of all days, hitting for three quarters of the cycle before the third inning was even up. Hamilton also made a routinely (for him anyways) incredible catch in the second inning to prevent more damage than had already been done. It’s Billy’s world and we’re all just living in it.
Adam Duvall’s moonshot in the first inning elicited an audible gasp from me, causing the girl walking by where I was sitting to turn and look. Tell me you could hit a ball that far. You can’t, you’re lying.
Eugenio Suarez also got in on the fun after the game was well out of reach, putting the Reds up 11-2 with a solo shot of his own. Suarez is on a bit of a streak of late, hitting .333 (6 for 18) with two home runs and eight RBIs in the last four games.
Patrick Kivlehan had a rough go of it in the second inning, making one nightmarish error and dropping another ball at the wall, but he wound up putting together probably the best hitting performance of the night. Kivlehan went 4 for 5, launching a solo shot and scoring two runs of his own.
Robert Stephenson looks far more comfortable at the back of the pen now then he did at the beginning of the season, and put together three solid innings of no-hit ball to show for it. Bob Steve even got his turn at the plate, but took a swinging strikeout on a full count.
I feel like I’ve almost mentioned everyone in this highlights section, but I’d be remiss if I left out Zack Cozart and Joey Votto, who each continued their hot streaks with two-hit efforts. Votto’s opposite field RBI double signified the point in the game when it was clear that anything the Reds put in play would fall for a hit.
Not So Random Thoughts (or a return to the restaurant review metaphor):
To recommend a patron to attend a restaurant twice in a row would be sacrilege at any other institution, but at Reds vs. Giants eatery? I couldn’t recommend it more. The zest and zeal with which these cooks put together a mastery of a beatdown makes you recall the run rules of your childhood past, that nostalgia only enhancing the meal. The Chicago Cubs have long sat atop our restaurant rankings as the best in this central division, but after tonight’s meal, I must say the Reds are likely to have drawn into a tie. With the tasting menu all but said and done, I guess there’s only one more question to be asked: