Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Impressions of a new neighborhood spot - The Grille at 138

This establishment has opened on Washington Avenue near Dove Street in a neighborhood that's got a high concentration of restaurants, so it faces a lot of competition, but I think it has a niche.  It's a good place.  I like the lack of pretense and cherish the consistently good food.

I had a very interesting comparison test after the first time I visited, because I ordered the linguini with white clam sauce.  It's not a dish that I have had very many times, and the night I did I happened to be exhausted and famished and in need of a nice quiet dinner. The chef and I agree on exactly how linguini should be prepared and the fresh clams in a delightful lemon sauce hit the spot.  The next night I went out with friends for a review dinner and had linguini with white clam sauce and it was not even the same concept. With such a close comparison, it was easy to tell that the Grille at 138 was on top of the game and the neighborhood Italian place was calling it in.

The dining room is currently in the basement and nicely appointed.  Tablecloths, cloth napkins and real flatware keep it classy and the sound track is cool jazz and easy listening.  The lunch crowd is bigger than the dinner crowd at this point, and so  the dinner staff is attentive and very friendly. There is a bar area at the front looking out on to Washington Ave. where Wayne, longtime bar tender at Elda's, presides with a kind and gentle countenance.

The Ga138 has settled on an old school menu and offers a nice variety of fish and seafood, chicken, beef and pork.  Burgers and other sandwiches round out the dinner menu so that it accommodates a range of budgets. When I went on a weekend night and saw that they offer prime rib on Friday and Saturday, I  ended up having the best slice of prime rib I've ever had and see why people enjoy it. The versions I've had at conference banquets had turned me off from that particular  beef dish, and I'm glad I gave Ga138 a try. On the night I asked a companion to come along, his impression was the same - solidly good in a neighborhood that could use another good dinner spot, what with several restaurants having recently given up the ghost and others letting their game slide.

If one's appetite is not big, there are several small dishes that will suffice.  The night I had chili it also was something the chef and I agree on.  This is not flashy or pretentious food, but good food. A hearty olive bread comes with the table and has real butter, not silly olive oil for dipping.  That's the sort of first old school touch I noticed. Then as I skimmed through the menu the old fashioned dishes such as beef stroganoff and seafood Newburg were apparent.  I intend to try all of them.

When I decided to try their burgers I chose the chianti burger with what turned out to be some fantastically delicious marinated onions. They made the burger rise from good to extraordinary.  I could go on, but I will suggest that  you go and see for yourself.

The brunch is the most recent offering I've tried, and they don't disappoint, yet they don't get ridiculous. They present a good range of breakfast and lunch choices and offer a handsome space to enjoy a leisurely Sunday meal. They put the menu online so you can see what is up:  http://www.thegrilleat138.com/sunday-brunch-buffet-menu.php  I especially enjoyed the pork hash, which was perfect, and the scalloped potatoes.  And they had a dessert crepe that was like dying and going to heaven.

There's always room for improvement in any restaurant's life and while I've mostly had praiseworthy fare I've also been served a corn on the cob side dish that had been brutally murdered, and at brunch I trimmed the dirty-looking bases from the brussels sprouts  - something that any amateur cook would notice and do for her guests.  But when a place is hitting it out of the park on most days I can cut them some slack and just ask that they keep up diligent attention to what's going out of the kitchen.

So check out the menu links and see if it's a place you'd like to try.  Let me know what you think!

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