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The only dessert available that night was a doozy: a caramel bread pudding, gooey, soft, but not disgustingly sweet. No serious coffee, but Frankie buys from Café Moka and he’s promised to add some dark French roast for dinner customers.

I drank a couple of hurricanes at just $5 each, and they were terrific — strong, refreshing, not oversweet. Fred enjoyed a Chubasco, a tequila-based Mexican Hurricane usually made with grenadine, but Frankie substitutes hibiscus juice (aka jamaica or sorrel). Ben and Lynne drank good Merlots left from the official opening-night party a few days before, also $5 per glass.

“Lagniappe” is a Louisiana term meaning “a little something extra.” This is a concept that Frankie the Bull seems to have taken to heart; that spirit of generosity, the underlying idea that it’s more fun to give than to withhold, and it’s what you’ll find at Proud Mary’s. ■

Proud Mary’s Southern Bar and Grill

★★★ (Very Good)

Ramada Inn Conference Center, 5550 Kearny Mesa Road, Kearny Mesa, 858-278-0800, ext. 399; ramadasandiego.com
HOURS: Breakfast 6:00–10:00 a.m. daily; lunch 11:00 a.m.–2:00 p.m. Monday–Saturday; dinner 5:00–10:00 p.m. daily.
PRICES: Breakfast buffet $7; dinner starters, soups, salads $7–$10; po’ boys and burgers $10; entrées $13–$19; desserts $7. Tuesday special: appetizers $5.
CUISINE & BEVERAGES: Gulf Coast food with a strong Louisiana accent. Wine list brief, not quite coherent but adequate. Full bar with Louisiana beers (Abita, etc.), generous, tasty cocktails, including $5 Hurricanes daily.
PICK HITS: Gumbo, jambalaya, red beans and rice, Memphis spare ribs, cornbread, bread pudding. Other possible bets: soft-shell crab, pecan-crusted grouper, blackened catfish, pulled-pork sandwich, crawfish boil when offered.
NEED TO KNOW: Huge portions, most starters sized as entrées. Call to learn when crawfish boil is on the menu. Sporadically crowded; reservations not required but advisable. Top Gun atmosphere, with military guys, Montgomery Field pilots, and the Nashville country music they love. To avoid short staircase down to dining room, enter on the other side of the building, by the pool tables. Vegetarians: fuhgeddaboudit.

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Naomi Wise June 9, 2011 @ 5:22 p.m.

Just after this article went into its final edit, I learned that Bud's has actually just moved from Tierrasanta to -- Kearny Mesa. (See blogs for the address).

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mikehamm June 11, 2011 @ 7:08 a.m.

This sentence: "Local-born chef Frankie “The Bull” Terzoli won a TV chef contest (Bravo’s Top Chef)." is very misleading. It implies he won Top Chef. He didn't. I believe he won one Elimination Challenge, but was sent home half way through the season. He'll always be known as the guy who physically threatened Marcel, on camera, because all Marcel did was move Frank's toothbrush. Really?!? However, this doesn't mean I won't try his restaurant. Just need to set the record straight regarding his "TV chef contest" win.

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pcindy June 14, 2011 @ 10:37 p.m.

Just a few comments about this rave review. My husband and I who live in Hillcrest, went to Frank's restaurant, "The Big Easy" from the moment it opened. We love to support local small businesses in our neighborhood, and wanted to see it succeed. Our experiences were this:

First time, stopped by for lunch. Had some good (not exceptional, but good) sandwiches. We liked siting on the outside patio.

Second time, we brought about a dozen members of our French language group. Thought it would be fun to have a Cajun brunch. First, he assured us that he would have live Cajun musicians there (we'd seen them before, playing on the patio). Second, he assured us that he'd have umbrellas at all the tables for sun protection. Third, he tried to price-gouge us shamelessly, suggesting a bouillabase for something like $25 a head, when the average brunch menu item was around $10. We declined the bouillabase, and when we arrived, no umbrellas, no music. Food was weird. Terrible presentation, and completely inconsistent portions. Nothing tasty to the extent of being at all noteworthy. Just a head-scratcher overall. The sense was that the place was completely indifferent to our patronage.

Third time (can't believe we gave him another chance!), took the in-laws (they're from Europe, so we thought a uniquely American type of food- Cajun would be a rare treat). The food was pretty good, but even though the place was nearly empty, we couldn't believe how we were rushed through our our meal. Taking away plates and asking if we wanted desert or anything else while some of us were still eating our main course. Uch. Meanwhile Frank played the part of the Big Chef, strutting around to talk with the only other diners in the restaurant, a couple of women who seemed to be regulars.

Overall, his restaurant did NOT fail because it was in a "site of doom." It failed because he failed to deliver an inviting atmosphere, good service, consistently good cuisine, and it seemed to just be a vehicle for an over-weaning ego to play the part of the Big Chef/Restauranteur. To prove this point, the very next restaurant to move into this so-called "site of doom" is called Empire House, and is flourishing like crazy, and has been since the moment it opened. Nothing in the neighborhood around it changed, just the restaurant. Seems like ol' Frankie "the Bull" doomed(and not for the first time) himself.

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dimereel June 8, 2012 @ 11:55 p.m.

As one who is paid to evaluate restaurants and who has experienced the gamut from 5 star sit down establishments to casual fast food style dining; I must say, Proud Mary's Southern Bar and Grill lacks southern hospitality and its food is barely adequate at best.

The food is fair. It is far from mouth watering or spectacular. The crab cakes are filled with more crab than cake and the sauce compliments without being over powering or bland. The mac and cheese is not "country" mac and cheese, but rather pasta shells in a smokey creamy cheese liquid with a Cajun style crust on top. The presentation was more than food plopped on a plate and still no frills. The drinks were adequate. They were not strong and were not watered down.

The service was friendly and professional all the while lacking in knowledge of quality customer service and standard food service. The server/bartender that took our order never introduced herself, never explained the menu or current specials, failed to place 1/3 of our order, did not check back until half way through our meal, did not return with the condiments once requested, did not explain the happy hour specials that were currently running and did not apply the happy hour pricing until questioned as to why the happy hour prices did not appear on the final bill, empty dishes were not cleared in a timely manner, when the food order arrived to the table it was "auctioned off" by asking who ordered what item. The General Manager was visible in the dining room and did not make table visits on general principle. When expressing to the GM disapproval with the level and quality of service, the GM was dismissive and unconcerned.

The atmosphere and ambiance is very much that of a 2 star bar and grill with Mardi Gras beads wrapped around fixtures and figurines placed on the table. There is a pool table in the dining room and flat panel screens mounted to the dining room wall and behind the bar. It was very dark and empty at 6:30 PM, however the business level picked up within the hour, which the two bartenders who double as servers could not keep up with the demand and support staff appeared to pitch-in from the kitchen for a total of 10 minutes. The website claims the location is kid friendly; however, there is no children's menu, there are two high chairs for the dining room and IS more bar than grill.

The lasting impression is that I should have dined closer to my hotel located in the Gas Lamp district and chose any number of the establishments downtown, rather than venturing out to Proud Mary's where, if I were Mary, I would not be so proud. If you stay at the Ramada, it might be worth ordering "to go" because the food would seem better if served over a counter and eaten with plastic utensils. The food is OK and the service makes you want to stay home.

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