Grotto Grill Dazzles on Opening Night - Review by Stacy Bibb
My father used to joke that the best horse for someone who’s never ridden a horse is a horse that’s never been ridden—that way, they can start out together.
So, I applied that logic to my first restaurant review! Haha. Yesterday was the Grand Opening of a new restaurant in the area, and I chose that day to be the day I review it. Trial by fire, as they say!
Grotto Grill is described by its owners as a “Modern American Restaurant,” and I couldn’t wait to see what that meant exactly. Knowing it was their first day of business, I was willing to give Grotto Grill some grace in my review, and overlook some small snags that are indicative of working the kinks out of a brand new business.
The building itself is absolutely lovely. As you approach it from the outside, it gives one the feeling of welcoming. Warm light emanates from the crisp white-trimmed windows, and it feels like you’re coming home—if home is a copper-accented coastal early-American abode. The enclosed front porch is inviting. It. Is. Beautiful.
I brought along my two oldest children. Wait areas were nice, well-designated, and plentiful. Even though it was incredibly busy, our wait time did not exceed 15 minutes. Waiting gave me an opportunity to closely examine the interior of the place. It is contemporary without being trendy—an industrial farmhouse feel, but classic, warm, and pleasing. Floors are shiny hardwood planks, walls are warm with wood pallet boards that go up to chair height. Ceilings are remarkable for exposed copper ducts and wood beams. The lighting is prominent with pulleys, glowing exposed filaments, and giant windmill ceiling fans. Galvanized metal is throughout, both shiny and distressed in nature.
My boys and I drank Arnold Palmers and sampled three different appetizers—the Flash Fried Spinach, Sweet Corn Nuggets, and Breaded Portobello Mushroom Slices. Until this experience, I didn’t know that spinach could be life-changing. Y’all. Flash-fried spinach is a dream come true! I am very careful to not eat too many carbohydrates, and my first thought was “Holy moly, I can eat this forever!” The mushrooms were firm and flavorful, and the corn nuggets were a favorite for my boys— slightly creamy and sweet.
The boys were given uncooked pizza dough to play with as we waited for our entrees, and this is always a favorite for kids—parents will appreciate this screen-free diversion, and the novelty of raw dough for kids never seems to subside quickly.
For dinner, we ordered three different entrees. We tried the Fettuccine Alfredo with shrimp, the Chicken Fried Chicken with mashed potatoes and country gravy, and the Saccottini pasta, a Grotto Grill specialty. The Fettuccine was pleasant, typical of the butter-and-parmesan white sauce that we all know and love. It’s done well here. The Chicken Fried Chicken was surprisingly perfect in texture and flavor—no serving a greasy cutlet at Grotto Grill. The chicken was crunchy and hot, and my picky-eating boy (maybe I should say “selective”? Haha) ate the entire thing! Mashed potatoes and gravy were a nicely-done version of that classic comfort food. The Saccottini was nothing short of remarkable. I would describe it as pasta purses, filled with spicy Italian sausage, with a sweet tomato-cream sauce. The sweet creaminess of the sauce is a perfect balance to the slight heat of the sausage. This is a fantastic dish, and definitely worth saving up my carbs to treat myself on this one. Wow!
For dessert, we split the Salted Caramel Cookie Boat with Vanilla Ice Cream and the Butter Cookie Cheesecake. The cookie boat was hot and fresh out of the oven, with the velvety ice cream melting slowly into a delightful amalgamation of decadence. You know it’s so wrong, but you don’t want to be right—it’s sinful but delightful. Sweet with slightly piquant saltiness, it does not disappoint. As a cheesecake baker myself, I am very discriminating when it comes to this particular dessert. I pick up on mass-produced flavor, and I can tell if cheesecake has been sitting in the fridge for too long. My favorite cheesecake restaurant is guilty of that last part. Ahem. With cheesecake, flavor and texture are affected easily by a number of factors. I braced myself for the inevitable “frozen cheesecake” flavor that is inherent in most restaurant cheesecakes. I was pleasantly surprised by the creamy texture, the mellow, buttery sweetness. It was a WINNER.
Grotto Grill offers a full bar, and starting soon, live music on Friday nights. In the back of the restaurant is a small and unobtrusive stage area. It blends in well with the restaurant and thankfully does not at all lend the vibe that you’re at a dinner theatre. I do not appreciate the feeling that I am eating at the Grand Ole Opry, and Grotto Grill designed their stage area well.
Owners Cori and Cami went the extra mile in making thoughtful food offerings. Grotto Grill offers gluten-free options, as well as salads, sandwiches, pizza, pastas, classic favorites, and a kids’ menu. The ladies do a nice job of staying on top of orders while making you feel like you’re family that just arrived and pulled up a chair at the kitchen table.
I was willing to be just a bit merciful in my review of Grotto Grill, given the fact that it was their very first night of business. They didn’t need it. Everything appeared seamless.
Science says that people need on average 30 minutes to become comfortable and acclimated to a new space. At Grotto Grill, your family will feel at home when you walk through the doors. My oldest son said to me, “This place is so great, I want to live here!” Me too, Son, me too.
I think it’s safe to say we’re officially #GrottoGroupies.