During a recent hectic work-week, the TS team decided to take and break, and grab a rare weekday lunch. Not wanting to stray too far from downtown, we decided to give Monjunis a try. Though we’ve eaten at Monjunis before, our last visit was many, many years ago, so we came to the table with fresh eyes and no preconceptions.
Upon our arrival, the restaurant was absolutely packed for the lunch rush, so we grabbed a table on the patio. Like many of Shreveport’s long-standing restaurants, Monjunis has a small, hole-in-the wall atmosphere, with plenty of “Italian” décor…if you call dusty plastic grapes décor. The restaurant certainly has a feel of local tradition and history, but the over-the-top plastic grapes and decorations made us wonder how often all those tchotchkes get cleaned, especially since many of them hang above patrons’ tables.
From the get-go, our service was bad. We gave the waitress plenty of patience because of the noon-rush crowds, but after the fourth time she walked up to our table and realized she had forgotten to bring our drinks, bread, drinks, bread and finally food, we became worried that we’d never make it back to our respective offices.
For our meals, N. ordered the special of the day, which was the Cheesy-Chicken Spaghetti. What he got was neither cheesy nor chickeny (and yes, we know chickeny is not a word). N’s dish looked like a plate of dried-out noodles that took a brief run through a substance unknown, and the spaghetti appeared to be a dry, grayish mess. N took one bite and found it to be practically inedible. N. also ordered the Italian Sausage appetizer, which was simply an Italian sausage on a plate, with the “signature” marinara sauce dumped on top.
S., on the other hand, ordered the Shrimp Aurora (a signature dish) off the main menu, which was labeled as mounds of pasta and shrimp, baked with a blend of marinara sauce, Alfredo sauce and cheese. Though her plate appeared to be far more appetizing than N’s, S. felt that the dish tasted no better than under-seasoned pasta tossed with jarred sauce, with a few frozen shrimp thrown in. The TS team wondered if maybe, this is half Monjunis’ problem. Now that their key sauces and ingredients are packaged for mass distribution at grocery stores, perhaps their kitchen is simply constructing dishes from a handful of pre-packaged items. Looking at the menu, nearly every dish is some variation or combination of their “signature sauce,” and if what the TS team suspect is true, Monjunis is charging upwards of $18 for meals that are 95% out of a jar. Nothing we ate even had a hint of fresh, unique taste. In this economy, high cost better be offset by quality, freshness, service or overall experience, but Monjunis failed to deliver on all counts.
After waiting interminably long for our check, we were out nearly $40 for the most disappointing lunch we’ve had in ages. Overall, we really wanted to like a place that has such an obvious history in our hometown, but after this experience, we can certainly say that we won’t be back any time soon.