Where to go with out-of-town guests before a party at Tavern on the Green for a new energy drink? Add in to the mix that there’s one in your party who has food allergies, me, and doesn’t eat fish or want to go somewhere fishy because of cross contamination. Add to that everyone more or less is on a budget but especially the out-of-town guests as this is their last night in town. And finally, add-in that the out-of-town guests are Italian, so Italian food seems redundant. Quite a challenge.
I sent a few thoughts to the group, including Café Luxembourg, still decent after all these years but expensive. Then I floated the idea of City Grill. I had been once, years before, had some kind of grilled veggie sammy with fresh mozzey that was perfectly respectable; the group choose that one.
I arrived first. The room was exactly as I remembered but seeing it live I remember why I hadn’t returned since the 90s. The name City Grill is as generic as the décor, the menu, the service and as I would rediscover, the food. This is a restaurant that you could relocate to a suburb in Boston or Virginia, anywhere on the eastern seaboard really, and it would do just fine. Two televisions at either end of the bar show channel 28 [ESPN], there are two-er booths at the bar and larger ones in the main dinning room--dark wood, maroon pleather banquettes. There are tables in the enclosed sidewalk portion, and the noise level was high. The clientele? Mostly out-of-towners, or those that look like them, and neighborhoodies but everyone seemed happy and chatty.
I was determined to score a decent table for our group of five. The maitre d’ was actually quite nice, it probably didn’t hurt that I was all dressed up to go to a party. I requested a booth and he sat me, alone, as I waited for four guests.
Upon the complete group’s arrival, we perused the large diner-like menu: buffalo wings to cobb salad; penne vodka to meatloaf. We asked the waiter what the house specialty was, he replied, “What do you mean?” Not good.
Our orders were thus: two penne vodkas for the Italians because they don’t have that at home, one meatloaf for French Isabelle, lobster rav for Casey and for me, well, it got a little bit tricky. I decided on a lemon-grilled chicken; however, they marinate all their chicken in soybean oil and wouldn't make me a fresh piece just plain. Hmm, another not good sign. [Soy is better than peanut oil but not the best option; I’m not allergic to soy, it just upsets my stomach.]
I went for it and I paid for that decision. First, the food was just average, not even neighborhood old-reliable average, but really sub-average. Second, my chicken was marinated in garlic that tasted old and I kept on tasting it all night long, ‘urping garlic at this party no less. Not cute. Thirdly, Saturday I was saddled with an upset stomach from the soybean oil. My dinner companions were too polite to say anything during dinner but I could see it in their faces, their food was really not good either.
I'm permanently scratching City Grill off any list for multiple reasons. However, I suspect it will remain a neighborhood favorite if citysearch’s reviews are consistently that good.