It’s been nearly a year since Grandpa’s Growler — legendary only for its subpar draft selection and laughably awful food — was unceremoniously shuttered. In its place stands York Street Grille, which opened just this past December. After giving them a few months to work out any opening quirks, we made our way down to see what, if any, improvements have been made.
The recipe for a successful neighborhood bar is simple: good food, good service, and a decent beer selection. You don’t necessarily need three dozen taps or five-star cuisine; a solid craft bottle selection paired with comfort food done well is all it takes.
Unfortunately a lot of local bars fall back on Bud Light and frozen burgers, which might have worked 25 years ago. But today, we want something a little more creative. And from looking at their menu, that’s exactly what York Street Grille is going for.
Staples like burgers and crab cakes share the menu with more complex entrees like truffle pasta and the Malbec melt: sliced portobello mushrooms sauteed in Malbec and demi-glace, smothered in Swiss cheese and served on Texas toast with a sweet onion broth for dipping. Bar-friendly comfort food like pierogies and chili nachos populate the appetizer list. It’s a well-rounded menu that’s going to be difficult for picky eaters to get upset over.
One of the more unusual (for the area) entries on York Street’s menu is the Cuban: pulled pork with gruyere, dijon mustard, ham, and dill pickles on a toasted baguette. The pork was gloriously tender and perfectly seasoned, and perfectly meshed with the rest of the sandwich! Purists will argue that this isn’t the most authentic Cuban ever made. They are correct. However, purists generally aren’t much fun to dine with, so they can deal with it. The end result is a well-balanced, deliciously toasty sandwich.
My wife went with the grilled cheese: gruyere melted on Texas toast with applewood-smoked bacon and a sweet tomato jam. Personally, I like my grilled cheese plain. Give me cheese, butter, fresh bread, and an iron skillet, and I will make you the most amazing grilled cheese sandwich you’ve ever tasted. Adding anything else is sacrilege. But the sweet tomato jam was an unexpected twist, and York Street Grille’s take comes off well. The only complaint is the limp, floppy bacon; sandwich bacon should always be crisp. Always.
On the inside, York Street Grille’s decor is best described using words like “economical” and “plain”. You can’t help but immediately notice the discrepancy between their bold, colorful chicken mascot and the muted, no-frills interior. Although it’s a massive improvement over the dusty, outdated interior of Grandpa’s Growler, they’ve got a lot of opportunity to improve here. This place is screaming for a slight industrial look or farmhouse appearance. Even better lighting would go a long way.
The bar’s beer selection offers a basic assortment of craft brews (including local favorites like Zer0day, Troegs, and Wyndridge) along with your standard macros. A dozen taps plus another 15-20 bottle selections mean you’re going to get what you want, as long as you’re flexible on your brand loyalty. There’s also an assortment of basic cocktails that all look good, but nothing particularly inspired or memorable. Why not feature local distilleries, or come up with some locally-inspired drinks?
Regardless of whether we you’re at the bar or at the table, York Street Grill’s service is outstanding! Bartenders are quick and accurate — even on a busy Friday night — and table service is fast and friendly. Interesting footnote: we asked our server about her accent, and it turns out she escaped from East Germany right before the fall of the Berlin Wall! How awesome is that?
Overall, York Street Grille is a solid and much-needed addition to the west shore neighborhood bar scene. You can’t go wrong here. The food and service is vastly superior to Grandpa’s Growler, and if they can revisit the decor and their cocktail menu, I guarantee they’ll have another 25 years of loyal customers. This just goes to show that if you’re willing to reinvent a property, you can turn any lackluster, worn-out bar into a solid place to kickstart the weekend.
Which begs the question: when will G-Man get the hint?