REVIEW: Solita is a cathedral to meat and the deep fat fryer
What with my gargantuan appetite and the fact that I grew up down the road from the New York neighbourhood that lends its name to Preston's hottest new restaurant, it was always going to fall to me to review Solita.
But it was actually my teenage step-son and not me who hit the nail on the head when he dubbed the newly-opened Winckley Square eatery ‘wicked’ during our visit.
And he’s right - but it just doesn’t sound the same coming from a middle-aged desk jockey like me.
You see, Solita’s brand of deep, down and dirty Americana is perfectly pitched at a young, hip crowd that perhaps he’d be better placed to review it. (But he’s too busy playing his Xbox or whatever young people do).
So, you’re stuck with me, like the hopelessly uncool teacher trying desperately to get down with the kids. Innit!
The restaurant, which opened a few weeks ago to great fanfare in the former epicentre of Paul Heathcote’s now defunct foodie empire, is very cool.
It’s chaotic and buzzy, with funky murals on the walls and smart graphics splattered around the place. The bright, young servers are chatty and informal in the way they are in American movies.
Oh, and the food, well it is gloriously, unashamedly filthy. And that, you see, is a good thing. Very good indeed.
Don’t get me wrong. It ain’t fancy but it ain’t tying to be. It is grown up kids food - in the best possible way.
The menu is a highlight reel of all the hideously calorific foods your mum told you not to eat. Baby back ribs, Buffalo wings, massive hotdogs, chilli, pulled pork, beer battered onion rings and, of course, burgers.
The place is a cathedral to meat and the deep fat fryer.
Forget the formalities. Put down your cutlery, you look like David Cameron trying to eat a hotdog with a knife and fork.
You’ve just got to dive in. And dive in we did to the big, bruising Solita Sharer (£15.90) to start.
Cheesburger spring rolls combine the most improbable foodstuffs on earth to create something even better than the sum of their parts and the mac n’ cheese balls offer a playful twist on Italian arancini (deed fried risotto balls).
The short rib croquettes were a little full on, but tasty nevertheless, and the tangy, spicy buffalo chicken wings stole the show.
A nightmare for your doctor but a dream for this glutton.
To follow, it seemed wrong not to test the burgers. So we did.
The ‘smokehouse’ (£11.90) was the standout. Smoked brisket topped a thick beef pattie smothered in sweet BBQ sauce and sharp pickles.
An over generous dousing of the barbecue sauce slightly spoiled the KFB burger (£11.50), which comes topped with Monterey jack cheese, jalapeños and devilish shards of battered and fried streaky bacon.
The ‘deep south spiced chicken sandwich’ (£11.50) was excellent though. Two juicy, charcoal grilled chicken fillets came served with a heap of roasted corn salsa and cornmeal fried jalapeños sandwiched between two buns.
There are plenty others to choose from. The fear inducing ‘Once In A Lifetime’ burger, with its two steak patties, pulled pork, chicken, bacon and cheese, was a step to far even for this over-eater but it might suit any aspiring Man V Food hounds out there.
When you bust your weekly saturated fat allowance in one meal, you might as well go the whole hog so we finished off by sharing a thick slab of New York-style baked vanilla cheese cake with grilled pineapple slices.
Deep fried cookie dough, molten chocolate cakes, sundaes and smores round off a deliciously, decadent dessert menu.
The sort of retro take-me-to-the-ball-game American food being served up by Solita is so fashionable at the minute that it is in danger of collapsing under its own cholesterol filled limbs.
But they do it so well at Solita. And despite its ubiquity in places like Manchester and Liverpool, not to mention in the supermarket aisles, there isn’t really anywhere else like here in Preston.
If you are after fine dining, this probably isn’t the place for you.
But if you are looking for a cool, relaxed place to chow down on filthy burgers and cavity inducing desserts, then it is probably just what you are looking for.
It’s not cheap but for my money, it is just what Preston needs.