Food main attraction and Basin St. Grille.
Basin St. Grille is located northwest of Westfield Franklin Park Mall on Monroe Street, and you shouldn't have any trouble finding it among the crowded shops in the popular shopping destination.
Just follow your nose.
The smell of the wood-fired grill is instantly recognizable and alluring, especially once you're inside the restaurant. With a name like Basin St. Grille you would expect a New Orleans theme -- and there were many French Quarter and Mardi Gras-inspired decorations to go around -- but not many on the menu. That really didn't matter though because we had heard about the restaurant's high quality, and we weren't disappointed.
On our first visit, we started off with the cilantro lime crab cakes ($9) for an appetizer. The moist-but-not greasy crab was the star of the two cakes with the chipotle aioli balancing out the lime.
There was a unique assortment of pizzas on the menu, so we decided to try the shrimp scampi style ($11). A tart cream cheese spread was used in place of a traditional tomato-based sauce and the garlic in the cream cheese and on the shrimp made for a nice "scampi" taste on a soft crust.
Another item that caught our eye was the Memphis mixed grill ($21), which was a 6-ounce chicken breast and three gulf shrimp wrapped in bacon and covered with a sweet and smoky barbecue sauce. The shrimp were worth it by themselves because the bacon added an extra boost of flavor to the seafood. The chicken wasn't an afterthought because it was tender and well seasoned, but the side dishes -- green beans and squash and mashed potatoes -- were forgettable.
We also wanted to order a sandwich since Basin St. Grille isn't open for lunch. The pulled pork sandwich ($7) was large and needed to be cut in half. It was stuffed with delicious barbecued pork, gouda cheese, and carmelized onions on French bread -- so be careful ordering it on a date because it was really messy. The potato wedge fries were a perfect pairing.
We had just a fabulous appetizer, Bubba's seafood dip ($8) on our second visit. The dip was a blend of crab, shrimp, and crawfish tails in a fondue of hot pepper jack cheese and parmesan cheeses, and it was complemented with a salt-and-pepper crostini. Frankly, we had to force ourselves to stop eating it so we would have room for dinner.
The 8-ounce steak filet ($25) was a nice cut of meat with no fat and it was perfectly cooked with a nice smoky flavor from the wood-fired grill. Served with smashed potatoes and the vegetable of the day, it was a complete meal.
The cherry-smoked ribs (four) and the bacon-wrapped scallions (two) were available through the Two Meat Monday special ($15.99) and they were the highlights of our trips. The ribs were coated in a sweet barbecue sauce that had hints of cherries with every bite and can compete with any rib joint in town; and the scallions were perfectly seared while the bacon added a welcome smoky flavor. This time around the same side dishes were better.
We're no experts when it comes to pairing beers with food, but the Wild Duck IPA ($4) went well with the ribs -- and it's brewed in Toledo.
We were told beforehand that Basin St. Grille is known for its martinis, so we had to try one. We decided on the restaurant's signature filthy dirty martini ($6.55), which was a blend of olive juice, jalapeno, and spices chilled with vodka. With those ingredients, it definitely had a savory flair and it certainly lived up its billing.
On both occasions our service was exemplary. We were treated with menu-ordering tips and drink selections, and it was much appreciated.
One weird thing though: There was an outdoor patio with ample seating, but you have to walk through the kitchen area to get to it.
BASIN ST. GRILLE
* * * *
Address: 5201 Monroe St.
Hours: 4 p.m. to midnight, Monday-Tuesday; 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. Wednesday-through Saturday; kitchen open till 11. Reservations are accepted.
Wheelchair access: Yes.
Average price: $$
Credit cards: AE, Dis, MC, V.
Web site: No, but there is a Facebook page.
Contact bill of fare at firstname.lastname@example.org.