Granite City Food & Brewery, which opened earlier this year at the Shops at Fallen Timbers in Maumee, lives up to its name with a hard granite landscape - a lawn made of stones, a red brick and cinder block exterior, and inside, ledgestone pillars and earth-tone walls in the capacious dining room.
The restaurant features some dandy dishes, from well-turned crab cakes and delectable pale cheddar ale soup to thick meat loaf in a bourbon-onion sauce and barnaise salmon Oscar. And the homemade beers, brewed on site, include two lagers, two stouts, and a two-pull mix of lager and stout.
But three months after the opening, something seems amiss. Service-wise and kitchen-wise, the restaurant seemed to be violating its own less-than-snappy slogan, "It's About People & Food."
For instance, our service often veered between annoying and pushy, and some of the dishes coming out of the kitchen were less than memorable for the price, owing either to undercooking in one case or to the monotony of garlic mashed potatoes and the piling on of onion strings - as dry and tasteless as tumbleweed - on too many of the entrees.
The Minneapolis-based chain has about 25 outlets in 14 states, including Maumee's, where, next to a small patch of grass near the entrance, is a novel outdoor chess board with three-or four-foot pieces. Inside, photos of old Toledo decorate the dining room walls. Patrons can also settle in at the bar or at seating along the windows.
Meals, most of them a la carte, start with a deliciously warm and crusty mini-loaf and whipped butter. Soups ($3.50 a cup/$5.50 a bowl) range from cream of broccoli on Mondays to chili on Sundays, but French onion and the aforementioned ale and cheddar with rye croutons are available daily.
Among the pricey appetizers are the crab cakes ($14); chicken Caesar chalupa ($9.50) - small flour tortillas with a side of Caesar salad - and various flatbread pizzas. Lunch brought a so-so bacon cheeseburger with fries ($12.50); a good-sized Cuban sandwich ($9.50) with pork loin and smoked turkey slices, and the Overlake, a $9 bacon and turkey combination with tomatoes, Monterey jack cheese, and garlic mayo on grilled wheat bread.
We also had good luck with the meat loaf ($14); salmon Oscar ($19) with crab meat and asparagus, and an imaginative Tuscan shrimp fettuccine ($15.50) with good-sized shrimp, plum tomatoes, fresh spinach, zucchini, and lots of garlic.
Things went awry more than once, however, with entrees delivered three or four spoonsful into the soup, and with a grilled garlic butter sirloin ($17) that came out rare instead of medium rare and had to be sent back. Alas, even the recooked steak was too rare to pass muster, while a heap of those pesky onion strings did its part to undercut the flavor.
Regarding the waitstaff, the servers on our visits fairly pummeled us with pitches to try the home brews when all we wanted was bottled beer. They also badgered us from start to finish with questions: "What are you interested in? "Is the food good?" "Doesn't your pasta look good?" "How's your soup?" "Are you doing great over here, sir?" "Do you want another beer?" Are you still doing great?"
No and no and no.
Contact Bill of Fare at firstname.lastname@example.org